Brown University School of Engineering

Bower, Breuer named Dean’s Awards Winners for Excellence in Engineering Teaching, Mentoring

May 8, 2020

Brown School of Engineering professors Allan Bower and Kenny Breuer were among those honored with Brown University’s awards in teaching, sponsored by the Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning. Bower was honored with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in Engineering, while Breuer was presented with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring in Engineering.

The Excellence in Teaching in Engineering Award is presented to a faculty member in the School of Engineering in recognition of outstanding classroom teaching of undergraduate and/or graduate students. This past year, Bower’s teaching resume included both ENGN 0040 (Dynamics and Vibrations) and ENGN 1750 (Advanced Mechanics of Solids). No stranger to accolades for his teaching, Bower was a co-recipient of the 2015 United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) ‘Team’ Award, Brown’s 2015 Teaching with Technology Award, Brown University Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence winner from 2012-2015, Tau Beta Pi’s (Engineering honor society) Dedicated Faculty Award from the Class of 2013, and the Philip J. Bray Teaching Award from the University in 2003. 

Students praised his teaching by saying, “Professor Bower knows so much about the material it's a little scary. He does derivations related energy conservation, angular and linear momentum, power, you name it, right off the top of his head. You can ask him any question and he knows the answer and can explain it to you in a way that actually makes sense, which is basically what defines a good teacher. He spends copious amounts of time in the Brown Design Workshop for project weeks, holding office hours, and preparing for the class.”

Other students added, “Professor Bower brings an enthusiasm and passion both for the course and the students that is rare. He is constantly producing unique and interesting homework problems and discussions in lectures to engage us. His years of experience teaching this course shine through in the way his lectures are planned. He intimately understands the homeworks and projects, and therefore is able to effectively help students. I truly feel that I was especially fortunate to have had a teacher like Professor Bower during my time at college,” and “Professor Bower’s knowledge of the material is extensive, and he is very available for answering both course-related questions and additional questions on courses and engineering as a whole.”

Bower is a member of the solid mechanics group in the School of Engineering, working with colleagues and students to develop and apply computer simulations to model the mechanical properties of materials. Applications of interest have included modeling wear, plasticity and fatigue between contacting surfaces; fracture in composites and ceramics; failure mechanisms in microelectronic circuits; and stress induced phenomena in thin films and nanostructures. He currently serves as co-director of the General Motors/Brown collaborative research laboratory in computational materials research, which develops computer simulations that help design lightweight materials and engineered surfaces for automotive applications. Bower was educated at the University of Cambridge, and was a University Lecturer in the Department of Engineering at Cambridge before joining Brown as an assistant professor in 1991. 

The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring in Engineering was presented to Professor Breuer in recognition of outstanding mentoring and advising of undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, or junior faculty. 

Nominations for Breuer included the following comments: “Kenny strikes the perfect balance between having reasonable expectations and demanding excellence. He allows students enough freedom to explore topics as their interests develop, while providing plenty of guidance and support. I couldn’t have asked for a better Ph.D. adviser,” and “From the beginning, Professor Breuer created a research environment where I was encouraged to come up with and validate my own ideas. Due to the intellectual freedom I have had in his lab, I have learned to be independent and thorough in my research. Under his guidance, I developed a project nearly from scratch which was the subject of an oral presentation I gave at a conference earlier this year, and which we hope to publish in the future. He has high expectations for the work his students produce, and I feel that he provides us with the advice and support we need to meet them. I have learned so much by being a part of Professor Breuer’s lab, and I know that the training I received there will serve me well when I start graduate school.”

“Kenny works and has worked in a range of cutting edge topics within experimental fluid mechanics, and is well known within the scientific community for his achievements. Despite his personal success, he clearly communicates how essential student support has been in his work. He is one of the few faculty (at any university) that I’ve met who really goes out of his way to provide his students with external recognition for their work, rather than simply absorbing the credit and leaving the students as a footnote,” Breuer’s nomination read.

In his 20 years at Brown, Breuer has mentored 10 master’s students, 29 Ph.D. students and 21 postdoctoral research fellows, all of whom have gone onto productive careers in academia, industry and government. At the undergraduate level, he has advised 27 senior theses and supported numerous students through sponsored research projects and undergraduate teaching and research awards (UTRAs) at Brown. A large portion of the related projects were successfully presented by undergraduate authors at national and international conferences, and many published in peer-reviewed journals.

Breuer, who is both a professor of engineering and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology has research interests in the broad field of fluid dynamics. At the micron-scale, he has been active in the development of diagnostic techniques for micron-scale and near-surface velocimetry, in the characterization of slip flows, the mechanics of bacterial motility and flagellar and cilliar mechanics and the nanoscale flow near a moving contact line. At the macro-scale, he has worked on the mechanics of animal flight (particularly bat flight), vortex interactions with compliant structures and, most recently, energy harvesting from fluid flows. With his students and collaborators, he has co-authored over one hundred peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, numerous book chapters, and has edited several books, including Microscale Diagnostic Techniques (Springer, 2004).

Breuer has also been active in fluid dynamics education and outreach. Recently named the Director of the Brown Center for Fluid Mechanics, he is a co-author on the best-selling DVD: Multimedia Fluid Mechanics (Camb. Univ. Press), and co-editor of the compilation: A Gallery of Fluid Motion (Camb. Univ. Press). He has also appeared on programs such as PBS’s NOVA, NPR’s Science Friday, the Discovery Channel’s series Weird Connections, and the BBC’s series Invisible Worlds. His research has been featured in popular press such as the New York Times, Discover magazine and has been highlighted on the website of the National Science Foundation.

He has received a number of honors and awards including Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (2013), Fellow of the American Physical Society (2010), Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (2013), and served as chair of the APS-Division of Fluid Dynamics (2012). Breuer received his Sc.B. from Brown in Mechanical Engineering (1982) and his Ph.D. from MIT in Aeronautics and Astronautics (1988). He spent two years back at Brown as a postdoctoral Fellow in Applied Mathematics and nine years on the faculty at MIT, before returning to Brown in 1999.