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UK’s Bhattacharyya Wins SEC Faculty Achievement Award

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Dibakar Bhattacharyya has been named winner of the 2021 SEC Faculty Achievement Award for the University of Kentucky.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 29, 2021)  Dibakar Bhattacharyya, professor of chemical and materials engineering in the UK College of Engineering, has been named winner of the 2021 SEC Faculty Achievement Award for the University of Kentucky, the SEC announced on Monday.

“I’m very fortunate to be on faculty at the University of Kentucky, and it’s a great honor that among many outstanding faculty members at UK, I have been selected for the 2021 SEC Faculty Achievement Award,” Bhattacharyya said. “Teaching, research, scholarship and societal service are inextricably linked for me, and UK provides a strong environment for faculty collaborations among different disciplines.”

Bhattacharyya has been a fixture in UK Engineering for more than 50 years and is renowned for his research, which focuses on incorporating life sciences materials with synthetic membranes for filtering and producing clean water.

Currently, the director of UK’s Center of Membrane Sciences, known to friends and colleagues as “DB,” is contributing his decades of membrane expertise to help address the spread of COVID-19. He has the concept and the means to develop a medical face mask that would capture and deactivate the virus on contact.

A fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Bhattacharyya has nine U.S. patents with his students and received Kentucky’s highest education award in three different decades. Additionally, he has 34 book chapters and two books to his credit, along with hundreds of refereed publications.

“Dr. Bhattacharyya has had a seminal impact on the fields of both environmental engineering and membrane science in his more than 50 years at the University of Kentucky,” David Blackwell, provost at the University of Kentucky, said. “This institution is fortunate to have someone with his level of expertise, serving as a catalyst for solutions to the most challenging questions of our time.”

To receive an SEC achievement award the faculty member must have achieved the rank of full professor; have a record of extraordinary teaching, particularly at the undergraduate level; and have a record of research that is recognized nationally and/or internationally. University winners will receive a $5,000 honorarium from the SEC.

“I consider the most important aspect of teaching is to enhance creative thinking among students and their ability to solve open ended problems," Bhattacharyya said. "Through various research funding from NSF, NIEHS and industries, UK has provided the right environment to broaden the classroom instruction to hands-on lab research activities for various undergraduate students. I thoroughly enjoy being an educator here — at one of the best universities in the world.”

Bhattacharyya will become UK’s campus nominee for the SEC Professor of the Year Award, which will be announced in April.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.