Newswise — NORMAN, OKLA. – Janet Allen, University of Oklahoma professor of industrial and systems engineering, was named the recipient of the 2019 Ruth and Joel Spira Outstanding Design Educator Award.

One of the highest honors bestowed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to engineering design education through scholarship creation, instructorship, and as a mentor and role model.

Allen is one of the founders of the National Science Foundation/ASME Travel Grant Program, which she has helped run for more than 20 years. This program created a Student Design Essay Competition, funded by the National Science Foundation. Winners are awarded grants to travel and present their work at the International Design Engineering Technical Conferences annual ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference.

“Students go to the conference and talk to whomever they want, present their ideas and get feedback,” Allen explains. “It gives them the tools to continue to develop their careers.”

Since the creation of the grant, nearly a dozen essay winners have gone into the academic field, even sending students of their own to the conference.

Appropriately, Allen was nominated by a former student, Wei Chen, who is a professor of mechanical engineering at Northwestern University.

“Professor Allen is passionate about encouraging students to rise to their full potential,” Chen wrote. “Through her educational and outreach efforts, she has positively influenced the lives of hundreds of undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty members.”

Allen joined the University of Oklahoma in 2009. Along with Professor Farrokh Mistree, she established the Systems Realization Laboratory, with a focus on engineering design. Additionally, Allen holds the John and Mary Moore Chair of Engineering at OU.

“We’re all extremely proud of our students,” Allen says. “We want to continue to help make their lives better, particularly their experiences in grad school.”