David McDowell doesn’t like being put in a box. That’s one of the reasons why, after earning a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he headed south to begin his career at Georgia Tech.
“One thing that I didn’t want was to go to a place where they had a slot for me to fit into: ‘Professor X is retiring; we need to cover this slot. We see you as a potential for that,’” McDowell said. “I wanted to define my own path, and I thought Georgia Tech would allow me to do that.”
He said he wanted a place where he could exert his vision and leadership from an early stage.
That was in 1983. Now, 36 years later, McDowell, Regents Professor and Carter N. Paden Jr. Distinguished Chair in Metals Processing, will receive Georgia Tech’s highest award given to a faculty member: the Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award.
The award recognizes outstanding achievement in teaching, research, and service. Instituted in 1984 by the Class of 1934 in observance of its 50th reunion, the award is presented to a professor who has made significant long-term contributions that have brought widespread recognition to the professor, to his or her school, and to the Institute.
“For me, this award is really a recognition of my being here,” McDowell said. “It shows that there’s a trace of my contributions.”
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