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For Second Consecutive Year: Engineering Professor Earns Highest UH Honor

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Erin D. McKenzie
Stuart Long is the seventh professor in college history to win the Esther Farfel Award. Photo by Thomas Shea
Stuart Long is the seventh professor in college history to win the Esther Farfel Award. Photo by Thomas Shea

Long seventh in college history to receive Esther Farfel Award

Behind most great leaders there is a great mentor. In Stuart Long’s case, there were four.

Each of these educators encouraged Long to dream big, and ultimately influenced his successful career as a professor and researcher at the University of Houston.

“Their influence is partly why I’m where I am today,” said Long, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. “They have all made an impression, which reminds me many times that my performance in the classroom may ultimately make a real difference in the choices that my students make. I believe that thought alone has been a great motivator for my teaching throughout the years.”

Long acknowledged each—the physics teacher at his west Texas high school for inspiring his pursuit of math and science, his Rice University professor for engaging lectures influencing his study in electromagnetics, his dedicated Harvard University advisor and one University of Houston emeritus professor, Liang Shen, who brought him to UH and took him under his wing as Long began a career in academia.

It’s their support, Long shared at the 32nd Annual University of Houston Faculty Awards Ceremony, which allowed him to earn the highest faculty honor given by the university: The Esther Farfel Award. A symbol of overall career excellence, it recognizes a professor who is a superior teacher, researcher and community member. The title carries with it a $10,000 prize and a trophy.

His announcement as the 2010 recipient makes him the seventh professor from the Cullen College of Engineering to be given the prestigious honor in the 32-year history of the award. It’s a fact not lost on Elizabeth D. Rockwell Endowed Chair and Cullen College Dean Joseph Tedesco.

“We are excited that the university has recognized the excellence in teaching, research and service at the Cullen College by way of this award,” said Tedesco. “In addition to his many years of teaching, research and administration, Stuart has played a major role in establishing our college’s current outreach efforts and is very deserving of this honor.”

Long began his career at UH in 1974. Since this time, he has found countless ways to give back to the campus community not only as an educator, but also as an administrator.

A licensed professional engineer, Long has held leadership roles that include close to 15 years as a department chair, associate dean of the college and, most recently, interim dean for the UH Honors College. He presently serves as the university-wide associate dean for undergraduate research and the Honors College. Yet, despite a career filled with administrative duties, he has managed to teach at least one course every semester.

In each, he works hard to engage his students in class material. This has meant breaking up lectures on theory with real-world examples, power point slides and even light-hearted videos. This dedication has made a lasting impact on many of his students, including Steven Collier (1976 BSEE).

“His teaching, mentoring, advice and support helped me to graduate from the University of Houston summa cum laude and proved to be especially helpful to me as I went on to graduate school at Purdue University as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow in Engineering,” said Collier, who is now a vice president for business development at Milsoft Utility Solutions. “To this day I consider Stuart to be, by far, the best professor that I have ever encountered.”

Outside the classroom, Long devotes extra time to helping students’ grasp course material with an open-door-policy encouraging of one-on-one help and through several longstanding programs at UH. One in particular, he launched near the beginning of his tenure.

The Electromagnetic Undergraduates (EMUG) Program offers research opportunities to talented undergraduates in the department—allowing them to attend conferences and learn about research being conducted by graduate students through weekly seminars. Thus far, he has worked with 70 students through the program. Of these, close to half have gone on to pursue graduate degrees at UH in the field of applied electromagnetics.

As a researcher, his work in this same field has produced two new classes of antennas. Developed in the 1970s alongside Shen, the compact, rugged circular microstrip antenna was first used by the military on artillery shells. Since then, the design equations that helped these researchers create the microstrip antenna have been used to adapt it for use in a wide range of things, including cell phones and other wireless communication devices.

Even more widely known is Long’s work to develop the first dielectric resonator antenna. Unlike the earlier microstrip antenna, these antennas are useful for their efficiency at higher frequencies and were first used in the 1980s in communications systems for the military.

Throughout his career, he has received more than 80 grants and contracts that have surpassed $17 million to support his research. Of this, much of these funds have been focused recently on increasing students’ interest in pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors.

“His new forays into engineering education research—with a variety of successful projects that support education across the college of engineering and in local high schools—promise results that mark the University of Houston as one of the innovators in engineering education,” said Haluk Ogmen, professor of electrical and computer engineering and former department chair. “These programs bring high school girls, high school teachers and undergraduates from other schools to campus during the summer. In addition, a new program is placing Ph.D. students in local K-12 schools to provide role models for the next generation engineering students. During the calendar year 2009 alone, he has been the recipient of over $6 million in new funding for these efforts.”

It’s for all this, and many leadership roles he has had with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which have helped earn him a growing list of awards. None, he said, have quite compared to this most recent honor.

“Those who have received this award before me truly represent the highest in faculty achievement and I am most honored to be included in such company,” Long said. “I honestly never thought I’d ever work at the same place for my entire career, but UH has been very, very good to me. My loyalty to this institution continues to increase, and I am looking forward to further participation in its growth and development.”

Despite an already 36-year career with UH, he plans to continue to inspire others—as his own mentors did for him—for years to come. For as he puts it, “my advisor, Professor King, was an active faculty member at Harvard for 70 years, so I’m using him as my role model. As far as I am concerned, I’m only half way into my career.”

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