Alumnus receives Presidential Early Career Award for Scientist and Engineers

Randy Ewoldt gives credit to ISU mentors for encouragement to pursue research

By Haley Brase

Randy Ewoldt recalls his great interest in physics and math while he was in high school – and that was one reason why multiple friends’ parents suggested he consider going into the engineering field. Randy did indeed follow this advice and became an engineering major at Iowa State where he graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

After his Iowa State experience, Ewoldt attended graduate school at MIT where he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees – and then went to the University of Minnesota in a post-doctoral research fellowship position. In 2011, he began at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as an assistant professor of Mechanical Science & Engineering. His teaching and research involve the physics of fluids, solids, and things-in-between (a field known as rheology).

Ewoldt recently received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientist and Engineers (PECASE) – he was one of 102 people named as a recipient by former President Obama. He was eligible for the PECASE award based on the federal funding his research received, and because he received a CAREER Award by the National Science Foundation which is itself a high recognition for young investigators who are not tenured faculty.

“This was a huge honor and I am very grateful for the recognition,” Ewoldt said. “It provides encouragement to do great things in the future with my research and teaching.” Ewoldt likens the University of Illinois to Iowa State in terms of having strong engineering programs and being land grant institutions.

While Ewoldt was at Iowa State he enjoyed being a Supplemental Instruction (SI) leader for Physics 221 for three semesters.

“This experience gave me an opportunity to learn how to teach while deepening my fundamental understanding of physics, which was a big help in graduate school.”

In addition, Ewoldt worked with Michael Olsen, professor in mechanical engineering, and Dale Chimenti, professor in aerospace engineering, who both still teach at Iowa State.

“I am forever grateful for these two generous mentors. They both gave me opportunities to do research in their labs, and also strongly encouraged me to pursue a doctorate degree and a career in research and teaching,” Ewoldt said.