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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The Battalion May 4, 2024

Five faculty members named University Distinguished Professors

Academic Building
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Academic Building

Five faculty members were announced last week as University Distinguished Professors, joining an elite group of more than 90 current faculty. The designation is the highest honor awarded to a faculty member.
University Distinguished Professors are faculty who have made an impact and are widely regarded as progressors of scholarship in their field of study. The latest members to join the ranks are Kyle Alfriend, TEES Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Katherine Banks, Che-Ming Ko, Alan Needleman, and Michael Waters.
Ko is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy who has been at the university for 37 years. Ko said it’s a great honor to join such a small group.
“I was one of maybe one or two thousand faculty,” Ko said. “That’s a very small percentage, so it’s an honor to be appointed to that position.”
Needleman is a TEES Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Needleman has only been at A&M for two years, and said what he loves most is the chance to work closely with people on projects he enjoys.
“What is satisfying about recognition is when it comes from people that I respect,” Needleman said. “It’s not for titles or anything like that. The work I do is work for the fun of it and the satisfaction of doing the work and hopefully having an impact.”
Faculty members can make an impact on each of their students and Waters said this has been the most rewarding aspect of his job.
“I really enjoy mentoring students to become independent thinkers and good scientists,” Waters said. “Hopefully, with becoming a distinguished professor, I will be able to give more back to the university and to the students that we work with here in our department.”
Katherine Banks is a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and Dean of Engineering. Since joining A&M in 2012, has seen many students work diligently through engineering and said watching that growth is what brings joy to faculty members.
“The most rewarding moments involve working with students who struggle in the first few semesters in engineering, either due to limited preparation in high school or other circumstances beyond their control,” Banks said. “ After hard work and persistence, it is a joy to witness the moments when these students realize that they can be successful and celebrate with them and their families at graduation.”
President Michael Young and the Texas A&M Foundation will host a reception for the professors on April 26, and Alfriend said the opportunity to meet other impactful professors from across the university is what he looks forward to the most.
“You surround yourself with those that you work with, so I think this will open up my horizons by meeting other faculty throughout the whole university and interacting with them,” Alfriend said. “Broadening my horizons and meeting other distinguished professors from other parts of the university and getting to know them, I think will be a major thing for me.”
Michael Waters is a professor in the Department of Anthropology and a first generation college graduate in his family. Waters said he hopes to inspire more students in the way A&M has inspired him.
“I am a first-generation college student, and I hope I can inspire even more students,” Waters said. “I have a special place in my heart for Texas A&M University. I feel blessed to have come.”

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