Collage of TCE Faculty Members

Coming into Focus

Strategic Expansion of Faculty, Staff, Research, and Education Programs on the Way

An influx of new faculty will fuel new academic programs and growth into strategic research areas.

By David Goddard.

That’s the message for the Tickle College of Engineering (TCE), which is at the beginning of an investment of around 30 new faculty at all levels in Knoxville and Tullahoma and 10 staff positions within the next 4-5 years.

TCE will invest in strategic clusters, and leverage the brand new 228,000 square-foot Zeanah Engineering Complex, the new University of Tennessee Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII), and unique facilities that are part of the UT Space Institute (UTSI) to enhance the quality of education and research and creative impact on the state and nation.

“The opening of the Zeanah Engineering Complex and the standup of UT-ORII provide a unique opportunity to leverage these investments in our faculty and staff to amplify the impact we can have,” said Matthew Mench, TCE dean and Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair. “This is a tremendous opportunity to transform the TCE toward the top, and a wonderful time to be in the TCE.”

Mench noted that the recent hiring of Jeremy Kirk as assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion and of Lindsay Hammill as director of industry partnerships were perfect examples of staff hires that should make an impact college-wide, as is the search for the next executive director of UTSI.

Additionally, UTSI has recently been refocused as part of the strategic plan to become a focal point for aerospace and defense related research and education for the university.

“The grand opening of the new Huntsville Research Office this spring is an indication of the commitment the TCE has to expanding our impact in the aerospace and defense sector, and to leverage our existing strengths in advanced materials, manufacturing and hypersonics” said Mench.

The initial clusters of faculty that will be hired as part of the expansion plan will be in hypersonics, energy storage, advanced manufacturing, and radioisotopes.

“These areas are national strengths of the TCE we can build on and are in great need to meet national research and development needs” said Mench. “This is not an exclusive list, however, we will continue to invest across the whole college in other areas of opportunities as well.”

Another area of investment will be in artificial intelligence and machine learning. These investments will greatly enhance the college’s ability to pursue high-impact research programs and collaborations, but its not just research that will be enhanced.

Our plans are bold, ambitious, and inter-related by design. It is going to be a fun time to be on Rocky Top.”

—Matthew Mench

“The investments we are making deliberately intersect departmental boundaries and will be implemented to create additional curricular programs,” said Mench. “We will create unique educational opportunities for our students that help set them apart from others on the job market. This isn’t just about being bigger, it is about leveraging our investments in space, partnerships with Oak Ridge National Lab, UT-ORII, and other ongoing campus-wide investments to create something that is bigger than the sum of the parts.”

When complete, new faculty and investments will flow into all departments in the TCE, to better serve our students and land grant mission.

Besides the handful of hires that have been made already, the transformation will begin to take shape in the coming months.

“We’ll have senior-level hires, or at least searches, beginning this fall and into 2023,” said Mench. “Then, in 2024, the process will begin for that next wave of mid-career and junior faculty.”

All told, the college’s faculty, staff, and research portfolio are set to receive a major boost in the years ahead.

“Our plans are bold, ambitious, and inter-related by design,” said Mench. “It is going to be a fun time to be on Rocky Top.”

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