Gary M. Koenig Jr. has been promoted to associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering in the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Koenig joined the department as an assistant professor in January 2012, less than eight years after graduating summa cum laude from The Ohio State University in 2004 with a B.S. in chemical engineering. He earned his Ph.D. in chemical and biological engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2009 and completed two years of postdoctoral training at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.
Koenig teaches graduate and undergraduate courses – including, during his first six years, “Material and Energy Balances,” which introduces undergraduates to the discipline. Noted for his emphasis on how to solve problems and ability to connect engineering principles to students’ daily experiences, Koenig has received numerous teaching and research honors during his time at UVA. These include University-wide teaching awards in each of the past two years, the Robert A. Moore Jr. Award for preparing students for industrial careers and the Air Force Summer Faculty Fellowship, among others. In 2017, he won the prestigious NSF CAREER Award for young faculty, which provides a five-year $516,222 grant to fund his research.
At Argonne National Laboratory, Koenig was an inventor in the Electrochemical Energy Storage Group in the Chemical Science and Engineering Division. Today, his research interests remain centered on energy storage innovations. Koenig and the graduate students in his lab are working to improve the performance, safety and economic competitiveness of batteries by developing new materials and techniques that give designers more control over their composition. The tools will be applicable to many different battery chemistries, advancing knowledge in the field.
Koenig finds that UVA Engineering students are excited and dedicated to learning, which is gratifying as a teacher. But what has also always stood out to him is the department’s collegial environment and the mentorship he has received.
“[AT&T Professor of Engineering and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering] Rob Kelly has been my mentor, and he has been very supportive and helpful over the years,” Koenig said. “The culture in the department is great. I always feel comfortable leaning on other faculty any time I need advice.”
That support has given him the room to flex and grow, both in the classroom and in the laboratory. He redesigned that “Material and Energy Balances” course after participating in UVA’s Center for Teaching Excellence Nucleus program, and created a much needed new one, “Energy Outlook and Technology Options.”
He also took advantage of the University’s designation as an NSF Innovation Corps site. I-Corps provides support and training to facilitate moving NSF-funded research toward commercialization with the goal of accelerating its social and economic benefits. That experience, Koenig said, led to a better understanding of how customers would use the technology – and ultimately to new research directions and sources of funding.
In evaluating Koenig’s promotion, Bill Epling, professor of chemical engineering and chair of the department, pointed to his overall body of work. The way Koenig relates to undergraduates in the classroom, how he mentors Ph.D. and master’s candidates, and his lab’s contributions to big energy challenges model what the Engineering School and his department look for in faculty, he said.
“We want professors who are innovative, thought leaders, and translate knowledge into application in their research. We want professors who are innovative and passionate in their teaching. Gary exemplifies these traits,” Epling said.
Epling added that Koenig is the first in line of several assistant professors hired in recent years.
“Gary’s promotion is another indicator of the strong growth our department has experienced and we want to celebrate it,” Epling said.