Explore UAB

Kathy Lu, Ph.D., has been selected to become the inaugural chair of the UAB Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. Lu was selected after a nationwide search for a chair that began when the department was formed in 2022 from the merger of the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering.

Lu, currently a professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department of Virginia Tech, will officially take over as chair on August 15, 2023.

“I am really excited that we were able to recruit Kathy to UAB, for several reasons,” said School of Engineering Dean Jeff Holmes, M.D., Ph.D. “First, she is a very accomplished materials scientist and engineer who will be one of our most-cited faculty on the day she arrives. Second, she has pursued a really interesting mix of professional experiences including Visiting Professorships in Germany and Sweden that gives her a broad, international perspective on Engineering.

“And finally, she is a proven and thoughtful leader with experience spearheading large, multi-investigator, cross-department initiatives at Virginia Tech, as well as significant leadership experience in national professional societies.”

Lu earned her bachelor’s degree in ceramics from Tianjin University and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Materials Science and Engineering from Ohio State University. Her research interests are in polymer derived ceramics and composites, materials degradation in harsh environments, data-driven materials processing and characterization, and materials fundamental studies.

“My career goal has always been to work with others in the science and engineering community and to establish an interdisciplinary and world-renowned research program, with the aim of advancing fundamental understanding and applications of materials, especially for challenging environmental conditions,” said Lu. “Our society has a perpetual need for research excellence, complex problem-solving, and well-trained engineering students. Having worked in industry and then at an academic institution, my strong desire is to work with faculty, staff, and students to grow outstanding academic programs, conduct science- and application-driven research, and accelerate positive changes in engineering education.”

Lu began her career working at Penn State University and then at Energizer Battery Company before moving to Virginia Tech in 2004. There, she has worked in a variety of roles, most recently as the lead of the College of Engineering’s Artificial Intelligence-Guided Materials Thrust. She was also the co-lead of the campus-wide Materials Strategic Growth Area.

In 2021, she served as the Fulbright Distinguished Chair Visiting Professor in the Department of Physics at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenberg, Sweden.

Lu has published more than 200 peer-reviewed journal papers, two single-authored books, and four book chapters. She has been honored with several awards including the Arthur L. Friedberg Ceramic Engineering Tutorial and Lecture Award of the American Ceramic Society, TMS Fellow, Fulbright Distinguished Chair Award, American Ceramic Society Fellow, Virginia Tech Alumni Award for Research Excellence, Virginia Tech College of Engineering Faculty Fellow Award, Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award of Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Karl Schwartzwalder-Professional Achievement in Ceramic Engineering (PACE) Award of American Ceramic Society, and Ralph E. Powe Faculty Award of Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

“The MME department is at a new beginning of significant growth," Lu said. "Several new research initiatives are in the works; the department will move into the new engineering building in two years; a strong collaboration network across Alabama is on the horizon; and more students are coming to MME for their engineering education. Our faculty and students will be the driving force and main players for this exciting transformation.”