Professor Amber Genau - 2022 Acta Materialia Mary Fortune Global Diversity Medal Recipient
Professor Amber Genau - 2022 Acta Materialia Mary Fortune Global Diversity Medal Recipient

The recipient of the 2022 Acta Materialia Mary Fortune Global Diversity Medal is Amber Genau, Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  Her citation for the award reads “For sustained, varied and enthusiastic efforts to diversify the field of materials science by providing engaging experiences and serving as a positive role model inside and outside the classroom.” 

Dr. Amber Genau received her BS and MS degrees in materials engineering from Iowa State University in 2004 and her PhD in materials science from Northwestern University in 2008.  She spent two years at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne, working in the Institute for Materials Physics in Space, before joining the faculty at UAB in 2010.  Her research focuses on metal alloy solidification and characterization of complex microstructures.  Dr. Genau’s active and well-funded research lab, with support from NSF, NASA, DOE and others, including an NSF CAREER award in 2016, has allowed her to support a diverse array of research assistants from high school through postdoctoral level. Dr. Genau maintains active collaborations with several German universities and returned to RWTH Aachen University for a sabbatical in 2019.

Dr. Genau was inspired to pursue an academic career by the energetic young female professor who taught her first materials engineering course.  Since then, she has worked to be a similar role model for other young women and girls and to make engineering an accessible and attractive field for a variety of students.  She particularly likes teaching introductory materials courses, where the connections between the course content and students’ real-world experiences are so clear.  She works continually to revise and improve her courses, using diverse examples and research-informed teaching strategies.  Dr. Genau is an active member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), attending the annual national meeting and associated workshops to learn more about best practices for teaching engineering in general and materials engineering specifically.

Strongly influenced by her own study abroad experience as an undergraduate student, Dr. Genau organizes a biannual MSE elective course in Germany.  Titled “The Evolution of Engineering Materials,” the three-week tour through Germany includes visits to universities, research labs, industrial production facilities, and various museums and cultural sites to survey engineering materials of the past, present, and future and their influence on society.  Dr. Genau particularly tries to facilitate connections between the American and German engineering students and between her students and American engineers working abroad, in hopes that the students can see themselves in a similar position someday. 

Based on her experience in Germany and her belief that understanding history makes students better engineers and more thoughtful citizens, she worked with the UAB history department to create a co-taught, two course sequence on World History and Technology that meets undergraduate core curriculum requirements.  These courses are now available for engineering majors and non-engineers alike.   

For her efforts in and out of the classroom, Dr. Genau was recognized with the UAB Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2017 and the ASM Bradley Stoughton Award for Young Teachers in 2014, which noted her outstanding classroom instruction, excellence in student recruitment and strong support of student chapters of technical societies.  Since joining the MSE department at UAB, Dr. Genau has been the faculty advisor for the department’s chapter of Material Advantage and co-advisor for the American Foundry Society chapter.  In 2015, Dr. Genau became the founding faculty advisor for UKirk, a new student organization on campus that provides welcoming Christian fellowship to straight and LGBT students.

Dr. Genau is also active in a variety of outreach activities, most notably organizing a Materials Camp for local high school students since 2011.  Starting in 2016, she began a partnership with UAB’s Community Outreach Development (CORD) office to recruit more students from Birmingham’s underserved urban schools, which serve primarily African American students.

Dr. Genau’s professional service is similarly oriented to education and diversity.  She is currently the chair of the TMS education committee and a member of the TMS diversity committee.  As a member of the TMS young leaders committee, she organized the Student Career Forum in 2015, assembling a diverse panel of professionals to speak to undergraduate students.  Since 2016, Dr. Genau has organized the NSF Grantees Poster Session at the ASEE Annual Meeting, a high visibility venue for 150+ investigators with funded projects in engineering education to disseminate their work. 

The University of Alabama in Birmingham has been recognized by the Princeton Review for the diversity of its student body, around 35% of which is African American.  During the 2016-2017 academic year, Dr. Genau participated in UAB’s Blaze Leadership Academy, leading a team of participants in a project related to improving the campus experience for minority and first generation college students.  The Blaze project culminated in a two-day summit for students, faculty and academic advisors about best practices for supporting diverse students, coordinated in conjunction with UAB’s Center for Teaching and Learning.

Dr. Amber Genau will receive the Acta Materialia Mary Fortune Global Diversity Medal during the 2022 TMS Spring Meeting to be held in Anaheim, California,  February 27 – March 3, 2022.