Marcello R. Napolitano, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources West Virginia University, was named 2011 Professor of the Year by the Faculty Merit Foundation. The award was presented on March 13 during a banquet held in the Great Hall of the Culture Center in Charleston.

“Dr. Napolitano is certainly one of our very best,” said WVU President Jim Clements. “I am extremely pleased that he is being recognized for his outstanding teaching and research as well as his dedication over the years. The comments from his students say it all, and underscore the huge difference our faculty members make in the lives of our students and the quality of our University.”

Napolitano, who has been at WVU since 1990, received his doctorate in aerospace engineering from Oklahoma State University and his master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Naples Federico II, in Italy. He developed, along with his colleague Dr. Mario Perhinschi, the MAE Flight Simulation Laboratory at WVU, making the University one of only a handful of institutions internationally to feature such a state-of-the-art educational laboratory. The center is used for teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in the area of flight dynamics, flight simulations and flight controls, and determining the many different classes of failures on aircraft. These technologies are part of full flight test development programs within NASA and the Air Force.

Brian Stolarik, vice president, Mission Systems Group, said, “Dr. Napolitano’s innovative approaches to industry-relevant problems continue to promote WVU and West Virginia on a national and international scale. [His] development of relative navigation flight control is a significant contribution to the U.S. Air Force’s Automated Aerial Refueling program, which seeks to autonomously refuel a pilotless airplane during flight.”

Stolarik, a former student, noted that “Napolitano’s students excel as a result of his creativity in teaching.” Noting that Napolitano requires students to write an analysis as to why something did or did not work and what would happen to the solution if the assumptions changed. Stolarik added that this method of teaching demands that students think critically and also perfect their writing skills; a methodology rare in engineering education.

Napolitano was nominated for the award by Gene Cilento, Glen Hiner Dean of the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at WVU, and Jacky Prucz, chairman of the MAE department. In their nomination letter, the pair noted Dr. Napolitano “has unequivocally demonstrated steadfast dedication to advancing the mission of WVU in general, the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace engineering in particular, through highly effective and creative teaching, innovative research and seamless integration of its findings with his instructional materials.”

Former WVU Student Body President and current California Institute of Technology NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory researcher Jason Gross was one of Napolitano’s students. “My first experience with Dr. Napolitano was as a student in his undergraduate Flight Dynamics and Automatic Controls courses. His enthusiasm, in-depth knowledge of the subject matter and willingness to challenge me quickly made his courses my favorite.”

The Faculty Merit Foundation of West Virginia each year honors an outstanding faculty member at a West Virginia college or university. The award winner receives a $10,000 cash prize, with smaller awards to the other finalists. The Professor of the Year award is presented with financial support from United Bank.

Gregory P. Noone, a law and political science professor at Fairmont State University, was first runner-up. Yi Charlie Chen, biology professor, Alderson-Broaddus College; Laura H. Clayton, a professor in the Department of Nursing Education, Shepherd University; and Phil O. McClung, psychology professor, West Virginia University at Parkersburg, also received prizes as finalists for the award.



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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon