Howard University honors a Maverick

Dereje Agonafer

A University of Texas at Arlington engineering professor has received the Howard University 2020 Alumni Award for Distinguished Postgraduate Achievement.

Dereje Agonafer, Presidential Distinguished Professor and the Jenkins Garrett Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, earned his doctorate from Howard and was honored March 7 at Howard’s Charter Day Dinner.

“I am honored at being recognized by my alma mater,” said Agonafer, who was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2019. “I received an excellent education at Howard and in particular, I want to acknowledge Professor Charles Watkins, my adviser, and Professor Joseph Cannon, my mentor. “

Agonafer joined UTA in 1999 after a stellar 15-year career with IBM. At UTA, he has supervised 225 graduate students and is currently advising 15 doctoral students. His former students work in some of the world’s leading global companies, including Facebook and Intel.

Agonafer holds nine U.S. patents and six foreign patents. He has published more than 230 papers, four books and several book chapters. He has also given numerous keynote addresses, both international and domestic.

His most recent research has been on data center cooling and 3D packaging/cooling, in partnership with some of the biggest names in industry, including Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and Cisco. He is UTA’s site director for a National Science Foundation Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers in Energy-Efficient Systems that was formed in collaboration with SUNY Binghamton, Villanova University and Georgia Tech. He also heads a center in Electronic Packaging that addresses a range of issues from thermal to reliability of electronic systems and is forming a new Center for Reliability Assessment in Micro and Power Electronic Systems to tackle material characterization and thermo/mechanical challenges related to heterogeneous 3D integration.

Agonafer has received numerous awards in his field. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Life Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers International and a Life Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. In 2019, he received the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ prestigious Heat Transfer Memorial Award.

He has long been a mentor and advocate for minorities in engineering and is a strong supporter of UTA’s National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).

“Dr. Agonafer has been an extraordinary mentor, example and adviser to the UTA NSBE chapter. He has invested so much of his time and effort and helping this organization grow and succeed,” said Ruth Abegaz, UTA NSBE vice president. “Not only does Dr. Agonafer connect us with various opportunities, but he continuously pushes the NSBE students to excel to new heights. Our chapter is so honored to have had his mentorship and support throughout the years.”

Agonafer and his wife, Carolyn, have two children: Damena Agonafer, who is a professor of mechanical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, and Dr. Senayet Agonafer, a radiologist who works at Lenox Hill Radiology in New York City.

“Dr. Agonafer has attained most every major award in his field,” said Erian Armanios, chair of UTA’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “This award means something special to him since it’s from his alma mater.”

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