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Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award: Emmanuel Collins receives recognition from Purdue University

Dr. Emmanuel Collins, Department Chair of Mechanical Engineering, John H. Seely Professor & CISCOR Director

From the beginning of his achievements as valedictorian of Morehouse College in 1981, to graduating with his PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University in 1987, to becoming John H. Seely Professor in 2004, Mechanical Engineering’s Dr. Emmanuel Collins boasts a long list of accomplishments and honors. Subsequent to earning his PhD, he went to work for Harris Corporation and while there was awarded an Engineering Achievement Award in 1990 and an Honorary Superior Accomplishment Award by NASA in 1991. More recently, Dr. Collins earned the College of Engineering’s Research Award in 2003, followed by the John H. Seely Professorship in 2004, and in 2015, he was awarded a College-Level Promotion of Education Award at the Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference.

Adding to his list of awards, Dr. Collins is now the recipient of an Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award at his graduate education alma mater, Purdue University. The award spotlights alumni of Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics who have not only built accomplished careers as engineers, but as a result become representatives of success for Purdue.

While there have been several points of success throughout Dr. Collins’ career, the three that he feels stand out are, "Forming the Center for Intelligent Systems, Control, and Robotics (CISCOR), having an impact on developing African-American PhDs in Mechanical Engineering, and becoming Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering."

Dr. Collins founded the Center for Intelligent Systems, Control, and Robotics—commonly known as CISCOR— in 2003. It wasn’t an easy feat either, as Dr. Collins’ main area of research is controls, so he took it upon himself to develop expertise in mobile robotics through reading and learning from others in the field. Another challenge in founding CISCOR was finding faculty to join, given the lack of those whose research focused on robotics. The solution? Dr. Collins shares that the issue "was overcome by collaborating with faculty in other departments who do research in areas that overlap with robotics."

Indeed, a part of Dr. Collins’ success as an engineering professor is his penchant for collaboration and therefore strengthening of robotics research.

"My philosophy is to be humble in thinking about my personal contributions, but aggressive in pursuing ideas to improve my academic organization or research center. I believe in involving all members in planning and implementation and being liberal with giving credit to others. I take great satisfaction in promoting the contributions and careers of those with whom I work," remarks Dr. Collins.

He advises that in order to be a successful engineering professor, you have to "discover your strengths as a researcher and develop a unique identity, and be fearless in solving research problems and pursuing new research ideas."

The number one priority however, is educating students to be excellent engineers. "Students first," he states.

Teaching students to find their strengths in engineering and work well with others will not only ensure that they make great contributions to the field, but may even earn them recognition by their alma mater just as it has for Dr. Collins. His ambition, talent, and ability to encourage those he works with to develop their own talents underscore his earning Purdue’s Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award. He will be presented his award on April 21, 2017.