UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Karen Thole, professor and department head of mechanical and nuclear engineering, has been named a Penn State distinguished professor.
Thole has been department head at Penn State since 2006. Her expertise is in convective heat transfer and state-of-art turbine cooling methods such as film-cooling, impingement cooling, and micro-channel cooling. In 2011, she founded the Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine Laboratory (START) focused on gas turbine heat transfer during continuous operation at realistic engine conditions. The START Lab is a center of excellence for a major gas turbine manufacturer. She has secured more than $25 million in external research funding ($8 million in just the past two years), published more than 200 peer-reviewed papers, and advised more than 60 dissertations and theses.
“I am honored to have been chosen for this recognition of my research scholarship,” Thole said. “The distinguished professor title illustrates the hard work of those that I have the good fortune to work with, namely my undergraduate and graduate students, research staff, and research sponsors.”
Thole has received significant recognition for her research, teaching, mentoring and service to the profession. In 2016, she received the Edwin F. Church Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for her role in the creation and development of the Engineering Ambassadors Network. In 2015, Thole was named the ASME George Westinghouse Gold Medal recipient for her research in turbine heat transfer. In 2014, she received the Society of Women Engineers Distinguished Engineering Educator Award, and in 2011 was named a White House Champion of Change. She was named an ASME Fellow in 2004.
Prior to joining Penn State, Thole held faculty positions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Virginia Tech. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.
The title of distinguished professor was established by the Office of the President to recognize the academic contributions of a select group of current, full-time faculty members who hold the rank of professor and are acknowledged leaders in their fields of research or creative activity. Distinguished professors demonstrate significant leadership in raising the University's standards in teaching, research or creative activity and service, and exhibit excellent teaching skills.