Trailblazing engineering professor honored with alumni award
Awatef Hamed was the first woman to head a college aerospace engineering department
Professor Emerita Awatef Hamed is a trailblazer. She came of age during a time when few women were going to college to study engineering. In 1968, she left her home in Egypt and came to the University of Cincinnati as the only female graduate student in the aerospace engineering program. She went on to get her master’s and doctoral degrees from UC and then was hired as a faculty member, where she was the only female faculty member for two decades. In 2001, she became the first woman to head a college aerospace engineering department.
Hamed was presented with the 2022 Herman Schneider Distinguished Alumni Award by the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association and the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science. The award honors the achievements of outstanding graduates whose personal stature have reflected an exceptionally large measure of acclaim on our academic departments and the disciplines they represent.
Hamed led the department for more than a decade and also continued to pursue her research interests in jet propulsion technology. She is recognized for her research in gas turbine engine erosion, shock boundary layer interaction control, and thermal management of aircraft and propulsion systems. She has produced more than 350 publications based on her research work.
During her tenure as department head, Hamed was instrumental in securing a massive $27.5 million Ohio Research Scholar award and established the Center for Intelligent Jet Propulsion at UC in 2008. She also helped UC to obtain an $11 million award to the Ohio Center for Advanced Propulsion and Power, which led to growth in the aerospace engineering department’s infrastructure and research facilities. All told, Hamed helped bring in more than $45 million for her own research and for the college, including four endowed faculty positions.
For her accomplishments as an engineering educator and prolific researcher, she won the 2008 J. Leland Atwood Award from the American Society for Engineering Education and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics. She is the recipient of the 2004 ASME Aircraft Engine Committee best paper Award, the 2005 UC College of Engineering Research Award, the 2005 YWCA Career Woman of Achievement Award, the 2015 UC Faculty Career Award and the ASME 2018 Kathy Gleason Award.
She was honored as a Fellow from both the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Hamed comes from a family of scientists. Her father was an engineer and professor. One of her older sisters is a doctor and the other is a civil engineer. As a precocious child growing up in Egypt, she was already reading and doing basic math when she started school at age five – a year earlier than is standard. She excelled in school, especially math, and was guided by a college professor to major in electrical engineering, which she didn’t really enjoy. Eventually, she found a better fit studying aeronautical engineering. After graduating, she worked in industry for a few years in Egypt before coming to Cincinnati.
Being the only woman in the room was a regular occurrence for Hamed, starting during her undergraduate years. She says it didn’t bother her because it was just how it always was. She’s worked diligently to support women in her field, including founding UC’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, a student group that continues to flourish.
Although Hamed officially retired in 2018 and now holds the title of Professor Emerita, she continues to work in her High Temperature Gas Turbine Erosion Lab conducting critical tests for industry.