University of Pittsburgh
February 20, 2008

Pitt 2007 Goldwater Scholar Benjamin Gordon Honored With Inaugural George Washington Prize for Engineering Students

Annual $5,000 prize intended to enhance the engineering field by helping notable students further their engineering education
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-University of Pittsburgh engineering graduate student and 2007 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar Benjamin Gordon received the inaugural George Washington Prize, a $5,000 award to be presented annually to a Pitt engineering senior to help further that student's engineering education. Pitt and the Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania recognized Gordon at ESWP's 124th Annual Banquet Feb. 20 at Heinz Field.

The George Washington Prize is named after the United States' first president-who also is being celebrated as America's first engineer during this, National Engineers Week (Feb. 17-23)-and is intended to advance the engineering field by enabling promising students to further their education. Each year's recipient also will be offered a $5,000 Dean's Fellowship from Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering should he or she pursue postgraduate education at the University. These awards would supplement any others the student receives.

Gordon is a graduate student in the Swanson School's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and, as a Pitt undergraduate, was a student in both the Swanson School and the University Honors College. He graduated from Pitt with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in December 2007 and was the sole speaker at the Swanson School's graduation ceremony. Gordon plans to earn a PhD degree in mechanical engineering and become an engineering professor, teaching and conducting research in smart structures applications.

Gordon grew up in a community plagued with poverty and crime and, at age 15, had adult independence thrust upon him when his mother died. It was a struggle not to become a tragic statistic, but his mother had stressed that a proper education was one of the keys to improving a community. She taught Gordon about such famous African American scientists as Benjamin Banneker, whose life story and scientific work have inspired Gordon.

At Pitt, Gordon has excelled academically and is an active member of his field. He has engaged in undergraduate research since his sophomore year and presented a technical paper at a 2007 joint conference on structural dynamics hosted by engineering's leading organizations, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He has held many positions in Pitt engineering labs, working, for instance, in the Sound, Systems, and Structures Laboratory researching thermoacoustics, the conversion of sound energy into heat energy, and vice versa, with particular interest in improving the efficiency and performance of a prototype model for a thermoacoustical refrigerator. Gordon was named to the National Dean's List in 2007. He also earned a place on the Swanson School Dean's Honors List every semester since the fall of 2005 and was presented with the Swanson School's Student Achievement Award last year.

Gordon has exhibited particular devotion both to bettering his profession and encouraging young African Americans to pursue engineering careers. "Minority Opinion" magazine recognized his devotion by presenting him with its 2007 Black Achievers Award. From 2006 to 2007, Gordon served as chair of and as a mentor for the National Society of Black Engineers' (NSBE) GEMSTONE program, wherein he helped engineering freshmen at Pitt transition to college life and excel academically. He served as NSBE's conference planning chair the previous year. Gordon also served as a peer mentor in Pitt's Reaching Inside Your Soul for Excellence, or RISE, program, helping to strengthen the academic performance and retention of students at Pitt. In addition, he tutored freshmen and sophomores weekly for two years in such subjects as math, physics, programming, and mechanical engineering for Pitt's EXCEL tutorial program.