Inaugural recipient of engineering career development professorship named

April 27, 2023

By Mariah R. Lucas

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Greg Pavlak, assistant professor of architectural engineering in Penn State’s College of Engineering, has been named the first recipient of the Gifford H. Albright Career Development Professorship in Architectural Engineering. 

Gifford “Giff” Albright, the first head of the Department of Architectural Engineering (AE), died in 2020 at the age of 89. The career development professorship was established with a $250,000 endowment from Albright’s estate. With a three-year term that can be renewed, the professorship is designed to encourage an early career AE faculty member to innovate in teaching and research by supplementing their start-up funding. 
Pavlak will use the spendable income from the endowment to establish a summer program that enables AE graduate students to sharpen their teaching skills and integrate their research with AE courses. 
“On behalf of the whole AE department, we are grateful for Giff Albright’s estate gift and the impact it will bring to the department,” said Jim Freihaut, professor and interim head of the AE department. “Giff devoted his career to architectural engineering by serving the department for 29 years, 21 of them as department head. The generous career development professorship will allow Giff’s legacy of excellence in research and the classroom to continue.”

The summer teaching program will fund two to three graduate students for half the summer, starting this year. 

“It will allow students to carve out the time to dive into topics, such as best practices for developing activities or lessons as they relate to the courses they’ll be teaching,” Pavlak said. “It’s offering a whole other level of detail teaching assistants would not normally get prior to teaching a course.”  
Pavlak will provide students with mentorship and instruction on how to design course modules and write learning objectives. The students will then put the extra training into practice by translating their own research into active learning modules that can be used to enrich existing AE courses.  
“Graduate students are in the best position to translate their research into innovative teaching modules, since they are primarily responsible for the day-to-day execution of research activities,” Pavlak said. “With some additional training and mentorship on learning module design and teaching practices, student researchers can both grow as educators themselves and advance the teaching and educational mission of Penn State AE.” 
After earning his doctorate in architectural engineering in 2014 from the University of Colorado Boulder, Pavlak spent two years as an adjunct professor of engineering and visiting assistant professor of engineering at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. During that time, he also worked for a building optimization company as a lead scientist.  
Pavlak joined Penn State in 2017, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate building science and engineering courses. As director of the Sustainable Building Decisions Lab, he conducts research in building mechanical systems, including smart building systems, building-to-grid integration, and distributed and renewable energy.     

“I am immensely grateful to receive the Gifford H. Albright Career Development Professorship in Architectural Engineering, and for the opportunity it creates,” Pavlak said. “Giff is remembered as a visionary, and through this program I hope to honor his legacy by encouraging the same innovative spirit within our students.” 

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