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Dean Thompson receives alumni award from alma mater

Two men face sitting in chairs on a stage talk to each other. Dean Thompson on the left is actively speaking into a microphone.

University of Missouri College of Engineering Dean James Thompson, a 2013 Distinguished Engineer, is interviewed by Dr. Marshall Watson, chair of the Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas Tech University at the 2013 Distinguished Engineer Awards Luncheon. Micah Heatwole, photos courtesy of Texas Tech University

James E. Thompson, dean of the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering, was recognized as one the 2013 Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering’s Distinguished Engineers at Texas Tech University.

Thompson was selected to receive the award based on his contributions as MU’s College of Engineering dean and as a former dean of engineering at the University of New Mexico.

“Being recognized for my achievements and contributions to engineering by my alma mater is a great honor,” Thompson said. “Much in the way we honor our alumni with Missouri Honor Awards, the Whitacre College of Engineering Distinguished Engineer award recognizes me, among others, who’ve had a lifelong career in engineering. I am proud to be a representative for the benefits and opportunities both universities provide to students. I substantially benefited from my TTU education and am grateful to the commitment and capabilities of the faculty of the Electrical Engineering Department.”

A 1968, 1970 and 1974 alumnus of Texas Tech in electrical engineering, Thompson has served as the dean of MU Engineering since 1994. He is a registered professional engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the former president of the IEEE Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Society.

During Thompson’s tenure at MU, the college completed a $21.9 million addition to Lafferre Hall that added more than 60,000 square feet of new and renovated space for undergraduate labs, research facilities, classrooms and offices.

Since becoming dean, engineering’s student enrollment has more than doubled, retention and graduation rates continue to rise, and research expenditures have grown to approximately $35 million per year.

In recent years, MU Engineering’s International Student Program has grown by establishing partnerships with universities across the globe. To date, MU Engineering has signed Memorandums of Understanding with 37 partner universities in locations such as China, India, Korea, Egypt and Iraq.

Prior to joining the faculty at MU, Thompson served as the dean of engineering at the University of New Mexico. Among his accomplishments at UNM were substantially growing research, including initiating and growing the UNM-managed Maui High Performance Computing Center in Hawaii. He also is proud of substantially growing Hispanic student enrollment and success rates.

Thompson’s areas of expertise are in high voltage, electro-optics; electrical breakdown phenomena in gases, liquids, solids and vacuum, pulsed-power systems and devices; lasers; fast electrical and optical diagnostics; high power switches and dielectric materials. He was elected an honorary doctor of the Institute of Electrophysics in Russia in 1992 and has authored more than 100 technical journal and presentation articles, as well as numerous chapters in technical books.

Thompson received his award at a luncheon at Texas Tech in April. He was one of seven recipients of the nomination-based honor.

The Whitacre College of Engineering’s Distinguished Engineer Citations are awarded annually to the college’s most outstanding alumni. Since the first awards were given in the 1966-1967 academic year, 212 former students have been recognized for their engineering achievements in academia and industry, as well as their continued efforts promoting and inspiring interest in engineering.

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