Jacqueline O'Connor receives Dilip R. Ballal Early Career Engineer Award from ASME IGTI


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Jacqueline O’Connor, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has been selected by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) International Gas Turbine Institute (IGTI) as the 2018 Dilip R. Ballal Early Career Engineer Award winner. The award is intended to honor an individual who has had outstanding accomplishments during the beginning of their career.

“In the relatively short time Dr. O’Connor has been with our department, she has quickly made impacts through both her research and teaching,” said Karen Thole, distinguished professor and department head of mechanical and nuclear engineering. “She is an outstanding early career faculty member and a role model for many young engineers working in the gas turbine industry.”

Since joining Penn State in 2013, Dr. O’Connor has had several accomplishments in regards to her research and teaching. Aside from her role as assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Dr. O’Connor is director of the Reacting Flow Dynamics Laboratory – part of the Center for Combustion, Power and Propulsion – where her research focuses on unsteady combustion phenomena in power and propulsion technologies, including power generation gas turbines, aircraft engines and diesel engines, using high-speed laser diagnostics.

Her research has led to identifying key pathways for combustion instabilities and the role of those instabilities in flame dynamics, and within her first year, she received research contracts from important industry partners. Her laboratory and research group is quickly becoming well known to the industry in terms of the unique research she has developed, and her work has led to the improvement of combustor design for more stable combustion.

“Jacqueline is leading research programs in both the area of gas turbine combustion instabilities and in diesel fuel injection and combustion,” said Keith McManus, manager of the Emissions and Fuel Flexibility Laboratory at GE, who served as O’Connor’s project leader and mentor during her two internships at GE Global Research. “She has had an outstanding career thus far and a phenomenal publication record for someone in her career stage.”

In addition, Dr. O’Connor has been an honors adviser for Penn State Schreyer Honors College since 2014 and has chaired the Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Schreyer Honors Advising Committee since 2016.

She has received several awards, notably the highly selective Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Award, as well as the Irvin Glassman Young Investigator Award and Lecture from the Eastern States Section of the Combustion Institute. She recently received the Excellence in Honors Advising Award from the Schreyer Honors College, based on nominations from students.

Dr. O’Connor received a bachelor of science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a master’s and Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology.

“Jacqueline stood out at Georgia Tech as the most enthusiastic and inquisitive student I have seen come out of our lab in the 20 years I have been there, which is more than 500 students,” said Tim Lieuwen, David S. Lewis, Jr., Chair and Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology. “What most prominently differentiates Jackie is her natural leadership and organization. She is very enthusiastic, not afraid to lead by example and works very hard.”

Dr. O’Connor’s interest in gas turbines started the summer after her freshman year of college when she worked at Pratt & Whitney as an intern. “Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work with multiple gas turbine companies and do research on so many exciting topics in the gas turbine field,” she said.

Formal presentation of the award to Dr. O’Connor will be made at the ASME Turbo Expo Keynote and Awards Program on June 11, 2018 in Lillestrøm, Norway.

“Winning this award in particular was very meaningful for me, as I’ve been involved with IGTI since graduate school,” said Dr. O’Connor. “I greatly respect and admire my peers in the IGTI, so it’s extra special to receive an award from them.”

Dr. O’Connor adds, “Special thanks goes to my nominators, Karen Thole, Tim Lieuwen and Keith McManus. Its mentors like Keith, Tim and Karen that inspire me in my teaching career and in my continuing work with IGTI.”


Share this story:

facebook linked in twitter email


Megan Lakatos




With more than 60 faculty members, 330 graduate students, and 800 undergraduate students, the Penn State Department of Mechanical Engineering embraces a culture that welcomes individuals with a diversity of backgrounds and expertise. Our faculty and students are innovating today what will impact tomorrow’s solutions to meeting our energy needs, homeland security, biomedical devices, and transportation systems. We offer B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering as well as resident (M.S., Ph.D.) and online (M.S.) graduate degrees in mechanical engineering. See how we’re inspiring change and impacting tomorrow at me.psu.edu.

Department of Mechanical Engineering

137 Reber Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2519