Dr. Michael B. Steer, Lampe Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University, has been selected as the 29th recipient of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research and Extension. Steer delivered his lecture Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center on NC State’s Centennial Campus. His lecture was entitled “Biologically Inspired Systems Engineering: Ideas From Nothing.”*
The award was established in 1981 within the College of Engineering to honor a member of the engineering faculty who has demonstrated superiority in several areas of activity that relate to the University’s three-fold mission of teaching, research and extension. The annual award is supported by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company through the NC State Engineering Foundation to recognize scientific and educational achievements in fields of engineering. The recipient is given a $25,000 prize distributed over five years.
Steer is an internationally recognized leader in the areas of radar and sensor systems, RF and microwave communication, and defense systems. He has authored 465 publications, including three books; graduated 36 PhD students and 36 research master’s students; and has been the principal investigator of $35.2 million of research funding. He has also led three Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives (MURIs), which involve teams of researchers that investigate high-priority topics and opportunities that intersect more than one traditional technical discipline. He is one of only two academics in the country to have led three MURIs.
Steer’s work with microwave engineering has led to a profound impact on national security, including research that helped American forces remotely counter roadside bombs. His efforts have saved hundreds of soldiers’ lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, in 2010, he was honored with the US Army Commander’s Award for Public Service — the US Army’s fourth-highest award made to a private citizen. Major General Nick Justice, then-commanding general of the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command, presented the award at a special ceremony held at NC State.
Steer has also received the US Army Research Bronze Medallion for Outstanding Scientific Accomplishment in 1994 and 1996. He was inducted into the Electronic Warfare Technology Hall of Fame in 2011, the same year he launched the Defense Networking Event, which draws executives from the defense community throughout North Carolina. The group’s 324 members also include representatives of government agencies and Congressional offices.
He has done extensive work with industry as a consultant and as an advisory board member for several companies. Five of his 10 most recent PhD students have founded start-up companies based on work done under his leadership.
Additionally, he has made a major contribution to his field through the development of RF and Microwave Design: A Systems Approach, a leading textbook used throughout the world in undergraduate and graduate classes. The textbook introduces a modern systems approach to microwave education and includes real-world case studies of leading-edge designs in the field. A second-edition publication, the textbook is used at 46 universities worldwide, including 26 in North America.
Steer joined NC State as a visiting assistant professor in 1983 and was named the inaugural Lampe Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2005. He has taught a wide range of classes, running the gamut from sophomore level to advanced graduate courses and receives high marks on student surveys for his dedication, accessibility and passion for the coursework.
He is a longtime proponent of distance learning who has taught more than 30 distance education classes over the last 18 years, beginning with videotape delivery, then DVDs and later streaming of online video. He now teaches flipped classes and offers online versions of all his classes at NC State. In 2011, he was named one of the “Most Creative Teachers in the South” by Oxford American magazine, the only educator from North Carolina named to the list that year.
His service to NC State has also included extensive work on various university committees. He has also received the Alcoa Foundation Distinguished Engineering Research Award.
His many honors and awards include receiving the Presidential Young Investigator Award from President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and the Distinguished Educator Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) Microwave Theory and Techniques Society in 2011. He is also an IEEE Fellow.
Steer received his BE and PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Queensland, Australia, in 1976 and 1983, respectively.
His dedication to advancing the knowledge base in his field while also working to keep our military personnel safe and giving his all for his students make him a deserving recipient of the R.J. Reynolds Award.