Dr. Gabe Xu wins $75K McMahon-Pleiad Prize from University of Alabama System in recognition of research contributions

Dr. Gabe Xu holding tech in a lab setting.
Dr. Gabe Xu holds a hall effect thruster manufactured using 3D printing.
Michael Mercier | UAH

Dr. Gabe Xu, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), has been selected to receive the 2023 University of Alabama (UA) System McMahon-Pleiad Prize. The award recognizes contributions to teaching, research or service in alignment with the UA System’s mission, values and core principles.

The McMahon-Pleiad Prize was created in honor of Trustee Emeritus John J. McMahon Jr. and his family’s contributions to the UA System and the state and is awarded annually to a faculty or staff member at one of the UA System’s entities: the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), UAH or the UAB Medicine enterprise. The honoree receives a $75,000 award, half of which is earmarked to furthering the recipient’s contributions through teaching, research or service.

“This isn't a solo effort,” Xu said on hearing the announcement. “My success has been possible because of all the support, encouragement and mentorship provided to me over the years. I want to thank Trustee Emeritus McMahon as well as Chancellor St. John and the rest of the selection committee for this great honor. I look forward to continuing this important work.”

Last year, Xu also received the UAH College of Engineering Outstanding Senior Faculty Award during Engineering Week, the COE Outstanding Faculty Research Award during Honors Day and the 2023 COE Outstanding Faculty Member Award as part of the University Awards for Excellence. Xu’s research expenditures over the last 11 years total approximately $5.4 million, and he is the Principal Investigator on four major federal research grants, receiving funding from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Defense.

Xu’s research into atmospheric pressure plasmas has involved collaboration with multiple Alabama universities working to develop methods to improve plant growth and yield, as well as food sanitization. His work in laser plasmas is delving into physics of fusion energy and fusion propulsion, and his research in rotating detonation engines is seeking to create a novel propulsion system for hypersonic defense vehicles. He also works to build pathways to connect with the local government and industry community in Huntsville to help support research and student employment.

Dr. Robert Frederick, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the UAH Propulsion Research Center, commended Dr. Xu’s selection as the prize recipient, noting his dedication to student mentoring and development of novel technologies that advance economic and defense needs.

“Dr. Xu’s driving motivation has been to develop the next generation of engineers, scientists and leaders,” Frederick said. “In addition to teaching courses and conducting transformative research, he also provides his graduate students with opportunities to develop their own knowledge and skills, present at conferences, build their networks and do interesting work.”


 

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