Monday, February 20, 2023
  Faculty Focus

By Amanda A. Taylor-Uchoa

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Dr. Karen Lozano, UTRGV professor of Mechanical Engineering and Julia Beecherl Endowed Professor, has been elected into the prestigious National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

She is the first UTRGV professor ever to receive this honor and one of only three Texans in this year’s cohort of electees.

The academy cited her “contributions to nanofiber research and commercialization and mentoring of undergraduate students from underserved populations.” 

“I feel very honored, and I am humbled,” Lozano said. “I have a lot of responsibility entering NAE, as I have many colleagues who are capable and accomplished. There are many professors at Tier 1 institutions around the country who do so much. So, it’s a big responsibility to represent NAE, and it is my honor to do it.”

The NAE is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. Its mission is to “advance the welfare and prosperity of the nation by providing independent advice on matters involving engineering and technology, and by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and public appreciation of engineering,” according to its website. 

Dr. Janna Arney, UTRGV executive vice president and provost, said Lozano has been a beacon for students who aspire to a career in engineering.

“Karen has had such a profound impact on so many students, planting a seed of hope in their hearts and minds,” Arney said. “Her story is exactly why we do what we do and why UTRGV’s impact has been and will continue to change the lives of so many.”

Dr. Ala Qubbaj, dean of the UTRGV College of Engineering and Computer Science, said this accolade is a tremendous achievement for everyone – Lozano, the university, UTRGV students and the Valley community, as well. 

“This recognition is the culmination of many years of dedication, hard work and impact on the thousands of students she has taught, mentored and inspired,” Qubbaj said. “I am extremely proud of Dr. Lozano. From being the first Latina faculty member and full professor in engineering, to receiving a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, and being an inventor, she is now the first from UTRGV to be elected to the NAE and to lead our first engineering PhD program in the Rio Grande Valley.” 

Being elected to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions accorded an engineer, as it has more than 2,000 peer-elected members and international members, senior professionals in business, academia and government who are among the world’s most accomplished in the field.

This year, NAE has selected only 106 new members and 18 international members, bringing their U.S. membership to 2,420 and 319 international members. The organization aims to provide leadership and expertise for projects focused on the relationships between engineering, technology and quality of life. 

Lozano is one of just 48 living members of NAE within the UT System, and only the seventh woman from the UT System in the academy. 

Qubbaj praised Lozano’s efforts to draw Latina students to a male-dominated field.

“She is an inspiration and a role model to all students, but particularly female and Latina students,” he said.

Lozano said being a female in the engineering industry was challenging, but it pushed her to accomplish more.

“Being a female mechanical engineer, I couldn’t find a job. It was very hard to do anything, and that’s why I studied for a master’s and a PhD,” she said. “Now, being included in the NAE – it’s just a tremendous honor, and an opportunity to showcase what is possible for my students. 

“I see this as a gift to my students, so they can see firsthand what is possible for them when they strive and fight for their dreams,” she said.

Lozano, along with her fellow, newly elected engineers, will be formally inducted into the NAE during the annual meeting on Oct. 1. 

At UTRGV, Engineer’s Week kicked off Friday, Feb. 17. Lozano will be honored at the Engineering Week Celebration Luncheon on Friday, Feb. 24. 



The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.