Michael Knox Garners 2017-18 NYU Distinguished Teaching Award

Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Honored for Service to School and Dedication to Students

Michael Knox

Michael Knox received the 2017-18 Distinguished Faculty Award

You would not expect a college student to race to an 8 am class in order to get a front-row seat, but such is the devotion that Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Michael Knox inspires in those who take his courses.

That sentiment came to light during the nomination process for the 2017-18 NYU Distinguished Teaching Awards, which honor faculty members who have been at the school at least a decade and who have compiled a record of true distinction, taken an innovative pedagogical approach, integrated scholarly and professional contributions into their teaching, and displayed a commitment to nurturing and mentoring their students.

Few who know Knox were surprised when he was given the prestigious prize this March; he is often lauded for exactly those qualities. When he took home the School of Engineering’s Distinguished Teacher Award in 2011, the news story announced, “If course evaluations were an extreme sport, those written for Michael Knox  ... would rank up there with the most thrilling,” citing student comments like “perfect class” and “beyond awesome.”

In addition to teaching his courses, Knox, who is affiliated with the research center NYU WIRELESS, had served for years as a Faculty Engineer in Residence, charged with lending his domain expertise to start-ups in the school’s Future Labs incubator network, and he is now a vital member of Tandon’s Convergence of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Institute, which focuses on attracting more women and members of other underrepresented groups to STEM-related entrepreneurial initiatives. Additionally, Knox is the faculty adviser to multiple student clubs and oversees projects related to soft robotics and mixed reality as part of the school’s VIP (Vertically Integrated Projects) program, which calls upon participants to work on long-term research goals throughout their undergraduate years.  

His roots at the School of Engineering are embedded even more deeply than those activities suggest. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees at was then called Polytechnic University and has expressed appreciation for the fact that some of his teachers later became professional mentors and colleagues.

Knox, who became an industry professor in 2005, after working at such companies as Lockheed Martin, Agilent Technologies, and Symbol Technologies and starting several enterprises of his own, is perhaps most widely recognized for encouraging his students to create problem-solving technology and bring it to market. In 2015 he garnered Tandon’s Distinguished Award for Excellence, in recognition of his dedication to invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Among students who have turned his advice into action and started successful ventures are Nicolas Vansnick and Carlos Ospina, co-founders of BotFactory, which manufactures a desktop electronics prototyping machine that allows engineers to create fully functional printed circuit boards quickly and affordably. “I try to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in my students,” Knox has said. “I tell them that it’s terrific to graduate with a degree from NYU but it would be even better to graduate with the degree and your own company. Undergraduates are here for four years, and if they devote ample time to developing a product and business they can accomplish a lot.” 

Dean Katepalli Sreenivasan has been unstinting in his praise for Knox and his adherence to the Tandon ethos of creating technology that benefits society in practical ways. “The world of engineering has changed significantly in the last decade, and engineers must be able to identify and realize opportunities for innovation,” Sreenivasan has said. “Dr. Knox is among the very top faculty members I have known in terms of his commitment to helping students realize this potential.”