The Charger Blog

Chemical Engineering Student and Professor Earn Prestigious University Awards

Malaika Matumbu ’22 and her academic adviser Kristine Horvat, Ph.D., have been selected as this year’s recipients of the Bucknall Family Undergraduate Research or Experiential Learning Award and the William L. Bucknall Excellence in Teaching Award, respectively.

December 1, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of Malaika Matumbu and Kristine Horvat.
Malaika Matumbu (left) and Kristine Horvat are this year’s recipients of the Bucknall Family Undergraduate Research or Experiential Learning Award and the William L. Bucknall Excellence in Teaching Award, respectively.

Malaika Matumbu ’22 hopes to help address some of the challenges facing the world, particularly when it comes to identifying more sustainable energy options. She chose to study chemical engineering because she believes it would best prepare her to make a meaningful impact on the issues she’s most passionate about.

She has been working on a research project with her adviser, Kristine Horvat, Ph.D., in which she is investigating methods for dewatering algae to explore using algae as an environmentally friendly source of biofuel. She has presented the results of her project as part of two scientific conferences, and a third presentation is forthcoming.

In recognition of her work and potential to make a difference, Matumbu earned the prestigious Bucknall Family Undergraduate Research or Experiential Learning Award. It provides a $10,000 prize to encourage outstanding students to take on the challenge of in-depth research on a topic of significance.

“It is truly an honor to have been selected to receive this award,” she said. “It is a reminder to me that being an engineer is not limited to learning and understanding concepts.

“What makes an engineer is the ability to contribute to solving issues in our society,” she continued. “This award means that I can comfortably get ready for the next chapter of my academic and professional career. It’s such a generous award that I am deeply grateful to have received. It’s lifting a huge financial load off of my family.”

‘I feel encouraged and inspired’

A leader in the laboratory and in the University community, Matumbu serves as president of the University’s student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, president of the Society of Women Engineers, and as a Tagliatela College of Engineering Charger Student Ambassador.

Image of Malaika Matumbu.
Malaika Matumbu '22.

Through her work as a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, she’s developed a passion for fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the University community and to supporting women in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

“The professional and people skills I have gained throughout my time at the University are invaluable,” she said. “The Bucknall Award is a confirmation that the work that I performed in the lab, as well as outside of the classroom, is important. I am delighted to have been selected for such a prestigious award. I feel encouraged and inspired to continue working hard toward my academic and career goals.”

‘Teaching is the most rewarding aspect of being a professor’

Dr. Horvat recommended Matumbu for the award, noting that “her research on alternative energy is both timely and socially impactful, and her maturity and enthusiasm for learning and leading are abundant. I am positive she will excel as a chemical engineer and as a researcher.”

Matumbu was recently recognized at a ceremony on campus – along with Dr. Horvat who, coincidentally, was the recipient of this year’s William L. Bucknall Excellence in Teaching Award, which annually recognizes an exceptional faculty member for their devotion to helping students learn inside and outside of the classroom. Last year’s Bucknall Award recipients, Hannah Providence ’22, an economics major, and Patrick Rivers, Ph.D., an ethnomusicologist and coordinator of the University’s music industry program, also attended the ceremony and were recognized.

Dedicated to sharing her passion for engineering with her students – particularly her interest in lower carbon energy options, Dr. Horvat teaches laboratory, thermal-fluid, kinetics, materials science, and sustainable energy courses. She also recently developed and taught a chemical engineering technology course for first-year students. Her colleagues describe her as “thoughtful and creative in her course content design, bringing in DEIB initiatives along the way and empowering young women to find their place in the STEM field.”

“I am truly honored to have been selected for this award,” said Dr. Horvat, an assistant professor and director of the chemical engineering program. “To me, teaching is the most rewarding aspect of being a professor, and I enjoy the challenge of finding new and innovative ways to teach engineering. I am so proud to be honored alongside Malaika. She is an excellent student and researcher who truly deserves this award.”

Image of Kristine Horvat greetiing William L. Bucknall Jr.
Kristine Horvat greets William L. Bucknall Jr.
‘Shine a light on the very best within our community’

In addition to chairing sessions for AIChE, the world's leading organization for chemical engineering professions, Dr. Horvat has also presented educational techniques at American Society for Engineering Education conferences and contributed to the Engineering Unleashed network. She has also organized several STEM outreach activities for children, including the Girl Scouts.

The Bucknall Awards are supported by longtime University benefactor William L. Bucknall Jr. ’63, ’65, ’08 Hon., a member of the University’s Board of Governors and a former board chair, and his daughters, Elise Bucknall and Kristin Loranger.

“The Bucknall Awards allow us to shine a light on the very best within our community,” said President Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D. “They recognize the faculty who are passionate about their work, and the students who are, in turn, encouraged to achieve more than they ever thought possible.”

‘My time at the University of New Haven has been so valuable’

The William L. Bucknall Excellence in Teaching Award provides an honorarium of $15,000 and an additional $10,000 to support the recipient’s new teaching initiatives. Dr. Horvat looks forward to enhancing and creating new hands-on and project-based activities for her courses.

“In my own classroom, it has been evident that students are more focused and perform better after working on real-life applications of course material,” she explains. “In particular, I plan on implementing and refining project-based learning activities that involve 3D printing, creating a new pharmaceutical industry lab, and upgrading data acquisition and control systems.”

After she graduates, Matumbu, the student Bucknall Award recipient, plans to pursue a graduate degree. She looks forward to continuing her research and to helping to address important challenges facing the world. She is grateful for the support of the University community and for the award.

“My time at the University of New Haven has been so valuable,” she said. “I learned many complex engineering concepts, formed meaningful professional relationships with my professors, staff, and peers. Being selected for this award encourages me to keep working hard and continuing to be curious in and out of the classroom.”