New BeGINNings

Mario Eden, who previously served as the chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering, was named as the Samuel Ginn College of Engineerings 14th dean in May.

Mario Eden’s journey to become the dean of Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering has been a long one.

Twenty-two years and 4,677 miles, to be exact.

While studying at the Technical University of Denmark, Eden was intrigued by the writings and research of a faculty member at a university called Auburn.

So, as part of the doctoral requirements in Denmark, Eden made the trek to Auburn in 2001 to learn from former professor Mahmoud El-Halwagi for a nine-month term, and then returned for another two semesters as a visiting instructor.

“I never looked back,” said Eden, who was named as the college’s 14th dean in May and also serves as the Joe T. and Billie Carole McMillan Professor.

While serving as a visiting instructor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, a tenure-track faculty position opened up.

“This was the only place I applied,” Eden said. “This was the job I wanted.”

He got the job, and started to dream big even back then.

“The potential the department had was really exciting. We were getting ready to change what we wanted to be about and who we wanted to be,” said Eden, who served as an assistant professor, associate professor and full professor in the department. “I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to put my fingerprint on that. You could actually influence things and I wanted to be in an environment where I could enjoy my colleagues’ success.”

Fast forward a few years and Eden was named as chair of the department, a role he held from 2012-23.

Hundreds of faculty, staff, administrators and fellow deans joined the college to welcome Dean Mario Eden to his new role. From left, Gregg Newschwander, dean of the College of Nursing; Vini Nathan, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs; Eden; President Chris Roberts; Jason Hicks, dean of the College of Liberal Arts; Leigh Ann Ross, dean of the Harrison College of Pharmacy; and Calvin Johnson, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“As a faculty member, I had access to fantastic students who advanced my research program in ways that I never even thought of when I first started. As a department chair, I had the best faculty, the best staff and the best students,” Eden said. “Having the opportunity to serve the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and the Department of Chemical Engineering in that role was truly a dream come true and an honor. The relationships I made with my colleagues and students are something I will treasure forever.”

As the chemical engineering department chair, Eden led the department to its highest U.S. News & World Report Graduate Program ranking ever; increased undergraduate enrollment to record numbers with incoming freshmen achieving ACT scores of 30 or higher for 11 consecutive years; successfully added 17 tenure-track faculty members and two full-time lecturers during the past 10 years, including the department achieving the highest percentage of female full professors among any chemical engineering department in the country; increased philanthropic support of the program by millions of dollars; and successfully led the department through the national accreditation process in 2016 and 2022.

So, when the college’s former dean and former chemical engineering department chair, Chris Roberts, was selected as the university’s 21st president, Eden knew the time was right for him to take the next step in an effort to continue to push Auburn Engineering forward in the 21st century.

Eden has served as an assistant professor, associate professor, professor and as chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering during his tenure at Auburn.

In May 2023, Eden was selected as the college’s dean following an extensive interview and public process that included a diverse pool of nearly 60 applicants from some of the nation’s most premier and highly ranked engineering institutions.

“The quality of applicants and applications we received from across the country was a testimony to the stature of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering,” said Vini Nathan, Auburn University provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “After carefully reviewing feedback from the search committee, faculty, staff, students, alumni and Auburn leadership, it was apparent that Dr. Eden was the person we needed leading the College of Engineering forward. I am confident that, through his leadership, he will help elevate the college to become one of the preeminent engineering institutions in the country.”

Eden earned master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from the Technical University of Denmark in 1999 and 2003, respectively.

In addition to his tenure as a professor and department chair, he also served a term as acting director of the Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering from 2014-16.

His expertise and research interests center on process systems engineering and computer-aided process engineering; process simulation, design, integration and optimization; and product and molecular synthesis/design. Eden has established a strong record of scholarly productivity and academic achievement during his career including more than 175 refereed publications and nearly 450 invited talks and conference presentations. He has secured more than $29 million in extramural grants and contracts as principal investigator (PI) or co-PI from a wide range of federal and industrial sources.

While Eden gets excited about the endless opportunities for Auburn Engineering into the future, the part of the job as dean that he looks forward to most is working with the people who make up this storied college.

“When you look around the nation at the premier institutions, Auburn has many of the same qualities — if not better — than those of our peers. And that’s due, in large part, to the people who serve this great university day in and day out,” Eden said. “While the innovative research of one faculty member caught my attention many miles away, and led me to this wonderful place, it was the people who cemented that this was where I wanted to be. This is home.

“Every day I’m amazed at the talent — students, faculty and staff — we have here, and then I look at the impact our graduates are making around the globe, and it takes my breath away. I’m so blessed to have this moment in time to work with so many phenomenal individuals who make up this amazing place. The Auburn Family is real.”

Twenty-two years and 4,677 miles later, he can’t imagine being elsewhere.

“Auburn has provided everything that I ever needed. It doesn’t get any better than this,” Eden said. “I am humbled at this opportunity to take Auburn Engineering to the next level. I guarantee you that I am going to work tirelessly, every day, to ensure that our students are provided with the best student-centered engineering experience in America.”

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