New Mexico Tech’s Dr. Curtis O’Malley To Receive Award for STEM Mentoring

May 17, 2023

Assistant professor of mechanical engineering’s efforts recognized by Air Force Research Lab

Dr. Curtis O'Malley
Dr. Curtis O'Malley

SOCORRO, N.M. – For the extraordinary efforts he takes to reach out to students and help them imagine their potential, a New Mexico Tech faculty member is being honored by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Tech Engagement Office with a prestigious honor. Dr. Curtis O’Malley, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will receive the Mentor Award at a ceremony June 23, 2023, at Q Station in Albuquerque, along with other winners of the 2023 Excellence in STEM Awards, aka the STEMYs. The annual awards honor students, teachers, volunteers, and other New Mexicans for their science, technology, engineering, and math education (STEM) outreach efforts.

Dr. O’Malley’s outreach contributions as the Mechanical Engineering’s Robotic STEM Outreach Programs director  have provided countless opportunities for K-12 students to engage in and imagine a future in STEM. In 2015, he founded the Mechanical Engineering K-12 Outreach program, which established NMT as a premier K-12 outreach organization at large public STEM events, including Big Brothers Big Sisters Discovery Festival, AFRL’s Super STEM Saturday, and Explora’s Science Fiesta. He also founded the New Mexico Robot Combat League. His first competition was held in the spring 2021 and grew in two years to 55 teams competing by forging a relationship with New Mexico MESA. Dr. O’Malley helped NMT become a major participant in the SystemsGO Rocketry program, and assisted in creating a drones competition. He also helped innovate a STEM summer roadshow, where NMT workshops travel to rural areas in New Mexico to provide unique opportunities for students. 

In May 2022 Dr. O’Malley received NMT’s Distinguished Service Award, honoring faculty who have demonstrated superior service to the University and community. Recently Dr. Seokbin (Bin) Lim, Mechanical Engineering Department chair, nominated O’Malley for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. In his multiple roles, Dr. O’Malley directly mentors 100 college students a year, and employs and trains 20 or more students a year as teaching assistants, research assistants, and outreach near peer mentors. 

“I have been incrementally building a legacy of mentorship working toward the current structure where I directly mentor college students and indirectly mentor middle and high school students,” Dr. O’Malley said. “When I describe my mentorship focus to the students that work for me it breaks down to three simple points. First you have to actually care about your mentee's success. Second, you have to show them you care by listening to what they say and observing their actions. Third, you have to provide them well thought-out options to help them achieve success. Doing these three things for someone and continuing to do it even after they graduate can have profound and life-changing impacts to both their and their family's future.”

Dr. O’Malley earned a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia. He also earned a second bachelor of science degree in architectural engineering and went on to earn a master’s degree in civil engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a doctorate in civil engineering. After working for the U.S. Army at the Aberdeen Testing Center, he was an instructor at Central New Mexico Community College. Dr. O’Malley came to NMT in 2012 as a post-doc in the Mechanical Engineering Department, serving as an adjunct professor. Since 2016, he has been an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department.