Dr. K.K. “Muralee” Muraleetharan

The 2022 winner of the Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Research University is Dr. K. K. “Muralee” Muraleetharan, a David Ross Boyd Professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at the University of Oklahoma. Inspired by many teaching mentors, Muraleetharan has developed a five-part approach over his 28-year teaching career that seeks to “light a fire” of lifelong learning for his students. For him, effective teaching must encompass excitement for the subject matter, relating lessons to real-world examples, incorporating the latest technological advances, offering project-based learning for students to apply their knowledge, and truly caring about individual students’ well-being.

“Professor Muralee represents the best of the best in research professorship,” said former student Caroline Cochran, co-founder of a tech startup. “His research is outstanding, his outreach to students unparalleled and his instruction is caring while rigorous and even fun.”

Muraleetharan, who worked in industry as a geotechnical engineer, shares his professional experiences, such as seismic design of the Port of Los Angeles Pier 400 and geoenvironmental investigations of metro rail tunnels, to help get students excited about the real-world applications of engineering. “Many young engineers struggle with making the transition from being a student to being a professional engineer,” said colleague Randall Kolar, director of OU’s School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science. “Dr. Muralee has the background and passion to help bridge this knowledge gap so his students come out better prepared to enter the workforce.”

Muraleetharan helped develop OU’s introductory civil engineering course to engage students in real-world projects while developing skills fundamental to engineering success. He was also a leader in developing OU’s award-winning civil engineering curriculum Sooner City, in which freshmen are given a plat of undeveloped land that is developed into a blueprint for a virtual city infrastructure by the time they graduate. Projects have ranged from concrete footings for virtual office buildings to floodplain analysis and bridge crossing design.

Colleagues and students alike praised Muraleetharan for going the extra mile to mentor and support students. Former student Jessica Stanciu credits Mureleetharan for helping her explore career options and land her first job. “He is the type of professor you go back to see after college to say, ‘thank you.’ … Thank you for making me feel valued and cared for while building me up with confidence as I go out into the world.”