OU's Muraleetharan to be Celebrated by Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence

K. K. “Muralee” Muraleetharan, in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, has been recognized for outstanding research university teaching by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. 

“Oklahomans know that education is the best investment we can make for our future,” said Elizabeth Inbody, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in the state’s public schools. “By honoring these exceptional educators, we are sending a message that we value excellence in public schools and the professionals who have given so much of themselves to enrich the lives of our children.”

Muraleetharan is one of five educators who will be honored at the foundation’s 36th Academic Awards Celebration on May 21 at the Omni Oklahoma City Hotel.

Muraleetharan, a David Ross Boyd and Presidential Professor at the University of Oklahoma, 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 encompasses 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 caring about each student’s well-being. 

“Professor Muralee represents the best of the best in research professorship,” said 2007 engineering alumni Caroline Cochran, co-founder of a tech startup. 

“Professor Muralee's research is outstanding, his outreach to students unparalleled and his instruction is caring while rigorous and even fun,” says 2007 engineering alumni Caroline Cochran.

Muraleetharan, who worked in industry as a geotechnical engineer, shares his professional experiences, such as the 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 in the Gallogly College of Engineering. “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, the Kimmell-Bernard Chair in Engineering, 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 praise Muraleetharan for going the extra mile to mentor and support students. A 2017 engineering alum, Jessica Stanciu credits Mureleetharan for helping her explore career options and land her first job. 

“Dr. Muraleetharan 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,” says 2017 engineering alumni Jessica Stanciu. 

Muraleetharan’s research interests include large-scale computer simulations of infrastructure such as bridges, roads, levees and port facilities that are subjected to extreme events like earthquakes, floods and blasts. Interests also include validations of these simulations using small-scale (centrifuge models) and full-scale testing, and resilience of infrastructure systems following extreme events. He earned both his master's and doctoral degrees in civil engineering from the University of California, Davis. He earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, graduating with first-class-honors. 

In addition to presenting the Medal for Excellence awards, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence will honor 100 of Oklahoma’s top public high school seniors as Academic All-Staters. The Academic Awards Banquet is open to the public. Registration will open online April 4 at www.ofe.org.

Learn more about the Gallogly College of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma at www.ou.edu/coe.

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