You are here

Faculty Members Who Know the Value of Kindness

Brenden O'Toole, Mohamed Trabia, and Bernard Malamud all received valuable mentoring as students, and now try to repay it with younger generations.

People  |  Oct 9, 2018  |  By Brian Sodoma
Brenden O'Toole and Mohamed Trabia

Outstanding Faculty Members of the Year Brenden O'Toole and Mohamed Trabia hold up versions of Hailey's Hand used in 8-year-old Hailey Dawson's quest to throw out the first pitch in all 30 Major League Baseball ballparks. (Casey Jade Photography)

Editor's Note: 

As part of UNLV's Homecoming festivities, the UNLV Alumni Association will celebrate the accomplishments of graduates at its annual reception and awards ceremony Oct. 18. You can stream the awards ceremony live here.


Brenden O'Toole and Mohamed Trabia of mechanical engineering and the recently retired Bernard Malamud of the Lee Business School are the 2018 Alumni Association Outstanding Faculty Members of the Year. All three had times when, as students, they received invaluable help from their own teachers. Once they joined the faculty, they committed to paying that help forward.

Brendan O’Toole

Brenden O’Toole is a professor and chair of UNLV’s mechanical engineering department and previously oversaw the university’s Mendenhall Innovation Program. O’Toole has served as a research associate for the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education and a senior research associate for the National Academies National Research Council. He has earned numerous honors for his teaching and mentorship in guiding student innovation at UNLV.

Tell us about a moment when someone showed you unexpected kindness. How do you pay it forward?

As a student, my parents had the greatest influence on me, as they provided the emotional and financial support to complete my engineering education. It was in their nature to help anyone around them who was in need, including extended family and local community members. This unwavering support was critical for me, especially during the difficult times in school when stress levels were high and I thought about quitting.

When I started my career as an assistant professor, my department chairs and many other faculty members helped me through the challenging process of attaining tenure. Some unexpected and very valuable kindness came from professor Malcolm Nichol who was a senior faculty member in the College of Sciences. He supported my research activities early in my career even though my work was not directly related to the primary goals of his research center. He simply valued interdisciplinary work and wanted to help newer faculty develop their careers.

The kindness and mentorship of others who looked beyond their own goals and needs greatly influenced my approach to work and career. Every day I come across new, innovative ideas from students and colleagues and I try to help as many people as possible further their research and discovery, regardless of whether it falls directly under my research interests or not.

Robots and Record Mileage

Brendan O’Toole received a bachelor's in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and master’s and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Delaware. He has been an assistant and associate professor at UNLV and now is a professor who serves as chair of the mechanical engineering department.

O’Toole is one of the three co-directors of the Center for Math, Science, and Engineering Education and serves as Director of the Center for Materials and Structures. He previously served as Director of the Mendenhall Innovation Program. He also took two leaves from UNLV to serve as a research associate for the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education and a senior research associate for the National Academies National Research Council. Both of these research positions were located at the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.

He has been a principal investigator or co-principal on 75 projects. O’Toole and his students have received more than 125 individual and team awards for design, education, research, and professional activities. A few highlights include: the State of Nevada Professor of the Year honor, the Tau Beta Pi McDonald Mentor Award, 18 Outstanding Professor Awards, the FIRST Robotics Inspire Award, the World Record (at the time) for fuel efficiency (3470 mpg) at the annual “SAE Supermileage” competition in California, and a first place honor in the collegiate class of the World Human Powered Vehicle Competition where his team’s vehicle reached a speed of 62 miles per hour.

Mohamed Trabia

Mohamed Trabia currently serves as the associate dean for research, graduate studies, and computing at the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering at UNLV. He has been professor of mechanical engineering since 2000 and has been involved with research efforts with a budget totaling $8 million.

Tell us about a moment when someone showed you unexpected kindness. How do you pay it forward?

I was lucky to have many great teachers over the years. The one who stands out was professor Taher Awad, who taught me automatic control during the senior year of my undergraduate studies at Alexandria University in Egypt I inherited many elements of his teaching style including his willingness to pace the material based on his interaction with the students and his emphasis on ensuring that students are comfortable with fundamentals before proceeding to more complex topics.

He also emphasized the practical aspects of the subject he taught. My interaction with Awad continued during my master’s studies. While he was not my main advisor, he spent many hours teaching me computer programming. I still use his tricks to debug computer codes. I came to know him better as a person during these years. His interest in learning about many topics outside engineering influenced me and encouraged me to try to understand other cultures and civilizations.

Recognized for excellence

Trabia earned his bachelor’s and master’s in mechanical engineering from Alexandria University in 1980 and 1983, respectively. He was awarded a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Arizona State University in 1987. After that, he joined the UNLV faculty as an assistant professor.

Trabia is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Trabia has received multiple awards recognizing his teaching, research, and service efforts including, the ASME Dedicated Service Award, the Tau Beta Pi Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award (multiple times) and has also earned the distinction of being listed in the Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, Fifth Edition.

He has authored close to 200 technical journal and conference papers and has been involved with multiple funded research grants with a total budget of approximately $8 million.

Bernard Malamud

Bernard Malamud left his job at Nabisco in New York City in 1968 to join what was then Nevada Southern University, an 11-year-old institution that eventually became UNLV. Malamud completed his doctorate while at UNLV and taught more than 35 classes in subjects ranging from economics to management information systems to management and finance. He retired from the Lee Business School department of economics in May.

Tell us about a when someone showed you unexpected kindness. How do you pay it forward?

I experienced kindness, cooperation, and helpfulness from faculty, staff, and students as the rule over my 50 years at UNLV. Most memorable and appreciated was the help I received on my doctoral dissertation, The Economics of Office Location—I was ABD (All But Dissertation) when I arrived at Nevada Southern in 1968. Librarian Alice Brown guided me through interlibrary lending and helped me ferret out data from government documents. Barbara Schick, an economics graduate student, got me access to detailed New York and Phoenix office rental data through her friendships with Harry Helmsley and Del Webb. Raedeen Jacobs of the Computer Center key-punched my programs and data.

Discussions with colleagues, particularly business college dean William T. White and mathematics professor Michael Golberg, challenged and stimulated my research. And when the university’s 32-kilobyte computer couldn’t handle a Fortran simulation program I wrote, a brilliant math graduate student compiled it on a rusty, but fast, machine that had just been donated to UNLV by a Test Site contractor; it had previously served for weapons tests in the Pacific. These acts are far from the total sum of kindness I received from UNLV faculty and staff, but they are memories that always reminded me to extend a helping hand whenever I could to other students driven to achieve their goals.

In on the ground floor

Malamud was a charter member of the first management department created in 1970. Some notable alumni of Malamud’s include: Councilman Bob Coffin; insurance executive and long-time UNLV Alumni Association president Bob Anderson; assistant dean of the Hospitality College Pat Moreo; LVCVA president Rossi Rollenkotter; and many others. He served as department chair in 1976-80 and 1996-99.