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The 2011 Bollinger Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award


 Photo of Todd A. Ninman.
Todd A. Ninman
Chemical and Biological Engineering


enior Information Processing Consultant Todd Ninman’s service to the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering began in an era when the first mass-produced computer was manufactured by Tandy.

At the time, Ninman managed a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-11/55 mini-computer system under Professor W. Harmon Ray, who used it for research and instructional computing. The system used 256 kilobytes of RAM and stored data and programs on two 2.5 megabyte disks.

That was 1978. In the intervening 33 years, Ninman devoted his professional career to ensuring the department is at the leading edge of computer-assisted engineering. Through Ninman’s contributions, the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering was among the first in the world to institute computer-aided data acquisition and control in teaching and research laboratories. It also was a leader in providing valuable high-speed computing capabilities for students and in producing graduates who had the latest knowledge of those new capabilities. “As the person who hired Todd 33 years ago and has worked closely with him over that period, I can say that he has made the greatest impact on our department of any staff member over this period, and will be the hardest to replace when he retires,” says Chemical and Biological Engineering Professor Emeritus W. Harmon Ray. “His combination of outstanding technical skills, friendly personality and willingness to help 24/7, if necessary, has endeared him to a third of a century of students, staff, faculty and department visitors.”

In particular, Ninman has purchased, installed, networked and supported computing systems that increase faculty, staff and student productivity, and enable data collection and computational research. He has designed several databases, relocated and expanded departmental computing facilities, and has helped countless faculty and students navigate the benefits and pitfalls of research computing.

His colleagues call him calm and reassuring, a gifted programmer, a problem-solver, and a rare individual who somehow, against all odds, can make everything work. “When it comes to computing, and all of what that entails, Todd is always one step ahead of us,” says Howard Curler Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering Juan de Pablo. “He plans, he anticipates, and he implements his vision for computing within the department with a clarity and fortitude that are simply extraordinary.”