Tribology professor honored for grease advancement

Published: Nov 12, 2021 11:00 AM

By Virginia Speirs

Robert Jackson, Albert J. Smith Professor of Mechanical Engineering, was recently awarded the Ralph Beard Memorial Academic Award by the National Lubricating Grease Institute. This award is given to candidates who have contributed “valuable work in the technical development of greases, grease tests or the promotion of grease usage.”

The award honors Ralph Beard, who graduated from Auburn University in 1971 with a degree in marine biology. Beard helped to lead the College of Engineering’s Tribology and Lubrication Science Program and start the minor in 2012. 

“Ralph was well known in the tribology industry and was also a strong supporter of Auburn University,” Jackson said. “In 2009 we met, along with another Auburn graduate, Parker Sizemore, at the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers annual meeting. Ralph wanted to do something for the both the university and industry and try to address a problem with finding graduates with any background in the area. That’s when we came up with the idea of creating the tribology minor.”

Regardless of his connections to Beard, Jackson said he was surprised to receive the award.

“It is a little unusual and different from other awards,” Jackson said. “Usually you know if you are being nominated for an award. I was truly honored and surprised.”

Jackson has been a professor at Auburn since 2004. He has received numerous awards and written more than 100 peer reviewed journal articles. His research interests include tribology, advanced lubricant additives, friction, wear, contact mechanics, and surface engineering.

“Creating a minor is not a typical pursuit for a professor. Research funding and other roles are more conventional,” Jackson said. “However, as Ralph Beard did, and others in the Tribology community do, I believe in the field of tribology and its importance to humanity.”

Media Contact: Jeremy Henderson,, 334-844-3591
Rob Jackson, right, receiving the Ralph Beard Memorial Academic Award

Rob Jackson, right, receiving the Ralph Beard Memorial Academic Award

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