News

Two researchers from UMass Amherst have concluded that making investments in energy technologies to deal with climate change will always produce a positive payoff. Erin D. Baker, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and Senay Solak, assistant professor of operations and information management, published their findings recently in the journal Production and Operations Management. The finding is good news because it means that governments can move forward with investments into research in breakthrough energy technologies, such as solar, nuclear and carbon capture, regardless of  public policy toward climate change. The research is funded through a five-year, $434,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Briana Tomboulian, a NASA Graduate Research Fellow who earned her Ph.D. from the UMass Amherst Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department in June, has been chosen by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) to serve as the 2014-2015 ASME Congressional Fellow. The goal of ASME Congressional Fellows is to advise legislators on key science and technology issues that are often beyond the grasp of non-scientists. According to ASME, for more than 40 years Congressional Fellows have filled this knowledge gap by serving as key advisors to federal policy makers on energy, infrastructure, education, national security, technology development, and other critical national and international issues, which require general technical proficiency and specific mechanical engineering expertise.

The Supermileage Vehicle (SMV) Team from the UMass Amherst Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department placed fourth and was among five teams to achieve 1,000 miles per gallon at the annual Society of Automotive Engineers Supermileage® Competition held on June 5 and 6 at Eaton’s Proving Grounds in Marshall, Michigan. The UMass SMV team’s vehicle achieved an eye-popping 1,142 miles per gallon, 132 mpg better than the team’s impressive fourth-place finish from last year. This is the 35th year of the competition, which challenges teams to build a one-person, fuel-efficient vehicle based on a one-cylinder, four-cycle engine.

America has always been a nation of tinkerers, inventors, and entrepreneurs, as symbolized best by Ben Franklin and his amazing array of innovations, including bifocals, the Franklin Stove, the lightning rod, swim fins, a glass armonica, an odometer, and mapping the Gulf Stream. In true Franklinesque tradition, a growing number of Americans have recently gained access to technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, open-source, low-cost microcontrollers, easy-to-use design software, and desktop machine tools, democratizing the act of making and enabling citizens to build just about anything. In honor of this inventive tradition, the UMass Amherst College of Engineering would like to join in the national celebration of the so-called “Maker Movement” on June 18, when President Obama is hosting the first ever White House Maker Faire.

Mechanical engineering major Moijue Kaikai has been selected for a UMass Amherst award by the Provost’s Committee on Service-Learning because of his array of community service activities during his undergraduate career at the university. “I am writing to congratulate you!” said John Reiff, the director of UMass Civic Engagement and Service-Learning. “You were nominated by [Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Professor] Erin Baker for an award, the Academic Engagement for Community Transformation Award, which recognizes your leadership, academic excellence, and contribution to a community.” Kaikai has been accepted for graduate school into the UMass IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Program in the MIE department.

Research by Professor Erin Baker of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department was included as a recent NSF Highlight on the Research.gov website, posted by the National Science Foundation to spotlight outstanding research that it has funded. Baker’s highlight (http://go.usa.gov/8M7F) was entitled "The role of uncertainty in technology selection" and was based upon the following NSF Award: Collaborative Research: Choosing a Portfolio of Technology Policies in an Uncertain World. By formally modeling the uncertainties inherent when government invests in alternate energy technology, Gregory Nemet and Baker showed that in the case of carbon capture and storage (CCS), investing in a broad portfolio of technologies is superior to concentrating resources in one or a few options. CCS is potentially one of the most important energy technologies to address climate change. 

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the College of Engineering was one of two teams from UMass Amherst to share the 2014 Armstrong Fund for Science Award. Assistant Professors Shelly Peyton and Jessica Schiffman of the Chemical Engineering Department and Stephen Nonnenmann of the Mechanical Engineering Department will receive $30,000 for their project, “Nanomechanics, biofilms and cystic fibrosis.” The purpose of the Armstrong Fund for Science Award is to encourage transformative research on campus that introduces new ways of thinking about pressing scientific or technical challenges.

The January 31, 2012, edition of the Wall Street Journal included an article with an intriguing title: “Move over MBAs, Here Come the Engineers!” Not only is the demand for engineers “voracious,” the article reported, but engineers increasingly are the go-to leaders chosen to head companies. The Journal recounted that in a recently published study 3,337 company founders and CEOs across all industries held advanced degrees in engineering. By comparison, only 1,016 company founders and CEOs had advanced business degrees. This vital information provides a brilliant opportunity and also a pressing issue for engineers. How do they add the required business skills and management acumen to become company leaders? One perfect answer is the UMass Amherst Master of Science in Engineering Management Program.

Erin Baker of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and Eleni Christofa of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department have been awarded Sustainability Curriculum Initiative grants of $1,000 each from the UMass Amherst Libraries. The Libraries awarded the grants to nine faculty members to support revising existing courses and include or augment sustainability topics. As part of the grants, liaison librarians work with faculty to integrate library resources and information literacy into their revised courses. Baker will use her grant to modify her “Introduction to Mechanical and Industrial Engineering” course, while Christofa will rework her course in “Transportation Sustainability.”

Andrew Dodd, a junior mechanical engineering major in the Commonwealth Honors College, has been accepted into the ultra-competitive Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, for students majoring in science, mathematics, and engineering. Dodd’s extensive background includes three summers of experience in the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and his research interests are in robotics, photonics, computer-aided design, and coding. Dodd will do his SURF research in the NIST Engineering Laboratory, designed to provide hands-on research experience in building and fire research technologies.