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Former Mechanical Engineering Professor George Albert (Al) Russell of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who taught in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department for 34 years after earning his doctorate in 1968, died April 11 following a brief illness. Professor Russell was born in Steger, Illinois, on August 29, 1936. During his years at UMass Amherst, he was also a consultant for the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, Digital Equipment Corporation, and other agencies and organizations.

The College of Engineering has chosen Professor Sandip Kundu of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department to receive its 2012 Outstanding Senior Faculty Award and Assistant Professor Jenna Marquard of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department to receive its 2012 Barbara H. and Joseph I. Goldstein Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. Associate Professor James Rinderle of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department was previously selected to receive the 2012 Outstanding Teaching Award.

On April 17, FACTbase, a team of students, alumni, and faculty  entrepreneurs marketing a new technology that will save the oil industry and climate scientists time and money, won the grand prize of $25,000 at the seventh annual University of Massachusetts Innovation Challenge. Plate Technologies, which delivers precision instrumentation for rapid success of biological-cell-culture-based experiments, won $14,000 at the event, while Sweet Seat, pitching a premium bicycle seat that delivers comfort through design, took home $8,000.

On Tuesday afternoon, April 17, come watch five teams of student entrepreneurs pitch business plans based on brilliant innovations to a panel of expert judges. With over $50,000 in prize money available, the gala event is the culmination of the seventh annual University of Massachusetts Innovation Challenge. The competition will be held in the Amherst Room on the 10th floor of the UMass Amherst Campus Center, starting at 3:30 p.m. The competition is free and open to the public, and the media are cordially invited.

Mechanical engineering alumnus Michael McKinley, now a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley, was on a team of engineers that built a machine enabling a paraplegic senior to rise from his wheelchair and stride across the commencement stage for graduation. The story was told in a long and beautifully written feature carried by Popular Science Magazine. “Austin Whitney didn’t want to graduate from college in a wheelchair,” as the story began.

Cheryl Snead, the first African-American woman to graduate with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from UMass Amherst, will give a public lecture on April 12 on the 10th floor of the Campus Center from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Ms. Snead is the founder, president, and CEO of Banneker Industries of Smithfield, Rhode Island, and Indianapolis, Indiana.

The College of Engineering is responding to the insatiable demand for new materials in virtually all industries by proposing a Materials Science Seminar Series, which would help to integrate several different materials engineering disciplines and introduce our students to leading materials engineers throughout the country. “Materials engineering is all around us,” says Ashwin Ramasubramaniam of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, who is organizing the effort to establish the seminar series.

The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) has awarded Robert Hyers of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department the 2012 Brimacombe Medal, presented to only three people as chosen from the 12,000 members of TMS. This will be the inaugural presentation of the award.

Five highly accomplished engineering students will be honored on April 1 by the UMass Amherst Alumni Association at its Scholarships & Awards Reception, held at 10:00 a.m. in the Marriott Center on the 11th Floor of the Campus Center on campus. Chemical engineering major Aidan Gilchrist ’13, electrical engineering major Dustin Lagoy ’13, civil engineering major Timothy Light ’13, and mechanical engineering major Natalie Zucker ’13 will receive William F. Field Alumni Scholarships, while mechanical engineering major Andrew Erwin will receive a Senior Leadership Award.

Professor of Mechanical Engineering Kourosh Danai will give a Fellows Lecture at the United Technologies Research Center on March 22. He will discuss a novel method of Jet Engine Health Monitoring that will be published in the ASME Trans. on Engineering for Gas Turbines and Power. Professor Danai joined the faculty of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department in 1987. His research is focused on development of robust automation solutions.

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