Happy fall! We are delighted to share with you the extraordinary achievements of the MIE students and faculty for the 2016-2017 calendar year, as well as the fantastic growth of the department, both in faculty hiring and enrollment.
In 2011 the department graduated 83 undergraduate students. In 2016, we graduated 192 students. This represents 131 percent growth over five years, an astonishing statistic by any measure. Mechanical Engineering is the largest major in the College of Engineering, and we are proud of our students’ success: for the class of 2016, 92 percent of our graduates reported having either a job or going to graduate school within six months of graduation, with an average starting salary of $63,000. Our undergraduates and graduate students continue to garner awards and accolades: this last spring graduating senior Victor Champagne received both the 21st Century Leader award and the Jack Welch Scholar Award, while graduate students Hanna Johlas and Alexander Smith received coveted graduate fellowships from the National Science Foundation.
This past year we hired a record number of five new faculty members: two assistant professors in the area of medical device manufacturing, an assistant professor of manufacturing, as well as two professors of renewable energy, including an endowed Chair of Renewable Energy. This endowed chair is being filled by Krish Thiagarajan, who is currently the Alston D. and Ada Lee Correll Presidential Chair in Energy and the leader of the Marine Ocean and Offshore Research Group at the University of Maine. This fall we look forward to embarking on four more searches, which would bring our faculty up to 38 tenure-track professors, a 31 percent increase in only two years!
In particular, the hiring of potentially three new faculty members in the area of manufacturing dovetails with our department’s leading role in the Center for Personalized Health Monitoring at UMass Amherst, which includes the new Roll-to-Roll Manufacturing and the Advanced Digital Design and Fabrication (AddFab) facilities as part of a $95-million statewide effort to drive the manufacturing industry forward in the region. And the hiring of two additional faculty members in renewable energy provides critical leadership strength and expertise in both ocean engineering - further bolstering our pioneering research programs in offshore wind energy – and the integration of renewable energy into the electrical grid. These key areas of energy research catapult our already top-ranked renewable energy program into the next level of worldwide reputation and research opportunity.
This past year our faculty received superb recognition in the form of awards, grants, and other honors, including the following: Don Fisher was selected to deliver the campus-wide Distinguished Faculty Lecture; Erin Baker received the prestigious Armstrong Professional Development Grant; David Schmidt received the 2017 Outstanding Teacher in the College of Engineering Award, and was also selected as a Fellow of the Society for Automotive Engineers; Chaitra Gopalappa received a $1.5-million NIH grant to address critical HIV issues; Juan Jiménez is the co-PI on a $937,848 grant to study cerebrovascular disease and computer simulations; Yubing Sun received a $400,000 NSF grant to study neural tube defects; Jenna Marquard is the director of the “Human Factors Core” of a five-year, $1.23-million collaborative grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research in the NIH; and, finally, Assistant Professor Jae-Hwang Lee has co-authored an article on cold spray additive manufacturing in the prestigious Nature Scientific Report.
This year also brought changes to our department’s administrative team. We bid farewell and a heartfelt “thank you” to our associate department head and undergraduate program director, Jim Rinderle, who has been appointed an associate dean in the College of Engineering, and to our graduate program director, Jonathan Rothstein, who is returning to full-time teaching and research. Please join me in welcoming Professor Ana Muriel as the next associate department head, Professor Stephen de Bruyn Kops as the new undergraduate program director, Professor Yahya Modarres-Sadeghi as the new graduate program director, and Professor Berndt Schliemann as the new chief undergraduate advisor. We look forward to working with them as we start the new academic year.
We are also excited in the year to come to build upon the continued support of our industry partnerships, alumni, and friends. In that vein, I would like to welcome our two new industry advisory board chairs, Paul Washburn and Marty Ross, who will take over from our dedicated and indefatigable retiring chairs, Dave Anderson and Tom Lyden, to whom we owe a big round of thanks!