Department of Ocean Engineering

Perhaps nothing in the earth's landscape captures our imagination as much as the oceans. Full of mystery, beauty, bounty and potential, they also represent the last great frontier for exploration on our planet. Since its inception, MIT's Department of Ocean Engineering has been committed to educating exceptional students who will take on this gauntlet of discovery. The field of ocean science is exciting, ever changing and challenging, as we learn more each year about the critical role of the seas in areas such as climate change, energy, transportation, global economies and nearly every aspect of our lives. In the simplest terms, ocean engineering can be defined as the development of engineering systems for use in the ocean. In our department, students examine the complex phenomena of the oceans and develop novel technologies through intensive, hands-on research. In so doing, they also gain a knowledge that fosters the wise use and preservation of these irreplaceable natural resources. We have set high goals for ourselves for the 21st century, including designing complex systems for high performance ocean vehicles, leading the information revolution in the ocean, conducting large scale experiments to better understand marine environments, and introducing chemistry and biology into the discipline of ocean engineering. Much of this work draws on earlier research in the department, and much work still lies ahead.

In collaboration with the MIT Sea Grant College Program, our department has revolutionized the design of autonomous underwater vehicles, or AUVs. Such submersibles are now unlocking secrets of the deep oceans for scientists, industry, and national defense. We look forward to a future filled with innovation and discovery, with a keen eye always on sustaining our marine environment and economy.

The mission of the department is:

The major goals of the department over the next ten years are:


The department is the founding member of the National Naval Engineering Research and Education Consortium (NERC). The mission of the consortium is to develop and execute an effective, sustainable program in Naval Engineering Research and Education. NERC is a stakeholder consortium with university, government and industry representation. This is the culmination of work started by Professor Chryssostomidis and Dr. Burke in May 1999.

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The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology reviewed the department's undergraduate program and has accredited it for an additional six years.

Discover Ocean Engineering

For the fifth year we offered Discover Ocean Engineering: A Special Introduction to MIT to the Class of 2005. This innovative program for incoming freshmen was set up in 1998 as a four day program to provide a first glimpse of what engineering is all about. It also allows the students to become familiar with some of the opportunities that the field of ocean engineering has to offer. In addition they get a jump start on becoming involved in campus life and building a close relationship between the students, our faculty and staff. As in the past, the agenda consisted of hands-on experience building a small remotely operated vehicle (ROV), testing it in the water, and providing a chance to perform some actual research experiments with an ROV in Boston Harbor. This pre-orientation program remains extremely popular among students. It has inspired Discover Mechanical Engineering, spearheaded by Discover Ocean Engineering alumnae. For the summer of 2002 plans for four Discover programs are underway: Discover Civil and Environmental, Mechanical, Nuclear, and Ocean Engineering.

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T. Francis Ogilvie Young Investigator Lectureship in Ocean Engineering

In October, 2001, Professor Thomas R. Powers presented the seventh annual T. Francis Ogilvie young investigator lecture. The lecture on bacterial flagellar mechanics described the propulsion mechanics of these complex protein machines, which has many similarities with fish propulsion, an area of research in the department. Professor Powers is the James R. Rice assistant professor of solid mechanics in the Division of Engineering at Brown University.

Robert Bruce Wallace Prize

The winner of the 2002 Wallace Prize, which is awarded to an outstanding undergraduate in the Department of Ocean Engineering, was Angus Kai McDonald. Kai was selected from a list of extremely qualified candidates and will be provided a full academic year of tuition and stipend for FY2003.

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Martin A. Abkowitz International Fellowship Program

The following individuals were awarded Martin A. Abkowitz international fellowships: Dr. Alexandra Techet for her participation in an IUTAM symposium on unsteady separated flows in Toulouse, France; Justin Manley for his upcoming research at the MIT AUV Lab facility in Italy; and Dr. Tom Consi to attend and present a paper at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) annual conference in Montreal, Canada in June 2002.

MIT Naval Construction and Engineering Ship Design and Shipbuilding Technology Symposium

On May 8–9, 2002, the Department of Ocean Engineering hosted the annual Ship Design and Shipbuilding Technology symposium, part of a series of symposia and workshops established in 1986, at the MIT faculty club. This symposium is held to establish and maintain positive communication with industry, Navy laboratories and Navy programs on research and education issues relevant to the Naval Construction and Engineering curriculum. Following an introduction by the faculty supervisor, the 13A graduate students presented their theses, and design projects, which as always were very well received. RADM Paul E. Sullivan, deputy commander for integrated warfare systems, Naval sea systems command, was the May 8 banquet speaker. Over 100 people from academia, industry and the government attended this annual event.

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Alumni Reunion

The 22d annual Ocean Engineering reunion was held at Disney World in Florida in October 2001. The reunion is traditionally held in conjunction with the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers annual meeting. The 2001 reception was hosted by Professor Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis and was well attended by alumni, faculty and guests.

Administrative Changes

Our administrative officer of many years, Sharon Trohon, was selected for the position of administrative officer at Mechanical Engineering—a well deserved move forward. Her successor, Helen L. Broderick, was hired in December 2001. Eda Daniels was recently hired as admissions coordinator in our Student Administration Office, replacing Tammy Lynch.

As the result of an extensive search for a new faculty member in the area of hydrodynamics, Dr. Alexandra Techet, a former MIT Ocean Engineering student, was hired as the department's newest junior faculty member. Alex will begin her appointment July 2002. This appointment fulfilled the top priority in the department's strategic plan.

The department received funding from the School of Engineering's Dean's Office and the US Navy to assist in the upgrading of the Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory under the direction of Professor Michael Triantafyllou. In addition, the department provided matching funds for this renovation.

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Future Plans

Professors Arthur B. Baggeroer requested and was granted a sabbatical for the Spring 2003 semester. His plan is to write a text on matched field array processing. Professor Tomasz Wierzbicki requested and was granted a sabbatical for the academic year 2002–2003. His plan is to collaborate with other laboratories and colleagues working in the area of crashworthiness worldwide.

Professor Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis announced his intention to step down as department head effective September 1, 2002, to more fully devote his energies to research, teaching and to the MIT Sea Grant College Program. Professor Henrik Schmidt has agreed to assume the position of acting department head for the Department of Ocean Engineering.

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Personnel Information

Professor John V. Amy, has been instrumental in helping the department develop a coherent program in the area of electric ship propulsion. This represents an important element in the research and education of future Naval officers as the Navy embraces the concept of electric ship propulsion.

Ford Professor Arthur B. Baggeroer and Doherty Professor Nicholas C. Makris continued their fourth and final year in the positions of secretary of the Navy/chief of naval operations (SECNAV/CNO) chair and scholar, respectively.

Dr. David Burke, with the assistance of Erik Millet, support staff, and Christine Salib, an independent contractor, developed a new and upgraded version of the Ocean Engineering web site. Dr. Burke has also assumed the oversight of the new communications requirement for our undergraduates.

Professor Chryssostomidis participated in the Baratti, Italy Expedition, in August 2001 as the MIT AUV team leader. The purpose of MIT's participation in the expedition was to assist our Italian colleagues with underwater navigation.

It is with great regret that I report the death of former department head and dean of engineering Dr. Alfred Keil. A memorial service was held at the MIT chapel in February 2002 where a number of his colleagues joined with family members to recognize his many contributions to the Institute. In recognition of Alfred's significant contributions to ocean research and education, MIT has established the Alfred A. H. Keil Ocean Engineering Development Fund. The fund will perpetuate Alfred's basic principles and lifelong dedication to broad based research in ocean engineering, with special emphasis on related societal needs and concerns by providing financial support where appropriate to undergraduate and graduate students and junior faculty. A biography, Alfred Keil, Multiple Genius, has been written by Sea Grant and is available from the MIT Sea Grant college program.

Professor Justin E. Kerwin completed his final year of teaching and student supervision on a 49 percent appointment he received after retiring in 1997.

Professor John Leonard coorganized a workshop on mobile robot navigation and mapping for the ICRA 2002 conference in Washington, DC.

Professor Nicholas C. Makris won the Henry L. and Grace Doherty professorship of ocean utilization in July 2000 for his project "Monitoring Natural and Manmade Ambient Noise in Massachusetts Bay." This is a two year professorship providing an annual budget of $25,000.

Professor Hank Marcus published The International Containership Industry and the Increasing Role of the Charter Market with Jonathan L. S. Byrnes, MIT/Marsoft Conference on Investment and Risk Management, August 2001.

Prior to his retirement, Professor Koichi Masubuchi and the department created a new fund account entitled The Koichi and Fumiko Masubuchi Fund to promote the publication or dissemination of information dealing with the applications of scientific principles and analytical understanding with emphasis on ocean and related engineering disciplines. Preference will be given to the dissemination of information resulting from Japanese and American scholar collaboration in these disciplines. Professor and Mrs. Masubuchi added generously to this fund with the donation of personal property to MIT.

Professors Chip McCord and John Amy organized and successfully conducted seven short courses over a nine week period for the professional summer program to meet unique Navy educational needs that cannot be met on-campus during the regular academic year.

Professor Jerome Milgram began a major experimental program on the forces on autonomous underwater vehicles in shallow waters. This is in response to the Navy's increased interest in operations in the littoral zone.

Professor Nicholas Patrikalakis continues as the Kawasaki professor. He and Dr. Takashi Maekawa published the book Shape Interrogation for Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing. The publisher is Springer Verlag.

Professor Henrik Schmidt was the chief scientist for GOATS 2002, a major expedition held in May and June 2002 in the Tuscan Archipelago, Italy. Professor Leonard joined the expedition as the scientist responsible for navigation. A number of Ocean Engineering scientists and students and Sea Grant engineers participated in this highly successful cruise.

Professor Paul Sclavounos is exploring new directions in his research to include nonlinear seakeeping of vessels in littoral waters.

Following the successful 2001 archaeological expedition to the isle of Nisyros, Professor Michael Triantafyllou is preparing the next phase for the department's work in the Aegean Sea. This is in collaboration with the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), the National Centre for Marine Research of Greece (EKTHE), the Marine Archaeological Agency of Greece, and the Ministry of Culture of Greece.

Professor Kim Vandiver continues with his third year as the dean for undergraduate research. This includes being director of Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and director of the Edgerton Center as well as the codirector of the Office of Academic Services.

Professor Tomasz Wierzbicki included a special project in his structural mechanics class (13.014). This special project asked the students to explain the reason for the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Professor Dick Yue continues his service to the Institute as associate dean of engineering with special responsibility for educational programs in the School of Engineering and the Institute.

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Student Awards

Benjamin Connell, Jay Dryer, Donald Eickstedt, Ryan Eustice, Justin Harper, Parker Larsen, Stephen Light, Anna Michel, Saul Rosser and Matthew Walter have been awarded or continued to receive the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship that provides three years of funding towards tuition, stipend and fees.

Anna Michel is also the recipient of the Link Foundation fellowship to foster ocean engineering and ocean instrumentation research. It provides a grant of $25,000: $21,000 to be used for a year's stipend, $2,500 for research expenses; and $1,000 for publication costs.

Katherine L. Croff received the Dean John A Knauss marine policy fellowship. This fellowship allowed her to spend a year in Washington, DC working in the Office of Ocean Exploration at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She was a member of the team that developed NOAA's Ocean Exploration Program.

Presidential fellowships were provided to Konstantinos Pelekanakis (fall and spring), John Hootman (fall 2001) and Steven Torok (spring 2002). These fellowships are awarded by the Institute and provide one year funding towards tuition and stipend.

Jessica Donnelly received a $2,000 undergraduate scholarship from the Society of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineers (SNAME) undergraduate fellowship.

John C. Hootman received a $10,000 award from SNAME, and was designated the Kennedy scholar; Steven W. Torok: received $8,000 also from SNAME and was designated the Richards scholar; Kwang H. Lee and Justin Harper received $7,000 and $2,000 awards respectively also from SNAME.

The American Bureau of Shipping fellowship was awarded to Timothy W. Glinatsis, a graduate student in the Ocean Systems Management (XIII-B) program.

Timothy Prestero won the MIT Center for Environmental Initiatives Martin fellowship and the MIT Entrepreneurship Center Carroll L. Wilson award.

Jonah Elgart, Ian M. McCreery, Jan Meyer, and Ann Polsenberg of Ocean Engineering and John McNally of Mechanical Engineering received the SNAME undergraduate paper honor prize for their paper presented before the Society's New England section. Their paper described the design of the capstone design project.

Dr Richard Kimball received the SNAME graduate paper honor prize for his paper describing his doctoral dissertation on numerical propeller hydrodynamics.

Anna Michel placed third in the student poster competition at the Marine Technology Society (MTS) conference.

Kyle Becker and Joshua Wilson won the first and third prize, student paper award, Acoustical Oceanography, ASA meeting, respectively.

Purnima Ratilal won the first prize, student paper award, underwater acoustics, ASA meeting.

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Teaching and Curriculum

13.012 Hydrodynamics for Ocean Engineers introduces the principles of fluid mechanics and applies them to practical ocean engineering problems. The fundamental properties of a fluid are investigated and the basic governing equations of fluid motion are derived in differential and integral form. Hydrostatic equations and vessel stability are discussed in the context of surface and underwater vessels. Basic flows past cylinders, spheres, flat plates and hydrofoils are used as a platform for understanding the more complex flows often found in ocean engineering and naval architecture applications.

A number of new experimental projects have been added to 13.012 to help illustrate concepts taught in class, including ship resistance and model testing, lift and drag forces on submerged bodies, and vehicle propulsion. Weekly lab sessions will be supplemented by practical problem sessions and demonstrations. Laboratory sessions are geared towards demonstrating proper data collection and analysis as well as writing clear and concise lab reports. Statistical data analysis, time series analysis, error estimation, and dimensional analysis will be discussed in the context of each lab to help students prepare for their own future research and engineering careers.

Laboratory exercises closely follow the syllabus of the subject and demonstrate physical phenomena in a hands on fashion. Interactive demonstrations help students further understand hydrodynamic stability, fluid viscosity, hydrostatic pressure as well as pressure in a moving fluid. Several laboratories are designed to demonstrate basic principles and flow features present in common ocean engineering problems. Such laboratory exercises include basic flow around circular cylinders, vortex-induced vibrations, lift and drag versus angle of attack of a hydrofoil, ship resistance and model testing, and propeller thrust and cavitation

13.019 Computational Techniques for Structural Design was offered for the second time in spring 2002. The subject introduced the loading mechanisms on ocean structures and the theory of plates and shells in the context of marine structures. Projects were completed demonstrating ability to develop computer analyses and use of advanced industry computer applications to make design evaluations. Ability to check the application tools results by hand or with simple derived computer routines was emphasized. The subject was very well received by the students.

Subject 13.49 Maneuvering and Control of Surface and Underwater Vehicles was transitioned to the internet in the fall semester of 2000. During 2001 the material posted on the internet was constantly refined and in fall 2001 was taught in its new form with great success. A dedicated, password-protected server has been set up to post lecture notes and revisions, and homework exercises and solutions. In addition, we developed the capability for students to perform time/domain simulation and linear controller design over the web using the Matlab web server. This feature is especially useful for learning about control of dynamic systems without becoming bogged down in the specific syntax of advanced controller design in Matlab.

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Research Activities

Professors Baggeroer, Milgram and Schmidt successfully competed for funding under a new three year ONR DRI entitled Capturing Uncertainty to further develop the fundamental understanding of the relative significance of the various oceanographic and geophysical uncertainty properties to the sonar performance statistics.

Professor Chrys Chryssostomidis was the chief scientist of a ten day expedition to Argentario, Italy. An Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) was used to explore the ocean bottom for archaeological artifacts. During the Argentario expedition, the ocean bottom near Elba and Argentario was mapped using side-scan sonar. At present the massive amount of data collected during the expedition is being analyzed for images of archaeological interest. Our longterm research objective is to ground truth side-scan sonar records with visual images and start building a library of sonar targets with visual comparisons that will help future explorers identify interesting targets. Some visual images were collected by our Italian colleagues using cameras mounted on remotely operated vehicles.

Professor Nicholas Makris continues his work in a variety of fields including acoustic detection and classification of hurricanes; spectral formulation for the Doppler-shifted field scattered by an object moving in a stratified medium; reverberation and submerged target scattering in shallow water, geological clutter experiments and a search for an ocean on Europa. He has also led a very successful ONR sponsored expedition, which confirmed that buried river channels are the primary cause of geo-clutter.

Professor John Leonard continued with the development of decoupled stochastic mapping (DSM) and initiated a new project under funding from Draper Labs for extension of the approach to multiple robot navigation. The goal is for several vehicles to cooperatively perform concurrent mapping and localization (CML). In addition, he is working on real time implementation of CML onboard an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV).

Professor Nicholas Patrikalakis continued with his Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF) research, a major NSF and ONR project which has as its objective the development of a generalized solid modeling method for SFF, providing support for design, representation, visualization, and manufacture of solids with local composition control (LCC), which is not possible in today's CAD/CAM systems. In the CAD area, Professor Patrikalakis works on two additional NSF-funded projects. The first relates to the intrinsic watermarking of solid bounded by sculptured surfaces, thereby providing a method for object identification and ownership protection in an electronic environment. The second project relates to robust intersection algorithms and rectification of CAD models to allow their correct interpretation during translation from one CAD system to another. In addition, Professor Patrikalakis based on early work on his NOAA-funded project, Poseidon: A Coastal Zone Management System over the World Wide Web, initiated research on a new major NSF/ITR project, also under the name Poseidon, for rapid real time interdisciplinary ocean forecasting in a distributed computing environment focusing on adaptive sampling and adaptive modeling aspects of the problem.

Professor Henrik Schmidt's research on the multi-static active acoustics project, is to develop fundamental understanding of the acoustic environment of the seabed, and to develop new numerical models of the 3D scattering by seabed objects, such as mines and hazardous waste containers, on and below the seabed in shallow water. Closely tied to the multi-static acoustics effort is the Generic Ocean Array Technology Sonars (GOATS), a new system concept for acoustic observations in the ocean environment, replacing the traditional hardwired hydrophone arrays. This is done by a virtual array of small underwater vehicles each equipped with a small aperture array, and linked together by high-bandwidth acoustic or optical links. GOATS is envisioned as the enabling technology which with the new 3D modeling capabilities can be synergized into an entirely new sonar concept for mine counter measures and undersea warfare in shallow water. A very successful GOATS 2002 was just completed this spring.

Professor Michael Triantafyllou, among several other projects, has completed the first period of research funded by Sea Grant and partially by NAVSEA, on the development of a biomimetic underwater vehicle, capable of swimming in strong currents and large waves, thanks to fish-like flapping fins. A fin-based actuator has been designed and constructed that produces large forces rapidly. This is the first of several such fins that are needed for the vehicle, which will have many uses for oceanographic, reconnaissance, and archeological work underwater.

Professor Tomasz Wierzbicki continues to lead the highly successful Impact and Crashworthiness Laboratory in the department. Professor Wierzbicki's laboratory in addition to the highly successful research in automobiles has embarked in a new area of research dealing with structural failure due to extreme loads. His most recent research in this area deals with development of blast resistant adaptive sandwich structures.

Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis
Department Head
Henry L. and Grace Doherty Professor in Ocean Science and Engineering

More information about this department can be found on the web at


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