MIT Reports to the President 1995-96


The Department of Mechanical Engineering is a strong department by any measure. It has a strong faculty, outstanding students, strong disciplinary base, active and viable research programs, and strong interactions with industry and government agencies. The Department is still one of the most highly subscribed departments by undergraduate students.

We have undertaken many new initiatives during the last four years to improve undergraduate education, to strengthen research activities, to promote significant interactions with industry, to open new intellectual frontiers, and to enhance the learning and cultural environment for our students.

All of these major new initiatives are now yielding positive results. The Department has implemented a new undergraduate curriculum, which is designed to produce future leaders in engineering, industry, academia, and society at large. To complement this effort, the Department is producing teaching aids through the newly established Hypermedia Teaching Facility. The renovation of our teaching and research facility has been extremely effective in improving the teaching and learning environment of our students. The Department's research volume is growing at a record rate. The funding level in the fields of manufacturing, design, bio-medical engineering, information systems and technology, and combustion and IC engines is high. The Department's faculty has played a major role in establishing the NSF funded Engineering Research Center for Competitive Product Development.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering is strong in areas where technology can make a difference in society, the nation, and the world. We are, for example, playing a vital role in health and medical care through our research on robotics, automation, and information systems. Our design and manufacturing group is leading the effort in rapid prototyping, axiomatic design, product development, precision engineering, materials processing, manufacturing systems, and flexible automation. As machines and systems become more intelligent, mechanical engineers will play new roles in industry. Information technology will soon affect almost every aspect of mechanical engineering industries. Our research enterprise must be flexible to allow for changes as societal needs change, while at the same time, bearing in mind that scholarly effort requires long term perspectives and should seek opportunities for long lasting contributions.


The Department of Mechanical Engineering, like the nation and the world, is in a state of transition. Globalization of industry is one of the contributing factors to this state. We all understand the myriad effects of globalization on industry and the economy. It is changing all aspects of industry ranging from customer base, vendor base, manufacturing facilities, research and development, migration of skilled workers to finance. Those who are not competitive are penalized by the global financial market. Education has not yet been affected by the global economy, but before long, it too will feel the effects of globalization. While it is not clear how universities will change, one can speculate on the possibilities. Some of the many possibilities that may change the role of education in a global economy are the need to generate students who can become societal leaders in a global setting, and the need to create a stronger interaction between MIT and leading technological companies worldwide, distance learning, the use of virtual environments in education, and the pooling of human resources.

The field of mechanical engineering has changed in industry because design and production of products have changed and will continue to undergo greater changes in the future. Few products are all mechanical! The automatic transmission in automobiles, for example, will soon have more software interacting with a smaller number of mechanical parts than ever before. The future growth of many other industries such as the semi-conductor industry will depend on mechanical engineers' ability to make precision mechanical products. Mechanical engineering will soon play a vital role in health and medical industries because human dexterity can no longer perform microsurgical operations and conventional drug delivery systems can not deliver drugs to specific cells and tissues. As machines and systems become more intelligent, mechanical engineers will have to play new roles in industry. Information technology will soon affect almost all aspects of mechanical engineering industries.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering must be strong in areas where technology can make a difference in society, the nation, and the world:

These fields will provide opportunities for mechanical engineers.

Traditional mechanical engineering industries are no longer driven by technological changes alone and, for this reason, mechanical engineering education must be broadened. When science or technology are the motivating forces behind a given industry, scientists or technologists are in the driver's seat. Today, non-technological issues have become as important as technological superiority in these industries, in contrast to the biotechnology industry where scientific and technological advances in biology are the driving forces. We may not be to able teach students everything they need to know in every field, but we must provide a perspective on non-technical issues that will affect their careers and help them assume leadership positions. We must do this while providing students with the best engineering education possible.

In addition to these externally driven challenges, we face internal challenges. We must continually renew the Department's intellectual strengths. On the one hand, we must nurture disciplinary core strengths by forming core groups; and, on the other hand, we must resist the temptation to isolate these core groups thereby missing opportunities to create new intellectual frontiers and disciplines through interaction among groups. We must also resist the pressure to simply maintain the status quo. Even in a world of diminishing resources, we must be willing to set aside a fraction of our resources to undertake new activities.

We must seek ways to improve the mentorship of our undergraduate students. Undergraduate education must continue to receive as much attention from our faculty as does graduate education and research. We need to improve graduate education. The current graduate program prepares students interested in teaching and research well. However, it does not well serve the needs of those who aspire to become industrial leaders. Our graduate program needs to be restructured to serve their needs. We must renovate the learning environment. In addition, we must strengthen the fundamental engineering science efforts, especially in areas where faculty have moved into more applied areas, and must nurture an environment for technology innovation. And, most importantly, we must seek financial resources to meet the basic necessities for vibrant educational and intellectual activities of the Department.


One of the major goals of our undergraduate education is to create future leaders in industry, academia, and engineering. An MIT education must provide a "can do" attitude backed by knowledge, perspective, experience and ethics to produce future leaders. The Department of Mechanical Engineering has embarked on four major activities to achieve these broad educational goals:

Curriculum development for Course 2 (the accredited mechanical engineering course) and curricula for Course 2A (non-accredited course for students interested in broader educational background)

Use of new and emerging technology in education -- the development of hypermedia teaching aids and the Hypermedia Teaching Facility

Renovation and endowment of teaching laboratories -- the Pappalardo Laboratories, the AMP Laboratory for Mechanical Behavior of Materials, the Rohsenow Heat and Mass Transfer To Mechanical Laboratory, and the d'Arbeloff Laboratory

Improvement of learning environment outside of the formal class rooms


A new curriculum for Course 2 was implemented in September 1995. There are six important goals for the new curriculum. The first goal is to provide broader engineering education, the second is to provide an integrated view of engineering, the third is to teach synthesis and analysis in all subjects, the fourth is to provide more hands-on experience in design, manufacturing and instrumentation, the fifth goal is to promote active learning, and the sixth is to provide students with a broader perspective on their life and careers.

Several courses are now taught in an integrated manner in a two semester sequence. Among them are: mechanics and materials; thermodynamics, heat transfer and fluid mechanics; and design and manufacturing. Systems, dynamics and control are taught in a three semester sequence to achieve our goals.

All of our undergraduate students are required to take a completely new required course -- 2.670, ME Tools -- during the Independent Activity Period in their sophomore year. They are taught the essential tools needed for mechanical engineering subjects such as the use of CAD (Computer Aided Design) programs and the use of machine tools. Students really like this course. They learn while having fun. It has been very gratifying that the enthusiasm for learning can be readily discerned in the twinkling eyes of our students. The exposure they received while building their Stirling engine will affect their learning experience in all subsequent engineering subjects. Professors Douglas Hart and Kevin Otto, Richard Fenner and his staff, and student assistants should be applauded for a job extremely well done.


We have also formalized the curricula for non-accredited mechanical engineering, Course 2-A. This curriculum has five tracks: (1) biomedical engineering and pre-medicine, (2) large-scale systems design, (3) technology-policy and pre-law, (4) management and entrepreneurship, and, (5) open track. Its purpose is to actively encourage students to pursue a degree from Course 2-A and to properly guide them. The interdisciplinary committee which revised this curriculum was headed by Professor Thomas Sheridan.


We have renovated the Pappalardo Laboratories, the Rohsenow Laboratory, and the AMP Laboratory. The d'Arbeloff Laboratory for Information Systems and Technology was launched with the promise of creating a new educational and research paradigm. Its goal is to explore the areas where physical systems and information systems converge to make intelligent machines, systems, and processes. Professors Harry Asada and Ian Hunter are the Director and Co-Director of this new laboratory.


Professor Tony Patera, Chair of the Faculty Steering Committee, and Dr. Nish Sonwalkar, managers of The Hypermedia Teaching Facility, and Professor James Fay have generated its first CD-ROM for fluid mechanics. This milestone achievement will significantly improve classroom learning and is available on the World Wide Web for off-site learning. This effort will influence future educational enterprises at MIT. They have created a new paradigm at MIT. We are considering other technologies that can enhance undergraduate education.


Our students need to acquire a broader outlook on life to become well-rounded, successful professionals. A number of activities have been initiated to help them achieve this goal. The Distinguished Alumni Seminar Series is a successful and important means of showing the students how they too can become leaders after they graduate from MIT. Once a term letters are sent to them from the Department Head to let them know that they have what it takes to be successful leaders. Although it may be of minor significance, free newspapers are placed in a lounge area so the students can read them between classes. Much more still needs to be done.

We need to create a different physical environment that can promote mutual cultural and educational exchanges to facilitate greater interactions among our students, faculty and staff.


The Department faculty has always been committed to excellence in teaching. Implementation of the new curriculum has rejuvenated our search for pedagogical efficacy and effectiveness. Even during this transition period, our faculty continues to teach at the highest level possible. Teaching performance is considered as one of the most important criterion in promotion and tenure.


degrees in 2, 2A, and 2B:

September, 1995:

5 degrees, 2 women (1 African-American and 1 Puerto Rican)
February, 1996:
14 degrees, 4 women, 1 male Puerto Rican, 2 male foreign students
June, 1996:
122 degrees, 29 women including 2 African-Americans, 2 Mexican Americans, and 2 foreign students. Minority men included 5 African-Americans, 6 Puerto Ricans, 3 other Hispanics, and 2 foreign students



The Department's graduate program is strong and has been emulated by many other universities world-wide. It is rigorous, scholarly, and well administered.

The doctoral program is slanted toward creating academic researchers and professors in contrast to creating industrial leaders. In fact, we are the country's major producer of Mechanical Engineering university professors. Although the program is highly flexible, it does not explicitly encourage students to acquire broad educational experience and thus many doctoral students become narrow and highly specialized. Furthermore, some thesis research topics are removed from those of industrial interest. In short, the current doctoral program is serving the needs of those interested in pursuing the academic career well, but it may not serve the needs of those interested in becoming industrial leaders.

An ad hoc Graduate Education Committee, under the leadership of Professor Ali Argon, was established to review the graduate education program of the Department and make recommendations to the Department. Their charge is to develop graduate programs that educate those graduate students who wish to pursue careers in industry. Our goal is to lead in developing a creative graduate program that can complement and supplement the existing graduate programs for S.M. and Ph.D. degrees.


Concurrent with its effort to review the graduate curriculum, the Department has undertaken a number of projects to strengthen its relationship with industry. We are doing this as a means of promoting greater interaction with industry, making our graduate programs more relevant, increasing opportunities for creative new ideas, and as a way of increasing funding for research.

The Department has a number of industrial consortia on a number of specific topics. This number is increasing. The following is a list of some of the Department's industrial consortia:

These consortia bring in over four million dollars of research support into the Department. It is expected that they will grow in number and in support.

The Department, under the auspices of our Manufacturing Institute, has created the MIT-Industry Partnership for Engineering Excellence. Under this arrangement, an industrial firm and MIT sign a two-year rolling contract at a minimum support level of $ 1 million over the two year period. The idea is to create a long-term relationship which meets the Department's educational goals and the industry's goals as well. MIT has modified its normal patent provisions by granting the industrial firm a five-year, royalty-free exclusive license from the date of filing the patent application. After five years, the industrial firm must choose between the following two options: retain the exclusivity but pay royalty or receive a royalty-free, non-exclusive license for the life of the patent. We hope to have ten Partnerships. MIT-SVG (Silicon Valley Group) Partnership for Engineering Excellence is our first industrial partnership.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering together with the Department of Nuclear Engineering has obtained a five-year, $ 2.5 million research contract with Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO). KEPCO is one of the world's largest nuclear utilities. This contract allows us to maintain our strength in the nuclear power field. MIT conducts fundamental research on topics chosen by mutual discussion and accepts visiting engineers from KEPCO.

Research support for single investigator projects is still one of the most important means of supporting graduate students. This means of receiving research support is becoming increasingly difficult as Washington is becoming fiscally more conservative. Competition for research support is more intense as the real dollar for Federal R&D support is expected to decrease by 30 to 50% over the next five years. It is imperative, therefore, that the Department continues to strengthen its relationship with industry. Our goal is to increase industrial support to 60% (or approximately $12 million) of the Department's research volume.


September, 1995:

10 Ph.D.s, 7 foreign students17 Masters, 1 woman, 8 foreign students
February, 1996:
15 Ph.D.s, 1 woman, 8 foreign students 20 Masters, 1 woman, 7 foreign students
June, 1996:
23 Ph.Ds., 1 woman, 2 male Mexican Americans, 10 foreign students 48 Masters, 6 women including 1 African-America and 1 Mexican American, 1 male African-American, 17 foreign students


As of July 1, 1996, there were 59 full-time faculty: 34 professors, 10 associate professors (7 with tenure), 13 assistant professors and 2 TBAs. In addition, the teaching, research, and technical staff fluctuates around 70, more than half of whom are part-time.

The department is organized in three disciplinary divisions and three systems research groups. The divisions are: Mechanics and Materials (Head, Professor Triantaphyllos Akylas); Thermal and Fluid Sciences (Head, Professor Ahmed Ghoniem); and Design and Control (Head, Professor Warren Seering). The systems research groups are: manufacturing (Head, Professor Timothy Gutowski); Biomedical Engineering (Head, Professor Roger Kamm); and Information (Head, Professor Haruhiko Asada).


Two years ago, I stressed that in order to make an impact on technology, society and education, our department must emphasize the two ends of the research spectrum and move away from the center of the research spectrum where the bulk of a typical university research is taking place today. The two ends of the research spectrum are: fundamental knowledge which is the basis for future research development and technology, and the research that can lead to technology innovation. The Department has been trying to implement this shift by hiring new faculty whose work reflects this shift in attitude, by strengthening our relationship with industry, and by creating new research areas.


Manufacturing research is well funded primarily because the faculty, who are primarily affiliated with the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity, has generated exciting new ideas and aggressively pursued external funding. The research volume in manufacturing has increased because the Manufacturing Institute has successfully brought in large industrial funding. Research is being conducted in: materials processing (microcellular plastics, composites, metal forming, welding), rapid prototyping (3-D printing, DBM), precision engineering, precision stage design by magnetic levitation, manufacturing systems, production machine design, opto-mechanical devices, and design theory. Three industrial consortia in the field of manufacturing are headed by Professors Chun and Sachs. Other professors and senior research staff in this field include: Gutowski, Hardt, Slocum, Suh, Trumper, Cochran, Sarma, Gershwin, Sharon, and Saka.

Biomedical engineering research is reasonably well funded although some of Professor Hunter's funding is still channeled through McGill University. Efforts by key faculty members (Professors Hogan, Hunter, Kamm, Dewey, Rowell, Yannas, and Dr. Mark Johnson) have improved the funding situation. It appears that the funding level will increase significantly in the near future. One of the tasks is to enhance more collaborative efforts among the department faculty to yield more synergistic research in this field. At this time, the Department is searching for a faculty member who can marry the traditional biomedical engineering research with cell biology.

We hired two faculty members, Professors Seth Lloyd and Sunny Siu, to strengthen the information end of our education and research programs. Professor Lloyd is a quantum mechanics physicist with strong interest in information. He was at Los Alamos Laboratory for three years after spending three years at Caltech as a post-doctoral researcher. Professor Siu is a specialist in the networking area. He was an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of California, Irvine. Professors Asada and Hunter created the Home Automation Consortium which will be located in the new d'Arbeloff Laboratory. They have raised almost $2 million for the consortium in a relatively short period of time. The professors associated with this new interdisciplinary laboratory are: Asada, Hunter, Lloyd, Rowell, Thomas Sheridan, Siu, Jean-Jacques Slotine, and Kamal Youcef-Toumi.

There are many exciting research projects in the design area. Precision machine design (Professors Alex Slocum and David Trumper), New Products Program (Professor Flowers), axiomatic design and software shell development (Professor Suh), environmentally compatible design (Professor Wallace), design optimization (Professors Otto and Thornton), product development (Professor Seering), mining related design (Professor Peterson), and CAD (Professor Gossard) are some representative projects. Some projects are well funded, others are not. Student interest in design is great and the research funding level in design is not sufficient to support all of the graduate students wishing to work in this area. Professor Seering and colleagues submitted a proposal in the field of product design to the National Science Foundation for an Engineering Research Center award. We hope that we will be granted the ERC award.

Research in energy related areas is done in the field of internal combustion engines (Professors Heywood, Cheng, Hochgreb and Dr. Wong), gas turbines and chemically reacting systems (Professor Ghoniem), research related to nuclear power (Professors Peter Griffith and Neil Todreas), cryogenics and air conditioning (Professors John Brisson, Joseph Smith, Griffith and Gerald Wilson), and heat transfer (Professors Mikic, John Lienhard, and Taiqing Qiu). We need more interdisciplinary research in this field on topics such as portable power source, heat transfer in computers, new power trains for vehicles, etc. Some of the research in this area are extremely well funded, but we need to increase funding for other areas.

Research in materials is strong. Research activities are in fundamental deformation mechanisms of metals and polymers (Professors Anand, Argon, Boyce), fracture (Professor Parks), phase transformation (Professors Abayaratne and Parks), composite materials (Professors Williams and Gutowski), and tribology (Professor Suh and Dr. Saka). Some of these areas are well funded.

Research in systems and control include: robotics, control, man-machine systems, and system design. Research in robotics covers diverse topics and is very strong. It is conducted by Professors Asada, Dubowsky, Hunter, Slotine, Sheridan and Dr. Salisbury. Research is done in microsurgical robots (Professor Hunter), nanoscale displacement devices (Professor Youcef-Toumi), robot for space applications (Professor Dubowsky), self learning adaptive robot (Professor Slotine and Dr. Salisbury), robots for automation (Professor Asada), and modular robot (Professor Dubowsky). Research in man-machine is conducted by Professor Sheridan. Professors Suh and Cochran are conducting research on design of large systems.

There are many exciting research projects in fundamental basic research areas such as numerical computation (Professors Jurgen Bathe, Tony Patera, Ghoniem and Parks), fluid and solid mechanics (Professors Akylas, Abeyaratne, Feng, Bathe, Parks, Anand, Patera, Probstein, Kamm and Dewey), combustion (Professors Cheng, Ghoniem, Heywood, and Hochgreb), control (Professors Annaswamy, Slotine, Asada, Sheridan, Dubowsky, Hardt, Hogan, Rowell and Youcef-Toumi), materials (Professors Argon, Boyce, Anand, Gutowski, Parks, and Suh), and design (Professors Suh, Otto, Seering, Thornton, Flowers, and Wallace). The current research volume in some of these fundamental research areas is small. Every effort must be made to strengthen fundamental research areas. The Department has made attempts to recruit world renowned senior faculty members in mechanics, but for some complex reasons, we have not been successful.


Resource utilization is an important issue for the Department and for MIT. The Department needs to generate significant resources to meet all of its teaching and research needs.


I am optimistic about the Department's future. We have invested in new programs which are bearing fruit. We have strong programs in both traditional areas as well as in new areas. Our students are the best humanity can produce. Our interaction with industry is exceptionally strong. We have recruited excellent new faculty members. Our research volume is growing. Our alumni have been very generous in support of our programs.

The Department must continue to raise funds and take intellectual risks in order to meet our aspirations and ambitious goal for education and research. The Department must guard against the temptation to act as a federation of twelve independent tribes rather than a single academic department, since the benefit of having a large department is the intellectual synergism that generates exciting ideas and results. The senior faculty of the Department must continue to look after the intellectual growth of younger colleagues by providing them with opportunities and room for innovation, intellectual experimentation and growth. Most of all, the Department must give its utmost attention to education of our students, both undergraduate and graduate students.

We are the best mechanical engineering department in the world for education, research and public service. We intend to keep it that way.


The Department has achieved a great deal over the last few years. This could not have been done without the dedication of the faculty and staff. We worked together as a team even when heated discussions preceded the adoption of new programs and policies. I am very grateful to my colleagues and staff.

New Faculty: Sanjay Sarma, Assistant Professor, Design; Kai-Yeung Siu, Assistant Professor, Design; Anna Thornton, Assistant Professor, Design

Promotions: Associate Professor without tenure: Simone Hochgreb, Anuradha Annaswamyl, David Trumper; Associate Professor with tenure: Jung Hoon Chun; Full Professor: I. Hunter, E. Sachs.

Retirements: Carl Peterson, Ronald Probstein, Thomas Sheridan.

Nam P. Suh

MIT Reports to the President 1995-96