Department of Mechanical Engineering

The Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) has continued to build upon its strengths and, simultaneously, move in new directions, thus maintaining and enhancing its standing as a leader in mechanical engineering education and research. It has been a pleasure to welcome seven new faculty members this year. They work in areas such as nanomanufacturing, Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), microfluidics, biophysics, and new energy technologies. At the same time, these appointments have strengthened our core activities in the areas of fluids, energy, design, manufacturing, and biomechanics. Two more faculty members will join us next year, one in dynamics and the other in controls. We have one open search in the area of manufacturing systems. A number of laboratories have been completely renovated for these junior faculty members' use. We will soon have a new Battery and Fuel Cells Lab, an Experimental Nonlinear Dynamics Lab, a Tissue Lab, and a Biomolecular Antennas Lab. The Hatsopoulos Lab has provided space and the facility needs for the fluids and microfluidics hires.

Our students and faculty have continued to be recognized by numerous awards for their originality and impact on research, education, and leadership, as described below.


In order to commercialize the impressive achievements of nanoscience and nanotechnology, there is a crying need for being able to manufacture products and devices quickly, easily, and cheaply. The ability to do so does not currently exist. Recognizing this need, a group of faculty members has begun to focus its research attention on the subject of nanomanufacturing. The faculty members involved include George Barbastathis, Gang Chen, Jung-Hoon Chun, Martin Culpepper, Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, Sang-Gook Kim, and Carol Livermore, and they are developing new methods for the manufacture, placement, assembly, and manipulation of two- and three-dimensional nanoscale devices. In addition, preliminary discussions have begun with architects and engineers regarding construction of the new Pappalardo Laboratory for NanoEngineering.

Among the most pressing challenges for the coming decade is attention to the needs of the environment, including the issue of sustainability in energy. The department has begun to position itself to lead in chosen areas within this broad area of renewable energy. Timothy Gutowski is examining the environmental impact of manufacturing and product design. Ernest Cravalho and Yang Shao-Horn are exploring fuel cells—devices that harness the oxidation of fuels to directly produce electricity but that can also be run "backward," in which mode fuel cells can serve as storage devices for electricity created by renewable sources such as wind and photovoltaics. Emanuel Sachs is working on photovoltaics—solar panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity using semiconductor devices. Sachs is the inventor of the "String Ribbon" process for the manufacture of crystalline silicon substrates for solar cells, a process that is being commercialized by Evergreen Solar, and he is presently working on the metal "fingers" on top of a solar cell that collect the current from the cell. The department plans to set up a center for sustainable energy to foster and grow work in this area.

The Auto-ID Center is a family of research labs, founded by and headquartered in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, which is revolutionizing the radio-frequency identification (RFID) industry. Besides fundamentally improving RFID systems—by creating a new systemic approach, by solving several technical problems, and by inventing new manufacturing technologies and approaches—the center has played a substantial role in technology transfer and standards creation. It has created the Electronic Product Code numbering scheme, radio-frequency (RF) protocols, language descriptions, software interfaces, and network architectures, all of which we are now being standardized and deployed by a new not-for-profit body. At least four chip manufacturers are manufacturing integrated circuits to the RF protocols the center has proposed, and several large paper and packaging companies are working with the center and other members of the consortium to set up large-scale chip assembly lines in anticipation of future demand. End-user commitments to use RFID have driven the number of tags expected to be produced in 2005 to more than 1.5 billion. Today the center has 103 sponsors and six sister labs on four continents.

Three major conferences were organized by ME faculty members and held at MIT this past year. The First International Conference on Nanomanufacturing, held in April, was organized by Jung-Hoon Chun; the Rohsenow Symposium on the Future of Heat Transfer, held in May, was organized by John Lienhard; and the Second MIT Conference on Computational Solid and Fluid Mechanics was held in June and was organized by Professor Jürgen Bathe.

The department has been an active participant in the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, established at MIT last year by the US Army. The goal of this institute is to significantly increase the protection of soldiers using nanoscience and nanotechnology by creating a 21st-century battle suit that combines high-tech capabilities with light weight and comfort. This project has been subdivided into seven thrust areas, and ME faculty members are involved in six of the seven: energy-absorbing materials, active materials and devices, biomaterials and nanodevices for medical technology, processing, modeling and simulation, and integration of technology systems. The ME faculty members involved are Mary Boyce, Neville Hogan, Ian Hunter, Gareth McKinley, and Simona Socrate.

The Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation was formed in the School of Engineering in order to support leading-edge research on emerging technologies and to cultivate interaction between MIT, entrepreneurs, innovative companies, and venture capitalists. The center presented its first research awards this year, and six of them were won by ME faculty members for the following work:

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Course 2-A, the alternative mechanical engineering degree, received ABET accreditation for the first time since its inception. This program offers significant flexibility to undergraduates interested in following a less conventional program. This is a significant new development that will expand and enrich our undergraduate programs. Students in Course 2-A take the first-level mechanical engineering subjects and then construct their own program for the remainder of their academic requirements. In order to address a growing demand, we have developed well-defined nano- and biotracks for students in this program, though the students can construct their own tracks based on individual interest and advisor approval.

We continue to be involved with the Cambridge–MIT Institute (CMI). This year saw the first participant in the CMI faculty exchange arrive at MIT. Dr. Hugh Hunt from the Engineering Department at Cambridge spent six months in the ME Department. He was heavily involved in our undergraduate program, especially in 2.670 Mechanical Engineering Tools and 2.004 Modeling Dynamics and Control II and to a lesser extent in 2.672 Project Laboratory and 2.001 Mechanics and Materials I. ME faculty will continue to collaborate with Dr. Hunt and his Cambridge University colleagues on a number of curricula projects. One involves developing a comprehensive set of problems based on the Sterling Engine (that each student builds in his or her sophomore year) for use in subsequent subjects such as dynamics, vibrations, heat transfer, thermodynamics, and materials. Another project has to do with developing a new subject that is focused on integrating the various engineering disciplines, possibly through case studies, failure analyses, and consulting-type problems.

A number of faculty members have begun to develop new graduate-level subjects and senior electives on topics such as MEMS, biophysics, and nanotechnology. We have begun to look for ways in which to also bring this material into the core Course 2 curriculum. Currently we are attempting to do this by bringing applications and illustrative examples from these areas into the core subjects. For example, Matt Lang is developing a "biomechanics micromanipulation experiment" using optical tweezers for the lab subject 2.672; Simona Socrate is developing problems from biomechanics for the mechanics subject 2.001; Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli is developing a biological materials module for the materials subject 2.002 Mechanics and Materials II; Yang Shao-Horn is developing a fuel cell module for our thermofluids sequence 2.005/2.006 Themal Fluids Engineerng I/II; Todd Thorsen is developing a microfluidics experiment for the lab subject 2.672; and Carol Livermore will be incorporating some MEMS-related problems and labs in our mechanics subject 2.001.

Contracts for three more books in the MIT-Pappalardo Series in Mechanical Engineering published by Oxford University Press have been signed. They are for Modeling and Approximation of Thermal Processes by John Lienhard and Leon Glicksman, Nano-to-Microscale Energy Transport by Gang Chen, and Introduction to Design by Alexander Slocum.

Undergraduate Program

Undergraduate Enrollment

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* 11 fifth-year students would make the total number 276.

The following honors and prizes were awarded to our undergraduate students:

The Mechanical Engineering Honor Society, Pi Tau Sigma, and our Discover Mechanical Engineering team have both been very active this past year and contributed significantly. They were led by the following officers:

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Graduate Program

Our graduate program continues to be strong, with a total of 364 students. Of the 201 students in the master's program, 30 percent were foreign, 25 percent were women, and 6 percent were minorities. Of the 163 students in the doctoral program, 67 percent were foreign, 15 percent were women, and 4 percent were minorities. Our students were supported by 250 research assistantships, 27 teaching assistantships, 14 NSF fellowships, 10 DOD fellowships, 29 other fellowships, 4 awards from US industry, 4 awards from sources outside the United States, 11 Leaders for Manufacturing fellowships, and 5 Engineering Internship Program students; there were 10 self-supported students.

Graduate Enrollment

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This past year, 732 students applied for admission to our graduate program; 26 percent of them were offered admission, and 55 percent of those matriculated.

The following honors and prizes were awarded to our graduate students:

MEGAWomen, the organization of ME graduate women, has continued to be very active this year. This group plays an important role, providing female graduate students the opportunity to interact in an informal and supportive environment. This past year, they held approximately four events each semester, including health and wellness workshops, socials, discussion panels, and a weekend hiking outing in the fall. Copresidents of MEGAWomen were Jennifer Topinka and Rebecca Dupaix.

GAME, the Graduate Association of Mechanical Engineers, is a newly formed student group that aims to serve all graduate students in the department. GAME was founded to organize social and academic activities to enrich the lives of ME graduate students, as well as to advocate on their behalf. While still a young organization, it has been witness to energetic and enthusiastic participation. GAME conducted a successful student seminar series in spring 2003, a departmental qualifying exam discussion, some barbecues, and a social at the Thirsty Ear. Events planned for this summer include a hiking trip, beach trip, a Boston Harbor Islands trip, and an ME research display barbecue. A mentoring program for new ME graduate students will be established in the fall. The officers of GAME were Joe Acar (president), Kate Thompson (vice president), Nicoli Ames (secretary), and Joseph Jankowski (treasurer).

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Faculty Notes and Awards

Tenure was granted to Professor Sanjay Sarma. Professor Nicolas Hadjiconstantinou was promoted from assistant to associate professor. Dr. Anuradha Annaswamy was promoted from principal research scientist to senior research scientist.

Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli '94 joined our Biological Engineering and Manufacturing Groups in September 2002 as an assistant professor. Prior to that she was a postdoctoral associate at the Media Lab in the Molecular Motors Group. She has a BS in chemistry from MIT and a PhD (2000) from the University of California at Berkeley. Her principal area of interest is exploring the interface between nanoscale inorganic systems with biology. Her research interests include the development of nanometer-scale antennas and their use for manipulation of individual biological molecules.

Anette (Peko) Hosoi joined our Fluid Mechanics Group in September 2002 as an assistant professor. She received her AB from Princeton University in 1992 and her MS (1994) and PhD (1997) from the University of Chicago. All of her degrees are in physics. She was awarded an NSF postdoctoral fellowship and worked in the Department of Applied Mathematics at MIT. Her principal fields of interest are various hydrodynamical instabilities.

Matthew Lang joined the faculty in September as a dual assistant professor in the Biological Engineering Division and the Department of Mechanical Engineering. His PhD from the University of Chicago and his BS degree from the University of Rochester are both in chemistry. He was the Jane Coffin Childs fellow in cancer research at Stanford University. He has created the first multidimensional optical trap and combined it with single-molecule fluorescence microscopy, enabling real-time observation and measurement of the physical behavior of biological macromolecules and their interactions across multiple dimensions.

Yang Shao-Horn joined our Energy Group in September 2002 as an assistant professor. Upon graduating from Michigan Technological University in 1998 with a PhD in metallurgical and materials engineering, she joined the Advanced Technology and Materials Group of Eveready Battery Company. She then worked as an NSF international research fellow at the Institute of Condensed Matter Chemistry in Bordeaux, France. Her principal research fields involve materials-related issues in electrochemical energy storage and conversion. Her research group is working on lithium rechargeable batteries, solid oxide fuel cells, and metal-air batteries and fuel cells.

Todd Thorsen joined our Fluids Group in September 2002 as an assistant professor. He received his PhD in molecular biophysics from Caltech in 2002. Todd has worked on integrated chip design, valve designs, sorting techniques, and parallel screen arrays. His work is at the forefront of microfluidics technology and is product oriented.

Carol Livermore joined our Design and Manufacturing Groups in January 2003 as an assistant professor. She received her BS from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1993 and her AM (1995) and PhD (1998) in physics from Harvard. She is the associate program director for the MIT Microengine Project. She is developing power micro-electro-mechanical systems (power MEMS) for use in high-power, portable applications. Her other research programs focus on the creation and structuring of nanoscale systems.

Daniel Frey joined our Design Group in January 2003 as an assistant professor.Dan received his BS (1987) in aeronautics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his MS (1993) from the University of Colorado, and his PhD (1997) from MIT, the latter two in mechanical engineering. His principal field is research on system design methods including robust design, design of experiments, probability, manufacturing, and computational geometry. Dan is collaborating with the Center for Innovation in Product Development on adaptive strategies for experimentation and with Ford Motor Company on conceptual design for robustness and noise-factor management.

Professor George Barbastathis was awarded the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton career development chair. Professor Simona Socrate was awarded the d'Arbeloff career development chair. Professor Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli was awarded the Homer A. Burnell career development chair. Professor Yang Shao-Horn was awarded the Atlantic Richfield career development chair.

Professor Gareth McKinley and his former student, Jonathan Rothstein, received the Frenkiel Award from the American Physical Society. This award is given for the best paper published on the physics of fluids by young researchers. He also won the Rheofuture Award with C. Clasen. He was appointed the chair-elect for the Fluids Mechanics Area of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering.

Professor John Lienhard was appointed to the editorial board of the Journal of Heat Transfer. He also received the 2003 J. P. Den Hartog Distinguished Educator Award.

Professor John Heywood and colleagues won the SAE 2001 Lubricant Award. Professor Wai Cheng was elected SAE fellow. Professor Yang Shao-Horn received an ONR Young Investigator Award.

Professor Woodie Flowers resigned his regular faculty position and took on a new 50 percent appointment as professor without tenure. Adjunct Professor Igor Paul retired in June 2003. Professor L. Mahadevan resigned from the department.

The following members of the staff were also recognized: the Caloggero Award for Service went to Maureen DeCourcey and Marie Pommet and the Institute's Infinite Mile Award went to Maureen Lynch.

Rohan Abeyaratne
Head of Department
Quentin Berg Professor of Mechanical Engineering and MacVicar Faculty Fellow

Additional information about the Department of Mechanical Engineering can be found on the web at


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