Pitt | Swanson Engineering

The Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS) is the largest in the school of engineering in terms of students and faculty. The department has core strengths in the traditional areas of bioengineering, manufacturing, microsystems technology, smart structures and materials, computational fluid and solid dynamics, and energy systems research. Key focus is reflective of national trends, which are vying toward the microscale and nanoscale systems level.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science houses ABET-accredited mechanical engineering, engineering science and materials science and other engineering programs that provide the solid fundamentals, critical thinking, and inventive spark that fire up our graduates as they design the future. The department graduates approximately 90 mechanical and materials science engineers each year, with virtually 100% of them being placed in excellent careers with industry and research facilities around the globe.

The department houses faculty who are world-renowned academicians and accessible teachers, individuals of substance who seek to inspire and encourage their students to succeed. The department also has access to more than 20 laboratory facilities that enhance the learning process through first-rate technology and hands-on experience.

That experience is integrated into every aspect of the department. Events such as the SAE Formula Car Program add to students' real-world knowledge; each year, students construct their own vehicle and compete with students from other universities nationwide and internationally on the strength of their design and racing. The Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science also is involved in the Cooperative Education (Co-Op) Program, bringing students together with industry for three terms of professional work.

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Swanson School faculty and STEM program among 2018 Carnegie Science Award honorees

Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (March 19, 2018) – Two professors and a long-standing STEM program at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering are among the 2018 Carnegie Science Award honorees, presented by Carnegie Science Center. The recipients are among honorees in 17 categories announced at a reception on March 13 at Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore. Winners and honorable mentions will be honored May 4 during the Carnegie Science Awards Celebration at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.  Albert To, PhD, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, is the recipient of the Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Award. Dr. To was recognized for his research in design optimization for additive manufacturing, multiscale methods, and computational mechanics. He is actively working on developing “Lattice Structure Design Optimization” software for generating optimal lightweight design for 3D printing. Gregory Reed, PhD, professor of electrical and computer engineering and Director of Pitt’s Center for Energy and the Energy GRID Institute, was one of two honorable mention recipients in the Innovation in Energy category. Dr. Reed is recognized internationally for his research in advanced electric power grid and energy generation, transmission, and distribution system technologies; micro-grids and DC infrastructure development, renewable energy systems and integration; and smart grid technologies and applications. The Swanson School’s Investing Now program received an honorable mention in the Leadership in STEM Education category. Created in 1988, Investing Now a college preparatory program created to stimulate, support, and recognize the high academic performance of pre-college students from historically underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors and careers. (Pictured from left: Justyce Hill, Kayla Ray, Nara Hernandez and Charlie Partlow) The Carnegie Science Awards champion efforts to strengthen science and technology in our region. This year’s winners range from a culinary arts teacher whose coursework extends beyond the conventional kitchen into food-science research and career exploration, to a tech start-up that secured $1 billion from Ford Motor Company. A committee of peers— past awardees and industry leaders— who rigorously reviewed nominations and selected the most deserving winners, selected winners. For more information about the awards celebration, go to CarnegieScienceCenter.org/Awards.“The Carnegie Science Awards applaud some of the most exciting leaders and innovators in our region’s science community,” said Ron Baillie, Henry Buhl, Jr., Co-Director of Carnegie Science Center. “They helped make Pittsburgh the technology hub it has become and inspire the young people who will become the next generation of professionals in the STEM fields of science, engineering, technology, and math.”Ann Metzger, Henry Buhl, Jr., Co-Director of Carnegie Science Center, said the awards are an integral part of the mission of promoting STEM education, which will be energized later this year when the Science Center’s PPG Science Pavilion opens in June and provides additional state-of-the-art classroom space. “Winners of the Carnegie Science Awards represent the pinnacle of excellence in STEM fields and STEM education,” Metzger said. “We are thrilled to recognize our amazing awardees and expect them to continue to do us proud with their accomplishments in the future.”Through the support of committed sponsors, the Carnegie Science Awards program has honored the accomplishments of more than 550 individuals and organizations. Eaton is the presenting sponsor for the Carnegie Science Awards. Chevron is the prime sponsor. ### About Carnegie Science Center Carnegie Science Center is dedicated to inspiring learning and curiosity by connecting science and technology with everyday life. By making science both relevant and fun, the Science Center’s goal is to increase science literacy in the region and motivate young people to seek careers in science and technology. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Science Center is Pittsburgh’s premier science exploration destination, reaching more than 700,000 people annually through its hands-on exhibits, camps, classes, and off-site education programs.


The Final Frontier’s Final Frontier

Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (March 5, 2018) … In T minus 8,760 hours, or roughly one year, the Space Test Program-Houston 6 (STP-H6) hybrid and reconfigurable space supercomputer will board the International Space Station. The newest mission to the ISS featuring research and technology from the University of Pittsburgh’s NSF Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) will bring an unprecedented amount of computing power into space and invaluable research opportunities from the ground station on Pitt’s Oakland campus. “Computer engineering for space is the ultimate challenge,” says Alan George, SHREC founder and the Mickle Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Space computing has become a principal challenge in all spacecraft, since remote sensing and autonomous operation are the main purposes of spacecraft and both demand high-performance computing.” This new mission experiment is the work of an outstanding team of graduate and undergraduate students studying at Pitt, led by Chris Wilson.Earlier this month, the Pitt system for STP-H6 completed its 1,400-mile earth journey from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. to NASA Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston. Its next much shorter trip is scheduled for February 2019 when it will travel 240 miles skyward from NASA Kennedy to the ISS. The new space supercomputer is nearly three times more powerful than its predecessor launched last year and contains dual high-resolution cameras capable of snapping 2.5K by 2K pixel images of Earth.“Our new system has a similar goal to perform in space and evaluate our new kind of space computer featuring an unprecedented combo of high performance and reliability with low power, size, weight, and cost,” Dr. George explains. “The big difference is that our STP-H6 system is more powerful in computing and sensing capability and arguably the fastest computing system ever deployed in space.” The new system for STP-H6 passed extreme environmental testing at NASA Goddard and recently completed initial integration and testing at NASA Johnson. It will remain at NASA for a year of integration and verification. When all systems are go, STP-H6 will travel to the ISS on a SpaceX rocket, marking the second time that Pitt has had a payload on SpaceX technology.“We think it’s a perfect match since SpaceX is an industry leader in launch vehicles and SHREC is the leading academic group in space computing,” says Dr. George.Another first for SHREC is collaboration with the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS). Assistant Professors Dave Schmidt and Matthew Barry led the MEMS department’s contributions by designing and verifying the system chassis to meet the demands of STP-H6.“Dr. Schmidt worked on mechanical design and validation of the system so it fit the new additions to the H6, and I worked thermal modeling so the system had the capacity to dissipate heat from the electronics within,” says Dr. Barry. “An excellent group of volunteer students were fully engaged and committed to make sure the project succeeded.”Dr. George intended academic, industrial, and governmental collaborations like the one between the ECE and MEMS departments when he brought the NSF Center for High-Performance Reconfigurable Computing (CHREC) from the University of Florida to Pitt in 2017 and later reorganized it as SHREC. It is the first interdepartmental partnership on a space mission in Swanson School history.“Our first ISS experiment entirely focuses upon R&D topics in computer and electrical engineering, so it was handled entirely in SHREC and ECE. However, our second mission brought additional challenges in mechanical design, thermal analysis, and safety analysis – challenges that we as electrical and computer engineers couldn’t tackle alone – so we reached out to colleagues in the mechanical engineering department,” says Dr. George.The full name of the new payload is the STP-H6/SSIVP or the Space Test Program – Houston 6, Spacecraft Supercomputing for Image and Video Processing. Its predecessor on STP-H5 is the CHREC Space Processor or STP-H5/CSP. The H5 system will remain on the ISS, working separately and together with the H6 system on a dynamic set of space technology experiments. “After one year in space, the H5 system is proving highly successful in the harsh environment of space, and researchers are using it as a sandbox for a growing list of experiments uploaded from the Pitt campus. When a new technology is deployed in space, the first and biggest question is whether it will operate well there, and ours continues to impress,” says Dr. George. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Pitt Alumnus and Veteran Energy Research Leader Named Acting Director of NETL

Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, MEMS

NETL News Release. Posted with permission. Pittsburgh, Pa. – Sean I. Plasynski, Ph.D., a 28-year veteran of federal fossil energy research, has been named acting director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Plasynski was named to the leadership post by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg following the retirement of Grace Bochenek, Ph.D., who served as director for three years. “This Laboratory has a long history of helping to provide energy security for the people of the United States,” he said. “It is a history accentuated by bold research and solid contributions that have had long-lasting impacts. It is an honor to have the privilege of working with a roster of talented researchers and administrators who have the skills and expertise to continue moving our nation forward.” Plasynski comes to the assignment after having served as the executive director of NETL’s Technology Development and Integration Center where he was responsible for overseeing NETL’s national programs with sister DOE National Laboratories, universities and industrial partners. In the role, he led integrated technical and business teams in managing federally sponsored, extramural research in coal, oil, and gas, and energy technology development. He has held numerous management and technical positions over his NETL career, including acting deputy director and chief operating officer, director of the Strategic Center of Coal, director of the Office of Coal and Power R&D, and Sequestration Technology manager. He has been involved in a wide spectrum of energy technology development, including advanced power and environmental systems, solids transport, biomass co-firing, and carbon capture and storage. Plasynski holds a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business. NETL, part of DOE’s national laboratory system, supports the DOE mission to advance the energy security of the United States. The Laboratory implements a broad spectrum of energy and environmental research and development programs. NETL, with research sites in Pittsburgh, Morgantown, W.Va., and Albany, Ore., has expertise in coal, natural gas, and oil technologies; contract and project management; analysis of energy systems; and international energy issues. The Laboratory had an FY 17 federal budget of $927 million with a research portfolio that includes more than 900 projects and activities in all 50 states, with a total value that exceeds $7 billion. More than 1,200 employees work at NETL. In addition to research conducted onsite, NETL’s project portfolio includes R&D conducted through partnerships, cooperative research and development agreements, financial assistance, and contractual arrangements with universities and the private sector. Together, these efforts focus a wealth of scientific and engineering talent on creating commercially viable solutions to national energy and environmental problems. NETL’s current mission is to discover, integrate, and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. NETL is the only national lab dedicated to fossil energy. Over the past 20 years, NETL’s scientists have earned 46 R&D 100 Awards, and 33 regional and national awards from the Federal Laboratory Consortium. These awards, along with the many other individual awards won by NETL scientists and research partners, recognize NETL’s contribution to the nation’s energy future. ###
Shelley Martin, DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory

Undergraduate mechanical engineering student places second at the AHA Research Fellows Day poster session

Bioengineering, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (February 21, 2018) … Residents, fellows, postdocs, and medical students filed into the University Club to compete in the American Heart Association’s 26th annual Fellows Research Day poster session. Among this group of accomplished young researchers was Trevor Kickliter, a mechanical engineering sophomore in the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. Kickliter works in the lab of David Vorp, Associate Dean for Research and the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering, where he uses commercial and custom-built software to study vascular diseases. On a whim he decided to pick up some research that had been put on the back-burner, and what started as a side project in the lab turned out to yield interesting results that intrigued some of Vorp’s cardiologist collaborators. Kickliter joined a group of researchers and began to look at how to detect reductions in the coronary arteries of pediatric patients. Other members of the research team include Aneesh Ramaswamy, a bioengineering graduate student researcher in the Vorp Lab; Brian Feingold, a pediatric cardiologist at UPMC; and Justin Weinbaum, research assistant professor of bioengineering at Pitt. “Late failure remains a major cause of death after pediatric heart transplantations,” explained Kickliter. “When coronary arteries begin to narrow, it is a hint that heart failure may be imminent, and with pediatric patients, treatment is difficult when this reduction becomes severe.” Kickliter said, “Cardiologists struggle to detect this gradual reduction on angiograms so our group decided to develop a tool to quantify the progression of coronary arteriopathy, thereby mitigating human error.” Vorp added, “Machine learning tools have well-established uses in biomedical image analysis, and Trevor recognized that such a tool could be used to overcome the limitations of current human analysis in this application.” Kickliter and his team trained a convolutional neural network to automatically identify the arteries and any reductions that may be happening. “We collected 2D angiography data from pediatric patients following heart transplantation then selected and segmented individual frames to generate binary masks over the coronary arteries,” explained Kickliter. “These images and masks were used for the neural network, and the accuracy, precision, and area under the Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve -a plot of the true positive rate against the false positive rate- were used to assess its performance.” Excited by the promising results, Feingold encouraged Kickliter to submit an abstract to the AHA’s Fellows Research Day. The event’s poster session was judged by some of the region’s leading physicians and scientists. Though he faced competition from more experienced researchers, Kickliter, one of the youngest participants, won 2nd place and $250 in the clinical science category. “When Dr. Feingold suggested that we submit an abstract to the AHA Fellows Day, I was skeptical because my experience with these is that they are populated by very high-quality, polished MD residents and fellows, with an occasional post-doc,” said Vorp. “In most circumstances, I would not want one of my undergraduate researchers to be thrown to the wolves like this, but if anyone could handle the pressure, it would be Trevor. I am very proud of him and look forward to watching him continue to grow.” Kickliter and the other award winners were acknowledged at the Pittsburgh Heart Ball on Saturday, February 17, 2018 at the Pittsburgh Wyndham Grand Hotel. The group plans to continue research on this project. “This was really preliminary work, and there is still a long way to go,” said Kickliter. “We plan to improve the algorithm and train our network on a larger dataset to improve its performance. In the end, we hope that our work will help prevent heart failure in future pediatric heart transplant recipients.”


Undergraduate Students Awarded at the Engineers’ Society of Western PA Annual Banquet

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (February 16, 2018) … Last night as engineers from across the region gathered to attend the 134th Annual Engineering Awards Banquet of the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania (ESWP), the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering announced its recipients of the George Washington Prize. This year’s recipient is Le Huang, an undergraduate student in bioengineering and an active member of the Swanson School community during her time at Pitt. Huang works as a research assistant in the Cardiovascular Systems Laboratory where she is developing a MATLAB-based mathematical model of the human cardiovascular system. Prior to that, she worked in the Cognition and Sensorimotor Integration Laboratory and has been a teaching assistant for several bioengineering and chemistry courses. Additionally, Huang is involved in Pitt’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) where she serves on the executive board, co-chairs the Women in STEM Conference, and acts as an outreach activity leader for K-12 students. Pitt’s award-winning SWE chapter organizes events around the city of Pittsburgh to young women to explore STEM opportunities. Finalists for the George Washington Prize are Isaac Mastalski (Chemical Engineering) and Adam Smoulder (Bioengineering). Semi-finalists are Jennifer Cashman (Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science) and Sean Justice (Electrical and Computer Engineering). “The Swanson School is proud to recognize Le and the other finalists for their outstanding accomplishments at Pitt,” said Gerald D. Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering at Pitt. “Le and her colleagues are very deserving of this competitive award, and we think they will be successful Pitt Engineering alumni.” The George Washington Prize, founded in 2008, honors the first President of the United States and the country’s first engineer. Its mission is to reinforce the importance of engineering and technology in society, and the enhance the visibility of the profession across the Swanson School’s engineering disciplines. The annual award recognizes Pitt seniors who display outstanding leadership, scholarship and performance as determined by a committee of eight professional engineers and Swanson School faculty. Winners receive a $2500 Dean’s Fellowship and award plaque. An additional $7,500 is awarded to the winner if he or she attends graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. Founded in 1880, ESWP is a nonprofit association of more than 850 members and 30 affiliated technical societies engaged in a full spectrum of engineering and applied science disciplines. Now in its 134th year, the annual Engineering Awards Banquet is the oldest award event in the world - predating the Nobel Prize (1901), the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal (1907), and the Pulitzer Prize (1917).

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