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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A world of opportunities

MEMS, Diversity

From The Pitt News When Irene Mena got her U.S. citizenship Feb. 28 at the Pittsburgh Courthouse, her colleague and friend Dan Budny brought her a cake adorned with an American flag and the words “Congratulations Irene!” written under it. She ate a piece and then drove right back to her office in Benedum Hall. “After that, it was like, ‘Well, okay, back to work,’” she laughed. This relaxed attitude has governed Mena’s entire life. It’s what’s kept her passionate about teaching, performing arts and science and ensured she stays focused on her work as an assistant professor in Pitt’s mechanical engineering and materials science department. It’s also enabled her to undergo major life changes without phasing her confidence. Read the full article by Brian Gentry at The Pitt News.
Brian Gentry, Staff Writer, The Pitt News

Ultrasound Technology Could Be Applied Toward Rehab In Cases Of Partial Paralysis


Most people associate ultrasound technology with pregnancy and the little heartbeat on the monitor. A researcher at the University of Pittsburgh has a slightly different application in mind. Nitin Sharma, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Pitt, recently received more than $500,000 from the National Science Foundation to develop algorithms that could measure muscle function in patients with partial paralysis due to spinal cord injuries — just by looking at ultrasound images of affected areas. By stimulating muscles electrically and using a sort of robotic leg brace called an exoskeleton, Sharma can already help patients with both total and partial lower-body paralysis walk a few steps. This exercise can help the patients with partial paralysis regain movement through repetition. Read the full story at WESA.
Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Eleven Pitt Students Awarded 2018 National Science Foundation Fellowships

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

University of Pittsburgh News Release PITTSBURGH – Eleven University of Pittsburgh students and four alumni were awarded the 2018 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Eleven Pitt students and four alumni also received honorable mentions. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is designed to ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 as well as a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees. The fellowship program has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The support accorded NSF Graduate Research Fellows nurtures their ambition to become lifelong leaders who contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. Among this year's Pitt cohort, eight undergraduate and graduate students were awarded fellowships, joined by two Swanson School alumni now in graduate school. Four undergraduate and graduate students and one alumnus received honorable mentions. Mary Besterfield-Sacre, the Swanson School’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, attributed this year's increase in winners from engineering to a strategically focused mentor-mentee program. “The program diversity among this year’s Swanson School NSF fellows is thanks in great part to Bioengineering Professor Pat Loughlin for working with each department to identify strong candidates and faculty mentors to help them build winning portfolios,” Dr. Besterfield-Sacre said. “The NSF Graduate Research Program is incredibly competitive and we’re especially proud that undergraduates make up half of our fellows.” Current Pitt students who were awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship are seniors from: - Swanson School of Engineering: Abraham Charles Cullom (civil and environmental engineering), Vani Hiremath Sundaram (mechanical engineering and material science), Adam Lewis Smoulder (bioengineering) and Henry Phalen (bioengineering); and graduate students Megan Routzong (bioengineering), Monica Fei Liu (bioengineering), Angelica Janina Herrera (bioengineering) and Sarah Hemler (bioengineering). - Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences: Graduate students Brett Baribault Bankson (psychology), Stefanie Lee Sequeira (psychology) and Alaina Nicole McDonnell (chemistry). Current Pitt students who received honorable mentions are from: - Swanson School of Engineering: seniors Anthony Joseph O’Brian (chemical and petroleum engineering), Anthony Louis Mercader (mechanical engineering and material science), Zachary Smith (electrical and computer engineering); and graduate student Maria Kathleen Jantz (bioengineering). - Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences: graduate students Amy Ryan (chemistry), Kathryn Mae Rothenhoefer (neuroscience), Andrea Marie Fetters (biological sciences), Mariah Denhart, (biological sciences), Timothy Stephen Coleman (statistics), Hope Elizabeth Anne Brooks (biological sciences), Mary Elizabeth Rouse Braza (geology and environmental science). Alumni who were awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship include Thomas Robert Werkmeister (engineering science) and Luke Drnach (bioengineering) from the Swanson School, and Julianne Griffith (psychology and sociology) and Aleza Wallace (psychology) from the Dietrich School. Alumni who received honorable mentions include Corey Williams (bioengineering) from the Swanson School, Sarah Elise Post (biological sciences), Hannah Katherine Dollish (neuroscience and Slavik studies) and Krista Bullard (chemistry), the latter three from the Dietrich School. Visit https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/Login.do for a full list of fellows and honorable mentions and to learn more about the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. # # #
Amerigo Allegretto, University Communications

Swanson School’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Presents Leonard Berenfield with 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award


PITTSBURGH (April 4, 2018) … This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh.This year’s recipient for the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science is Leonard H. Berenfield, BSME ‘64, President (retired) of Berenfield Containers, Inc.The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 54th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. Gerald D. Holder, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the final time before his return to the faculty this fall.“Like many graduates of our Mechanical Engineering program and native Pittsburghers, Len started his career at Westinghouse Electric and the Bettis Atomic Laboratory in Dravosburg. Following a year there however, he would join the family business, Berenfield Steel Drum Company,” said Dean Holder. “The company’s steady growth in Pittsburgh necessitated a move to Cincinnati in the late 1970s where Len directed the construction of a new facility. By 1985, the company would reorganize as Berenfield Containers with Len as President.”About Leonard BerenfieldLeonard Berenfield received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1964. Activities while at Pitt include Pi Tau Sigma the International Honor Society for Mechanical Engineers, sports writer for The Pitt News, and intramural basketball.  After graduation, Mr. Berenfield worked for one year in the Mechanical Design Department at Westinghouse Electric/Bettis Atomic Laboratory. He left Westinghouse in 1965 and moved to Warren, Pa. to use his engineering knowledge to help grow Berenfield Steel Drum Co. – the family steel drum manufacturing business. In 1978 he moved to Cincinnati to oversee the construction and operation of the company’s new facility in Mason, Ohio. The firm’s continued growth led to reorganization as Berenfield Containers, Inc. in 1985 with Mr. Berenfield assuming the role of President. A range of industries utilized Berenfield products including food, lubricants, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. Further expansions of existing plants over the years and the acquisition of plants in Harrisburg, N.C. and Pine Bluff, Ark. as well as new factories to diversify the product line into fibre drums established the company’s legacy. Mauser USA purchased Berenfield Containers in 2016.Mr. Berenfield is an active volunteer and has held posts in several nonprofit and industry boards including the American Heart Association, the United Way, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, Hebrew Union College, the Steel Shipping Container Institute, the International Fibre Drum Institute, and the Industrial Steel Drum Institute. Born and raised in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty/Highland Park neighborhoods, Mr. Berenfield is the only child of Tillie and Isadore Berenfield. Prior to matriculating at the University of Pittsburgh, he was a pupil in the Pittsburgh Public School District and attended Fulton Grade School. He graduated from Peabody High School in 1961. Mr. Berenfield married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Gelman, shortly after graduating from Pitt in June 1964 and they were happily joined until her passing in 2012. The couple has two children: a daughter, Joy, who currently resides in Los Angeles; and a son, Greg, who lives in Durham, N.C. Mr. Berenfield’s four grandsons range in age from six to 23 and reside in North Carolina. In 2015 Mr. Berenfield married Ann Gelke Berenfield, MD, a child psychiatrist. In the union he gained a step-daughter, Giuliana; step-grandson, Luca; and step-son, Allesandro. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Using Ultrasound to Help People Walk Again

Bioengineering, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (April 3, 2017) … Spinal cord injuries impact more than 17,000 Americans each year, and although those with incomplete injuries may regain control of their limbs, overall muscle strength and mobility is weakened. Neurorehabilitation using robotic exoskeletons or electrical stimulation devices can help a person regain movement through repeated exercise. The amount of assistance through these devices during neurorehabilitation is based on the measurement of the user’s remaining muscle function. However, current sensing techniques are often unable to correctly measure voluntary muscle function in these individuals. Any discrepancies in the measurement can cause the robot to provide inadequate assistance or over-assistance. Improper robotic assistance slows recovery from the injury, and can potentially lead to falls during robot-assisted walking. To reduce this risk and provide therapists and patients with a more efficient rehabilitation tool, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering is utilizing ultrasound imaging to develop a more precise interface between exoskeletons and individual muscles.Nitin Sharma, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, received a $509,060 CAREER award from the National Science Foundation for “Ultrasound-based Intent Modeling and Control Framework for Neurorehabilitation and Educating Children with Disabilities and High School Students.” The NSF CAREER award is the organization’s most competitive research prize for junior faculty.Current noninvasive rehabilitation devices measure electrical signals from muscle activity, also known as electromyography to predict remaining muscle function and subsequent assistance. However, Dr. Sharma explained that correctly measuring how much assistance the device should provide is a challenge with electromyography, and also its use is limited to large muscle groups. Dr. Sharma says, “In very complex muscle groups that provide a range of motions, we need to measure individual muscle activity, rather than measuring the entire muscle group at once via electromyography, because it is susceptible to interference from adjacent muscles. Ultrasound can reduce the interference from surrounding muscle groups so that we can collect, monitor and control muscle activity of individual muscle fibers.” Dr. Sharma’s lab group will specifically focus on the human ankle for both its range of complex movements and its role in providing stability and balance when walking or standing. Ultrasound will provide precise imaging of the ankle muscles responsible for specific movements, which in turn will allow for optimization of electrode placement and correct modulation of robotic assistance to initiate movement. Ultimately, Dr. Sharma intends to build an ankle exoskeleton that patients and therapists can use in clinical rehabilitation. “Rather than randomly stimulating the entire ankle area to create movement in one direction, a wearable ultrasound-based exoskeleton can better monitor and control movement so that persons with incomplete spinal cord injury can more safely and quickly walk on the road to recovery,” Dr. Sharma said. “The technology also has the potential to help patients with other walking disorders better control their gait and balance.” ### Learn more at Dr. Sharma's lab site.

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