Pitt | Swanson Engineering

The Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS) is the largest in the Swanson School of Engineering in terms of students and faculty. All of our programs are ABET-accredited. The Department's core strengths include:

  • Advanced Manufacturing and Design
  • Materials for Extreme Conditions
  • Soft Matter Biomechanics
  • Computational and Data-Enabled Engineering
  • Cyber-Physical Systems and Security
  • Nuclear and other Sustainable Energies
  • Quantitative and In Situ Materials Characterization

MEMS faculty are not only world-renowned academicians, but accessible teachers 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.

Each year, the Department graduates approximately 90 mechanical and materials science engineers, with nearly 100% placed in excellent careers with industry and research facilities around the globe.


Eight Receive Mascaro Faculty Program in Sustainability Awards

Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Nov. 21, 2019) — The University of Pittsburgh’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) named eight faculty awardees for the 2020 John C. Mascaro Faculty Program in Sustainability. The one-year awards, created to enhance the University’s mission of interdisciplinary excellence in sustainability research and education, go to faculty members from all disciplines, who may apply as faculty fellows, scholars or lecturers. “From proposing ways to give students more hands-on experience with sustainability to the incorporation of arts- and humanities-based approaches to sustainability discourse, this year’s award recipients demonstrate the interdisciplinary work we strive for,” says Gena Kovalcik, co-director of administration and external relations at MCSI. “We’re excited to see the great work they will do.” John C. Mascaro Faculty Fellow in Sustainability: David Finegold, Graduate School of Public Health John C. Mascaro Faculty Scholars in Sustainability: Tony Kerzmann, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Sara Kuebbing, Department of Biological Sciences John C. Mascaro Faculty Lecturers in Sustainability: Joshua Groffman, Division of Communication and the Arts, Pitt Bradford Katherine Hornbostel, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Robert Kerestes, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Pamela Stewart, Department of Anthropology Andrew Strathern, Department of Anthropology
Maggie Pavlick

Swanson School scores a hat-trick at 2019 Pitt Celebration of Innovation

Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

This article originally appeared in the University Times. Reposted with permission. PITTSBURGH (November 21, 2019) ... The Innovation Institute celebrated the Pitt faculty, students and staff who are working to make their ideas and research discoveries have a real-world impact at the 14th annual Celebration of Innovation, on Nov. 20 at the Petersen Events Center Campus View Club. “Our theme this year is ‘Powering Invention. Igniting Progress,’ and there can be no denying that the growing innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem at Pitt and in the region is igniting a firestorm of innovation across the University,” said Evan Facher, director of the Innovation Institute. In the past five fiscal years (2015-2019), the number of invention disclosures filed with the Innovation Institute by Pitt faculty, students and staff are up nearly 30 percent over the previous five-year period. Patents issued were up nearly 80 percent, and startups formed were up nearly 150 percent. Facher said in the past five years there have been 440 patents issued to Pitt-related inventions, 80 start-up companies formed and 1,700 inventions brought to the Innovation Institute —  “practically one for every day of the last five years.” The role of the Innovation Institute, he said, is to connect people from different parts of Pitt, because, “that’s where innovations take root.” There’s still plenty of opportunity for more faculty to get involved in entrepreneurship, Facher said. Currently, less than 10 percent of Pitt faculty are working with the Innovation Institute on inventions. Rob Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for Research, said the gathering celebrated the entrepreneurs and changemakers who want to bring their ideas to a commercial reality and maybe make the world a better place. “I would like to suggest you’re here in at least in some part because the right guidance from the University of Pittsburgh was able to inspire you and able to enable you to make your vision real.” In addition to Pitt Innovator awards being presented to the people behind the record 162 transactions (licenses/options) in fiscal 2019, several special awards were presented. Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator Award : William “Buddy” Clark, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science. The Mickle Award is presented to a Pitt faculty member who has demonstrated a sustained commitment to commercializing his or her research and ranks among the University’s prolific innovators in terms of the number of invention disclosures, patents and licenses they have been involved with. Clark is one of the most collaborative scientists at Pitt, lending his expertise to research projects ranging from pollution control valves to electronic intravenous catheters. But his true passion is baseball, as a coach, a fan and an inventor. Clark co-founded Pittsburgh-based Diamond Kinetics based on technology he developed to measure aspects of a baseball/softball player’s swing (read more about his work in the University Times). Clark also oversees the maker spaces at the Swanson School of Engineering and is director of the Innovation, Product Design, and Entrepreneurship Program. CJ Handron, CEO of Diamond Kinetics, said he met Clark seven years ago at Pitt. Since then, he said, “The culture around innovation and entrepreneurship at the University has grown and evolved significantly. I think Diamond Kinetics has had a little bit of influence on that; I think Buddy has had a tremendous influence on that.” Clark is a tireless voice for entrepreneurship and innovation in the Swanson School and throughout the University, Handron said. Emerging Innovator Award: Morgan Fedorchak, assistant professor of ophthalmology, bioengineering, chemical and petroleum engineering, and clinical and translational science. The Emerging Innovator Award is presented to an early-to-mid-career faculty member who has shown a keen interest in innovation commercialization and is dedicated to achieving impact through commercial translation of research. Fedorchak leads the Ophthalmic Biomaterials Laboratory. In her lab’s first four years, it has demonstrated an intense focus on translational science and has launched two projects on a commercialization pathway. She has taken advantage of a range of educational programming and funding opportunities to move her innovations from the lab towards the market. These include the First Gear commercialization program, the Michael G. Wells Competition, and Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds, as well as consulting regularly with licensing managers and entrepreneurs in residence. Outstanding Student Innovator Award: Emily Siegel, senior, chemical engineering and biological sciences This award is presented to a Pitt student of any level who has embraced innovation and entrepreneurship as a career path and have participated in the Innovation Institute’s Big Idea Center programs and competitions to help bring their ideas to life. Siegal is the founder of Trek, a startup company developing solutions for eco-friendly dental care for people on the go. She brought her chemical engineering class project idea for a chewing gum that cleans teeth both mechanically and chemically to the Big Idea Blitz event in January 2019 and won a prize in the pitch competition. She then entered the Randall Family Big Idea Competition. Competing against 300 fellow students, she and the team she assembled for the competition won the $25,000 top prize. From there, she entered the Big Idea Center’s Blast Furnace student accelerator. She is now in the first cohort of the Forge, the University’s new student startup incubator. ###
Author: Susan Jones, Editor, University Times

Pitt STRIVE Program Receives UPSIDE Award

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Diversity, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

This article was originally published on @Pitt. Reposted with permission. PITTSBURGH (November 20, 2019) ... The Swanson School of Engineering’s Pitt Success, Transition, Representation, Innovation, Vision and Education (STRIVE) Program was recognized with the 2019 University Prize for Strategic, Inclusive and Diverse Excellence (UPSIDE) Award by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The goal of the Pitt STRIVE Program is to improve transitions of underrepresented minority (URM) students into doctoral engineering programs at the University. Using evidence-based strategies, the program aims to foster student and faculty engagement to ensure students’ successful completion of the PhD in engineering. "It has been an honor be a part of the leadership team of this extraordinarily great program,” said Sylvanus Wosu, associate dean for diversity affairs at the Swanson School. Wosu acknowledged the support and commitment from the U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering James R. Martin II and the Office of the Dean. “The Pitt STRIVE Program has been transformational in increasing URM PhD enrollment from less than 5% to over 7.5%, enhancing the academic culture and community that have contributed to 13 URM PhDs in the last four years, and significantly increasing the number of faculty with a shared vision for the school’s diversity and inclusion goals,” Wosu said. Under the direction of Wosu and Steven Abramowitch, associate professor of bioengineering, the program—which has been recognized and funded by the National Science Foundation—has focused on such areas as: Improving faculty engagement with URM students Improving faculty awareness of the impediments to URM success in doctoral programs Promoting a shared vision among vested faculty regarding the success of URM students within the Pitt community Achieving a systemic inclusive academic culture and climate that support the success of URM doctoral students “The Pitt STRIVE Program’s implementation is informed by research and practices that positively impact the culture and experiences of the faculty, students and community,” said David Gau, the Pitt STRIVE Program director of University engagement and communication. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher will recognize the Swanson School of Engineering with the UPSIDE Award at a Senate Council meeting in December. ###


ME Undergraduate Named University’s Co-op Student of the Year

All SSoE News, MEMS, Student Profiles

Dimitry Labko, Mechanical Engineering senior, is the recipient of the University of Pittsburgh’s 2020 Co-op Student of the Year Award. This year, a total of eight students were nominated by their academic department or co-op employer. Labko was named the winner based on his “unique accomplishments, strong academics and sense of helping others both in school and at co-op” says Maureen Barcic, director of the Cooperative Education program in the Swanson School of Engineering. Labko was born in Belarus and moved to Philadelphia with his family when he was three years old. He learned English and Russian at the same time, speaking English in school and Russian at home.  He said being bilingual added a helpful dimension to his school courses such as history and language.  He has also served as a translator, which taught him how to speak professionally with adults at a young age. Labko and his sister are the first generation in their family to attend college. Labko did his co-op with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA. He joined a small team of engineers to support the assembly and testing of the Integrated Reflectarray Assembly (IRA) on the Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) spacecraft. Labko recalls applying what he had learned at Pitt and demonstrating his abilities, which garnered the trust of the other team members. This ultimately afforded him greater responsibility within the team and gave him the opportunity to work as the sole engineer with a team of flight technicians. He says this experience solidified his confidence in his own work so he was able to contribute to the team in a greater way. He notes, “…the senior engineers on my team were calm and collected, focusing on ways to solve problems. This unique experience taught me an incredible amount about staying composed and focusing on taking the next positive step when confronted with a problem.” Labko’s co-op with JPL also confirmed his desire to pursue a career in the aerospace industry while simultaneously taking classes toward his master’s degree. He spoke with engineers at JPL who were able to balance full time work with classes and he decided this was the best option for gaining real-world experience while still being able to continue his education. Labko will be honored at the University’s Co-op dinner this December. He is also now qualified to receive the National Co-op Student of the Year award where he will be flown to Orlando, FL in January to receive a plaque and check if selected as the winner. Mason P. Kline (EE), who spent his co-op at Bombardier, was Co-op Student of the Year Finalist. The Co-op Tenacity Award this year goes to Jordan Ewing (ChemE), who worked with Dupont. Samantha Bunk (ChemE) is the winner of the Co-op Trailblazer Award, after her co-op with EQT. Seven students received honorable mentions: Jada Gerz (IE), Seegrid Corporation Maxwell Lohss (BioE), Edwards Lifesciences Calvin Gealy (CoE), Aerotech Erik Wehner (CoE), Net Health Adalee X. Jacobs (EnvE), Langan Engineering & Environmental Services Additionally, Emerson has been named the 2019 Employer of the Year. Pitt’s co-op partnership with Emerson began in 2006, Emerson has hired a total of 85 co-ops since then. The winners will be honored at the Co-op Dinner, which will take place on Dec. 6, 2019.


New generation computing, enduring scientific challenge


Turbulence in fluid mechanics has been a scientific challenge since at least the 16th century when Leonardo da Vinci sketched the chaotic movements of water flowing around obstacles in the Arno River. It is regularly described as one of the last unsolved problem of classical physics – a solution to the Navier-Stokes equation, the mathematical underpinning of turbulence, was declared a Millennium Prize Problem by MIT’s Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000. The $1 million prize remains unclaimed in 2019. Pitt researcher Peyman Givi hopes to confront that centuries-old challenge with the power of a new generation of computing. He and a team developed  an algorithm capable  of using quantum computing to model turbulence at an unprecedented level of detail.Givi, Distinguished Professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, explains the importance of turbulence. “Turbulence is central to the efficiency of fuel. Turbulence enhances mixing –  more mixing creates more reactions and more reactions mean more power. No turbulence, little reaction, little power.”The challenge of modeling turbulence is evident in the Da Vinci drawings. “We create simulations of eddies – the swirling wheels and whirls and vortices of all sizes you see in the drawings. Fluid mechanics is composed of very large differences in scales. If for example you calculate drag on an airplane wing [fluid mechanics involves both liquids and gases], the largest scale is the entire wing, the smallest scale is close to nanometers. A grid big enough to take in all the scales together won’t fit on a computer. So we simulate the largest part – I don’t need to resolve the smallest scale to model the effects. But the model is not an exact science – you are introducing art into science.”The science may become more exact using quantum computing. Givi is co-author on a May 2019 paper in the journal Combustion Theory and Modelling – “Quantum algorithm for the computation of the reactant conversion rate in homogeneous turbulence” – presenting an algorithm for predicting the rate of reaction in simulated turbulence and exploring the potential for applications of quantum technology to fluid dynamics and combustion problems. Citing the rapid progress in the development of quantum computing hardware, the paper posits the importance of designing algorithms now that could eventually run on that hardware – “quantum algorithm with a real engineering application.” Guanglei Xu, now a post-doc at the Aero-Propulsion, Mechatronics, and Energy Center at Florida State University, is a co-author on the paper. He carried out the bulk of the computation on the MATLAB program. “We needed to simulate the behavior of the quantum algorithm with classical computing using Monte Carlo statistical methods. For instance, if one qubit could simultaneously be 0 or 1, we create one iteration where there is a 30 percent chance that it is 0 and a 70 percent chance that it is 1. Then we continue to run iterations of the same process. It is a huge number of repetitions, 220  x 60. It was most convenient to have MATLAB available. Jobs needed to be scheduled so we could make sure that each iteration is individual of each other – the same Monte Carlo process, but different values with each repetition.”A 2019 report of the National Academies of Sciences describes quantum computing: “A classical computer uses bits to represent the values it is operating on; a quantum computer uses quantum bits, or qubits. A bit can either be 0 or 1, while a qubit can represent the values 0 or 1, or some combination of both at the same time (known as a ‘superposition’).” Thanks to superposition, qubits can simultaneously represent many possible states, creating infinitely greater computational power.The  word “potential” appears often in appraisals of the present state of quantum computing technology. Quantum computers exist, developed by Google, Intel, IBM, and others; the National Quantum Initiative Act signed into law at the end of 2018 makes a $1.8 billion federal investment in quantum computing research. Existing machines are expensive and delicate. They must be completely shielded from any contact with the outside environment – the slightest vibration, temperature fluctuation, electromagnetic wave, or virtually any external noise destroys the quantum state of superposition. As such, they are tailored to very specific tasks on very short timescales. Despite these limitations, Google promises a robust working universal quantum computer in five to 10 years.In late September, the Financial Times reported on an internal paper by researchers at Google claiming to have achieved “quantum supremacy” – a quantum computer performing a calculation that can’t be done on an existing classical computer. The paper as reported by FT claimed that the processor carried out a calculation in three minutes and 20 second that would require an estimated 10,000 years for the most advanced existing computer. The paper made clear, however, that the computer in the experiment was only capable of performing that single calculation.Givi is optimistic. “I think there will be universal quantum computers on the order of 50 qubits within my lifetime. The potential advantages of the exponential growth in power are so incredible that it is almost ridiculous.”“We are asking what could be done if quantum computers existed,” Givi explains. “When the computers are built, the algorithms will be in place – it was the algorithms in the first place that motivated the need for quantum computations. And quantum algorithms have inspired classical algorithms to be better. We are identifying problems where quantum algorithms can be effective. In turbulent combustion, we are demonstrating benefits. Fluid dynamics will benefit. Chemistry is already benefiting. We will be benefiting very soon in computational fluid dynamics.”Givi is as enthusiastic about Pittsburgh – and Pitt – as he is about turbulence. He moved to the United States from Iran as a teenager in the late 1970s and attended graduate school at Carnegie Mellon in the early 1980s. He joined the Pitt faculty in 2002.“I always wanted to come back here. There is just a good feeling here. I lived in New York, the West Coast, other places. But I always found the Steelers game on TV or found a Steelers bar.”
Brian Connelly
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