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.


Loves Me, Loves Me Not...

Chemical & Petroleum, Industrial, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Nov. 12, 2019) — Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are valuable for a wide variety of applications. Made of graphene sheets rolled into tubes 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, CNTs have an exceptional strength-to-mass ratio and excellent thermal and electrical properties. These features make them ideal for a range of applications, including supercapacitors, interconnects, adhesives, particle trapping and structural color. New research reveals even more potential for CNTs: as a coating, they can both repel and hold water in place, a useful property for applications like printing, spectroscopy, water transport, or harvesting surfaces. When water is dropped on a CNT forest, the CNTs repel the water, and it forms a sphere. However, when flipped over, the drop does not fall to the ground but rather clings to the surface. “In contrast to superhydrophobic surfaces where droplets roll off easily when tilted, CNTs forests are parahydrophobic, where the droplet is both repelled and attracted to the CNT surface,” explains Ziyu Zhou, lead author of the paper and graduate student in the LAMP Lab.  “It is a love-hate relationship.” The key to this wetting behavior is the use of CNT forests that are densely, vertically packed on the surface and the inherently hydrophilic CNT surface. The forests are about 100 microns in height and so dense that there are over 100 billion (1011) CNTs in 1 cm2 area.  Some amount of water sinks below the carbon nanotubes and clings to the hydrophilic material, while the rest is repelled into a sphere. This research represents the first observation of parahydrophobicity of CNT forests, where the droplet can roll along the surface but does not fall off when turned upside down. Other surfaces in nature such as peach fuzz or rose petals also exhibit this wetting behavior, which may be used to for liquid transportation, fabrics coating design, membrane selectivity and even wall-climbing robotics. This wetting behavior could also be used to as a way to construct CNTs into various arrangements. “Previous research showed CNT forests to be unstable under the application of water, but we show that water droplets are, in fact, stable on these dense CNT forests,” explains Paul Leu, PhD, associate professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and author on the paper. “This wetting behavior may be used to assemble CNTs into dense vertical arrays, surface stripes, and other unique shapes that could be used for supercapacitors, interconnects, and other applications.” Leu also has appointments in chemical engineering and mechanical engineering and material science. His lab, the Laboratory for Advanced Materials at Pittsburgh (LAMP), conducted the research. The paper, “Parahydrophobicity and stick-slip wetting dynamics of vertically aligned carbon nanotube forests,” (DOI: 10.1016/j.carbon.2019.06.012) was published in the journal Carbon and was coauthored by Ziyu Zhou, Tongchuan Gao, Sean McCarthy, Andrew Kozbial, Susheng Tan, David Pekker, Lei Li, and Paul W. Leu.
Maggie Pavlick

Where Science Meets Art

MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (November 8, 2019) … Erica Stevens, a materials science graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, assumed her appointment as president of the Microscopy Society of America (MSA) Student Council (StC) during the Microscopy & Microanalysis annual meeting on August 4-8, 2019. Through this role, she wants to show her peers the impact that microscopy can have on scientific advancement and education to both the scientific and non-scientific community. “There is an elegance and a freedom in the ability to drive the machine to actually see a specific part of the sample that will help answer a scientific question,” she said. “Then not only do you as the operator need to be able to observe the sample while it’s in the microscope, but you also need to convey useful information through appropriate images.” Stevens was appointed president-elect of the MSA StC in 2018 and previously served as the regional liaison chair from 2017-2018. She is a PhD candidate and National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow in the Chmielus Lab at Swanson School of Engineering, with a research focus in the additive manufacturing of magnetocaloric materials, which change their temperature when introduced into a magnetic field. Stars and Twins ForeverThis is a differential interference contrast (DIC) optical micrograph of single crystal magnetic shape memory alloy Ni-Mn-Ga.Ni-Mn-Ga single crystals are functional ferromagnetic alloys and have great potential to be used as high-speed, remotely activated microactuators. In order to be functional magnetic shape memory alloys, the material needs to be in the martensitic phase, indicated by twinning. Twinning is a phenomenon where atoms are mirrored across a plane, causing perfectly parallel stripes to appear on the surface of the material. DIC microscopy can be used to easily tell what the twinning status of a sample is, thereby enabling a prediction of how functional it will be. The larger twins in the image are on the order of tens of microns. The MSA StC provides a platform for students, postdocs, and early-career professionals to network, share experiences, discuss research, and get involved with their peers. The Student Council officers develop new programs and events for students at the Microscopy & Microanalysis annual meetings. “Nothing excites me more than microscopes and microscopy,” said Stevens. “The ability to see matter from a vastly different perspective, the unique opportunity to fuse art and science, and the possibilities for reaching non-technical audiences through visual appeal is absolutely the best of all worlds for me.” “Microscopy, to me, is beautiful. It’s a skill and an art to capture a scientifically relevant, eye-catching image that can be appreciated by the scientific and non-scientific communities alike,” she said. “It opens doors to explaining scientific concepts to those outside of the field, since the starting point is a visual experience that they are already able to enjoy.” ###


MEMS Visiting Committee Chair Spotlight

All SSoE News, MEMS, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

Ted Lyon and his five siblings. For Ted Lyon, current MEMS Visiting Committee Chair and Pitt alum, Pitt Engineering was an easy decision that ran in the family. In fact, three of Lyon’s five siblings are also Pitt graduates, two of them in engineering.  Lyon credits this to the influence of his father, who was an executive at Eichleay Engineers Inc., an engineering company in the Pittsburgh area, when the six Lyon children were growing up. For Lyon personally, his interest in math and science during his elementary and high school days cemented his decision to pursue an engineering degree at the University of Pittsburgh. Lyon graduated in 1980 with his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and he also earned his master’s in business administration from the Katz Graduate School of Business in 1993. Lyon fondly recalls his time at Pitt, noting that he very much enjoyed most aspects of the ME curriculum. Some of his favorite classes included Mechanical Design, Fluid Mechanics, Fluid Dynamics, Heat Transfer and Materials Science. He said these classes were especially interesting due to the quality of the instruction, noting that he still recalls the names of his excellent professors. Ted Lyon and Associates with Executive Leadership of Emirates Global Aluminum in Abu Dhabi. During summer breaks, Lyon worked in Building Trades and was in the Labor Union Local 373 where he worked on several large projects in Pittsburgh, including the New Stanton Volkswagen Plant and the Quadrangle, which is now Pitt’s Wesley W. Posvar Hall. Lyon notes, “This was actually a great experience, as I learned a tremendous amount about construction on large projects, and could readily see how the engineering profession is applied in practical terms during project construction.” Though the economy was in recession when he graduated in 1980, the Pitt career center helped Lyon get interviews with quality companies such as Hewlett Packard and Exxon. He eventually accepted a job with Conoco as a maintenance engineer and begin working in July of 1980 in Baltimore, MD. In that position he worked in a chemical plant that made biodegradable surfactants.  Over the next 9 years, Lyon was promoted through Conoco, which required moving to Lake Charles, LA and Aberdeen, MS. His final role at Conoco was as a Mechanical Superintendent, where he was responsible for all maintenance and project engineering in a large PVC resin and compounding plant. He notes, “Conoco was an excellent company and training ground for a young engineer. I learned a tremendous amount and was given a lot of responsibility in plan maintenance, engineering and operations across a broad range of organic and inorganic chemical manufacturing processes.” Ted Lyon and associate at QSLIC facility in Qinghai, China during construction of a Magnesium Prill dehydration plant. Conoco was just the first stop on an impressive engineering trek for Lyon. He spent the next 12 years following in his father’s footsteps working for Eichleay Engineers, starting as a project manager and progressing through a few division director roles to eventually be named Vice President of Business Development. Lyon has spent the last 18 years at Hatch Associates in Pittsburgh. Hatch is a provider of professional services to the mining, metallurgical, infrastructure and energy sectors around the globe. Some of these services include technical and management consulting, operational readiness and commissioning services, project development and execution services. Hatch employees over 10,000 professionals of which over 6,500 of them are engineers of all disciplines throughout the world. Lyon’s current position at Hatch is Managing Director of Bulk Metals, where he is involved in the company’s global business with iron and steel as well as light metals.  He is in charge of the company’s total portfolio of business for these commodities with projects in South America, the Middle East, Russia/CIS, Australia, China and North America. Travel is, of course, a big component of a position like this.  When asked if he enjoyed that aspect of the job, Lyon reflected that “travel can be taxing from a physical standpoint, but quite interesting professionally and culturally.   Working with engineers and professionals from all over the world expands one’s perspective and provides insights that could not be acquired otherwise.   Engineering is a ‘universal language’, and regardless of the country of origin and your first language, the language of Engineering is common.” Ted Lyon representing Hatch on a panel at AISTech 2017. In addition to his business unit leadership role, Lyon is also the president of Hatch Group’s USA based operations. When considering moments or experiences that were pivotal to his career, Lyon noted that he was lucky to have great opportunities and was able to choose the most interesting ones for his tastes and interests. He said he was always keen to try new things and being flexible afforded him numerous opportunities to learn and expand his knowledge base. That said, his advice to current engineering students is, “…to have a view of what you want to do in the long run as you pick your first job, because it does start you down a particular path.” He also noted that collaboration with smart, open-minded, innovative engineers from diverse backgrounds and cultures was another major influence on his career. Lyon says as he approaches the back-end of his career, one important obligation to him is to ensure that the good things he has learned are imparted to the next generation of engineers and leadership in the profession.  Serving as Visiting Committee Chair for the MEMS Department is one of the ways he hopes to achieve this. He joined the VC in 2011 but remarked that it feels like only yesterday. Lyon said he is honored to be a member of the VC and he feels that the group always has constructive conversations, meaningful insights and advice to help bring the view of the customer to the institution. He notes, “…I very much enjoy the people on the committee, the interactions with the department leadership, the interactions with faculty and of course the students.” From right: Ted Lyon, his wife, daughter-in-law and son in the Scottish Highlands. Lyon notes that Pitt had a big influence on him in more ways than academics. He has always been a Pitt sports fan, currently holding football season tickets and at one point he also had basketball season tickets. He says probably most importantly, he met his wife Jo Ann while at Pitt as well. She also graduated in 1980 with a bachelor’s in social work and they will be celebrating their 40th anniversary next November! Keeping the Pitt tradition alive in the family, their son holds a master’s degree of public and international affairs from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.  Lyon says there is a lot of pride in the Pitt community and he is particularly thankful for the great start he received in his professional career through the Pitt Engineering School. He says, “I could never have made the correlation between where I started and where I am now.  Life takes you on many twists and turns. The key is to make the best out of them.”


Scholarship Award Winners Named

MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

The Robert E. Rumcik ’68 Scholarship in Mechanical and Materials Engineering has been awarded to two high-performing students in the MEMS Department: MSE junior Jonah De Cortie and MSE senior Alexandra Beebout. The scholarship recipients were selected by the Swanson School of Engineering based on recommendations from the MEMS Department Chair, Prof. Brian Gleeson. The scholarship, which is provided through an endowment established by ELLWOOD Group, allocates $15,000 towards the education expenses of each recipient. Bob Rumcik, the namesake of the scholarship, graduated from Pitt with a BS in Metallurgy in 1968.  He was President of ELLWOOD Quality Steels (EQS), ELLWOOD’s steelmaking division, from 1985 through to his retirement in 2013. There to present the scholarship to the winners were Bob Rumcik himself and Anna Barensfeld, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and fifth generation worker at ELLWOOD.


Teaching heroes: School of Engineering’s Jacobs inspires students to care more


Originally posted in in the University Times: https://www.utimes.pitt.edu/news/teaching-heroes-school In his classroom, engineering faculty member Tevis Jacobs is one animated presenter. He speaks rapidly and enthusiastically while adding diagrams to clear overlays on two screens of slides projected onto the white board.  The course is “Mechanical Behavior of Materials,” which examines how things bend and break, down to their atomic structures. Today’s class encompasses the concepts of “work hardening,” “twinning,” and nickel-based super alloys (“You guys know that is my favorite topic,” Jacobs says). He adds a bunch of equations to the board to illustrate a concept. “I would never expect you to memorize that on a test,” he says. “I would absolutely expect you to understand where it came from.” Jacobs pauses to point his students toward the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s crystal display, with its illustration of growth twins — one crystal structure at one orientation, attached to another at a different orientation. “You’ve got to go,” he says. As students in Jacobs’ department (mechanical engineering and materials science), “you will enjoy it way more than normal people,” he says. He sets pairs of students loose on a question about “dislocation interactions,” and patrols the room as their debates begin. “I heard some good discussions. Who has an idea?” he says. “Don’t be afraid to be wrong. And there are multiple answers.” He hovers over one pair, listening. “I agree with you,” he says finally. “What would be the ramifications of that?” The pair give their answer. “Maybe. Maybe. But why?” he asks. Jacobs joined the faculty of the Swanson School of Engineering in fall 2015, teaching this undergraduate class and another on experimental techniques, and offering one on tribology — the study of friction, wear and lubrication of sliding surfaces — to graduate students. “I’ve always wanted to understand how the world works,” Jacobs says. “Mechanical engineering and materials science: what I like about them is that they are all around us. We are constantly interacting with objects, seeing how they perform. I like the idea of making them better in the future … but the current goal is (studying) ‘Why did this thing happen in this way?’ “What I love,” he adds, “especially in the classes I’m teaching now: we can answer that.” But answers don’t always come easily to students. “We learn through struggle,” Jacobs says. “When I think about my own learning, that has been true.” In high school and college, he learned calculus and how to solve differential equations —absorbing the content “without really internalizing the ‘why’ and the ‘how,’ ” he says. Then in grad school, faced with real-world problems, “all of a sudden I was not able to link it to the coursework I had taken. I almost had to re-teach myself the calculus. I thought I understood it before that. When I went through this — then I got it: Oh, that is what they were trying to teach me.” To make “struggle” educational, a classroom lesson “has to be hard, but (students) have to care,” Jacobs explains. “It’s easy to make this hard; you want to make it hard with purpose. I’m still constantly refining that.” What works, he says, is “being honest with the students … acting like you’re all on the same side: Here is the best way for your group to take in information, and here is the best way for all of us as a team to do that.” One way to may sure students care about engineering lessons is to give them real-world problems, such as how to design a bridge, or how to tell when a mountain-climbing rope or a solar cell will fail? “In the classroom … there is an impact on the world. If you inspire that student to be excited about a topic or to be inspired about learning in the future, that has an impact.” He also tries to instill a passion for the communication of science, since these students will likely be using scientific writing in the future. “The doing of science is either useless or far less useful if it is not effectively communicated,” both inside the scientific community and to the world at large, he says. “No matter where our students go, they will need to effectively communicate technical information. I see that as one of the most important skills I want them to get out of their undergraduate experience.” Jacobs recalls a moment from the spring 2019 semester that showed his ideas were working. He had given students the last 20 minutes of class to work on a real-world problem. When it was time to go, class members asked if they could stay and keep working — “even though this is ungraded,” Jacobs marveled. Most of the class stayed and were kicked out only when another group of students arrived for a class in the same room. “That felt like I was doing something right,” Jacobs says. “It was both hard, and they cared.”
Marty Levine
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