Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Join With Us In Celebrating Our 2020 Graduating Class! 

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.


MEMS Staff Member Retires after 53 Years of Service


Cole Van Ormer, mechanical engineering and materials science technical staff member worked his final day at the University of Pittsburgh last week, after an impressive 53 years of service. Van Ormer was first hired by the Pitt School of Engineering shortly after returning from his second Vietnam War combat tour, where he served as a gun fire control technician and an aviation ordinance man simultaneously while aboard the USS Intrepid. He was initially hired by Pitt as an electronics technician for a project testing naval air weapons equipment. Eventually, the Pitt Defense Department contract was canceled, but Van Ormer was asked to stay on to build electronic equipment from scratch as a part of the Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Department. He also assisted other School faculty with projects such as building medical diagnostic equipment. Former MSE Department Chair, Dr. Harold Brody, asked Van Ormer to learn metallography and photography which led to him assisting in teaching laboratory classes in those subjects and a new found love for photography. He purchased equipment for his new hobby and began photographing commercial catalog work on the side. His photography skills also led to helping graduate students in other departments with compute-generated animation. Additionally, Van Ormer was asked to photograph for former Studio Arts Department Chair, Virgil Cantini, whose sculptures and enamel murals are found all over campus. Throughout his career, Van Ormer never stopped learning and took continuing education courses in electron microprobe at JEOL and Lehigh University. He has a degree in Economics, plus postgraduate work in Computer Science and Engineering. He learned and then trained others in the Pitt MSE department in TEM, SEM and EM. After the Benedum Hall renovation, Van Ormer’s primary responsibility was working and training in the Materials Micro-Characterization Lab (MMCL) plus training undergraduates in optical microscopy, metallography and lab safety. Van Ormer was one of the founders of the Staff Advisory Board and Staff Association Council for which he served as President and also Chaired the Grievance Committee.  He also served on University Staff Grievance Mediation Boards and Campus Police Citation appeals hearings plus as Jury Foreman for the School of Law student mock trials. In the Naval Reserve, he was trained as a Damage Control Fire Fighting Scene Leader.  Together with the Chatham College Police Department, he received law-enforcement training in a class given by the Pitt Police Academy. In addition, he attended the Pittsburgh Police Citizens Police Academy, Pittsburgh Citizen Emergency Response Team training and the National Outdoor Leadership School for Wilderness Medicine First Aid. Van Ormer served as Benedum Hall’s Emergency Marshal for several years where he responded to several accidents and medical emergencies in the building.  He also represented the School of Engineering at the University-Wide Safety Committee. Van Ormer and his late wife, Susan, have a son who received an Engineering Physics degree in MEMS, and a daughter who received a Communications degree at the Pitt Greensburg campus.   He also has a grandson and a granddaughter. Van Ormer is no doubt an upstanding citizen to the country, the community, and the University of Pittsburgh. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher describes Van Ormer as, “…one of those rare, yet vital, people whose consistent dedication and commitment have enhanced the University – and the lives of the students who have come through the University - in a way that we can all see and appreciate.”  On behalf of the MEMS department and entire University of Pittsburgh, we thank Van Ormer for his service and congratulate him on his retirement!
Meagan Lenze

Three Pitt Professors Selected as 2020-21 MCSI Leonard Peters Faculty Fellows


PITTSBURGH (Sept. 3, 2020) — The University of Pittsburgh’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) announced three new Leonard Peters Faculty Fellows in Sustainability. The Fellowships provide opportunities for Pitt faculty members focused on sustainability to contribute to strategic MCSI goals, including their mission of interdisciplinary excellence in sustainability research and education. The 2020-21 Leonard Peters Faculty Fellows are Michael Blackhurst, co-director of the Urban & Regional Analysis Program; Tony Kerzmann, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science; and Danielle Andrews-Brown, lecturer and coordinator of the Environmental Studies Program in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science. The Fellowship recognizes the late Leonard “Len” Peters (BSChE ’62, MSChE ’69, PhD ’71), a distinguished alumnus of Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and a founding and long-time member of MCSI’s external advisory board. Peters’ notable career included academic positions at the University of Kentucky and Virginia Tech, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and Cabinet Secretary for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. About Michael BlackhurstMichael Blackhurst is a research scientist and professional engineer at the Center for Social and Urban Research at Pitt. Co-director of the Urban & Regional Analysis Program, he oversees research in the energy, water and climate sectors. His current work involves energy and water efficiency, renewable energy, regional climate change mitigation and adaptation, regional water resource planning, and urban stormwater management. As part of his Fellowship, Blackhurst will be co-teaching the course “Current Issues in Sustainability” and will assist with the Sustainability Capstone Course project recruitment and mentoring. About Tony KerzmannTony Kerzmann is an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science. Kerzmann’s research focuses on the energy sector, leading projects relating to energy and sustainability, including solar energy. As part of his Fellowship, Kerzmann will help to co-teach the “Current Issues in Sustainability” and the “Sustainability Capstone Courses.” About Danielle Andrews-BrownDanielle Andrews-Brown is assistant dean of the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and the Environmental Studies program coordinator in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science. She has conducted lab and field scale research as it pertains to water and soil quality for over 14 years, focusing on carbon, nitrogen and emerging contaminants like estrogens and antibiotics. Her research interests also include formal and informal science education. As part of her Fellowship, Andrews-Brown will help to implement a focus on sustainability in the curriculum.


PhD student Lee Maccarone wins 2020 Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Award

MEMS, Student Profiles, Nuclear

CANYON, TX (September 3, 2020) ... Lee Maccarone, a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, has been awarded a Second Place prize in the Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Technology R&D. Maccarone's award is in the Open Competition in the category of Energy Policy. His award-winning research paper, “Toward a Game-Theoretic Metric for Nuclear Power Plant Security,” was presented at the IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security in February 2020.In order to be successful and retain its leadership role in nuclear technologies, the United States must foster creativity and breakthrough achievements to develop tomorrow’s nuclear technologies. The Department of Energy has long recognized that university students are an important source of breakthrough solutions, and a key component in meeting its long-term goals. The Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards program was developed for this purpose. The Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards program is designed to: 1) award graduate and undergraduate students for innovative nuclear-technology-relevant research publications, 2) demonstrate the Department of Energy’s commitment to higher education in nuclear-technology-relevant disciplines, and 3) support communications among university students and Department of Energy representatives.The program awarded 24 prizes in 2020 for student publications relevant to innovative nuclear technology. In addition to cash awards, award-winning students will have a variety of other opportunities.For more information on the Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards program, visit www.nucleartechinnovations.org.


Plexiglass Alone Can't Protect Against Aerosolized Virus

Covid-19, Bioengineering, MEMS, Student Profiles

Reposted from Pittwire. Click here to view the original story. In settings where personal protective equipment (PPE) is in short supply, inserting a breathing tube down a patient’s throat poses a major risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure for doctors and nurses as viral particles are released into the air. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, UPMC and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory created an individual biocontainment unit, or IBU, to keep front line health care workers safe while they provide life-saving care. The device is described in a study published Sept. 3 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Authors on the study include Benjamin Schilling, a pre-doctoral fellow in bioengineering at Pitt; Heng Ban, Richard K. Mellon professor of mechanical engineering and materials science in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering; Robert Turer of Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Nicholas Karlowsky of Filtech; and Lucas Dvoracek, Jason Chang and J. Peter Rubin of UPMC. Earlier attempts to minimize exposure to health care workers involved placing a plexiglass intubation box over a patient’s head and shoulders. Clinicians place their hands through two large holes in the box to intubate the patient inside. While such a device may contain the worst of the splatter, it can’t keep aerosols from leaking out. The IBU is designed to suck contaminated air out of the box with a vacuum and trap infectious particles in a filter before they seep into the room. Simulating a COVID-19 patient, the researchers placed a mannequin inside the IBU as well as in a commercially available intubation box. Near its mouth, they piped in an oil-based aerosol which formed tiny droplets in the air, similar in size to the SARS-CoV-2 particles in breath that spread COVID-19. The IBU trapped more than 99.99% of the simulated virus-sized aerosols and prevented them from escaping into the environment. In contrast, outside of the passive intubation box, maximum aerosol concentrations were observed to be more than three times higher than inside the box. “Having a form of protection that doesn’t work is more dangerous than not having anything, because it could create a false sense of security,” said Turer, the study’s co-lead author and a plastic surgeon who recently completed his residency at UPMC. Because of concerns about the potential of airborne viruses to leak from the plexiglass boxes, the Food and Drug Administration recently revoked their Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for these enclosures. Several months ago, Turer and colleagues submitted an EUA application for the IBU and are preparing to manufacture the devices for distribution. “It intentionally incorporates parts from outside the medical world,” said Turer. “So, unlike other forms of PPE, demand is unlikely to outstrip supply during COVID-19 surge periods.” Besides protecting providers during intubation, the IBU can also provide negative pressure isolation of awake COVID-19 patients, supplying an alternative to scarce negative pressure hospital isolation rooms, as well as helping isolate patients on military vessels. “The ability to isolate COVID-19 patients at the bedside is key to stopping viral spread in medical facilities and onboard military ships and aircraft,” said study co-lead author Cameron Good, a research scientist at the Army Research Laboratory. Devices similar to IBUs were first used in practice by military personnel in the Javits Center field hospital in New York City when local hospitals were overrun with COVID-19 patients during the first wave of the pandemic. Once the EUA is granted, hospitals and military units will be able to use the IBU to protect health care workers caring for COVID-19 patients. Additional authors on the study include Benjamin Schilling and Heng Ban of the University of Pittsburgh; Robert Turer of Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Nicholas Karlowsky of Filtech; and Lucas Dvoracek, Jason Chang and J. Peter Rubin of UPMC. This work is supported by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Medical Innovation.


Naugle Fellowship Awardee Named

MEMS, Student Profiles

Sarah Wielgosz, mechanical engineering junior, has been awarded a Naugle Fellowship in Mechanical Engineering for 2020. The $7,500 fellowship will be used to offset tuition fee. Wielgosz was selected based on a glowing recommendation provided by Prof. Matt Barry. Wielgosz served as a teaching assistant for two of Dr. Barry’s classes this summer where, according to Barry, she went above and beyond to provide her peers with the best learning experience possible by not only grading papers, but by creating weekly TopHat worksheets and holding extensive office hours for the students. This is particularly noteworthy since all teaching was delivered online because of covid-19 restrictions. Through Wielgosz’s dedication, the students were provided an outstanding learning environment. The University’s goal is to assist students in obtaining the highest quality education possible.  Part of this assistance includes financial support in the form of fellowships such as this one.

Mechanical Engineering program
Materials Science program
Engineering Science program
Department News
Nuclear Engineering Program
Graduate Seminars

Upcoming Events

view more