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.


Undergraduate Spotlight: Clement Ekaputra

MEMS, Student Profiles

When materials science senior Clement Ekaputra was a youth, he wanted to help rockets fly in space. In high school, he always enjoyed his science and math classes. For him, pursuing a degree in engineering seemed like a natural choice. “Coming into Pitt, I thought that developing materials that are lighter, stronger, and last longer would be the best way to get into aerospace” he said, “Materials science seemed like an interesting field.” So, in the fall of 2015, Ekaputra entered the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He is now set to graduate this Spring with a bachelor’s degree in materials science in engineering and minors in math and French language. Ekaputra recalls one of the first classes he took his first semester at Pitt, honors calculus. He mentioned how challenging it was for him at first, but the passion and excitement from his professor, Dr. Chris Lennard, helped him to succeed.  He credits this success for giving him the confidence to believe he could succeed in all his future classes as well. However, it was a MEMS class, Mechanics of Materials with Professor Tevis Jacobs, which Ekaputra named his favorite.  He commented on Dr. Jacob’s ability to make the course engaging and interesting. Though he was already interested in solid mechanics previously, this course inspired him to pursue the field even further by choosing to study it in graduate school. Classes aren’t the only thing Ekaputra enjoys about Pitt, he is also involved in the Pitt table tennis team and handbell ensemble.  But most notably, Ekaputra is a pianist.  He started playing when he was 3 years old.  His parents saw his potential and enrolled him in lessons.  At first, Ekaputra admits that he did not enjoy his formal lessons and he hated practicing.  He says over time though, he grew to enjoy it more and has participated in quite a few performances and competitions. Ekaputra playing with the University of Pittsburgh Orchestra Now, playing the piano is mostly for relaxation. He says, “I find it incredibly fulfilling to learn how to play difficult pieces, in the same way that completing an engineering project or running a marathon is fulfilling.” Ekaputra takes lessons from Dr. Tina Faigen in Pitt’s Music Department. He says Dr. Faigen has greatly helped him to improve his skills and he has a great experience playing at Pitt (see link).  He also recently performed a concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. While he no longer competes and does not intend to be a famous concert pianist, he does plan to continue playing the piano and would be interested in playing in church or with a choir someday. In addition to classes, clubs and hobbies, Ekaputra has gotten an ample amount of research experience during his time at Pitt too. He said he always knew that research was something he wanted to get involved with.  The summer after his freshman year, he worked for Dr. Albert To in a summer research program where he studied finite element modeling and topology optimization related to additive manufacturing. The following summer he took a position developing inexpensive sediment microbial fuel cells in his hometown near Philadelphia. This experience gave him the opportunity to travel to Indonesia to work on developing sustainable products using local agricultural waste. He was then given the opportunity to present his work at a conference. By his junior year, Ekaputra knew his area of interest lied in structural materials, so he began working in Dr. Isaac Garcia’s lab and completed his senior research project with him on iron alloys for jet turbine applications.  This past summer, he did a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Ekaputra notes that internships and co-op experiences are two of the most defining parts of his experience at Pitt.  He did a co-op at Mine Safety Appliances (MSA) this past summer.  His projects there pertained to material selection, operations support, and failure analysis for the design and manufacturing of safety products. He says, “Although ultimately, I decided that I preferred research over industry, working at MSA really taught me a lot about professional development and how research and industry are connected.”  He notes that it wasn’t until he began having research and industry experiences that he really learned that engineering was right for him. “Figuring out how to connect different pieces of information that I learned in school, and using it to develop something new, is what I really enjoy.” After graduation, Ekaputra plans to pursue his PhD in materials science, specializing in materials for aerospace application. He is currently in the process of deciding which school he will attend.  Wherever he ends up, he knows he would like to work to send humans to space, maybe even at NASA, though he believes he will enjoy doing research anywhere. He says, “The best part of Pitt engineering, in my opinion, is the variety of opportunities afforded to students, like co-op, study abroad, and the vast variety of clubs and organizations that students can join. These are all things I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue, and which have defined my undergraduate studies.” We wish Ekaputra the best of luck in all his future endeavors!
Meagan Lenze

A Donation in Flight


A generous gift donation was recently made to the MEMS Department in honor of Marion Alice Nye “Buzz” Barry. Marion was a licensed commercial pilot, certified flight and ground school instructor, a member of the Ninety-Nine Women Pilots Association, and one of the first women in the aviation industry. In the spirit of her valiance and technical accomplishments, an annual academic scholarship will be awarded to a student with interest and involvement in aerospace engineering and aviation. The scholarship can be used for tuition or sponsored academic research related to aerospace engineering. The donation was facilitated by MEMS professor, Dr. Matt Barry, who is the grandson of Marion.


Learn more about Pitt's planning and response to COVID-19

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

Please visit and bookmark the University of Pittsburgh COVID-19 site for the most up-to-date information and a full list of resources. From the University Times: As the coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, Pitt is remaining diligent with addressing related issues as the pop up. For an overall look at updates from Pitt, go to emergency.pitt.edu. On Saturday, Provost Ann Cudd issued a statement about how to support faculty and staff who have committed to attending professional conferences this semester and choose not to attend due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The University will grant an exception for travel booked through May 31 and reimburse any out-of-pocket expenses incurred by those who decide to cancel travel. The administration will reassess this deadline date as COVID-19 evolves and may extend the deadline as conditions evolve. For more updates from the provost, go to provost.pitt.edu. The provost and the University Center for Teaching and Learning is encouraging faculty to be prepared if remote learning situations become required. The center has set up a page detailing the basics of providing instructional continuity. The page will be updated regularly. Find information about remote learning and more at teaching.pitt.edu/instructional-continuity. All business units and responsibilities centers also are being asked to work on how to handle mass absenteeism and/or the need for as many people as possible to work at home.


Rumcik Scholarship Dinner Held


A celebration dinner was recently held to honor the 2019 recipients of The Robert E. Rumcik ’68 Scholarship in Mechanical and Materials Engineering. From left, those present were; Dr. Brendan Connolly (Operations Engineer, Ellwood Quality Steels and former Rumcik Scholar), Jonah De Cortie (MSE junior, scholar recipient), Mike Morgus (President, Ellwood Quality Steels), Alexandra Beebout (MSE senior, scholar recipient), Bob Rumcik (retired President of Ellwood Quality Steels), and Dr. Brian Gleeson (MEMS Department Chair). Beebout has accepted a position at Ellwood and will begin working full-time upon graduating this spring.


Stellar Student Researchers

Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Jan. 30, 2020) — Most researchers can take certain things, like gravity, for granted. That is not the case for the two groups of students from the University of Pittsburgh who will be sending their experiments to fly aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Thanks to a Pitt SEED Grant, two groups of students from the Swanson School of Engineering and the School of Pharmacy have the opportunity to send experiments into space to study the effects of microgravity on their subjects through Pitt’s participation in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). “This is an incredible opportunity for our students to participate in one of humankind’s most impressive ventures: spaceflight,” says David Vorp, PhD, associate dean for research, John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, and co-principle investigator of the SSEP at Pitt. “We’re impressed that our interdisciplinary student teams designed not one, but two experiments accepted to this highly selective program.” Vorp is joined as co-principle investigator by Ravi Patel, PharmD, and Kerry Empey, PharmD, PhD, from the School of Pharmacy. John Donehoo, RPh, clinical pharmacist at UPMC, joins the project as a select collaborator. The SSEP student teams are given a 10-inch silicone tube in which to perform their experiments, which they can segment with clamps to keep elements of the experiment separate until they reach the ISS. Scientists aboard the ISS can only be given simple instructions, like removing the clamps and shaking the tube, making experiment design complicated. Finding a Silver Lining One interdisciplinary group of students is studying how silver nanoparticles effect the immune response of Daphnia Magna, a species of water flea that can show an immune response. Researchers Samantha Bailey, PharmD candidate; Jordan Butko, sophomore studying mechanical engineering; Amanda Carbone, junior studying chemical engineering; and Prerna Dodeja, MS student in the School of Pharmacy, will look at genetic markers in the organism that indicate its immune response once it returns to earth. “Researchers have previously tested immune response in Daphnia Magna, but no one has looked at it with regard to nanoparticles yet,” says Carbone. “We’re excited that we get to build on the work that others have done and explore new territory.” Silver nanoparticles are also sometimes found in antibacterial products and have been associated with significant toxicity in the liver and brain. While these nanoparticles aren’t so problematic on Earth, where gravity keeps them down, they could be more harmful in microgravity, where they can be accidentally inhaled or ingested. The study will investigate the effect of these silver nanoparticles on Daphnia Magna’s immune system in microgravity, comparing it to Daphnia Magna’s response on Earth, to shed light on if and how astronauts’ immune systems function differently in space. Aerospace Aluminum Marissa Defallo, a junior studying mechanical engineering, and Nikolas Vostal, a junior studying materials science, make up the second group of student researchers. They will send a sample of 3D-printed aluminum with unique topography, combined with an oxidizer like a saltwater solution, to the ISS to study corrosion in microgravity. Aluminum is frequently used in the aerospace industry, including on the ISS, and the experiment will provide insights into how the material corrodes in space, information that could inform future corrosion-resistant materials. “At my co-op with American Airlines, we had to do corrosion training, and that evolved into the idea for this project. When satellites are in orbit, they are still in Earth’s atmosphere, and there’s oxygen present to cause corrosion,” says Defallo.  “I’ve always had a passion for space and want to work for a company like SpaceX someday, so this kind of experience is an invaluable opportunity to have.” Though the launch date is not yet officially scheduled, the SSEP teams say they may be able to send the experiments into space in June 2020.
Maggie Pavlick
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