Pitt | Swanson Engineering


Watch our 2021 graduate celebration! 

Alumni Focus - Ken Balkey


Read our latest newsletter


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.


8 Current MEMS Faculty Ranked in Top 2% of World Scientists

MEMS, Honors & Awards

According to a report by Stanford University, eight current MEMS faculty in the top 2% of world scientists. The report covered scientists globally from a wide range of fields. The ranking is based on citations from Scopus, assessing scientists for career-long citation impact up until the end of 2019 and for citation impact during the single calendar year 2019. More information on the ranking method found here.The MEMS faculty and their associated subject field are:Peyman Givi - Aerospace and AeronauticsPaolo Galdi - General MathematicsBrian Gleeson and Scott Mao - MaterialsMinking Chyu - Mechanical Engineering and TransportsBuddy Clark and Paul Ohodnicki - Optoelectronics and PhotonicsWissam Saidi - Physical ChemistryAlso on this esteemed list are emeritus professors Gerald Meier and Frederick Pettit, whose research -similar to that of Gleeson’s - focuses on the high-temperature corrosion behavior of materials (a core research competency in the MEMS Department at Pitt). Rounding out the MEMS list are secondary appointments Rory Cooper (rehabilitation) and Sachin Valenkar (polymers). All tolled there are 12 MEMS faculty in the top 2% of world scientists, as compiled by this Stanford study.See the full list of the Top 2% of World Scientists here.

Capturing the Huge Impacts of Tiny Organisms

Banner, Grants, Chemical & Petroleum, Bioengineering, MEMS, Civil & Environmental

One of the main reasons the multitude of bacteria we encounter in daily life doesn’t harm us is because of the diverse, robust community of microbes on our skin and inside our bodies that prevent pathogens from taking hold. But despite the importance of the microbial community we each host, there is still a lot researchers don’t know about it. The most common method for growing microorganisms is via culture flasks and agar plates, but these methods don’t expose microbes to their native environments. Because of this limitation, the vast majority of the existing microbial population remains unknown, uncultivated, and poorly studied.Tagbo Niepa, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, is developing a new technique for studying microbes in conditions that mimic their native environment, facilitating the growth of difficult microbial species and helping researchers to better understand them. The research was recently awarded $315,373 by the National Science Foundation.By encapsulating microbes isolated from various sources in a polymeric shell, researchers will be able to study microbes in environmental conditions.The nanocultures will eliminate growth rate bias that occurs in traditional cultures when species of microbes are competing for space, and the enclosure protects them from chemical or biological contaminants. The proposed technology, which will give researchers insights into how synthetic microbial communities communicate and interact with native ones, could lead to advances in medicine, biotechnology, bioremediation and more.“Not having a sufficient way to grow and examine these microbes has not only impeded the scientific discovery of antibiotic-like molecules but has also limited our ability to use genetically engineered beneficial microbes,” said Niepa. “There are microbes out there that could lead us to new types of antibiotics based on microbes we find in the soil, improve human health and performance by understanding the human microbiome, and more. We do not yet have a way to explore their full potential. That is the problem we are trying to solve.”One potent application of the new technology is for the controlled delivery of healthy gut bacteria into the body. Antibiotic use, stress and illnesses can lead to microbial dysbiosis, or the imbalance of gut bacteria, which in turn can lead to ulcers, cancers, and other health problems. Niepa and his team are exploring ways to use the microcapsules, which can culture and store a multitude of microbes, as a delivery system for beneficial bacteria into the body to restore the gut microbiome. As part of the NSF project, the researchers will use the microcapsules to deliver a gut-benefiting community of microbes into mice to examine its efficacy.“This research makes a substantial step toward microbial-based therapy against microbial dysbiosis. Beyond the health benefits, our project will facilitate a broader understanding of microbial diversity and offer relevant implications for biotechnology and bioremediation,” said Niepa. “Some of the smallest organisms have an enormous impact on human health and the health of our planet. We’re taking a step toward understanding all they can offer.” The project, titled “Designing a Multifunctional Nanoculture System for High-throughput in situ Assessment of Microbial Communities,” will begin on July 1, 2021.

Building a Foundation for High-Power Tech

Grants, Electrical & Computer, MEMS

As electrification advancement accelerates and more renewables are integrated into the electric grid, improved power electronics systems are needed to convert AC or DC power into a usable form. New semiconductor device materials and advanced magnetic materials can enable an unprecedented combination of voltage levels and power handling capabilities.However, the latest class of new switching devices, which use so-called ultra-wide bandgap (UWBG) semiconductor materials, will also require improved soft magnetic materials and manufacturing approaches not currently available.Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering are working to solve that problem with new materials and manufacturing processes that will establish a foundation for UWBG semiconductors in novel power electronics switching devices. Their investigation received $820,000 in funding from the U.S. Office of Naval Research to support graduate students to explore new ideas in magnetic materials, advanced manufacturing, and advanced component design methods and techniques.“Ultra-high frequency soft magnetics technologies, ranging from 50 kilohertz to as high as the megahertz range, are going to play an important role in the next generation of power electronics and power conversion technologies,” said Paul Ohodnicki, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, director of the Engineering Science program and the Advanced Magnetics for Power and Energy Development (AMPED) consortium. “Our work will help to overcome limitations of current materials and manufacturing, and we will also develop and demonstrate new methods and techniques for optimized magnetic component design leveraging these latest advances.”Applications for this new technology include power dense electrical power conversion technologies for electric vehicle design, aircraft electrification, or power converters for grid integration applications. For many of these, the converters need to be as small and light as possible while still handling the same amount of electric power. The higher switching frequencies made possible by these new materials would be more efficient and could, for example, increase the range of electric vehicles.Ohodnicki is leading the project with Ahmed Talaat, visiting assistant research faculty, and Brandon Grainger, Eaton Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. Grainger is also associate director of the Energy GRID Institute and co-director of AMPED at the University of Pittsburgh.The four-year project will address the need for advanced ultrahigh frequency soft magnetics and focus on creation of new ferrite-based systems, advanced manufacturing of components for optimal performance, and the design of optimized transformer and inductor components. The work will also demonstrate enhanced design and optimization tools for inductors.“Emerging ultra-wide bandgap semiconductor materials have enormous potential for high-power applications, but there needs to be a pathway for the magnetic material and component design first,” said Brandon Grainger. “Our project will establish the fundamental research necessary to make that happen.”

MEMS Department Recognizes Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Assistant


In the times of COVID and hybrid class delivery, teaching assistants have become more valuable than ever to faculty instructing large courses. Samantha Wismer, ME junior, and TA for three ENGR and MEMS courses this past academic year, has gone above and beyond to ensure her student peers have the best learning experience possible.Some of Wismer’s duties included reviewing instructor and student lecture slides for errors (typographical, mathematical, conceptual, grammatical, etc.) to ensure a top-tier product was delivered to students. She was responsible for reviewing several semesters of homework, quizzes and exams to provide students with study aids and access to materials. She was also tasked with the creation of 3-5 minute post-recorded lecture video questions, along with the creation of worksheets to give students extra practice. These activities require the use of LaTex, Adobe Illustrator and Top Hat, all of which Wismer has become proficient in.Wismer holds weekly office hours and is constantly available via Zoom and by email for not only the classes she is TA for, but any class students’ may be struggling with. She has put in evening and weekend hours to help build “At Home Makerspace Kits” to ship out to students.Professor Matt Barry is the instructor for all three classes Wismer is a TA for. He notes, “For all of these classes, there have been numerous compliments and glowing reviews of Samantha's helpfulness and willingness to go above and beyond to help her fellow students. Many from ENGR 0135 enrolled in MEMS 0031 and MEMS 0051 based solely on Samantha's presence as the UTA.” Barry also says he admires her tenacity, perseverance and patience.Outside of the Department, Wismer is a level II national accredited tutor for the Physics Lab at Pitt, where she uses these skills and knowledge to better serve MEMS students. Additionally, Wismer has co-authored a textbook which is currently used in a Pitt engineering class. She also co-authored two conference papers.Wismer is one shining example of the amazing undergraduate students in MEMS, and the Department would like to recognize and thank her for her dedicated commitment and service!5/10/2021Contact: Meagan Lenze

Upcoming Psyche Inspired Showcase


Psyche Inspired is a cross-discipline internship program for undergraduate students designed to share NASA’s Psyche mission in a unique way through artistic and creative works. These works are published online and collected in downloadable books which tell the story of Psyche through musical scores, sculptures, painting, 3-D models, photography, acrylic art, needlepoint, stop-motion films, and mixed media. The program rolled out nationally in 2018 and this year’s cohort is known as the Nickel Class. Aarti Patel, ME junior, was a part of the Nickel cohort. Read more about her experience and the Brooke Owens Fellowship she received here.You can also register now to view the Psyche Inspired Online Showcase, which runs from May 10-24, 2021. Applications are now being accepted for 2022.5/6/2021Contact: Meagan Lenze
Mechanical Engineering program
Materials Science program
Engineering Science program
Department News
Nuclear Engineering Program
Graduate Seminars

Upcoming Events

view more