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assistant professor of mechanical engineering

Ph.D., mechanical engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

What I’m researching:

“Sustainability in mechanical engineering. My main research is in discovering new ways to use biomaterials that are renewable and can be harvested in Pennsylvania, such as wood, hemp and flax.”

What I’m excited about:

“We talk about engineering as objective, but engineering is not objective at all. In my first-year class, we talk about what’s happening in the news and how it relates to engineering. As hurricanes Harvey and Irma have been in the news, we’ve talked about how engineering interacts with ‘natural’ disasters. The first place students go is usually engineering problem solving; civil engineers have to make buildings that are hurricane-resistant. Mechanical and electrical engineers could make a robot that would deliver food and water to people in need. To me this is obvious and pretty much what I expect. Every few classes, though, we manage to dig a little deeper: it turns out that ‘natural’ disasters have a lot to do with climate change, which has a lot to do with mining and manufacturing emissions, from the steel in our buildings to the rare metals in our smartphones. What does it mean for your disaster-relief robot to be made from a material that heavily pollutes the atmosphere, causing the disasters in the first place? So we give ourselves a headache. We start seeing that these things are all connected. To me that is where things get really interesting.”

What you can expect from me:

“When I was a college student I needed professors to be real people in the world, so I try to be real with students. I tell the truth, as I understand it, also knowing truth to be subjective. For example, one true thing is that as a teacher I am not an all-knowing being. I believe that they have as much to learn from one another as they have to learn from me, so we do a lot of small-group work.”

What I’m holding:

“A bike drawing. I finished my Ph.D. with few practical skills. But I got very good at fabricating wood laminates and tested them and looked at how they broke. I really wanted to get more practical skills, knowing I was going to teach design. So my mentor at the University of Massachusetts—he’s a bike builder—opened his shop to me. This is my sketch of a bicycle frame made of laminated wood. What we can do with wood is powerful. It’s more of an art piece right now, but I hope to have a public demonstration of my research and ride it on campus one day.”

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Categorized in: New Faculty