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Aaron Townsend, June Si and Julia O'Rourke joined the Mechanical Engineering graduate program in 2009.

Aaron Townsend, June Si and Julia O'Rourke joined the Mechanical Engineering graduate program in 2009.




The Mechanical Engineering Department enthusiastically welcomes 20 ORIE and 63 ME graduate students in our graduate program this year. These students come from all over the world and have vastly different backgrounds. Featured here are four of our promising new graduate students. They are examples of the great talent to be found in the ME department.

Aaron Townsend, Ph.D. student in the Mechanical Engineering department

Aaron Townsend, Ph.D. student in the Mechanical Engineering department

Courtney Shell

Courtney Shell graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor's degree in Biomedical Engineering and a minor in Mathematics from Texas A&M University in May 2010. While at Texas A&M, Courtney participated in a host of research opportunities. In her freshman year she worked in the Grunlan Biomaterials Lab at Texas A&M after receiving a research grant from the Dwight Look College of Engineering. At the Grunlan Biomaterials Lab, Courtney worked on two different projects. She developed a block co-polymer of two different polymers that had elastic properties similar to that of soft tissues, for example the heart, to be used as a scaffold in tissue engineering. This research will enable the expansion of tissue engineering techniques to more areas of the body. Courtney also worked on the development of a surface treatment whereby polymer chains were tethered to the surface to inhibit biofilm (e.g. proteins on an implanted device) build-up once placed in use. This research will lead to surfaces that passivley prevent biofilm build-up, a leading cause of infection of implanted devices, and thus decrease the infection rate in implants.

Following this, she worked in the Advanced Controls and Microsensors Lab at The University of Minnesota, where she constructed a test jig that simulated knee joint loading on an instrumented tibial baseplate and devised a dynamically updated graphical user display of forces experienced by the baseplate. This research will lead to development of an in-dwelling instrumented knee prosthesis, allowing researchers to measure joint forces in vivo. Courtney then pursued a co-op opportunity with DJO Surgical, a manufacturer of total shoulder, hip, and knee replacement systems.

As a result of her experiences in academic research labs and the industry, her interest in biomechanics, especially prosthetics, blossomed and led her to pursue a graduate degree in mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Courtney will be working with Dr. Richard Neptune, studying the effects of varying the coronal plane stiffness of a prosthetic foot on amputee gait and stability.

June Si, Ph.D. student in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering

June Si, Ph.D. student in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering

Megan Hawley

Megan Hawley graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics and French from Bethel Universityat St. Paul, Minnesota in 2010. It was at Bethel that she gained an appreciation for research. She began working with a professor in the Mathematics Department, researching products of generating functions in relation to combinatorics, which is concerned with looking at the number of ways of selecting objects from a set. One of several examples that Megan found in relation to generating functions involved finding the number of combinations of doctors and nurses on a hospital floor, given certain constraints on how many were available. She enjoyed studying new material beyond what was in the textbook and coming up with different ways of approaching a problem. Megan says "Finding an application made the mathematics more alive and meaningful. This experience confirmed my desire to pursue higher education through a Ph.D."

Along with her research and Mathematics classes, Megan continued with her French major, spending a semester in Grenoble, France, studying the French language, culture, art and history. She was chosen to be the project manager for an Operations Research class, directing a class-wide study of the campus coffee shop queues and resources. Megan says "In this class I found that I loved being able to use my mind in solving problems while all the while making connections to the world around me."

She chose to study Operations Research in the ME department because of the many ways it is applicable to businesses, government, and nonprofit organizations. In the future she plans to apply Operations Research to nonprofit organizations in the hopes that it would help minimize costs while at the same time serving more people.

Julia O'Rourke, graduate student specializing in alternative energy

Julia O'Rourke, graduate student specializing in alternative energy

Pius Wong

Pius Wong graduated with a B.S. in Bioengineering from The University of Illinois at Chicago in May 2005. He has also taken graduate classes in Mechanical Engineering at The University of Memphis in Tennessee, and is the co-author of several journal articles and conference abstracts.

Pius has been working as a Research Engineer at Smith & Nephew in Leuven, Belgium for the last three years, researching in vivo and in vitro knee kinematics. Pius says, "My time in the orthopedic industry taught me a lot, and it largely inspired me to go to graduate school. Over the years I got involved in a variety of large-scale research projects and met countless smart and interesting people from all over the world."

After being exposed to the industry and numerous research projects, Pius decided to focus more of his efforts on the design of electromechanical systems. His current research interests include biomechanics, robotics, and product design. Pius will be researching reconfigurable robots among other topics with Dr. Luis Sentis in the Human-Centered Robotics Laboratory at the ME Department.

June Si, Ph.D. student in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering

June Si, Ph.D. student in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering

Benjamin Barr

Benjamin Barr graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 2010. He has worked at the Meyers Research Group for Assistant Professor Jeremy Meyers, testing the performance of hydrogen fuel cells under different membrane application techniques. He also did a Co-op with L-3 Communications IS in Greenville, Texas, recognized internationally as a systems integration organization specializing in the modernization and maintenance of aircraft. There, Benjamin worked as a Structural Analyst, where he performed stress analysis to approve proposed design modifications to military aircraft.

Because Benjamin's curriculum interests include fluid mechanics and heat transfer, he has decided to pursue a graduate degree in mechanical engineering in the thermal/fluid systems department. Benjamin says, "I am particularly interested in these topics as they apply to aerodynamics and flight, so my research will relate to these areas". Supervised by Dr. Ofodike Ezekoye, Benjamin will be developing models to predict the thermo-chemical degradation of thermal protective systems that are most commonly used to protect spacecraft during atmospheric reentry. Improved models for these TPS ablative materials are important in the development of future ,TPS material systems that have improved performance for specific types of missions.


The ME Department welcomes these students and all the other new graduate students this year.
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