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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 graduate program welcomed new students this year. These students come from all over the world and have vastly different backgrounds. They have one thing in common, however; they excel in what they do. Here we feature three of our promising new graduate students. These individuals are but a small sample 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

Aaron Townsend

Aaron Townsend began his studies at the University of Texas, receiving a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 2001. After receiving his bachelor's degree, he earned a master's degree from Stanford University in 2002. Following his completion of his master's degree, he worked at Sandia National Laboratories and then at Building Science Corporation. At Building Science Corporation, he performed research and deployment of residential energy efficiency technologies and techniques. He also authored or co-authored six peer-reviewed papers and worked closely with the ASHRAE SSPC 62.2 committee to improve the ASHRAE residential ventilation standard.

Mr. Townsend begins his Ph.D. studies as a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. The grant, which is a very prestigious honor, awards fellows with 3 years of support, which include a $30,000 annual stipend, a $10,500 cost-of-education allowance, and a one-time $1000 international travel allowance.

Aaron is advised by Dr. Michael Webber. Dr. Webber, along with the Webber Energy Group,researches energy systems, technologies and policy.

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

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

Xiaoyan "June" Si

Xiaoyan Si graduated from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University of the People's Republic of China with a bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering and Logistics Management. She received numerous scholarships while there, including the National Scholarship, awarded by the Ministry of Education.

She began college seeking a mechanical engineering degree. She discovered that she preferred applied math, and chose to switch to Operations Research and Industrial Engineering (OR/IE) because, as she said, it is “a science about optimization and improvement.”

She has a number of extracurricular interests. In addition to reading, swimming and visiting museums, she also involves herself with charitable projects. During her time at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, she was the secretary of her class's student association. In this capacity during her freshman year, she organized a program to help tutor children of immigrant workers in Shanghai. For this project, she won first prize in a scholarship program sponsored by the University League Committee.

During her undergraduate studies, Ms. Si had the opportunity to participate in an exchange program with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. While there, she discovered her interest in research work, which shaped her decision to pursue an advanced degree. She comes to the University of Texas seeking a Ph.D. in Operations Research & Industrial Engineering.

Julia O'Rourke, graduate student specializing in alternative energy

Julia O'Rourke, graduate student specializing in alternative energy

Julia O'Rourke

Julia O'Rourke did her undergraduate work at the University of Pittsburgh as part of the Fessenden Honors Engineering Program. There she received three bachelor's degrees (B.S. Mechanical Engineering, B.A. History and Philosophy of Science and B.A. Philosophy), with a minor in French.

Pursuing three degrees simultaneously was a lot of work, but Ms. O'Rourke felt that having three majors helped “keep [her] well-balanced and prevented [her] from getting tired of doing the same thing all the time.” She began college intending to become a mechanical engineer, but had an interest in philosophy. She chose her third major — History and Philosophy of Science — as it was pertinent to her other studies in both engineering and philosophy.

During her undergraduate studies, she had the opportunity to do research at NASA's Glenn Research Center. While there, she worked on a computational fluid dynamics project, the goal of which was to create a method of design optimization for centerbodies in supersonic engine inlets. Other experiences there helped her realize her interest in alternative engery and green design, the topic of her research at The University of Texas at Austin.

Ms. O'Rourke is advised by Dr. Carolyn Seepersad. Dr. Seepersad is the director of the Product, Process and Materials Design Lab (PPMD Lab). Their research “emphasizes integrated multiscale/multilevel design of products, processes and materials; solid freeform fabrication; and design methodologies for supporting innovation, customization and sustainability.”


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