Research in Mechanical Engineering has long focused on societal needs, using the depth and breadth of our capabilities to bring innovative technical solutions to a range of pressing issues facing the world. The complexity of the world’s energy challenges has drawn Mechanical Engineering faculty from across the department into energy research. In this issue, we present a portfolio of research activities that are tackling the challenges of developing the next generation of solutions for clean and renewable energy. Our faculty, their students and their postdocs cover a wide spectrum of solutions. You will read about advances in renewable energy sources—process optimization of photovoltaic materials and the design and use of thermoelectric materials for harnessing solar energy, storage of solar energy, new technologies for wind energy, electrochemical energy conversion and storage— as well as the development of technologies for cleaner conversion and use of fossil fuels.
Our focus on societal needs also permeates our project-based classes. This issue features a story on our popular Course 2.75, Precision Machine Design. In recent years, Professor Alex Slocum has teamed students with medical professionals to address a need presented by the medical team. In the MIT spirit of mens et manus, the students learn the complete design cycle all the way up to full prototype development and testing through active engagement. These students work directly with real clients on real problems, and after graduation they often go on to create successful startups based on their inventions. In fact, a team of students from last year’s course has recently secured investment funding for their Sombus Sleep Shirt, which allows doctors to monitor their patients’ sleep from the comfort of their own home.
Finally, I would like to thank you for your support which is instrumental in our leadership of our discipline and pivotal to our ability to continue to attract top student and faculty talent to MIT. We are pleased once again to have our undergraduate and graduate programs ranked #1 by US News & World Report as well as all other national and international rankings.
MechE Connects is one small mechanism for keeping our community connected. In an effort to improve and expand our web presence, I would like to request your participation in an on-line usability survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YDFJYRJ). As MIT Mechanical Engineering alumni, your input is valuable in helping build our community and keep you linked to the department.
Ford Professor of Engineering and Department Head