Pitt Creates Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Department

Issue Date: 
October 9, 2006

New department, largest in the engineering school, will strengthen University’s multiscale manufacturing


Pitt’s School of Engineering has created a new department by combining the Departments of Mechanical Engineering (ME) and Materials Science and Engineering (MSE).

The new department, to be known as the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS), will be the largest in the school in terms of both students and faculty.

An extensive planning process, which included consultation with faculty, students, alumni, and local industry, facilitated the transition, according to Gerald D. Holder, the U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering.

The merger formally took effect at the beginning of the fall term. “I am looking forward with enthusiasm to MEMS becoming a robust and stimulating intellectual center within the school,” said Holder.

Minking Chyu, the Leighton E. and Mary N. Orr Chair in Engineering and current ME chair, chairs the combined department, and current MSE Professor and Chair John Barnard directs the department’s Materials Science and Engineering program.

Strengths of the new department include the following:

Research and industrial expertise

The department will develop nanomanufacturing as an area of research excellence, complementing existing University-wide research in nanoscale fabrication and characterization conducted at Pitt’s Gertrude E. and John M. Petersen Institute for NanoScience and Engineering. A new Shared Nano-Manufacturing Laboratory will be established in support of this innovative research thrust.

“It is widely recognized that effective manufacturing is critical for nanotechnology to emerge as commercially viable and to enable new industrial technologies,” Chyu said.

• The new department will enhance the impact of the Basic Metals Processing Research Institute (BAMPRI) through key investments in research infrastructure and new opportunities for collaboration. BAMPRI, for 30 years a mainstay of the MSE department, conducts focused research programs for the steel production, fabrication, and end-user industries with the goal of increasing competitiveness and introducing new or improved steel products or processing.

“BAMPRI will continue to be the epicenter of metallurgical education and research in the region,” said BAMPRI Director and William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Anthony DeArdo. “We will offer short courses to companies and technical societies around the world.”

• The new department is positioned to integrate and promote energy research in the School of Engineering. Faculty experts in thermal barrier coatings, fuel cells, combustion, cooling, energy harvesting, turbines, and renewable energy sources also will play leadership roles in the University and regional energy community. Many ongoing research projects are collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory. The new department will be recruiting new faculty in this critical area in the coming year.

• MEMS will provide an ideal incubator for new programs, including a collaboration with the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in Pitt’s School of Medicine and the recently developed nuclear engineering program in the engineering school, which will be housed in the new department and take on more of a materials science component. “These are new and exciting programs for which the new MEMS department is ideally suited,” said Barnard.

Strengthened curriculum

• For the first time, mechanical engineering and materials science majors will share a curriculum during their freshman and sophomore years. “Students will get unique exposure to the other major at an early stage of their college experience,” said Chyu. “This will make them more versatile and marketable.” Other key features of the integrated curriculum include three common upper-level courses and an integrated senior design experience.

• No current degree programs will be lost. Separate undergraduate programs leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Science degree in Materials Science and Engineering will be retained in MEMS, as will all current graduate degree programs in both departments.

• New courses designed to provide the fundamental educational foundation for emerging technologies will be added to strengthen the curriculum and create a vibrant undergraduate program in manufacturing and processing.
For more information on the new department, visit www.engr.pitt.edu/mems.