Department Head John Hart Announces New MechE Leadership

Department Head John Hart announced several leadership appointments this month. Professors John Leonard and Sangbae Kim and Associate Professor Ellen Roche have been named Associate Department Heads. Associate Professor Cullen Buie is MechE’s new Faculty Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Chair.

Left to right: Associate Professor Ellen Roche, Professor Sangbae Kim, Department Head John Hart, Associate Professor Cullen Buie, Professor John Leonard. 

Associate Professor Ellen Roche, MechE Associate Head for Research

Ellen Roche is the Latham Family Career Development Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering and the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES). Her research focuses on the development of disruptive approaches to enable the repair of damage to the heart or improve its function. She has made significant contributions to the fields of biomechanics, medical device design, soft robotics, and other areas of biomedical engineering. Ellen has co-taught design classes (2.009 and 2.75) in MechE, and she recently received the 2023 MIT Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award. 

Professor John Leonard, MechE Associate Head for Education

John Leonard is the Samuel C. Collins Professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering. He has provided extensive service to MechE in various roles including Associate Department Head for Research (2013-2016), Area Head (2007-2014), and Associate Director of the MIT Woods Hole Joint Program (2018-present). His research addresses the problems of navigation and mapping for autonomous mobile robots and underwater vehicles. He is an IEEE Fellow, an AAAS Fellow, and a Technical Advisor at Toyota Research Institute. 

"Ellen and John bring experience and expertise across several areas of the department, and spanning from impactful research to successful translation of new technologies. I’m very excited by their ideas and vision as members of the leadership team, along with their dedication to education, mentorship, and growth of our community," wrote Hart in a joint announcement earlier this month. 

Professor Sangbae Kim, MechE Associate Department Head for Space and Planning

Sangbae Kim is director of the Biomimetic Robotics Laboratory and his research focuses on bio-inspired robot development achieved by extracting principles from animals. His team’s achievements include creating the world’s first directional adhesive inspired by gecko lizards, and development of the MIT Cheetah, a robot capable of stable running outdoors and autonomous jumping over obstacles. He is a sought-after speaker, and has received a DARPA Young Faculty Award, NSF CAREER Award, Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching, and Nagamori Award, among others. Kim also co-leads 2.007, has served as the 2-A faculty coordinator, and co-chaired the recent MechE curriculum review committee. In this role, he will also chair a new Space Planning committee to be established this fall.

This is a new role for MechE. "Our space and facilities are critical to our mission, to the pursuit of our ambitions in all areas, and to our community," wrote Hart when announcing Kim's appointment. "Moreover, we have multiple strategic projects on the horizon... in addition to high-priority space needs of many colleagues, hands-on courses, and growing centers/programs."

Associate Professor Cullen Buie, MechE Faculty Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Chair

Cullen Buie is Associate Professor and Director of the Laboratory for Energy and Microsystems Innovation. His laboratory explores flow physics at the microscale for applications in materials science and applied biosciences. He is also co-founder of Kytopen, a startup that offers a high throughput method of genetic engineering. He has been honored with numerous awards including the NSF CAREER Award; the DuPont Young Professor Award; the DARPA Young Faculty Award; and the NSF Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. In 2021, he was elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Buie has served the department and institute in various ways over his career, including currently as Head of House in Maseeh Hall.

"As a world leader in research and education, our curriculum and our practices must continually promote a robust examination of historical, ethical, and social contexts of our work," wrote Hart when announcing Buie's appointment. "Thoughtful examination and incorporation of practices that promote DEI help us to foster a culture of teamwork and respect that acknowledges the value that each person’s unique lived experience brings to our collective efforts and to our impact. When we practice inclusivity, value diversity, and promote equity in the MechE community, we are better positioned to develop the knowledge, people, and technologies that can address the grand challenges facing our society."