Department News


Zhang Baile Named One of Top 35 Innovators Under 35

Assistant Professor Zhang Baile of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore has recently been recognized by Technology Review’s highly regarded TR35 Global list of the world’s top 35 innovators under the age of 35.

Zhang, who earned an undergraduate degree from Tsinghua University in the People’s Republic of China and a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, is internationally recognized for his work with MechE Professor George Barbastathis on a groundbreaking invisibility cloak.

The cloak, which was named No. 4 of the top 10 breakthroughs in 2010 by Physics World and published in Physical Review Letters, works by placing a wedge of calcite crystal – a crystalline form of calcium carbonate, the main ingredient in seashells and stalactites/stalagmites in caves – over an object. When the object is then illuminated by visible light and viewed from the direction perpendicular to the wedge, it “disappears” from sight because the observer perceives the wedge as flat and thus nonexistent. And it’s not just a simple illusion. The cloak is designed so that any scientific instrument would also be “fooled” into thinking the crystal surface is flat.

To see the full TR35 list, go to

Inaugural Cummins-Tsinghua Fellowship Recipient Announced

We are pleased to announce a new graduate fellowship offered by MechE and Cummins Incorporated to outstanding Chinese women who have earned a degree from Tsinghua University and been admitted to the MechE master’s degree program.

The inaugural Cummins-Tsinghua Fellowship for the 2012-2013 academic year has been awarded to Qifang Bao. This past year, Bao graduated No. 1 in her class from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, earning a bachelor of science degree in micro-electron-mechanical system engineering. She earned several awards during her time there, including the Excellent Student Scholarship (twice), second prize in the Sony New Product Ideas Collecting Competition, and second prize in the 26th National Undergraduate Competition of Physics.

IDA Awards 2012 Channabasappa Memorial Scholarship

The International Desalination Association has awarded this year’s Channabasappa Memorial Scholarship to PhD candidate Ronan McGovern, a member of Professor John H. Lienhard V’s research group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

A native of Ireland, McGovern earned a bachelor’s degree from the University College Dublin, and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at MIT. His PhD research is focused on emerging technologies for water desalination. He is currently the president of the Graduate Association of Mechanical Engineers (GAME).

The IDA names one recipient per year from a large pool of international applicants.

Read the IDA’s news announcement here:

Renovated Sailing Pavilion is One in a Million

MIT Sailing Pavillion

Photo credit: M. Scott Brauer

With a sailing pavilion steps away from MIT’s campus, ocean engineering students have always been a lucky bunch. But last year, they got even luckier when the Department renovated the MIT Sailing Pavilion, which proudly sits on the Cambridge side of the Charles River. Last year, the Sailing Pavilion received new docks, which allow researchers and students to keep boats and underwater vehicles at the ready, as well as new research stations, updated and expanded building infrastructure, and brand new underwater vehicles. As a result of the extra storage and research space and updated equipment, students of new course 2.680 Unmanned Marine Vehicle Autonomy, Sensing, and Communication and MechE researchers can skip the hours of hauling they previously had to do and get right to work, knowing that everything they need is awaiting them at the pavilion.

Marine Robotics Team

MIT Marine Robotics Team

Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Sly

Led by junior Jacqueline Sly, the Marine Robotics Team is making a comeback after most of its members graduated a few years ago. One of several MIT student teams supported by the Edgerton Center, and funded in large part by Chevron, as well as the Department, the new Marine Robotics Team isn’t a competitive force but rather is fueled by a passion for research and discovery. This past summer, the group, including team members David Wise, Tommy Moriarty, and Adrian Tanner, a student at Boston University, traveled to Alaska to help mentor middle school students in the areas of science and engineering and get them excited about technology. While they were there, they also had a chance to test out their new and improved glider, the primary focus of the team’s efforts.

MechE Wins Big at this Year’s MassChallenge

On October 23, the world’s largest accelerator program, MassChallenge, announced the winners of $1.1 million in prizes. The MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering was a big winner, with MechE-connected teams taking home two of the four top prizes.

Global Research Innovation and Technology (GRIT) was one of four winners of the major $100K prize. GRIT is the social enterprise incorporated last year to bring the Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC), developed by Department of Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Amos Winter, to market in the developing world.

The LFC, a first place winner of the 2008 MIT IDEAS competition, takes advantage of simple physics and geometry principles to create a variable mechanical advantage drivetrain controlled by the rider’s upper body strength and hand placement. The rider changes gears by either choking up on the lever to increase the power output or by gripping low to increase speed. Riders can remove and store the levers when they’re maneuvering indoors and need less power. Built with bike parts, the low-cost wheel chair is easy and inexpensive to repair anywhere.

GRIT’s LFC was also a recipient of Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Award this year. The judges noted that part of its ingenuity comes from its low-tech simplicity.

Another MechE MassChallenge winner of a $100K prize was LiquiGlide, a nontoxic, nonstick, super slippery coating for condiment bottles developed by the Varanasi Lab. Made from food materials, LiquiGlide is easy to apply to food packaging and prevents stubborn condiments from sticking to the inside of the bottle. LiquiGlide also won earlier this year at MIT’s $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, bringing home the Audience Choice Award. It was also just named to TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2012 list. Led by Professor Varanasi, the LiquiGlide team is J. David Smith, Christopher J. Love, Adam Paxson, Brian Solomon, and Rajeev Dhiman.

The MassChallenge winners were culled from an initial field of 1,237 applicants from 35 countries and 36 states. One hundred twenty-five teams of entrepreneurs were chosen to spend the past four months in free office space in Boston’s Innovation District, working with mentors to refine their startups. Those 125 were further narrowed down to 26 finalists prior to the announcement of the final cash prize winners.

Read more about the Leveraged Freedom Chair at Read more about LiquiGlide at