Evelyn Wang joins leadership team in MechE

Evelyn Wang, the Gail E. Kendall Professor and the director of MIT’s Device Research Laboratory, has been named associate department head for operations in the Department of Mechanical Engineering (MechE). 

Professor Evelyn Wang, the director of MIT’s Device Research Laboratory, has been appointed associate head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Photo: Bryce Vickmark

Wang assumed her new role effective Sept. 1, taking over from Anette “Peko” Hosoi, who was recently appointed associate dean of the School of Engineering.

“I am very pleased to announce Evelyn’s appointment as associate department head — she has provided outstanding service to MIT and her profession,” says department head Gang Chen, the Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering.

The Institute is in Wang’s blood. Her parents met at MIT while earning their PhDs. They married in MIT Chapel. Both of her older brothers earned degrees at the Institute. While much of Wang's own focus throughout high school was on music (particularly violin and piano), she ended up majoring in mechanical engineering as an MIT undergraduate. She was also a member of the Burton Third Bombers in Burton-Connor House.

After graduating from MechE in 2000, Wang moved back to her home state of California. She earned a PhD from Stanford University, which was also where she first started working on thermal management, and then accepted a postdoc position designing nanoengineered surfaces and materials for Bell Labs. But the pull of MIT was too strong, and one year later she relocated back to the East Coast to start a role as an assistant professor in MechE.

Since joining the faculty in 2007, Wang has become an internationally recognized leader in phase change heat transfer on nanostructure surfaces. As a researcher, one of her main focuses has been developing more efficient energy and water systems. Wang’s work on solar cells that create cheap and continuous electricity by converting heat into focused beams of light was named as one of MIT Technology Review’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2017.

Her research on water harvesting has most recently led to the development of a device that can extract fresh water from the air, even in desert environments. This water harvesting technology was also selected as one of 2017's 10 promising emerging technologies by Scientific American and the World Economic Forum.

Wang’s prolific and impactful work has not gone unnoticed. She has received a number of Young Investigator Awards, as well as the ASME Electronics Packaging Division Outstanding Women Engineer Award and the ASME Gustus L. Larson Memorial Award.

As a professor and director of the Device Research Laboratory, Wang has had a substantial impact on the many students she has taught and mentored. Ten of her former graduate students and postdocs currently serve as faculty members at MIT. Her new role as associate head builds upon her experience spearheading change within the department, where she has served as co-chair for MechE’s Strategic Planning Committee and the MechE Lincoln Laboratory Task Force.

“I’m excited to contribute to the department in a way that will hopefully have meaningful and lasting impact,” says Wang. “I’m particularly interested in looking at new directions for our research, making things more efficient in terms of operations, and helping foster community culture in our department.” 

Wang's family of MIT alumni is also thrilled at her new appointment. “My parents are very happy that I’ll be giving more back to the Institute that they so love,” she says.