Letter from the Department Head


Gang Chen“As engineers, the untapped potential of the oceans calls to us…but we also feel responsible for protecting them.”

Gang Chen, Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering and Department Head

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Ocean engineering is a major area of focus in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In fact, it is one that is almost as old as the Department itself.
Ship design and construction has been a beacon of departmental excellence dating back to 1893, when Nathanael Herreshoff, MechE class of 1870, won the America’s Cup race with the Vigilant, a boat he designed, built, and helmed; the Herreshoff Yard proceeded to build every winning America’s Cup yacht for the next 40 years. It was that same year that Course 13, the Department of Naval Architecture, was created.
The number of ocean-related accomplishments that have flowed out of the department since then are abundant. From one of the most highly regarded Naval Construction and Marine Engineering programs in the country to one of the first autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) labs, our ocean engineering faculty, alumni, and students have established a reputation as the leading problem-solvers in ship design and construction, naval construction, ocean engineering, robotics, control, communications, modeling, biology, mechanics, and biomimetics – and the many interfaces thereof.
Today we move forward to areas of the ocean deeper and more inaccessible, seeking to uncover the mysteries they hide through the technology we develop together. In the pages that follow, you will read about the many creative ways our faculty, alumni, and students are bringing their characteristic passion to the exploration of our oceans. You will read about the journeys of some of our ocean engineering alumni, including graduates who earned the titles of Vice Admiral in the US Navy and managing director of ExxonMobil Norway; faculty members exploring currents that are occurring under the ocean’s surface, studying the natural sensors of seals for submarine applications, and developing sophisticated algorithms for optimizing the paths of AUVs; and students teaching high school classes from underneath the sea and building novel oil-well blowout protectors inspired by everyday life.
As engineers, the untapped potential of the ocean calls to us and we feel a duty to develop technology capable of taking advantage of opportunities in areas such as oil drilling, gem mining, and underwater navigation. But we also feel responsible for protecting the oceans. We create technologies that not only extract oil but also follow oil plumes created by well blowouts; technologies that not only map the unknown but track marine life and enable its protection. Our goal is to improve and help better manage the way we interact with our oceans, which are so vital to the well-being of our planet.
As always, thank you for your ongoing support and friendship.

Chen Signature

Gang Chen, Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering and Department Head