MechE Connects Spring 2024: News and Awards

Departmental news

Leadership appointments Department Head John Hart appointed Professors John Leonard and Sangbae Kim and Associate Professor Ellen Roche as Associate Department Heads, and Associate Professor Cullen Buie as MechE’s new Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Chair.

Topping the lists

QS World University Rankings honored MIT with a number one ranking in the subject area of Mechanical, Aeronautical, and Manufacturing Engineering for 2023, and U.S. News and World Report named MechE the top graduate program and undergraduate program in Mechanical Engineering for 2022–2023.

Women’s Technology Program (WTP-ME)

The Women’s Technology Program (WTPME) introduces high school students to mechanical engineering. Returning in-person last summer, the rising high school seniors who attended presented a final poster session and participated in a Rube Goldberg Machine Challenge.

Research highlights

Injectable hydrogels 

A computational framework developed by Professor Ellen Roche and her team could help researchers design granular hydrogels to repair or replace diseased tissues. (Journal: Nature)

Vertical, full-color microscopic LEDs

Associate Professor Jeehwan Kim and team developed a new way to make sharper, defect-free displays by inventing a way to stack the diodes to create vertical, multicolored pixels. (Journal: Nature).

Implantable ventilator

Associate Professor Ellen Roche and colleagues developed a soft, robotic, implantable ventilator designed to augment the diaphragm’s natural contractions. (Journal: Nature)

Ingestible sensors could pinpoint GI difficulties

An ingestible sensor developed by Associate Professor Giovanni Traverso and team could help doctors pinpoint gastrointestinal difficulties. The sensor sends out its location as it moves through the GI tract and reveals where slowdowns in digestion may occur. (Journal: Nature Electronics)

Hydrogel material keeps absorbing moisture, even in rising temps

A team from Professor Evelyn Wang’s Device Research Lab have identified an unusually absorbent material that could be used for passive cooling or water harvesting in warm climates. (Journal: Advanced Materials)

Moving water and earth

Professor Ken Kamrin and team found a more accurate formula for calculating how much sediment a fluid can push across a granular bed, which could help engineers manage river restoration and coastal erosion. (Journal: Nature)

Optical fibers block pain

Professor Xuanhe Zhao and team designed a soft hydrogel optical fiber that stimulates peripheral nerves and could help researchers in identifying the origins and treatments for nerve-related pain. (Journal: Nature Methods)

Evaporation without heat

Professor Gang Chen, Postdoc Yaodong Tu, and team identified a process that could explain various natural phenomena and enable new approaches to desalination. At the interface of water and air, light can bring about evaporation without the need for heat in certain conditions. (Journal: PNAS)

Faculty & research staff promotions

Asegun Henry was promoted to Full Professor. Henry is an internationally recognized leader in two areas within the field of thermal science and engineering.

Giovanni Traverso was promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure. Traverso is a rising star who has made groundbreaking contributions combining mechanical device engineering, biomedical engineering, and materials science with pharmaceutical and clinical sciences to address critical needs in human health.

Betar Gallant was promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure. Gallant is a leader in the electrochemistry of materials to address needs in energy storage and carbon capture for a sustainable future.

Ellen Roche was promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure. Roche is a recognized leader in biomechanics and physiology based engineering of medical devices and soft robotics. She has established new innovative technologies that support or repair impaired organ functions and improve patient outcomes, targeting unmet needs.

The department hired two new 2N (naval) professors this year: Andrew Gillespy (PoP) and Christopher MacLean (APoP).

Faculty awards

Gang Chen is one of 120 members and 23 international members elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Chen is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Giovanni Traverso was named a 2022 National Academy of Inventors Fellow for demonstration of a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development, and welfare of society.

Kaitlyn Becker was named the 2023 Doherty Professor in Ocean Utilization. Becker’s research focuses on adaptive soft robots for grasping and manipulation of delicate structures, from the desktop to the deep sea.

Roger Kamm and Markus Buehler were elected into the National Academy of Engineers.

Harry Asada was awarded the 2023 Pioneer in Robotics and Automation Award from the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society for pioneering contributions to robotics and automation in grasp stability and fixturing, direct-drive, skill transfer, and wearable systems.

Ellen Roche received MIT’s annual Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award, which recognizes exceptional distinction in teaching, research, and service.

Evelyn Wang was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for 2023.

Peko Hosoi received MIT’s Earll M. Murman Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising. The annual award recognizes one faculty member for excellence, mentorship, and significant impact on undergraduate lives and academic success.

Navid Azizan was selected as the 2023 Outstanding UROP faculty mentor, based on student nominations for research mentors who have demonstrated exceptional guidance and teaching. Azizan was also recognized as an Academic Data Leader in the CDO Magazine Leading Academic Data Leaders 2023 List.

Asegun Henry received The U.S. National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award. The annual award is the nation’s highest honor for early-career scientists and engineers.

Lydia Bourouiba received the 2023 Paul Gray Award for Public Service for impact in the field of public health, and recognizing her contributions as “invaluable” in mitigating the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on society.

Gareth McKinley was elected as a Corresponding Member of the Australian Academy of Science for outstanding contributions to viscoelastic fluid mechanics, understanding flow instabilities and stretching flows, and rheological analysis techniques.

Carlos Portela received the 2023 Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching, which recognizes “the tradition of high-quality engineering education at MIT.”

Staff awards

Janice McCarthy, MechE Administrative Assistant 2, received an MIT 2023 Infinite Mile Award. Infinite Mile awards recognize individuals or teams who have made extraordinary contributions within their own organizations to help the Institute carry out its mission.

Alumni news

Yamilée Toussaint-Beach ’08 and Katy Croft Bell ’00, along with Assistant Professor Ritu Raman, were featured in the Cambridge Science Festival’s pop-up exhibit #IfSheCan, which highlighted the ways a more diverse, more inclusive workforce strengthens the world’s shared future. (Cambridge Science Fest/MIT Museum)

Antora Energy, co-founded by David Bierman SM ’14, PhD ’17, is commercializing a thermal battery that lets manufacturers use renewable energy around the clock. 

AJ Perez ’13, MNG ’14 developed a 3D-printed house foundation using recycled plastic bottles as part of a project exploring the viability of using the material to create affordable housing. Supported by the 2023 Chandler Fellowship, the work will continue with the establishment of a recycled-plastic microfactory research lab at MIT.

Yirui Zhang SM ’19, PhD ’22 is one of four researchers with MIT ties to earn a 2023.

Schmidt Science Fellowship, which supports early-career scientists and engineers as they pursue interdisciplinary work. Sreya Vangara ’22 is one of three from MIT named Knight-Hennessy Scholars for 2023. The fellowship funds graduate studies at Stanford University.

Stacy Godfreey-Igwe ’22 is the first MIT graduate with a major in African and African diaspora studies. The major invites students to explore the riches of culture, innovation, and more.

Vishnu Jayaprakash SM ’19, PhD ’22 placed first in the graduate category of the National Inventors Hall of Fame Collegiate Inventors Competition for his invention AgZen-Cloak, which helps pesticide stick to crops.

Subra Suresh SCD ’81 received the National Medal of Science for his commitment to research, education, and international collaboration that has advanced the study of material science and its applications to other disciplines, and forged cooperation among people and nations.

Boston-based Gradiant, co-founded by Prakash Govindan PD ’12, PhD ’12 and Anurag Bajpayee SM ’08, PD ’12, PhD ’12, achieved funding valued at $1 billion –making it the first water technology startup to attain the “unicorn” milestone.

Morris Chang ’52, SM ’53, ME ’55, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TWMC) Founder, visited campus to speak as part of the Manufacturing@MIT Distinguished Speaker Series.


This article appeared in the Spring 2024 edition of our magazine, MechE Connects. For more stories, and for past issues, please visit