News & Awards - Fall 2021

Departmental News

• In their annual university rankings, US News & World Report has named MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering the number one undergraduate program in mechanical engineering for 2022 and the number one graduate program in mechanical engineering for 2022.

• QS World University Rankings honored MIT with a number 1 ranking in the subject area of Mechanical, Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering.

Research News

• A team of engineers led by Professor Nicholas Fang has designed a new touchsensing glove that can “feel” pressure and other tactile stimuli. The glove could help restore motor function after stroke or enhance virtual gaming experiences. The work was published in Nature Communications.

Touch-sensing glove that can “feel” pressure and other tactile stimuli. Credit: Courtesy of the researchers

• A Joule study from MIT engineers, including Professor Evelyn Wang, Associate Professor Betar Gallant, and grad student Lenan Zhang, has for the first time analyzed and quantified how bubbles form on porous electrodes. They found that the wettability of porous electrode surfaces is key to making efficient water-splitting or carbon-capturing systems.

• MIT engineers led by Professor Xuanhe Zhao, Dr. Hyunwoo Yuk, and Dr. Jingjing Wu have designed a strong, biocompatible glue that can seal injured tissues and stop bleeding, inspired by the sticky substance that barnacles use to cling to rocks. Their work was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

• A Nature Materials study by engineers, including Assistant Professor Carlos Portela, shows that “nanoarchitected” materials may be a promising route to lightweight armor, protective coatings, blast shields, and other impact-resistant materials.

• Researchers, including Professor Yang Shao-Horn, have found a novel electrolyte that could enable a significant leap in the power-per-weight of next-generation batteries, without sacrificing the cycle life. Their study was published in Nature Energy.

• MIT engineers led by Associate Professor Ming Guo have found that a biological membrane that’s tough as plastic wrap but elastic like a balloon could be a target for therapies to limit cancer cells from spreading. The work was published in PNAS.

• MIT researchers, including Dr. Svetlana Boriskina, have designed a new kind of sustainable textile from polyethylene fibers that may help humans adapt to and combat the effects of climate change. • A team, including Assistant Professor Giovanni Traverso, has designed a new type of stent that could be used to deliver drugs to the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, or other tubular organs in the body. The research was published in Nature Materials.

• A model developed by researchers, including Professor Ian Hunter, predicts how a fluid jet will impact a droplet of a certain viscosity and elasticity. The results could help tune drug injections without needles. The study was published in Soft Matter.

 A team, including Professor Ian Hunter, used high-speed cameras to capture a water jet’s impact as it pierces a droplet. Their work resembles Harold “Doc” Edgerton’s high-speed photos of a bullet fired through an apple. Credit: Courtesy of the researchers, and Tiny Giants

• A group of researchers led by Professor Kripa Varanasi have found that crystallizing salts can grow “legs,” then tip over and fall away, potentially helping to prevent fouling of metal surfaces. Their work was published in Science Advances.

Faculty Promotions

• Alberto Rodriguez was promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure. Rodriguez is a leader in the field of robotic manipulation, a fundamental function of robots interacting with the physical world.

• Betar Gallant has been promoted to Associate Professor without Tenure. Gallant specializes in advanced chemistries and materials for electrochemical energy storage and CO2 emissions mitigation.

• Ellen Roche has been promoted to Associate Professor without Tenure. Roche is a rising star at the interfaces of biomechanics, medical devices, soft robotics, and engineering design and modeling.

Faculty & Staff News

• Dr. Simona Socrate was selected as a recipient of the inaugural MIT School of Engineering Distinguished Educator Award. This award was newly launched to recognize exemplary faculty and teaching staff for outstanding contributions to MIT’s educational mission. Socrate is known to be caring, engaging, funny, inspiring, and is key to enabling students to firmly grasp the fundamentals.

Dr. Simona Socrate teaching at the blackboard. Credit: John Freidah

• Administrative Assistant Alexandra Cabral received the Joseph (Tiny) Caloggero Service Award, given annually to a member or members of the support staff for outstanding service to the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

• Professor Linda Griffith was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies. • Professor Yang Shao-Horn has received a Humboldt Research Award, given to researchers who work outside of Germany in recognition of their lifetime’s research achievements.

• Professor Warren Seering has been awarded the ASME Design Theory and Methodology Award in recognition of sustained and meritorious contributions to research, education, service, and overall leadership in advancing the field of design theory and methodology.

• Professor Rohik Karnik has been appointed to the Tata Professorship. Karnik is internationally recognized for his pioneering and innovative work in the areas of water filtration, water quality measurement, and desalination.

• Professor Cullen Buie has been elected to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering’s College of Fellows.

Professor Cullen Buie lecturing.

• Professor John Lienhard has been named a fellow of the American Society of Thermal and Fluids Engineers for outstanding contributions to thermal and fluids engineering. • Technical Instructor Dr. Steve Banzaert was given a 2021 Teaching with Digital Technology Award.

• Dr. Barbara Hughey has been awarded a Mechanical Engineering Exceptional Educator Award for sustained excellence in teaching, managing, and shaping class 2.671, Measurement and Instrumentation, always striving to help students, and inspiring future women engineers through the Women’s Technology Program.

Dr. Barbara Hughey and students. Credit: Tony Pulsone

Student News

• Graduate student Hilary Johnson was awarded the 2021 “Eat it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize. Johnson won for inventing a variable volute pump, a new category of centrifugal pumps that may significantly improve efficiency and operating range across applications such as crop irrigation and water distribution.

Hilary Johnson Credit: Gurkaran Singh

• Recent alumni Orisa Coombs ’21 and Max Kessler ‘20 have been selected for the newest cohort of the prestigious KnightHennessy Scholars program and will begin graduate studies at Stanford University this fall.

• Graduate student Georgia Van de Zande received the 2021 Goodwin Teaching Award for outstanding and effective teaching. Van de Zande, who serves as a Teaching Assistant, has been praised for her dedication to students, as well as her special ability to empathize with them when they are struggling.

Graduate student Georgia Van de Zande, seen here hugging a life-size bandsaw plushie she made while teaching class 2.00b, Toy Product Design. Credit: Manuel Gutierrez

Alumni News

• Madeline Salazar ’13 has been named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 – Manufacturing & Industry. Currently a technology manager for additive and digital manufacturing development at Northrop Grumman, Salazar has worked on satellite production for Boeing and a smart factory portfolio initiative to develop automation at Northrop.

• David Dellal ’17 was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Energy. Dallal founded the start-up Floe, which is developing an automated and sustainable solution to prevent the extensive water damage caused by ice dams. • Mick Mountz ‘87 has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering for advancing industrial mobile robotic material handling systems for order fulfillment.

• Asha Balakrishnan SM ’99 PhD ’07 has been appointed to serve on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES) for the next two years.

• MechE alum Thomas Popik ’82 traveled to Montclair, NJ this summer to save a pedalpowered mower built by Mike Shakespear ’73 and the late Professor David Gordon Wilson from being lost. The mower will be displayed at the MIT Museum when it opens in its new location this spring. Popik has been spearheading outreach to MechE alumni to raise money for the David Gordon Wilson Memorial Fund, which was created with the goal of establishing an endowed fund as a permanent remembrance to Wilson. For additional information, contact Bonny Kellermann at

Professor David Gordon Wilson using the pedalpowered mower.