From the Chair

Welcome to the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University! Whether you are a student, an alum, a parent, an employer, a research collaborator, or simply a friend of the department, I invite you to peruse these Web pages and learn more about our department and the range of activities undertaken by our students and faculty.

Founded in 1931 as the Department of Mechanical Engineering (Materials Science was added to the department name in 1974), MEMS has a long tradition of cultivating the learning, thinking and problem-solving abilities engineers require to excel professionally and to exercise responsible leadership through times of rapid change.  Our graduates work in every level of government, industry and academe, and are uniquely trained to contribute in multiple technical areas, to combine knowledge of several topics when necessary, and to interact with members of other disciplines and professions in accomplishing broad goals. Our department offers a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE), with a major in Mechanical Engineering, a Master of Engineering with an emphasis in either mechanical engineering or materials science, and offers the Master of Science and PhD degrees through the Duke University Graduate School. We also host an undergraduate certificate program in Aerospace Engineering, and together with several other departments, offer an undergraduate certificate program in Energy and the Environment.

Broadly stated, mechanical engineers are concerned with the optimum use of materials, energy, time, and individual effort to serve societal needs through the design of machines, structures, and mechanical and thermal systems, and provide key insights through better understanding of dynamic processes involving these systems. These broad themes are reflected in the specific research and teaching areas for which Duke MEMS is renowned, including acoustics; aerodynamics and fluid mechanics; biomechanics and biomaterials; dynamics and controls; energy technology and thermodynamics; manufacturing; and materials science and mechanics. Our faculty and students demonstrate the utility of these areas every day, not only through the contributions they make to these fields and their respective subdisciplines, but also through the seminal contributions and leadership they provide to several cross-cutting research initiatives at the School and University levels, including nonlinear and complex systems; energy and the environment; biologically inspired materials and material systems; and nanotechnology and atomic force microscopy.

Our faculty operate at the very highest levels of our discipline, as evidenced by a sampling of the distinctions our members hold. These include one membership in the National Academy of Engineering, over a half dozen ASME fellows, several NSF CAREER, NYI, and PECASE award winners, and multiple Office of Naval Research Young Investigators. We routinely have several graduating seniors win the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and our graduate students have won both this and virtually every other prestigious research fellowship offered in the United States. Our undergraduates and graduate students come to our department from all over the world, and combine the top flight rigor of our program with the distinctive educational opportunities offered by a world-class liberal arts university.

From this description, you will no doubt gain the impression that we take our technical work seriously here—and that is true—but you’ll also find the department to be close-knit and a place for members of our community to develop lifelong friendships. If you plan a visit to Duke, and have interest in mechanical engineering and/or materials science, I hope that you might consider a visit to our departmental office in Hudson 144. We’ll be happy to greet you and provide guidance for a brief self-guided tour of our department. Elsewhere in these pages you’ll find contact information for me, for our Director of Graduate Studies, and for our Director of Undergraduate Studies. You should feel free to contact any of us in advance of your visit if we can assist in providing information about our facilities or programs.

Finally, for those planning a return to the campus after some time away, please do stop by and say hello. Any department can only be as successful as its graduates, and we take great pride in ours. We always want to hear the latest about what you have been doing, how your studies here led to new career opportunities, and how we can assist with your future plans.

With best wishes,

Earl Dowell

William Holland Hall Professor and Chair