Departmental Contact Info Home About MIE
Home > News >October 2000




Welcome our new faculty! David Schmidt grew up in North Carolina and attended North Carolina State University as an undergraduate. He received a Masters of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. In 1997, he earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Most recently, David was a Visiting Scientist at MIT. David's research is in the fluid mechanics of two-phase flow. For his Ph.D., he studied cavitation in diesel fuel injector nozzles. Since then, he has focused more on sprays in combustion applications. His research will help diesel and aircraft engines operate efficiently while producing less pollution. David now lives in Amherst with his wife, Tracy. His hobbies are cycling and ice hockey.

Congratulations are due to our new department head, Steve Malkin, and thanks to Dean Poli and Larry Murch for their extended service to the department.

The University has received a large multimillion-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the number of minorities receiving their Ph.D.'s and entering the professorate. Money is available to support graduate students during their first year and during the writing of their dissertation. One of the first students to receive an NSF Fellowship last year is in our department and has just been offered a position as an assistant professor! Interested faculty should see Don Fisher if they would like support to bring minorities to campus for a visit this fall, if they have a minority graduate student that they would like to support, or if they would like to participate in graduate student recruitment activities on other campuses. One of the partner institutions is the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez -- a wonderful place to visit year round (and especially when it is snowing up here)."


Collaborative Activities

Ian Grosse, Sundar Krishnamurty, Larry Murch, Dean Poli and Don Fisher together with faculty in Psychology (Sandy Pollatsek and Keith Rayner) and Computer Science (Bev Woolf) just completed the first year of a three-year research project funded with monies from the National Science Foundation and the General Electric Fund. Undergraduates in science, mathematics and engineering have trouble visualizing the rotation, translation and more general transformation of three-dimensional objects (e.g., the operations performed in the stamping process on what is initially a flat sheet of metal). The faculty are developing intelligent, multimedia tutors designed to reduce the difficulties students have understanding fundamental concepts that depend on basic visualization skills. They met weekly over the course of the year, hosted a Visualization Symposium in May that included speakers from around the country, and helped supervise during the summer undergraduates from surrounding colleges and universities doing research on the tutors. All told, over 10 faculty, 15 graduate students, two undergraduates and one post doctoral student were involved last year in the research. Interested faculty can see examples of the research on the web site,"

Robert Gao, John Ritter, Don Fisher, Sundar Krishnamurty, and Janis Terpenny have been awarded a five-year grant of $125,000 from NSF, for developing "Senior Design Projects to Aid the Disabled". In addition, they received a $15,000 Public Service Endowment Grant from the University of Massachusetts. These two grants will support their effort in developing curriculum and research in the area of Assistive Technologies (AT). The five faculty started this effort back in Fall 1999, and have been closely collaborating with the Lemelson Assistive Technology Development Center (LATDC) at the Hampshire College and the Adaptive Design Services (ADS) in Northampton, which is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation. In addition to the five faculty, a dozen of undergraduate and graduate students have participated in AT-related design projects (see website at Over the past year, their efforts have received increasing publicity and media attention including interviews with radio and television stations and printed news at the national and local levels.

Robert Gao and David Kazmer have received a three-year, $300,000 grant from NSF on "Self-Energized Micro Sensors for Process Monitoring of Injection Molding''. This grant is aimed at developing a new generation of remote sensors that are self-energized by extracting energy from the intensification and decay of polymer melt pressure, for injection molding process monitoring and control. The project is co-sponsored by the industrial partner Dynisco Instruments.

Kourosh Danai and Robert Gao have been awarded a 2.5-year, $206,000 grant by the NASA Glenn Research Center on "Embedded Sensors for Helicopter Gearbox Condition Monitoring''. The project will explore the utility of custom-designed, miniaturized sensors to achieve high signal-to-noise ratio measurement for the on-line condition monitoring and fault diagnosis of gearboxes used in helicopters.

Abhi Deshmukh (PI) and Ana Muriel together with Victor Lesser (ECS) and Judith Whipple (Econ, Michigan State) have been awarded a 1-year $100,000 grant from the Exploratory Research on Scalable Enterprise Systems program at NSF. Their research addresses fundamental issues in the coordination and evolution of complex supply networks. After this first exploratory year, a second, more detailed proposal will be submitted in April for a subsequent Phase II competition. At that point, the awards would be for $500,000-$800,000 and three years duration.

Robert Gao, Karl Jakus, David McLaughlin, and Calvin Swift submitted a proposal to an NSF Polar Research Initiative to develop a remote science station for the arctic environment. The proposed instrument is powered by wind and solar energy, collects data on wind, temperature, and cloud cover conditions, takes video images of the terrain, and transmits the collected data via satellite to the research laboratory. The station will have its own web address so that it can be remotely controlled. The instrumentation, aerodynamics, and power system will be handled by the mechanical engineering members of the team. The proposal is currently under consideration by NSF."

Karl Jakus and Tom Blake have undertaken a project to study the mechanical performance of submarine periscope seals. These seals keep the ocean water out of the submarine. The design and operation of these seals represent a challenging materials ands lubrication problem that UMass is helping Kollmorgen Corp. to understand. The project is supported in part by an NSF GOALI grant and in part by Kollmorgen. The research involves the design and construction of a test apparatus and the measurement of the performance of several seal designs with respect to an array of operational parameters.

Shanti Nair and Jim Donovan are finalising a joint proposal to NSF on "Synergism between Deformation and Transport of Moisture in Polymer Nanocomposites". They visited GE Schenectady to explore joint research on Polymer nanocomposites on Sept. 22.

Shanti Nair and Byung Kim are developing a proposal on "Fracture Behavior of
Oriented Crystalline Polymer Nanocomposites" and putting together a Nanoscale Exploratory Research Proposal to NSF.

Shanti Nair is putting together a Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team (NIRT) proposal to NSF as a lead institution by teaming with Univ. of Akron, SUNY Stony Brook and Jefferson Labs, VA. Co-PI at UMass, Joe Goldstein.

MIE Labs

The driving simulator in the Human Performance Laboratory recently received a $250,000 facelift. Images of the virtual world are now projected on three screens, one in front and two on the sides of the driver. Up to eight channels can be displayed at once, making it possible to add scenes of the roadway that are presented in the rear and side view mirrors. Additionally, a new truck-driving simulator was donated by Liberty Mutual and has a renovated home over in the basement of Marston. The lab has ongoing signage projects with Logan International Airport, the Big Dig, the
Massachusetts Highway Department, Federal Highway, and the New England University Transportation Center.

The Theoretical and Computational Fluid Dynamics Laboratory is in the process of constructing a parallel supercomputer in order to perform large-scale simulations of fluid turbulence. The computer will initially consist of 60 Intel Pentium III 800 MHz processors, 7.5 Gigabytes of memory and 450 Gigabytes of hard drive space. The machine is being built very inexpensively from commodity personal computer parts with an ultimate cost that is an order of magnitude less than an equivalent commercial supercomputer.
The computer will allow rapid evaluation and modification of turbulence models, bringing simulation times down from roughly a week to 2-3 hours. The Laboratory is also constructing a similar but larger, 128 processor machine in collaboration with researchers from Physics, Computer Science, Astronomy, Mathematics, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Polymer Science. This computer will be housed in the Center for Scientific Computation and will be used for educational and research purposes.

Individual Faculty News

Kourosh Danai presented a paper entitled ``A Knowledge-Based Tuning Method for Injection Molding Machines,'' at the Japan-USA Flexible Automation Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan in July. This paper was co-authored with Dong Zhe Yang and David Kazmer. Kourosh Danai also received a three-year research grant in June from the US Army Research Laboratory in the amount of $207,837 to develop a method for helicopter track and balance.

To investigate the stability of different spinal fixation techniques for optimized spine fusion and reduced revision surgery rate, Robert Gao and his graduate student have been working on "biomechanical evaluation of lumbar spine fixation" with surgeons at the Baystate Medical Center. The work is has been supported by a grant from the BMC.

Karl Jakus is providing materials and fluid mechanics support to an Air Force SBIR Project (Quadrant Engineering) for developing a microwave resonant cavity to measure humidity fluctuations in the atmosphere. The device in an appropriately shaped aerodynamic housing will be attached to Air Force planes and will provide data about humidity turbulence in the atmosphere. The challenge is to design the cavity with low electromagnetic losses, minimal aerodynamic disturbance, and extreme dimensional stability with respect to temperature fluctuations. A dimensional stability of one part in ten million is required with respect to temperature changes from room to -50C. The use of Ultra Low Expansion glass (material used for the Hubble telescope) is contemplated. Professor Jakus is going to serve on a review panel at NIH on October 12-13, 2000. The proposal under review is related to the development of layered ceramic composites for dental crown applications. The proposal is for a five years long research project at a total cost of 6.6 M$ and involves thirteen researchers from four institutions. Professor Jakus is going to present the research results of Premal Shah, graduate student at the 6th International Symposium on Functionally Graded Materials held in Estes Park, Colorado on September 10-14, 2000. The paper titled "Impact Damage in Monolithic and Functionally Graded Alumina" discusses the efficacy of elastic modulus gradation in ceramic components against damage due to impact by spherical projectiles.

Byung Kim has been awarded $45,000 from the U.S. Army to study the role of nanoclay and the effect of morpho9logical changes on the heat deflection temperature of injection molded Poly(Caprolactone). Professor Kim also received 6th year funding of $30,000 from Gillette to study multicomponent injection molding and optimization of the mold design.

Sundar Krishnamurty has been appointed Associate Editor, Journal of Design and Manufacturing Automation, CRC Press, 2000-2003. He has been invited to participate and chair a session on the 2000 Gordon Research Conference on Theoretical Foundations for of Product Design and Manufacturing, Plymouth, New Hampshire, June 11-16, 2000, and is an organizing committee member for the 2002 conference. Professor Krishnamurty was a panelist in the 2000 NSF sponsored workshop on Decision-based Design, Baltimore (David Kazmer was also a panelist in this workshop) and has been invited to participate in the upcoming NSF sponsored workshop on e-Product Design and Realization (Janis Terpenny is also an invited participant to this workshop). He is Vice President of the UMass-MSP Board, 2000-2002. He recently presented papers in various conferences: (1) "A Tradeoff-Based Robust Design Approach to Mechanism Synthesis" with graduate student Harikumar Iyer, 2000 Applied Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, Cincinnati, Dec 12-15, 1999, (2) "On Decision Model Development in Engineering Design" with graduate student Tang Xiao, The 4th International Conference on Engineering Design and
Automation, Orlando, Florida, July 30-August 2, 2000, (3) "Performance Estimation and Robust Design Decisions" with graduate student Tang Xiao, 2000 ASME Design Technical Conferences -- Design Automation Conference, Baltimore, September 10-12, 2000, (4) "Bayesian Analysis in Design Model Assessment" with graduate student Srikanth Doraiswamy, 2000 ASME Design Technical Conferences -- Design Theory and Methodology, Baltimore, September 10-12, 2000

As part of a research project funded by Northeast Utilities and the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund, Jim Manwell and his group will be monitoring the wind resource offshore in Nantucket Sound. This is in preparation for the development of an offshore wind farm, which could eventually have a generating capacity of 500 MW (about half the power rating of a large nuclear power plant). The first monitoring site will be at Bishop and Clerk's Light, which is situated on a rocky shoal approximately 3 miles off Yarmouth. One of the high points of his summer vacation was visiting the site on a small boat. But it will certainly be a challenge to do long term monitoring there! Not the least of the challenges is having to compete with the cormorants who perch there and leave copious amounts of guano.

Ana Muriel is working closely with General Motors as part of their Integrated Supply Chain Management Initiative. As GM tries to offer customized vehicles in short delivery times, a make-to-order production environment becomes essential. In this setting, manufacturing plants need more flexibility to buffer demand variability. Professor Muriel is studying the impact that the added flexibility has on component inventory levels and transportation costs and developing an integrated framework to make capacity and flexibility decision in a make-to-order environment. This work has led to a paper, "Impact of Manufacturing Flexibility on Supply Chain Performance", that she presented in the International Production and Operations Management Conference. It won the Third Best Paper award. Professor Muriel also continues working in the integration of production, inventory and transportation in the supply chain with Professor David Simchi-Levi (MIT) under NSF support.

Shanti Nair worked with the Baystate Medical Center in exploring the use of polymers as artificial muscles. Tested a polyacrylic based polymer for its expansion and contraction properties as a function of electrical and chemical impulses. Professor Nair also conducted seed experiments jointly with professor Donovan to explore a new phenomenon, namely, viscoelastic deformation induced transport of environmental species. This work resulted in a paper submitted to the J. of
Applied Polymer Science entitled: "Creep enhanced adsorption of water or zinc chloride increases the creep rate of Nylon 6,6". Professor Nair has been invited to SUNY to speak about Polymer Multiphase composites and is currently developing a joint Proposal to NSF with Prof. Lloyd Goettler at Univ. of Akron on "Fracture Behavior of Nanocomposite Polymer Blends"

Last Spring, Professor Smith was on sabbatical and he visited Germany at he Universities of Greifswald (old East Germany) and Braunschweig giving lectures on Steiner trees and network design. Also, he spent one month in Brazil and visited Universities in Belo Horizonte, Campinas, and Sao Jao del Rey also lecturing on Steiner trees, queueing networks, and simulation modeling. Finally, he spent nine days in Russia visiting the cities of St. Petersburg, Pskov, and Novogorad. In these cities, he gave lectures on optimization in land use planning and traffic network design as part of a U.S. AID project.

Janis Terpenny is collaborating with a nearby company, Telaxis Communications, on a project titled "Improving Engineering Processes and Productivity Through Knowledge Capture and Reuse". Two primary tasks are included in this project. The initial focus is on discovering and documenting current engineering processes for Telaxis. The resultant documents will be implemented on a company intranet server and provide web access and search capabilities to all company employees. The second phase of the project will focus on the creation of a knowledge base system that will provide the ability to store, maintain, and retrieve "good" solutions to known design problems. Telaxis will participate directly in the design of this systemwith guidance into the desired information content. Telaxis will also provide feedback to the user interface development. An initial prototype example based upon selected Telaxis product designs will also be completed by the end of the project period. This project is just one aspect of a larger project going on in professor Terpenny's lab to develop a web-based system to support system and product development processes from concept to solution.
Professor Terpenny is also working on developing a Virtual Classroom for Economics of Engineering Design. This is a collaborative project betweenVirginia Tech, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and GE Industrial Systems. Funding for this work has been provided by the National Science Foundation, the Division of Undergraduate Education, DUE-9952750. The web address for the virtual classroom is This site was developed to address the need of all engineers to improve their knowledge and skills in the economics of engineering design. It can be used by practicing engineers or in teaching engineering economics at the undergraduate level. Here you will find a wealth of information and resources including modular course materials with concepts, examples, quizzes, and frequently asked questions. You will also find related links to textbooks and other interesting web sites. Universities can take advantage of the ability to post syllabi and class announcements. Projects with industry are also included and provide students with real-world open-ended problems. Industry partners interact with students through e-mail, a message board, and recorded audio/video of classroom guest lectures directly related to the case problems.


Steven St. Laurent, Senior in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, received the Outstanding Student Intern Award for his co-op placement this past summer at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). He worked with solar power plant research at SNL in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from January through August, 2000.


Please send email to if you have ideas on how to improve the faculty newsletter. It is my first one and I hope to make it better over time. Cheers!




Home | Undergraduate programs | Graduate Programs | Research Labs | Faculty | About MIE | Contacts
UMass Logo Copyright 2000 University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Produced and maintained by the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
This is an official page of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Campus.