The Department of Mechanical & Materials Engineering (MME), created 10 years ago through the merger of two units, recently celebrated that anniversary and a decade in which it has continued to thrive and grow.
Jeffrey Shield, department chair and Robert W. Brightfelt Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, credits the people who work in MME with that success.
"I believe the success of the merged departments of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and the seamlessness of the integration was entirely due to the dedication of the faculty and staff," Shield said. "The concern was then, and is now, focused on providing high-quality educational experiences at both the undergraduate and graduate levels."
Since its creation in 2011, MME has grown from 19 tenured/tenure-track faculty to 32 in 2021-22. In those 10 years, faculty have earned six National Science Foundation CAREER awards, brought in $72 million in external research awards and grants, received 90 U.S. patents and have had more than 1,400 journal publications.
The College of Engineering's commitment to being an innovator in engineering research is also seen in the growth of MME's research facilities. It includes renovated laboratory space in the Scott Engineering Center and a new, larger research facility that will open soon to replace the old "Link," and facilities – such as the Nanoengineering Research Core Facility (NeRCF), the Nebraska Engineering Additive Technology (NEAT) labs, and the Translational Mechanobiology Lab – that are establishing Nebraska as a research leader regionally and nationally.
The department's success can also be seen in its students. This includes a 24 percent rise in undergraduate student enrollment (517 in its first year to 642 this academic year, with a peak enrollment of 722 in 2018) and a 20 percent hike in graduate enrollment (100 students the first year to 120 this fall). Since 2011, MME students have earned 1,060 undergraduate degrees, 288 graduate degrees and 15 national graduate fellowship awards.
One major area of emphasis has been experiential learning, which includes involvement in student competition teams, undergraduate research and industry-sponsored senior design projects. Shield said those provide a mechanism to deliver real-world experience and connect students with future employers.
"I am excited to see what lies ahead in the next 10 years," Shield said. "With the dedicated and talented faculty and staff we have, I have no doubt that great things await us."
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