Page 24 - Penn State Department of Mechanical Engineering Fall 2019 Magazine
P. 24

Faculty and Alumni News
Mechanical engineering welcomes three new professors
By Erin Cassidy Hendrick
Herschel Pangborn (left) a a a a a a a a a a a State State College native is is returning to Penn State State in in in in January 2020 as as an an an an an assistant professor of of mechanical engineering Through his research in in dynamic systems systems and and and control Pangborn strives to understand and and and innovate energy energy systems systems through a a a a a a a a a a birds-eye view with a a a a a a a a a a a a focus on the algorithms governing energy energy management in in in electrified vehicles ranging from aircraft and automobiles to to naval ships He also conducts research on on on energy system design and climate control for buildings “I use use a a a a a a a a a model model of a a a a a a a a a system to to predict its behavior and then create algorithms that use use the the model model to to to make decisions about how to to to maximize performance and efficiency ” he he he said “During operation these algorithms use feedback from sensors to to course- correct ensuring that the the system behaves as desired ” Looking to to break down the barriers between research fields in in in renewable transportation and sustainability he he plans to to to use his systems-centric approach to forge new new technology “Traditionally electrical electrical engineers have designed the the the electrical electrical systems of of a a a a a a a a a a a vehicle and and then handed them them off to to to mechanical engineers to to to figure out how to to to keep them them from overheating As systems become more electrified this sequential process limits performance and efficiency ” he said “In my research we see a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a vehicle not as as a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a collection of of independent black boxes but instead as as a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a network of of electrical thermal and mechanical interactions We develop multiple control algorithms that communicate with each other to coordinate decision-making across the the entire vehicle ” Pangborn is is no stranger to the department having completed his bachelor’s degree in in in in in mechanical engineering at at Penn State in in in in in 2013 “I grew up on on on on this campus ” ” he said “Returning as a a a a a a a faculty member brings a a a a a a a longstanding vision of mine to fruition ” ” Joseph Najem (center) has joined the Penn State Department of of Mechanical Engineering as as as an an an an assistant professor where he he he will continue his work researching and developing multifunctional biomolecular materials “My inspiration comes from all around us ” he said “As humans we are are already made of very very smart materials that are are very very complex ” He said “The ability of next-generation computing devices robots and and and machines to to autonomously sense process learn and and and act in in in in in complex and and and dynamic environments—while consuming very little power—will require materials that are inherently brain-like ” This poses an extraordinary challenge one that Najem is is excited to continue exploring “It’s a a a a a a a a a a a no-brainer for me ” Najem said “We are are are starting to to build build software to to mimic brains but why are are are we we building artificial synapses using inorganic solid-state materials materials when we we can use actual biological materials materials that could possibly operate at at at at at at the the same time scale and power consumption levels as the brain?”
Therefore his primary goal is is to to develop two-terminal synthetic synapses and and neurons known to to be be responsible for for computation and and memory in in the brain such as lipid bilayers embedded with voltage-activated ion channels to complement or or possibly replace silicon-based materials Najem’s ultimate goal is to to to create autonomic biomolecular materials that have the ability to to to to sense actuate communicate and compute similar to to how a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a human would For instance when a a a a a a a a a a a a person’s retina dilates or or constricts based on on on on on the the the the light in in in in their environment the the the the the brain—specifically the the the the the autonomic nervous system (ANS)—is processing the the the information relatively quickly and executing an unconscious biological response Originally from from Lebanon Najem earned his doctoral and master’s degrees in in in in in mechanical engineering from from Virginia Tech He most recently completed a a a a a a a a a a a a postdoctoral position shared between the the University of Tennessee and the the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Andrea Gregg (right) has joined the the Penn State Department of of Mechanical Engineering (ME) as as as the the director of of of online pedagogy and and credentialing and and assistant teaching professor In this position she will collaborate with faculty on on on on on teaching innovations manage the the the instructional design of the the the online master’s degree in in in in in in in mechanical engineering and and expand the the the micro-credentialing program to achieve greater impact “For faculty I’m here to help problem solve ” she said “I’ll be be an an an an embedded person within the department who can support pedagogical enhancements in in in in course design and teaching methods in in in order to make a a a a a a a a stronger impact with students ” 24

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