MEMS History

Longtime faculty and leaders recall the history of Duke’s Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Department

Click below to browse MEMS Memories as shared by individuals who played a role in the department's history. For a full timeline of Duke Engineering history, including key dates associated with the MEMS department, visit the Pratt School of Engineering's history page.

Introduction & Overview

Earl DowellIn summer 2015, our new chair, Ken Gall, asked several long-serving members of the faculty (including former chairs) to reflect on their experiences in contributing to the history of our department. These include Adrian Bejan, Rob Clark, Hadley Cocks, Kenneth Hall, Bob Hochmuth, Tod Laursen and myself. These memories have been arranged in roughly chronological order.

The following comments are an overview, which I hope will give you an introduction and context for the individual and more in depth comments by our other contributors. See the individual “chronological discussion” that follows my comments.

Jack Chaddock was chair of MEMS for 20 years from 1966-1986 and passed away earlier this spring at the age of 90. Hadley Cocks has given us his memories of that earlier time when Jack recruited Hadley as an initially untenured faculty member.  Dev Garg was also one Jack's early faculty appointments and spoke eloquently at the service for Jack.

PhD education at Duke and most other universities was jump started with federal funding after the Soviets launched Sputnik in the late 1950s. I recall being a young faculty member at Princeton where many of the senior faculty did not have a PhD though they were considered leaders in their field. And that was true here at Duke as well. As Hadley notes, Charlie Harman was the first PhD on the MEMS faculty and the recipient of the first federal funded research grant. Charlie served for many years as the Director of Graduate Studies.

When I arrived in 1983, Jack Chaddock was nearing the end of his several terms as Chair, but as one of his last faculty recruits he lured a bright young Associate Professor from Colorado, Adrian Bejan. Adrian's early encounter with Charlie Harman is a special part of his memories of arriving at Duke. After concluding his service as Chair in 1986, Jack became the Associate Dean for Development (otherwise known as fundraising from donors).

Bob Hochmuth was the Chair from 1986 to 1994. He also served on the search committee that brought me to Duke as he notes, but I think everyone has forgiven him for that in view of his excellent service as Chair. As Bob and Hadley recall, Hadley had recommended Bob as the next Chair to then Dean, yours truly. For me it was one of those Eureka moments, i.e. what did I not think of that? Bob was a member of the BME faculty at the time although his degrees and background from his time at Washington University were in mechanical engineering and he was doing interesting experimental work on dynamics of cellular material. By all accounts it worked out very well for MEMS, but there were a few raised eyebrows initially about this interloper from BME.

Because Hadley had showed such good judgment in recommending Bob. I asked him to be the next Chair. Clearly this was a classic case of no good deed going unpunished. Serving as Chair form 1994-2001, Hadley also found the energy to create the Master of Engineering Management Program, which has been such an important contributor to the financial and intellectual success of the Pratt School and MEMS.

Kenneth Hall was invited by the then Dean, Kristina Johnson, to be the next Chair serving from 2001-2007. He recalls that of his faculty generation he, Rob Clark, Lawrie Virgin and Gang Chen all became department chairs; Kenneth and Rob in MEMS, Lawrie in CEE and Gang Chen at MIT. Gang was our first George Pearsall Lecture by the way. And, of course,  George was a long time stalwart in MEMS and on two separate occasions served as Dean of the Pratt School. And Kenneth also had the opportunity to recruit an excellent group of faculty.

At this point, the history of Chairs of MEMS goes into fast forward. Rob Clark who had been serving as Associate Dean for Research was asked by Kristina Johnson to be the Chair of MEMS. However, within two months Dean Johnson departed Duke to become the Provost at Johns Hopkins and Rob Clark was named Dean. At this point Hadley Cocks was asked to serve again as Chair for a year.  When Tom Katsouleas was named Dean in 2008, Tod Laursen was named Chair and served for three years before he became President of the new university of science in technology in Abu Dhabi. Rob Clark then was recruited by the University of Rochester as their Dean of Engineering. Rob and Tod recall their time together as new Assistant Professors recruited by Bob Hochmuth.

 After Tod moved to Abu Dhabi, I was asked to serve for one year as Chair while a search for the next Chair was undertaken. Somehow that one year became four and during that time we were fortunate to add Jennifer West, Michael Zavlanos, Missy Cummings, David Mitzi, Kris Hauser and Ken Gall to our department which brings us up to date.

Finally, if I may indulge in a few more memories of my own, here a few that stand out.

Regarding the Master of Engineering Management Program, a few Fuqua School faculty felt the need to oppose it and so spoke on the floor of the Academic Council. However the then Dean of the Fuqua School, Rex Adams, assured me that he would support the initiative and so say to the Trustees. This was doubly significant as Rex was a Trustee before being named Dean.

Although largely invisible to most faculty, the Associate Dean for Development is a key position. Of the five who have served in the role, four were graduates or faculty in MEMS with Judge Carr having now served with in that role with the last three Pratt deans. Judge has been one of the major contributors to the financial success of Pratt and of course MEMS.

Marion Shepard for many years served as Associate Dean for Education and a member of the MEMS faculty. Our conference room is named for him. Shep and his exceptional colleague, Connie Simmons, were major contributors to our having engineering undergraduates among the top five in the country as measured by SAT scores. As someone once said, the goal was to have a faculty the undergraduate students could be proud of and we seem to have gotten there over the years.

Finally, I would note that Kenneth Hall, Gang Chen, Rob Clark, Tod Laursen and Lawrie Virgin were all initially appointed as Assistant Professors and this suggests that a young person can be successful in pursuing an outstanding career as a faculty member and leader in MEMS, Pratt, Duke and beyond.

I hope that both new and longer-serving faculty, as well as students, staff, alumni and friends, will enjoy this trip down memory lane as provided by our several colleagues. I certainly enjoyed learning some things I did not know before and perhaps you will as well.

Happy reading,

Earl Dowell
William Holland Hall Professor of Mechanical Engineering

1960s

Hadley CocksThe 2014-2015 year marked the 75th anniversary of the School of Engineering at Duke University, now the Pratt School of Engineering. Until soon after the launching of Sputnik I on October 4, 1957, our School offered Bachelor of Science degrees in engineering, not doctoral degrees. Sputnik spurred the school to begin offering PhD degrees, and this in turn required faculty who themselves held such degrees. Our department was then the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In 1962, Dr. Charles Harman (1929-2011) became the first mechanical engineering professor to hold a PhD. Now, of course, all faculty members have doctoral degrees. Charlie also soon became the principal investigator for the first major research grant awarded to our department. This project involved a system for high-speed ground transportation via evacuated tubes. The artistic depiction of such a system, prepared by a local architectural firm for one of the reports required by this grant, now hangs in our conference room, and Earl Dowell as department chair kindly provided the funds for the brass plaque describing this architectural rendering and its history. The 1,775-foot vacuum transport facility Charlie built in Duke Forest for this project can still be seen from Constitution Drive just off Route 751. Funding of this major project was possible at that time because President Johnson was interested in high-speed ground transportation between Boston, New York, and Washington.

In 1966, Dr. Jack Chaddock (1925-2015) became the department chair and for twenty years oversaw our development. Beginning with Charlie and Jack, our department has continued to expand its research efforts at an ever-accelerating rate, and now the department’s research budget is greater than ten million dollars. Jack’s special field in mechanical engineering was thermodynamics, especially as related to air-conditioning, and in the late 1960s Jack was responsible for having the first air-conditioning units installed in our department (for which we all continue to be grateful!!). In 1981 he was elected President of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

1970s

Hadley CocksIt was Jack Chaddock who hired me in 1972 as an untenured associate professor. My field is materials science, and I had been employed for six years by Tyco Laboratories in Waltham, Massachusetts (now grown into the multibillion dollar company Tyco International). When Tyco hired me in 1966, it consisted of only 70 people, supported entirely by government grants, mostly devoted to materials science research. My work at Tyco involved doing research and writing proposals to support this research, and that background must have fitted well with Jack’s departmental plans. George Pearsall and Marion Shepard, who preceded me in their appointments as faculty members, also had backgrounds in materials science. With the three of us making up one quarter of the faculty, Jack arranged in 1976 for our department to become the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.


Dev GargAfter receiving my Ph.D. degree in 1969 from New York University, I joined the faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering. In 1971, I was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor, and in 1972 Jack Chaddock, then Chairman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, contacted me to consider moving to Durham and joining the Department here as a tenured full professor. The possibility of such a move was appealing to me for primarily one reason. It was the recently established Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs at Duke University and the emphasis by George Pearsall, then Dean of Engineering, to develop cross-listed courses and research between Engineering and Policy Sciences. At MIT, I had started to explore the application of Control Theory to Socio-Economic Systems, and the prospect of exploiting potential linkages between Engineering and Public Policy appeared to be quite attractive.

On the invitation of Jack Chaddock and George Pearsall, I came for a visit to Duke University and fell in love with the place. The department had a dozen or so faculty members at that time and the environment was very cordial. I accepted the job offer and my family and I moved to Durham in July of 1972. We at Duke University at that time had the beginning of a multi-disciplinary Science, Technology, and Human Values (STHV) Program. Faculty members from the School of Engineering and from various departments of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences participated in this Program. Under the sponsorship of this program, George Pearsall developed and taught EGR175, a course entitled Aesthetics, Design, and Culture, and I developed and taught EGR174, a course entitled Technology Assessment and Social Choice. This course was cross-listed three ways: EGR174 in the School of Engineering, PPS174 in the Department of Public Policy Studies, and REL174 in the Department of Religion. Professor Tom McCollough of the Department of Religion and I team-taught the course, and it used to have a large enrollment of both Engineering and Trinity students. Offering of this course ended in early 1990’s following the retirement of Professor McCollough. Don Wright and I used to offer courses in the area of dynamic systems modeling, and modern control systems. In addition, in alternate years, I used to offer a graduate course on Nonlinear Control Systems also. For a course in Optimal Control, we used to recommend to our students taking a course offered by Professor Paul Wang in the Electrical Engineering Department. Both Professors Wang and Wright have since retired.

I served the Department as its Director of Undergraduate Studies from 1977 to 1986. Prior to me, it was Marion Shepard who had held that position for several years. Following my term, it was Gale Buzzard who took over these responsibilities. I also served as Chairman of the Engineering Admissions Committee from 1975 to 1977, and Chairman of the Teacher Course Evaluation Committee from 1973 to 1974. These functions have gone through a number of procedural changes over the years.

1980s

Hadley CocksOver the years I have had many grants and contracts, but the award I received from Omni magazine in 1982 to build a so-called Get Away Special payload to fly on the space shuttle was particularly interesting, especially for the students enrolled in Space Engineering, a course that was taught ten times until the payload was finally completed and had met all of NASA’s rules. The idea was to build an autonomous system that could produce ultra-light magnesium-lithium metal forms under zero gravity conditions for use as protection against particles impacting satellites. Magnesium-lithium alloys of high lithium content are very reactive in Earth’s atmosphere, but very stable in space, and are effective at dissipating the shock wave from ultrahigh velocity impacts. This project ended up taking a decade of effort before it finally flew successfully on the Space Shuttle Columbia in June 1991. One reason this project took so long was the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986, which caused massive changes in the rules for shuttle payloads, requiring the complete redesign and rebuilding of our payload.


Bob HochmuthIn 1983 it is likely that I was the first, or second, person at Duke to meet Earl Dowell. I was on the engineering dean search committee, chaired by Craufurd Goodwin, dean of the graduate school. Craufurd and I met Earl when he arrived at RDU for his first visit to Duke. We drove Earl from RDU to the president's guest house, where he was met by Terry Sanford, Duke's president. We all felt at that time that Earl was the one!


Adrian BejanI joined the MEMS department in September of 1984 as a full professor. I did not hold administrative positions, but I served on important committees for many years.


Bob HochmuthIn September 1986, I became professor and chairman of mechanical engineering and materials science. I served as chairman of MEMS until 1994 and I served as a faculty member in MEMS from 1986 until 2004. My first visit to Duke was in 1973 when I presented a seminar in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and from the summer of 1974 to the summer of 1975 I was a visiting professor of biomedical engineering. Starting in September 1978, I was appointed as a professor of biomedical engineering. How did I get from biomedical engineering to the chairmanship of MEMS? There was a search for a new chairman of MEMS following the retirement of Jack Chaddock, who had served as chairman for 20 years. I recall that Hadley Cocks suggested to Earl that I be considered for the position. I add that all of my engineering degrees are in mechanical engineering. My expertise in mechanical engineering is in fluid mechanics, heat transfer and thermodynamics.


Teh TanI joined the Department in early 1986 as a Professor of Materials Science after working at IBM for 12 years. Together with Ulrich Gösele, who also joined the Department about six months earlier, we established the Electronics Materials Laboratory and the Wafer Bonding laboratory, with the latter mainly charged by Dr. Gösele. Over the next two decades, we solved the point defect problem in GaAs by first identifying all the important physical mechanisms that affect diffusion in GaAs, followed by formulating the framework for understanding and predicting the diffusion phenomena in GaAs. This framework is now the standard knowledge of the field, in contrast to the chaotic situation when we first started. We also provided the Si solar cell community with gettering methods for improving cell efficiency, some of which the solar cell community now uses. The wafer-bonding laboratory achieved various levels of applications of the technique. This laboratory was closed in the late 1990s after the leaving of its key personnel. First, Dr. Gösele left in early 1990s to Germany where he came the Director of the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Halle, Germany. Second, Dr, Qi-Yi Tang went to RTI and subsequently became a co-founder of the now well-known company Ziptronix in RTP. Ziptronix is a modern semiconductor IC manufacturing technology company.


Bob HochmuthBill Clayton and Linda Hayes were hired in 1986. Bill was an extraordinary technician who helped me and others set up laboratory experiments for the undergraduate courses in fluid mechanics (ME126) and heat transfer (ME150). Linda was an extraordinary secretary. I recall sitting in Linda's office and dictating letters as she typed them. She was very fast and accurate. Linda also prepared budgets and typed manuscripts. She was promoted to administrative assistant in 1987 -- about a year after I became chair of MEMS.


Adrian BejanWhen I arrived at Duke, I was asked to teach the undergraduate thermodynamics course, which, by the way, was appropriately named “ME 101” because before the heat engine and thermodynamics there was no “mechanical engineering.” Professor Charles Harman was also teaching ME101 in a parallel section. At the first departmental meeting that I attended I proposed to the faculty to discuss and agree on the topics that will be covered in ME101. Professor Harman replied that at Duke no one was going to tell him what to teach and how. Some would have been put off by Professor Harman’s reaction. On the contrary, I saw in it an important message, which is the truth about my new colleagues, department, and university. The truth is that I am free to invent and develop my own method, and to teach it my way. This incident turned out to liberating, and now I see it as the spark that started my activity of course and textbook development in thermodynamics, heat transfer and constructal theory.

1990s

Adrian BejanOver the years, Professor Charles Harman and I grew close. He had himself set the tone for what I was discovering. He had written with Professors Cocks, Chaddock, and Shepard the first unifying textbook on Energy Engineering. That was in 1976, long before such courses became the norm in leading universities everywhere.


Kenneth HallI arrived at Duke in January 1990. I was a recent graduate of MIT, and I was working at the United Technologies Research Center when I applied to Duke. The School of Engineering at the time was making great strides, and it was clear to me that the School was on a very good vector. Were it not for Earl Dowell, who was the Dean at the time, and Don Bliss, I probably would not have come to Duke. Both were trained in and worked on aerospace topics, and I wanted to have at least a few aerospace colleagues around me, and I have greatly valued having access to their technical expertise over the years.


Adrian BejanThis wonderful history is not about the faculty alone. It is also about the staff and its lasting contributions to our department. If it were not for the staff, our students would not be as happy, the ABET hurdle would not be passed so easily, the faculty promotions would not flow, paychecks would not go to everyone, course notes would not be written, messages would be lost and forgotten, labs would not be taught, experiments would not be built, and graduate examinations would not be on time. Several outstanding staff began in 1991 and have made lasting contributions to our department. Kathy Vickers was a staff assistant and technical typist. Katherine McKinney worked as a Staff Specialist (student relations/racecar/purchasing/travel). Deborah Fraze is an outstanding staff member who worked in an extremely broad set of areas including as HR Specialist, receptionist, Chairs Asst., Asst. to Dean of Research, Temp. Dept Manager, Faculty support, APT/ ABET, Grant support, Visa, Payroll, and Technical typist), and she is still with the department at the time of this writing in 2015. Mike Gunter was a Machine/Wood Shop Supervisor. John Goodfellow started in 1997 as a senior instrument maker and machinist and served the department for many years after this. John is an extremely talented machinist and has helped faculty in many projects for decades.


Hadley CocksI became the chair of the department in 1994 and remained in this position until 2001. During this time, I became convinced that the School should offer a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management, based on the program developed for the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth by their Dean, Charles Hutchinson. Earl Dowell was then our Dean and gave his support to this effort after inviting Dean Hutchinson to visit Duke and tell us why he began the Master of Engineering Management program at Dartmouth. Since I had started this initiative it naturally fell to me to make this program happen. Duke has a large number of hurdles that must be overcome before a new degree-granting program can be established, and it took more than three years of effort to get the Engineering Management program established. It finally began in 1997, and for seven years I served as its founding director. The inaugural class numbered twelve students, all of whom were newly-graduated Duke engineering students. The current class now numbers more than 200 students, who come from all across the US and indeed from around the world. It has proven to be a major asset to the Pratt School, and is the only new degree-granting program in the engineering school since Theo Pilkington inaugurated the Biomedical Engineering Department in 1970.


Dev GargFrom 1992 to 1998, I served as Director of the Dynamic Systems and Control Program at the National Science Foundation. This was done while I was on leave from Duke University. During my term at NSF I was appointed the Chairman of the Strategic Planning and Evaluation Committee of the Directorate for Engineering, resulting in an extended stay there. Recognizing the importance of professional community service in this position, Professor Dowell, as the Dean of Engineering, was very supportive of my stay at NSF. I felt that there was one specific area of major emerging importance that needed our immediate attention, and that was teaching and research in the field of robotics. To remedy that situation, I established the Robotics and Manufacturing Automation (RAMA) Laboratory in the Department. In addition, I developed a new course ME270 entitled Robot Control and Automation. External funding for research in the robotics area was obtained from the federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army Research Office of the Department of Defense, and from the private sector such as International Business Machines (IBM). Research projects in the RAMA Lab provided an excellent mix of advanced theory and practice.


Kenneth HallI was hired around the same time as Tod Laursen, Lawrie Virgin, and Rob Clark. Gang Chen was also hired, I think, shortly after I arrived. All five of us went on to become chairs of departments. Tod, Rob, and myself in MEMS at Duke — although Rob was only chair for about 1.5 months before becoming Dean of the School when Kristina Johnson stepped down. Lawrie was Chair of Civil Engineering. And Gang Chen went on to become Chair of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. Rob went on to be Dean of Engineering at the University of Rochester, and Tod is now President at Khalifa University. Josiah Knight was hired a couple years prior to my arrival, and served ably as the Director of Undergraduate studies for many years, helped prepare several of our ABET reports, and recently has been advising Duke’s very successful SAE car teams.


Dev GargThe major emphasis of the research projects carried out in the RAMA Lab was on coordination and control of multiple robots handling a variety of payloads together. In such situations, the robots and the payload form a closed kinematic chain, and issues such as optimal load distribution, and internal force minimization become rather critical. To validate our theoretical results we equipped the lab with two IBM four-axis SCARA robots, force/torque sensors, vision sensors, and motion controllers. We used this system in a number of research projects supported by the Army Research Office. Later, using the funding obtained from NSF, these robots were replaced by two ABB six-axis revolute jointed state-of-the-art robots. A flexible manufacturing automation workcell was designed and implemented equipping it with a variety of sensors and a monorail payload handling system surrounding the two robots. In addition to using the large size robots, coordination and control experiments were also conducted with small-size Khepera and E-Puck robots. Issues such as coordinated control, situation awareness, and hazardous perimeter isolation were explored with these smaller and other types of robots.


Rob ClarkI remember Tod Laursen, Lawrie Virgin, Ken Hall, and myself as the “young faculty”. We were all recruited in the Hochmuth era and properly vetted by Earl as well. Lawrie and Ken preceded my arrival and were part of the search committee that brought me to Duke, led at the time by Adrian Bejan, who was looking for someone in heat transfer, but made me the top priority as an acoustician and controls person. I note this because the faculty were focused on recruiting the “best people” not simply the specified target. I’m not saying I was the “best,” as I have no way of knowing the other candidates, but I was certainly outside of the domain of search. I was welcomed to Duke by all.


Tod LaursenRob Clark and I started our Duke careers the same year (1992) as assistant professors, and had offices around the corner from each other in Hudson for several years. We also had similar family obligations (our children are about the same ages) and for some time both had the habit of starting our work days very early (circa 4 am!) so that we could help out with young families and such at home in the evenings. I remember some of those early morning hallway conversations very fondly---it was just us and the cleaning staff!


Rob ClarkAs a young faculty member, I kept my head down and “lived in the lab”-- very early mornings as Tod noted. I also worked to develop active collaborations in research and worked with Earl, Ken, and Lawrie in my early years bridging acoustics, aeroelasticity, and applied control. My research group was on the third floor of the building, and I actually convinced Earl to allow me to place a rocket fairing on the roof so that I could conduct research on payload acoustic disturbances. A crane placed it on the roof, and it was tied down with straps. To this day, I can’t believe the University let me do that… You could see it prominently from the Dean’s conference room.


Tod LaursenConsidering another memory about that same time, my initial faculty appointment at Duke was in CEE. Bob Hochmuth was the Chair of MEMS in those days, and was really instrumental in reaching out to me and offering me a secondary in MEMS. I should mention Adrian Bejan in this connection as well, as some of my most active early collaborations were with him and his students—working on computational optimization of heat exchanger geometries. I’ve always been grateful that MEMS welcomed me to Duke as graciously as it did.


Rob ClarkMEMS was and is a “friendly” department and has always been heavily focused on productivity and research. This and the fact that Earl was dean and was well-known to me at that time because of his research in aeroelasticity was what attracted me to Duke. We always “punched above our weight class,” but we never felt as if we received the recognition we deserved as an engineering school. Ever hear that story before? :) Regardless, Earl’s focus since serving as Dean was transforming Engineering at Duke into a research powerhouse. This legacy was followed by Kristina Johnson, and all of us he recruited with that mission in mind. Duke’s Engineering School is on a very different playing field now as a result of this focus and investment.

Ken Hall, with Earl, also led a major gas turbines initiative and made sure that Duke was a leader in a major consortium. These are all good examples of how MEMS faculty members served as leaders with reach well beyond the department. Bob Hochmuth was a great leader and was very focused on recruiting talent to MEMS. He was extraordinarily supportive of junior faculty members, as was Hadley Cocks who followed him. I was fortunate to work and develop my academic career in a very supportive environment. This was a signature MEMS culture.


Tod LaursenA final memory, just a touch later, was the vision and foresight that Hadley Cocks had in pushing for the founding of the MEMP program. Of course Earl as Dean was a huge facilitator of the founding of that program, and Jeff Glass as a subsequent director took it to even greater heights. But the passion and persistence that Hadley showed in getting the program started is a real memory for me from the latter half of the 1990s. Pauline Roberts was the staff assistant who helped with the creation of the MEMP program.


Josiah KnightTwo other initiatives while Tod was chair were the development by Pratt and Trinity College of the Energy and Environment Certificate, which is University-wide but has strong involvement from MEMS, both by students and faculty; and the Energy Engineering Minor, again not limited to MEMS (it's directed by Marc Deshusses in CEE) but strongly supported by our department. I'm happy to have had a role in the startup and the continuation of both these programs.


Rob ClarkTod’s point about Hadley’s commitment to MEMP is important. That was another major initiative that was born within the department.

2000s

Rob ClarkEngaged in the strategic planning process at Duke, I was able to coordinate collaborations between Arts and Science faculty and Engineering faculty in the domain of materials science, particularly with respect to resource allocation. Despite having not been a materials scientist myself, I was identified leader of the initiative, and from that effort the Center for Biologically Inspired Materials and Material Systems was born. I morphed my own research in collaboration with cell biologists and materials scientists at the time to optimize efforts. That led me to a path in administration--and here I am at the University of Rochester [as Senior Vice President for Research]. Our faculty have always been engaged in administrative efforts. If you look at prior Associate Deans and Deans of Engineering there at Duke, you will find many of our colleagues in the picture.


Teh TanSince I came to Duke, two electronics materials courses were developed: Introduction to Electronics Materials and Thermodynamics of Materials. These are graduate-level courses and I personally believe that Thermodynamics of Materials is the foundation course for all Materials Science students. Since 2004, I also started to teach our undergraduate Engineering Thermodynamics course, which is the foundation course for all Mechanical Engineering students. My experience here is that this is a dynamic department with an overwhelming collegiality. I have never observed any animosity among our colleagues. In fact, quite the opposite is true: mutual respect and a helping hand. This is particularly true toward our young colleagues. Our colleagues are not shy in offering helping hands to meet others’ needs.


Kenneth HallBob Kielb, who is part of our larger aeromechanics group, came to Duke as a Research Scientist (sometime around 2000). Prior to that, he had worked as a civilian employee at the Air Force Research Lab, a researcher at NASA Lewis (now NASA Glenn), and GE Aircraft Engines. Bob is a very well-known researcher in turbomachinery aeromechanics, and he brings with him a wealth of industrial and National Research Lab experience to Duke. He was also the prime mover for getting the GUIde Consortium Center located here at Duke, as well as Duke’s participation in the international Thrust master’s program, which is centered at KTH in Sweden. Bob has served for a number of years as the Associate Chair of the Department.

I became Chair in July of 2001 (Kristina Johnson was the Dean at the time), and I served until 2007. The first year of my term was the “year of record” for both the ABET review, and a review of the department by the Graduate School. Laurens (Lars) Howle was by then the Director of Graduate Studies. He did much of the heavy lifting in helping to prepare for those reviews, and I am still grateful for all his help. The Graduate School review of the Department was in particular very positive about the strengths and directions of the department. We also hired a number of fine faculty members during my time as chair including Chuan-Hua Chen, Brian Mann, Piotr Marszalek, Ben Yellen, and Silvia Ferrari (who has since moved to Cornell), among others.

Glenda Hester became the assistant to the chair in 2007, and has since successfully helped four different chairs, including the current chair, Ken Gall, to lead the department. It is clear that no chair could function without her outstanding, 24-7 support. During my time as chair Kathy Parrish also served as staff specialist working to support the undergraduate and graduate programs, and is known for her rapport with the students. Michele Thompson came on board to support many activities including the never-ending job of department purchasing. Ron Stubbs was the department IT staff member in 2002. We are very grateful for the work put in by these staff members in building the department.

In 2006, Phil Jones passed away while still an active member of our department. Phil was a member of our faculty for nearly three decades. He was a lovely man, a dedicated and gifted educator, and I would add a favorite of the undergraduate students. In 2011, we lost Charles Harman only a few years after his retirement from the department. I well remember Charlie as one of the quiet leaders of the department. He was unassuming, but had a tremendous influence on the department, especially in its administration. He was the long-time Director of Graduate Studies, the de facto “space czar,” and also headed our ABET accreditation process for many years. He was also very supportive of junior faculty, dispensing timely and important career advice.


Dev GargSilvia Ferrari, a Princeton graduate, joined the Department and she and Rob Clark helped with teaching and research in the area of control. Silvia’s research work in the field of robotics basically dealt with computational aspects. She has now moved to Cornell University. We are now adding additional faculty in the robotics area. I chaired two separate search committees that led to the hiring of Michael Zavlanos and Kris Hauser. With the arrival of Missy Cummings from MIT, I firmly believe that we have a strong core group in the robotics area. These appointments were made possible during the tenure and support of Professor Earl Dowell as Chairman of the Department and Professor Tom Katsouleas as the Engineering Dean. I retired from Duke in July 2011, and became Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering.


Adrian BejanWe have also been blessed with a group of new staff members who are working side by side with new faculty to grow and constantly improve the department. Jerry Kirk, Crystal Hinnant, Alice Huang are past and present grant managers who have helped faculty build the research programs at Duke with their endless efforts in proposals and contracts under extreme high-pressure funding cycles. Pamela King and Joanne Grosshans are bright, energetic program coordinators for the successful IGERT WiseNet and GUIde programs. Zhanat Elliston was brought on in 2013 to become the business manager of the department and has been instrumental in moving the department forward in many areas in a very short period of time. And last but not least, Nikhil Bumb and Patrick McGuire and hardworking engineers who keep our undergraduate labs functioning amongst many other things.

During the past three decades, our department attracted the best talents from institutions all over the world. Most stayed, and became successful while contributing permanently to the fame of Duke. Today our department resembles a top soccer team, where origin and passports do not count: The new player who knows how to play, plays. We have become a team of professors from everywhere, each self-driven, each deserving, each with legacy. We are a diverse group with our diversity emerging naturally, as if unnoticed. Our diversity was not commanded from above. Diversity “happened” because of freedom in the pursuit of new ideas and empowering the students’ lives. This is the design and the secret of our rise as a leading department and university.