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March 9, 2023

Spring 2023 message from Department of Mechanical Engineering Chair Darryl Thelen

Written By: Caitlin Scott



Darryl Thelen
Darryl Thelen

Greetings! The Department of Mechanical Engineering has a lot of updates to share in spring 2023. The most exciting update is the move of the engineering mechanics and aerospace engineering (EMA) faculty and programs from the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics to our department. This strategic move unites faculty with expertise in fluid and solid mechanics into a single department, which will enable more coordinated planning of mechanics research and educational activities for the benefit of students across the college. Eight EMA faculty—Riccardo Bonazza, Curt Bronkhorst, Wendy Crone, Jennifer Franck, Roderic Lakes, Jacob Notbohm, Ramathasan Thevamaran and Fabian Waleffe—joined the ME department in January 2023. 

The EMA undergraduate and graduate educational programs should be fully integrated into the ME department by the start of the 2023-24 academic year. In addition, we also added two new assistant professors, Xiaobin Xiong and Luca Mastropasqua, in January, bringing our faculty count to 47. I am thrilled that nearly one-third of these faculty are assistant professors, who are leading exciting new research initiatives in clean energy, robotics and data-driven mechanical engineering.  

Our undergraduate ME program continues to grow, registering as the fourth-largest and sixth- fastest growing major at UW-Madison. We now have more than 1,200 students in our undergraduate ME program and more than 200 in the undergraduate EMA program; that constitutes 29% of the college’s undergraduate population. I invite you to check out the other student and alumni stories on our ME blog to learn about the great things our ME students and alumni are doing.

In addition, our research activities continue to grow and are addressing societal challenges in energy systems, sustainable manufacturing, autonomous systems and healthcare. We are excited about the future of the department and are thankful for your continued interest and support. At last fall’s scholarship night, the generosity of our donors and alumni helped us keep college affordable by awarding a record $790,000 in scholarships to undergraduate ME students. It was a particularly special night as Assistant Teaching Professor Kris Dressler was present to award the first Dressler STAR Scholarship to Jude Stephenson, a talented freshman who shares the passion for engineering that Kris exhibited. While Kris passed away all too soon in December 2022, his incredible impact and legacy lives on in the countless students he mentored and with the faculty and staff who had the pleasure to work alongside him. Rest in peace, Kris.

On, Wisconsin!

Darryl Thelen, PhD
John Bollinger Chair of Mechanical Engineering
& Bernard A. and Frances M. Weideman Professor