Mechanical Engineering Department Head Named
Dean Praises Dr. Mario Rotea's Experience and Interdisciplinary Vision
March 9, 2009
UT Dallas has named a highly regarded researcher, teacher and administrator to be the first head of its new Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Culminating a six-month nationwide search, Dr. Mario Rotea, currently head of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will arrive at the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas in August.
The University had a large pool of applicants for the position of founding head of mechanical engineering, noted Dr. Mark W. Spong, dean of the Jonsson School and holder of the Lars Magnus Ericsson Chair in Electrical Engineering.
“Mario Rotea stood out because of the breadth of his expertise and his extensive experience as well as his interdisciplinary vision of engineering, which meshes well with our own vision of where mechanical engineering will be in the 21st century,” he said. “Professor Philip Loizou, who chaired the search committee, and the rest of the committee did an outstanding job in attracting Dr. Rotea to UT Dallas.”
Mechanical engineering is the second-largest category of engineers working in the U.S., just behind civil engineering. The combined fields of engineering now covered by the Jonsson School’s academic programs represent more than 40 percent of engineering employment in the U.S.
Dr. Rotea has more than 20 years of experience in the field of control engineering, including time in academia, in industry and at the National Science Foundation.
“I am confident that the unique perspective I have gained by working in academia, industry and the federal government will prove essential to providing innovative and effective leadership,” he said. “I am genuinely interested in identifying, attracting students and hiring faculty of the highest caliber to advance the new department into a preeminent position of research and education.”
Dr. Rotea earned his bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from the National University of Rosario in Argentina and holds a master’s in electrical engineering and a Ph.D. in control science and dynamical systems, both from the University of Minnesota.
His academic experience includes 17 years on the engineering faculty at Purdue University, punctuated by a year as a senior research engineer at the United Technologies Research Center in Connecticut. He returned to Purdue to focus on topics at the interface between information technology and mechanical and aerospace systems.
In 2005 he was selected as the program director for control systems in the Division of Civil and Mechanical Systems at the National Science Foundation, where he helped formulate the national research agenda. After completing his two-year term there he joined the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts system.
“Through my work in academia, industry and the federal government, I have become a strategist who wants to work with faculty, students and other stakeholders to create high-quality academic programs,” he said. “Since joining the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at UMass Amherst, I have focused on increasing the size, visibility, reputation and diversity of the program. My efforts have been directed at building on existing strengths in areas of relevance to modern society: renewable energy and healthcare.”
He was elected a Fellow of the IEEE in 2007 for his contributions to robust and optimal control of multivariable systems.
Launched last fall, the new mechanical engineering department at UT Dallas already enrolls 35 students, and nearly 300 have applied for admission in the fall. The curriculum is expressly tailored to meet the needs of the modern mechanical engineer, providing instruction in micro-thermodynamics, micro-fluidics and other areas that will be essential for the 21st-century mechanical engineer.
The department offers both bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is committed to interdisciplinary research. Collaboration between mechanical engineers and electrical engineers is particularly promising, having already produced advances in micro-electromechanical systems. Robotics research is also expected to accelerate as mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, materials scientists and computer scientists collaborate. These collaborations are expected to spark new research directions in fluid, thermal and energy systems at all scales. Plans are underway to add a Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering.
UT Dallas President David E. Daniel said the mechanical engineering program is a “key component of the University’s growth strategy,” and he commended the search committee on bringing Dr. Rotea to UT Dallas in its quest to build one of the best mechanical engineering programs in the nation.
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