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Rensselaer Catalog 2008-2009 [Archived Catalog]

Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering

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Department Head: Timothy Wei

Department Home Page:

Mechanical engineers are engaged in a wide range of activities. At one end of the spectrum, they are concerned with fundamental engineering science, especially energetics and mechanics. At the other end, they are involved with the hardware of various technologies—the design and manufacture of mechanical components and systems. Aerospace engineering is concerned with disciplines and technologies that pertain not only to aircraft and spacecraft, but to other vehicular systems such as submarines and hydrofoils as well. Nuclear engineering focuses on the methods, devices, and systems required for the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

Research and Innovation Initiatives

Opportunities for research and innovation are delineated below. Opportunities may be theoretical, computational, and/or experimental. The Flexible Manufacturing Center, the Center for Multiphase Research, the New York State Center for Automation Technologies, the Scientific Computation Research Center, and the Center for Integrated Electronics offer additional research opportunities for the department’s undergraduate and graduate students and their faculty advisers.


Research is conducted into the performance of fixed wing aircraft, rotorcraft, and space vehicles, as well as micro-vehicles. The research is supported by fundamental studies in aerodynamics, advanced propulsion concepts, vehicle dynamics, and design optimization. Facilities include the fluid dynamics laboratory and the structures and controls laboratory.

Applied Mechanics/Mechanics of Materials

Applied Mechanics refers to the theoretical foundations of mechanical engineering. Basic research is being performed on diverse topics such as acoustics, fatigue and fracture processes, nonlinear vibrations, and plasticity. Materials of the latest technologies such as composites, microelectronic materials, and carbon nanotubes are studied from the mechanical perspective. The finite element method is a computational approach in modeling material behavior.

Facilities include the mechanics of materials laboratory, the laboratory for noise control research, and the mechanical systems laboratory.

Energy Systems/Multiphase Phenomena and Heat Transfer

Studies are related to energy conversion and the development of mechanical power, convective heat transfer and freezing, electronic cooling, fouling, heat transfer augmentation, mass transfer, computational fluid dynamics and multidimensional effects in multiphase flow, and heat transfer with applications in nuclear, mechanical, thermal, chemical, biomedical and pharmaceutical systems, development of mechanistic models, and computer simulation capabilities.

Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering are both concerned with energy conversion and the development of mechanical power. Issues of heat transfer are important, from a range of large-scale industrial processes, down to the cooling of electronic micro-components with extreme power density. Thermal and fluid flow properties are studied by theoretical and computational means (computational fluid dynamics). Multiphase processes are important in problems from drug delivery optimization to nuclear power cooling systems.

Facilities include the gas turbine laboratory; the energy systems laboratory; subsonic, and supersonic wind tunnels; shock tubes and the hypersonic shock tunnel; the heat transfer laboratory; and the laboratory for fouling research. Additional equipment includes various two-phase flow loops and associated instrumentation, laser Doppler anemometer, optical void probes, and the resources of the Center for Multiphase Research.

Environmental Health Physics and Radiation Dosimetry

Research in this area has diverse applications: the assessment of environmental radioactivity for the nuclear industry; investigations of health physics practices in hospitals; analysis of worker effective doses from external and internal exposures; and optimization of radiation therapy doses in biomedical applications. These problems are studied theoretically by Monte Carlo methods, among several techniques. Facilities include a versatile health physics laboratory and modern nuclear radiation detection and characterization systems.


Studies revolve around design methodology in general and mechanical engineering design techniques in particular. There are applications in machinery and mechanical systems design, the development of new manufacturing techniques, and operation of manufacturing facilities. Areas of concentration include CAD/CAM, diagnostics and controls, tribology, metrology rapid prototyping, robotics and flexible manufacturing, and system integration. Facilities include the advanced manufacturing laboratory, the design optimization laboratory, the mechanisms laboratory, and the mechatronics laboratory.

Nuclear Science and Technology

Research involves a wide spectrum of issues crucial to the nuclear industries. Investigations are ongoing into the interaction of neutrons and other radiation with materials used in nuclear reactors; nuclear data analysis and evaluation; radiation transport studies; conceptual designs of fusion power systems and their engineering, safety, and environmental implications; plasma wall interactions; analysis of reactor accidents and safety studies. Facilities include a versatile 100-Mev electron linear accelerator, time-of-flight and associated instrumentation, a critical reactor facility, a three-dimensional laser Doppler anemometer, and miscellaneous nuclear radiation equipment and computational aids.

Space Technology

Research areas include analysis, design, development, and operations required for space exploration and utilization. Research is ongoing in advanced energetics (laser propulsion), structural dynamics and optimization, and crystal growth in space. Facilities include various wind tunnels, the shock tube, and crystal growth laboratories.

Faculty *


Blanchet, T.A. —Ph.D. (Dartmouth College); tribology, solid lubrication, surface science, contact mechanics.

Drew, D.A.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); applied mathematics, fluid mechanics (joint appointment, Mathematics home department).

Fish, J.—Ph.D. (Northwestern University); computational mechanics, finite element methods, micromechanics, mathematical modeling, multiscale science and engineering, computational nanotechnology (jointly with Civil Engineering; Rosalind and John J. Redfern Jr. ’33 Professor of Engineering).

Hirsa, A.—Ph.D. (University of Michigan); fluid mechanics, experimental gas dynamics (jointly with the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department).

Hajela, P.—Ph.D. (Stanford University); optimum design, structural dynamics, aeroelasticity (Vice Provost for Administration, Dean of Undergraduate Education).

Huang, H.—Ph.D. (University of California, Los Angeles); nanomechanics of materials, synthesis of nanostructures, atomistic simulations, and radiation damage.

Jansen, K.—Ph.D. (Stanford University); computational mechanics, parallel computing, computational fluid dynamics.

Jensen, M.K.— P.E., Ph.D. (Iowa State University); heat transfer, fluid mechanics, heat exchangers, boiling and two-phase flows, enhanced heat transfer, fuel cells, solar energy, sustainability.

Li, C.J.—Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Madison); control of manufacturing process and equipment, machine condition monitoring, nonlinear system identification.

Malaviya, B.K.—Ph.D. (Harvard University); fission and fusion reactor physics and technology, biomedical applications, radioactive waste management, pedagogic technology (jointly with Engineering Science).

Maniatty, A.M.—Ph.D. (Cornell University); mechanics of materials, computational mechanics, continuum mechanics, polycrystalline materials

Messac, A.—Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); optimal design, physical programming, design methodology, structural dynamics.

Ostrogorsky, A.G.—Sc.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); heat transfer and fluid mechanics, solidification, crystal growth (jointly with Materials Science and Engineering Department).

Podowski, M.Z.—Ph.D. (Warsaw University of Technology); two-phase flow and heat transfer, reactor dynamics and safety, system stability, applied mathematics.

Rusak, Z.—D.Sc. (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology); theoretical and computational fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, and combustion dynamics; vortex stability and breakdown, compressible flows, viscous flows, and reacting flows.

Smith, R.N.—Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley); energy systems (Associate Dean, Academic and Students Affairs).

Shephard, M.S.—Ph.D.(Cornell University); finite element analysis, computer graphics, computer-aided design (jointly with the Civil Engineering Department; Samuel A. Johnson’37 and Elizabeth C. Johnson Professor of Engineering).

Spilker, R.L.—Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); biomechanics, finite element methods (joint appointment, Biomedical Engineering home department).

Tichy, J.A.—Ph.D. (University of Michigan); tribology, non-Newtonian fluid mechanics, rheology.

Wei, T.—Ph.D. (University of Michigan); turbulence, fluid-structure interactions, biological flows, (Department Head).

Wen, J.T.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); modeling and control of dynamical systems with applications to precision motion, robot manipulation, adaptive optics, distributed coordination and control, and thermal management.

Xu, G.X.—Ph.D. (Texas A&M University); environmental health physics, health and medical physics, Monte Carlo simulations, anatomical modeling, biomedical use of radiation (jointly with the Biomedical Engineering Department).

Clinical Full Professors

Steiner, M.W.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); multidisciplinary design, product architecture, advanced design methods.

Associate Professors

Anderson, K.S. —Ph.D. (Stanford University); multibody dynamics, parallel computing, vehicle dynamics.

Borca-Tasciuc, T.—Ph.D. (University of California, Los Angeles); heat transfer and energy conversion, nanotechnology, MEMS.

Castillo, L.—Ph.D. (State University of New York at Buffalo); fluid mechanics, turbulent boundary layers.

Danon, Y.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); nuclear data and instrumentation, accelerator technology and radiation applications, nondestructive testing, novel radiation source and detectors.

De, S.—Sc.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); numerical methods in engineering, haptics and virtual reality, multiscale modeling, computational biomechanics, soft tissue biomechanics.

Derby, S.J.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); automation, mechanisms, robotics, design.

Embrechts, M.J.—Ph.D. (Virginia Polytechnic Institute); fusion engineering, applied chaos theory, neural networks (joint appointment, Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems home department).

Kaminski, D.A.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); heat transfer, computational fluid mechanics, thermal radiation.

Koratkar, N.A.—Ph.D. (University of Maryland at College Park); smart materials and structures, rotorcraft, unsteady aerodynamics.

Myrabo, L.N.—Ph.D. (University of California, San Diego); advanced space propulsion and power, directed energy, hypersonic gas dynamics, space technology.

Oberai, A.—Ph.D. (Stanford University); multiscale modeling, turbulence modeling and simulation, computational biomechanics, inverse problems, biomedical imaging.

Peles, Y.—Ph.D. (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology); MEMS fabrication, design and device testing, design and manufacturing of electronic packaging.

Picu, C.R.—Ph.D. (Dartmouth College); mechanics of solids, micro- and nano-mechanics of crystalline defects, atomistic simulations.

Scarton, H.A.—Ph.D. (Carnegie Mellon University); biomechanics, acoustics, non-destructive testing, dynamics, vibrations, ultrasonic communication, fluid and solid mechanics, sensors, noise control, wave phenomena, MEMS devices, acoustic emission, fluid-solid interaction, experimental methods, dynamic hardness, laser propulsion, design and invention.

Walczyk, D.F.—, P.E., Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); rapid tooling, environmentally conscious design, machine design.

Clinical Associate Professors

Alben, R. —Ph.D. (Harvard University); electronic materials, engineering education, global engineering management, entrepreneurship.

Sreepada, S.—Ph.D (Columbia University); nuclear thermal-hydraulics, nuclear fuel design, reactor safety, energy conversion.

Assistant Professors

Amitay, M. —D.Sc. (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology); aerodynamic flow control, mini- and micro-aerial vehicles, wind turbine performance enhancement, two-phase flows.

Borca-Tasciuc, D.—Ph.D. (University of California, Los Angeles); MEMS, NEMS, microfluidics, heat transfer in nanosystems.

Ji, W.—Ph.D (University of Michigan); nuclear reactor core analysis, computational methodology development in radiation transport, Monte Carlo modeling, simulation in stochastic media.

Lian, J.—Ph.D. (University of Michigan); radiation effects, advanced nuclear materials, ion beam technique, nano-scale characterization and nanofabrication.

Liu, L.Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); neutron scattering, dynamics of water, structure and dynamics of nano-materials and macro-molecules, radiation damage.

Montoya, Lupita—Ph.D. (Stanford University); indoor air quality, biological aerosols, health effects of aerosols, human exposure to air pollutants, environmental justice.

Oehlschlaeger, M.—Ph.D. (Stanford University); combustion, propulsion and energy systems, optical diagnostics.

Zhang, L.Ph.D. (Northwestern University); numerical modeling, computational fluid dynamics, fluid-structure interactions, biomechanics.

Clinical Assistant Professors

Caracappa, P.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); operational health physics, internal and external dosimetry, radiation detection.

Research Assistant Professors

Antal, S. —Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); computational fluid dynamics, numerical methods in multiphase flows, heat transfer.

Senior Lecturer

Swersey, B.L. —B.S. (Cornell University); creativity in design, design methodology.

Adjunct Faculty

Borton, D.N.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); solar energy.

Haley, T.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); nuclear fuel management, mathematical modeling, reactor design.

Trumbull, T.H.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); research reactor experimental operations.

Emeritus Faculty

Bergles, A.E. —P.E., NAE, Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); heat transfer, two-phase flow.

Block, R.C.—Ph.D. (Duke University); nuclear structure and data, radiation effects in electronics, accelerator technology neutron reactions, real-time radiography, industrial applications of radiation, nondestructive testing.

Crespo da Silva, M.R.M.—Ph.D. (Stanford University); dynamics, nonlinear vibrations, perturbation methods, computerized symbolic manipulation.

Dvorak. G.J.—NAE, Ph.D. (Brown University); mechanics of solids, composite materials and structures, fracture and fatigue.

Ettles, C.M.—Ph.D. (Imperial College), D.Sc. (University of London); mechanical design, machine dynamics, tribology.

Hagerup, H.J.—Ph.D. (Princeton University); viscous flow.

Harris, D.R.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); reactor physics, fusion technology, shielding, reactor noise analysis.

Krempl, E.—Dr.Ing. (Technical University of Munich); continuum mechanics; mechanics of materials; creep, fatigue, inelastic analysis (Rosalind and John J. Redfern Jr. Professor Emertius of Engineering).

Lahey, R.T., Jr.—NAE, Ph.D., (Stanford University); multiphase flow and boiling heat transfer, reactor safety analysis, reactor thermal-hydraulics, applications of chaos theory, sonofusion technology.

Lee, D.—Sc.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); mechanics of materials, computer-aided manufacturing.

Sneck, H.J., Jr.—P.E., Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); viscous-fluid mechanics, bearing lubrication and design.

Somerscales, E.F.C.—Ph.D. (Cornell University); heat transfer.

Steiner, D. —Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); nuclear fusion systems, plasma engineering, radiation effects on materials (Institute Professor of Nuclear Engineering).

Technical Support Staff

Brand, P.
DiGiulio, D.
Gray, M.
Kerdoun, A.



McDougall, R.
Mielke, W.R., Jr.
Sikora, C.
Strock, M.


Trumbull, T.
Winters, G.

* Departmental faculty listings are accurate as of the date generated for inclusion in this catalog. For the most up-to-date listing of faculty positions, including end-of-year promotions, please refer to the Faculty Roster section of this catalog, which is current as of the May 2008 Board of Trustees meeting.

Undergraduate Programs

Objectives of the Undergraduate Curriculum

While certain objectives of an undergraduate education in engineering are common to all programs, there are subtle but important differences that require some subset of objectives specific to ensuring that all graduates have specialized technical knowledge in their chosen field. In this regard, graduates of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering’s baccalaureate program will:

  • Be engaged in professional practice at or beyond the entry level or enrolled in high quality graduate programs building on a solid foundation in engineering, mathematics, the sciences, humanities and social sciences, and experimental practice as well as modern engineering methods.
  • Be innovative in the design, research and implementation of systems and products with strong problem solving, communication, teamwork, leadership, and entrepreneurial skills.
  • Proactively function with creativity, integrity and relevance in the ever changing global environment by applying their fundamental knowledge and experience to solve real-world problems with an understanding of societal, economic,environmental, and ethical issues.

Dual Major Programs

Dual majors lead to a single baccalaureate degree embracing two fields. Special programs which can be completed in eight semesters have been developed. Examples include dual majors in Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Nuclear Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and  Design, Innovation, and Society (STS), and others. Further information is available in the departmental office. 

Graduate Programs

The department offers graduate programs in mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering, mechanics, nuclear engineering, and engineering physics. To accommodate a student’s career plans and interests, the graduate programs are structured to allow great flexibility in choosing appropriate courses, while ensuring sufficient depth and breadth. The professor assigned to or chosen by a student as the adviser has the knowledge to make suggestions of specific courses to further the student’s educational goals. 

Doctoral Programs

For the doctoral degree, 72 credits in addition to the bachelor’s or 48 credits in addition to the master’s degree are required. Usually, this means that 12 to 20 courses beyond the bachelor’s are needed, as specified by the adviser and the doctoral committee, in addition to residence and thesis requirements. Under the guidance of a thesis adviser, the student conducts advanced study and research. If a student chooses to do a thesis with a thesis adviser from another department, a Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering Department faculty member must be appointed co-chair and the doctoral committee must contain at least two department faculty members. After approximately one year of full-time study, the student should have a research adviser and be advanced to doctoral student status. To attain this milestone a qualifying examination is required. When thesis research has begun and after approximately two years of full-time study, the candidacy examination is taken. At the completion of the research project and after the dissertation has been written, the student must defend the thesis in an open presentation to his or her committee. The degree awarded is the Doctor of Philosophy.

Course Descriptions

Courses directly related to all Mechanical, Aerospace, Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics curricula are described in the Course Description section of this catalog under the department code MANE.

This degree is awarded under the auspices of the Office of Graduate Education when the thesis is directed toward making an original contribution to fundamental knowledge in a particular field or in an interdisciplinary field. A dissertation that is scholarly, creative, original, and publishable may deal also with the relation of a discipline to educational problems and objectives within the field.

Among the available degrees are the M.Eng., which is perceived to be more practically oriented and consists of course work; the M.S., which is considered more scholarly or fundamental and must include a thesis; and Ph.D. Listed below are many of the requirements for these degrees. For all degrees, full-time students must register each semester for the zero credit course MANE-6900, Graduate Seminar. Complete requirement information is available on the MANE department webpage,



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