Historic number of MechSE faculty honored with named professorships


6 portraits of faculty
Gaurav Bahl, Randy Ewoldt, Elizabeth Hsiao-Wecksler, Harley Johnson, Tonghun Lee, Nenad Miljkovic

In an historic first, the MechSE Department announced that six of its faculty would receive named professorships. This is the most the department has ever named at one time and reflects MechSE’s excellence among peers.

A named professorship is one of the highest honors bestowed by the University. Faculty who hold a named professorship are celebrated for teaching, research, and the caliber of thinking that inspires both. Recipients use the endowments to initiate new areas of research, to support graduate student work, and to bring prestigious visiting scholars to the department, for example. Students, in turn, benefit from their association with top-notch faculty engaged in innovative research and teaching.

The six appointments are:

Gaurav Bahl, George B. Grim Professor

Randy Ewoldt, Alexander Rankin Professor

Elizabeth Hsiao-Wecksler, Grayce Wicall Gauthier Professor

Harley Johnson, Founder Professor in Mechanical Science & Engineering

Tonghun Lee, Bei Tse Chao and May Chao Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Nenad Miljkovic, Founder Professor in Mechanical Science and Engineering

“Such distinguished named faculty appointments are based upon accomplishments and MechSE and Grainger Engineering recognize that these faculty have indeed made many significant accomplishments and contributions to the department over the years,” said MechSE Department Head Tony Jacobi. “I am pleased that we can honor our colleagues in this way for their excellent and inspiring work.”

Bahl joined MechSE as an assistant professor in 2012, was promoted to associate professor in 2018, and became professor in 2022. He pioneered the development of Brillouin optomechanics in ultra-high-Q resonators, nonreciprocal systems, and opto-mechano-fluidic devices for extremely high-throughput particle sensing in fluids. He has served on the MechSE Advisory Committee and has a long record of service on—and currently chairs—MechSE’s Faculty Recruiting Committee. Bahl is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2019, the ONR Director of Research Early Career Grant in 2016, the AFOSR Young Investigator Award in 2015, and was elevated to Fellow of Optica in 2022.

Ewoldt joined MechSE as an assistant professor in 2011, was promoted to associate professor in 2017, and became professor in 2021. He is exemplary as a well-rounded scholar — the consummate educator and researcher. He is consistently recognized for his excellence in the classroom, for his inventive and fundamental contributions in soft matter, fluid mechanics, and rheology, and the development of rational design principles for complex fluids. Ewoldt’s contributions extend far beyond his research and teaching. He has served on the MechSE Advisory Committee, has chaired MechSE’s Faculty Recruiting Committee, and currently serves as vice chair of the GCOE Executive Committee and as an elected member of the campus Faculty Advisory Committee.

Hsiao-Wecksler joined MechSE as assistant professor in 2002, was promoted to associate professor in 2009, and became professor in 2015. She is internationally recognized for her research and leadership in musculoskeletal biomechanics, with a focus on gait, posture and balance, and more recently for her development of user-centered assistive technologies and robotics. She served MechSE for a decade on the Faculty Recruiting Committee, served as Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs, and currently chairs the department’s Promotion and Tenure Committee. Hsiao-Wecksler currently serves on the GCOE Promotion and Tenure Committee and as the Interim Director of the Health Care Engineering Systems Center. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and Fellow and past President of the American Society of Biomechanics. 

Johnson joined MechSE as an assistant professor in 2001, and was promoted to associate professor in 2006 and professor in 2011. He conducts award-winning research in mechanics of electronic materials, nanomechanics, and low-dimensional materials, and he leads an NSF materials and data science center. He has served MechSE as Associate Head for Graduate Programs, and as chair of MechSE’s Faculty Recruiting and Promotion and Tenure Committees. He chaired the College Diversity Committee and currently serves as Associate Dean for Research. For his outstanding service Johnson received campus awards for faculty leadership and for leadership in diversity and the UI Presidential Medallion. He is a Fellow of both the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Society of Engineering Science. 

After seven years on the faculty at Michigan State University, Lee joined MechSE as an associate professor in 2013 and was promoted to professor in 2018. He is an internationally renowned expert in high-speed propulsion, combustion, and laser diagnostics, and his work has broad application of significant national importance in turbulent, super-sonic propulsion, including scramjet technologies. Lee has served on the MechSE Advisory Committee, both the Undergraduate Programs Committee and the Graduate Programs Committee, and currently serves on the Faculty Recruiting Committee and the Promotion and Tenure Committee. He is Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and Member of the Combustion Institute.

Miljkovic joined MechSE as an assistant professor in 2014, was promoted to associate professor in 2019, and became professor in 2022. He is renowned for his high-impact research in liquid-vapor phase-change phenomena, and especially for his ground-breaking research on micro- and nano-mechanics germane to dropwise condensation. He has served MechSE on the Graduate Programs Committee and currently serves on the Advisory Committee and as Co-director of the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Center. The breadth of Miljkovic’s professional leadership includes the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Physical Society, the Materials Research Society, the American Chemical Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and more.

The honorees will be recognized at a formal investiture ceremony, to be held later this semester.