It’s a Small World: Nano Mechanical Systems Group studies mechanics and physics of nano scale material

Mechanical engineering Professor Aman Haque; mechanical engineering doctoral candidates Raghu Pulavarthy, Tarek Alam, and Baoming Wang; and mechanical engineering undergraduates Kyle Maletto and Tianyu Zhang discuss their respective areas of research in the Nano Mechanical Systems Laboratory.

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Engineering Pathways Fellows Document Trip to Peru

Last week, the Engineering Pathways Fellows wrapped up their month-long visit to Peru, where they worked on projects with their Peruvian peers at the Universidad de ESAN in Lima.

Engineering Pathways Fellows are a group of Penn State engineering students committed to being in a collaborative learning community during their four years in college. They are recipients of a National Science Foundation award that is part of a program designed to recruit and retain under-represented students, women, and first-generation scholars in STEM fields through renewed scholarships, retention programming, and professional development.

Read all about Pathways Fellows’ educational and cultural adventures in their travel blog.

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Promoting Independence: Student Team Designs Utensil Holder for Individuals with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease

A team of senior engineering students designed a fork and spoon holder for the Central PA SCI Support Group. The device took second place at the College of Engineering Design Showcase, and the students’ video won the capstone video competition award.


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A Most Critical Engineering Career Success Factor: Technical Credibility

by Ken Graziani

We all desire a very successful engineering career. Many factors combine to impact the success of one’s engineering career: Engineering and Technical Expertise, Interpersonal and Team Skills, Initiative, and Leadership, to name a few. In my opinion, the lack of one critical success factor has the power to trump and nullify these, Technical Credibility, aka Technical Integrity, Technical Honesty, or Technical Ethics, as you like.

Technical Credibility is your reputation with your management, peers, subordinates and business partners that you can be trusted to “Do the right thing professionally and personally, even if unsupervised.” It is the trust that you will present your activities and decisions accurately, completely, honestly and not over-hyped or misrepresented. It is the trust that you will accurately convey what you know and what you do not know, in your field or project area.

Your Technical Credibility is earned slowly as you progress through your career. The trust in your technical credibility grows incrementally, project by project, task by task, year by year. As a new engineer, you’re an unknown to those with whom you work and report. But slowly, they’ll begin to see the true nature of your character. If you perform credibly, their trust in you will grow. And with their trust, your responsibilities, opportunities and career success will grow. However, while it takes time to build your Technical Credibility, it can be lost instantly in one dishonest misstep, not to be confused with an honest mistake.

In general, engineers tend to be an upfront, honest group. But this is not always the case, as work stress and career pressures can lead to poor decisions. In my 40+year career, I can recall about 5 key instances where my Technical Credibility was put to the test. You may experience or have experienced similar challenges. These challenges to your Technical Credibility can be direct and overt. For example, you may get a request, from a supervisor or higher, to omit a key issue as to not overly alarm a business partner. Or, the challenge to your Technical Credibility could be subtler due to conformational bias with which most of us struggle. For example, “we know our hypothesis is so correct these data points that don’t fall along our curve must be in error, so let’s omit them”.

It can be hard to stand up to such challenges to your Technical Credibility, particularly if you are early in your career and if the challenge is coming from a supervisor. The short-term perceived benefit of “going along, to get along” can be strong. But the longer-term risks to a successful career can be even greater. Your coworkers and business partners will take note. A few years further into your career, you may end up reporting to one of them, or find yourself in a position to present your engineering concepts to one of these business partners now in a higher position. What do you think your chances for success are if they’re thinking, “I worked with this engineer before, and this engineer misrepresented a concept” versus thinking, “I worked with this engineer before, and this engineer can be trusted.”

It takes years to build your Technical Credibility and you can lose it in an instant. So, as I always advised my engineering staff, treat your Technical Credibility as if it was “Career Success” gold. Treasure it. If you do, you’ll maximize the success of your engineering career.

I’d be happy to hear what you think.

Dr. Ken Graziani has more than 40 years of experience in refining process technology development, implementation and consulting. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Penn State and his master’s and doctorate degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ken retired from ExxonMobil as Senior Engineering Advisor and Technology Program Leader. He is a member of the Penn State Engineering Alumni Society and leader of the Penn State Chemical Engineering Alumni Group. He and his wife, Cindy, reside in Fairfax, VA.

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Using High-Speed Diagnostics to Study Reacting Flows

Jacqueline O’ Connor, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; graduate students Meghan Borz, Wyatt Culler, Sam Hansford, and Anand Makwana; and undergraduate student Joe Crane discuss their research in the Reacting Flow Dynamics Laboratory.

The lab focuses on issues of reacting flows for energy and propulsion applications. High-speed laser diagnostics and other state-of-the-art experimental techniques are used in research areas such as combustion, hydrodynamic instability, and thermoacoustics.

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Researchers Develop Foundation for Use of Intense Ultrafast Lasers

Igor Jovanovic, associate professor of nuclear engineering; Kyle Hartig and Bryan Morgan, nuclear engineering gradate students; and Scott Wandel, nuclear engineering doctoral candidate discuss how the Intense Laser Laboratory helps in their research to enhance the use of intense ultrafast lasers in science, industry, and security.

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Research Group Studies Ways to Treat and Prevent Injuries

Reuben Kraft, Shuman Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Rebecca Fielding, Teja Garimella, and Allison Ranslow, mechanical engineering graduate students, discuss the Computational Biomechanics Group at Penn State. The researchers are focused on understanding the mechanics and physics of biological systems using computational methods in three broad areas: 1) multiphysics, multiscale computational mechanics and methods, 2) problems at the interface of biology and multiscale mechanics, and 3) humans in extreme environments.

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