Chair's message

Jason Rife

Greetings from Tufts.  These are turbulent times, and the world seems in desperate need of thought leaders and technology leaders who can help us solve the challenging problems of our era.  In the Mechanical Engineering (ME) Department, we’re doing our best to help students develop the skills they need to tackle these challenges.

Innovative research is still one of our best tools for engaging students to practice creativity and resilience within the academic context.  Fortunately, students have many opportunities to team with faculty on cutting-edge research.  A notable example is our ongoing research into detecting cancer using atomic force microscopy, a technology that students are currently developing under the mentorship of Professor Igor Sokolov.  You can read more about this phenomenal research in the accompanying article.

Of course, high-quality instruction is also a cornerstone of the Tufts experience.  To expand our innovative instruction capabilities, we have hired two new Assistant Teaching Faculty to start this September:  David Miller and Briana Bouchard.  David Miller comes to Tufts to teach Human Factors Engineering (HFE), after recently concluding his PhD at Stanford and his postdoc at the University of Central Florida.  Briana Bouchard joins our team to teach mechanical design and mechatronics.  Many of you know Briana Bouchard, a former undergraduate and recent PhD graduate from the Tufts ME Department who has also served as staff for several years, leading our student advising operations.  Congratulations, Briana and David!

To support the learning that happens through research and in the classroom, the ME Department places a strong departmental emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).  Our students can be particularly proud of their contributions to the community this year.  A new ME Student DEI Board was launched at the beginning of the last year, led by recent graduate Maia Taffe (class of 2022) and rising senior Luisa Guarco.  The ME Student DEI Board ran frequent programming in order to form a grass-roots support network among students. The Board also met frequently with department staff and faculty to coordinate our DEI efforts.  These efforts notably include major projects led by Assistant Teaching Professor Erica Kemmerling, who recently spearheaded the Faces of Engineering poster campaign and wrote a book entitled Inclusive Teaching Basics for Engineers.  I would also like to recognize the efforts of Samanta Carias. In her role as Laboratory Coordinator, she has done wonders to make Bray a welcoming learning environment for all our students. 

Looking forward, the department continues to face many challenges.  Our teaching excellence has made the ME and HFE majors extremely popular, but that means our class sizes have soared as more majors have declared.  We continue to search for new ways to deliver personal and engaging instruction to our students, even as our class sizes grow.  And although we continue to prioritize our in-person programs, we also recognize that many of our professional students seek more online course options.  Led by Professor-of-the-Practice Michael Wiklund, we are now studying the possibility of launching an online certificate focused on Human Factors in Medical Devices.  Stay tuned to hear more about these topics.

And please stay in touch!  Feel free to contact our very capable office staff including Department Administrator Courtney Russo and Staff Assistant Addie Cotter.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Jason Rife

Jason Rife
Professor & Chair
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Tufts University