Two ME faculty receive College of Engineering recognition awards
t the 2008 Appreciation Day celebration May 8, the College of Engineering announced awards to faculty and staff members for their outstanding contributions and achievements, and service to the college. Two mechanical engineering faculty members, Gregory Nellis and Rolf Reitz, were among the recipients.
GREGORY F. NELLIS
James G. Woodburn Award for Excellence in Teaching
Since joining the College of Engineering in 2001, Associate Professor Greg Nellis has built a reputation as a respected researcher in the field of cryogenics. However, his true passion is for teaching.
Nellis is a leader in incorporating modern software-based analysis tools into the undergraduate curriculum. He has co-organized several workshops on using Engineering Equation Solver (EES), and his use of EES, MATLAB and Maple software in both his undergraduate and graduate courses allows students to explore complex, real-world problems within thermodynamics and heat transfer. In the absence of a heat transfer textbook that employs software tools, he is writing his own, co-authored with Professor Sanford Klein, scheduled for publication in 2009.
Not satisfied with available instructional materials, Nellis overhauled the courses he teaches by writing his own comprehensive notes and homework problem sets, with an emphasis on applied problems and practical solutions. His main goal is to galvanize his students to learn. In his lecturing, he uses familiar examples, such as contact lenses or icy windshields, to illustrate the complex principles in a way that is understandable and interesting. Says one colleague: “He is the epitome of well-organized and efficient when it comes to course management. When I look for a model of how to design, organize and execute a course, I always think first of Professor Nellis.”
Laboratory work also received a makeover as Nellis designed his own experiments. The first time he taught ME 368, Engineering Measurements Laboratory, a required lab course, he re-wrote the entire manual and replaced the traditional prescriptive projects with open-ended experiments he developed himself—all during one winter break.
With his self-designed homework, efficient lectures, technology use and his commitment to quickly replying to student queries at any time of day (or night), Nellis has turned some of the most dreaded courses in the mechanical engineering curriculum into the highest-evaluated the department has ever offered. In their evaluations, his students consistently assert, “The best class I have ever taken,” “The best teacher I have ever had,” “My favorite class,” and “Give this man a raise!”
“I completed Professor Nellis’ course with the skills and confidence that I could approach real heat transfer problems, apply a range of techniques, and be confident about the level of precision of my solution,” says a former student. “There is little greater an educator can give to those who plan to make a career in solving and understanding technical problems.”
Nellis has previously received a 2006 Pi Tau Sigma distinguished professor award and a 2007 Polygon award for teaching.
ROLF D. REITZ
Byron Bird Award for Excellence in a Research Publication
With pioneering contributions that span both experimental and computational studies, Wisconsin Distinguished Professor Rolf Reitz has become a world leader in modeling liquid sprays. As a result of his contributions, researchers in academia and industry have made significant advances in internal combustion engine design and performance.
In research of fuel-injected engines, the complexity of fuel-spray behavior and the sheer number of variables—fuel-injection speed, drop size, air flow, drop velocity and others—restricts researchers’ ability to fully understand the physics of the process. Yet, this very understanding plays an important role in increasing engine efficiency and decreasing emissions. At UW-Madison, Reitz and colleagues focus heavily on diesel engines through the Engine Research Center.
Informed by his experimental research, Reitz has developed computer models that have enabled researchers worldwide to more reliably predict spray behavior. His 1982 paper, “Mechanism of atomization of liquid jets” (authored with Princeton University Mechanical Engineering Professor Frediano Bracco), established a mathematical framework for capturing the physics of liquid spray atomization. It remains the standard reference used to describe diesel spray atomization.
Five years later, Reitz and Ramachandra Diwakar of General Motors Research Laboratories authored the paper, “Structure of high-pressure fuel sprays,” which introduced the element of drop breakup and significantly improved the reliability and accuracy of spray modeling. However, near-nozzle conditions affect diesel spray modeling and Reitz’s 1998 paper, “Modeling the effects of fuel spray characteristics on diesel engine combustion and emissions,” with then-graduate student Mark Patterson, provides extensive refinements to his earlier computational fluid dynamics model. For diesel engine modeling using computational fluid dynamics, this latest model was key to useful and accurate results.
Aided by his models, Reitz has pioneered the use of computational fluid dynamics to understand basic physical processes and practical methods for reducing emissions and improving fuel economy. “Professor Reitz’s spray modeling approach has quickly gained a worldwide acceptance as a robust modeling approach for atomization and sprays,” says a research colleague. “A testimony of the quality of his work is demonstrated by the fact that all commercial computational fluid dynamics software, as well as all open-source computational fluid dynamics software used for modeling two-phase, chemically reactive flows have incorporated Professor Reitz’s spray modeling approach.”
Reitz earned his PhD in 1978 from Princeton University. Before joining the mechanical engineering faculty at UW-Madison in 1989, he spent six years at the General Motors Research Laboratories, three years as a Princeton University researcher, and two years as a researcher at the New York University Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.