University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering Annual Report 2003
UW-Madison College of Engineering banner 
2003 Annual Report banner

Home > News & Events > Annual Reports

2002-2003 HIGHLIGHTS


"We'll always have blackouts. It's like we'll always have forest fires and automobile accidents." (Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Robert Lasseter)
—The New York Times, Aug. 25, 2003

"Our technique advances the fundamental understanding of how individual electrons generate heat, and at the speed that chips are shrinking, in just two or three years semiconductor manufacturers are going to need the understanding that we are building up today," said Blick. (Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Robert Blick)
—EE Times, June 2, 2003

WASHINGTON—Organic wastes such as paper mill sludge or cheese whey can be converted into hydrogen using an inexpensive metal catalyst, researchers say, in a process that could boost efforts to replace oil and gas fuels. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin tested more than 300 metal combinations before finding that a mix of nickel, tin and aluminum could separate hydrogen from a mixture rich in glucose, a sugar common in many organic wastes. A report on the study appears in the journal Science. James Dumesic, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University of Wisconsin and lead author of the study, said the combination metal catalyst worked as efficiently in laboratory tests as a much more expensive platinum catalyst, and at a lower temperature and pressure.
—Associated Press, June 27, 2003

Scientists have also made progress in preparing (the super-conductor) magnesium diboride for practical use — Researchers at the University of Wisconsin led by Dr. Chang-Beom Eom, a professor of materials science and engineering, report (high-quality thin) films made with the technique in the current issue of Applied Physics Letters. They lay down boron atoms first, then heat them in magnesium vapor at 1,500 degrees. "That reacts, and it forms a crystalline magnesium diboride," Dr. Eom said. The hope is that the thin films can be turned into devices like Josephson junctions, in which a superconducting current tunnels across a gap for use in ultrafast switches or sensitive detectors of magnetic fields.
—The New York Times, Sept. 2, 2002

College facilities take shape for the future

ECB Dedication, Oct. 18, 2002

The college's first new building in 30 years was dedicated in October 2003 (pictured at left) during the annual Engineers' Day celebration. Soon after, the Engineering Centers Building's tenants began moving in. They include student organizations, the Engineering Student Leadership Center, the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Engineering Career Services, nanotechnology research labs and many others. In 2003, the building received an award from the Wisconsin chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Judges praised the building for its "great street presence" and its "muscular...machine-like approach in design."

The college now looks forward to beginning construction on the new $46 million Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Building. (For more information on this project, see the Dean's message.)

Research advances and technology transfer

During the fiscal year 2003, University-Industry Relations recorded 112 disclosures from College of Engineering faculty, staff and students. This is the third consecutive year that the college has recorded more than 100 patent disclosures.

Katie Plzak
Aaron Bland

Students built prototypes for 14 of the 15 inventions entered in the college's annual Innovation Day competitions featuring the Schoofs Prize for Creativity and Tong Prototype Prize. First place and $10,000, Schoofs Prize — Katie Plzak, with her two-phase flow regime detection system. First place and $2,500, Tong Prize — Aaron Bland, with his full-suspension bicycle frame.

Engineering students are contributing in exciting ways to intellectual property. Since 2001, WARF has recorded 15 patent disclosures from students in the biomedical engineering design courses. The disclosures include such varied inventions as a cauterizing liver biopsy system, an apparatus for measuring tongue-hard palate contact pressure, a portable voice calibrator, a breast-biopsy needle insert, and a device for presurgical management of cleft palate in infants, among others.

The college has set its fourth consecutive record for annual research expenditures. For the fiscal year July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2003, the college recorded $102,465,000 in research expenditures, up from $95,184,000 the previous fiscal year.

The College of Engineering's research leadership advanced with the help of many research grants over the past year. A sampling of the major grants includes:

  • A $10 million "Center of Excellence in Cancer Communications Research" at UW-Madison, funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and designed to improve an interactive cancer-communication system. Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor Emeritus David Gustafson will direct researchers from several schools and colleges at UW-Madison on the project.
  • A $9.5 million Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative to improve patient access to and early engagement in substance-abuse treatment. "Paths to Recovery: Improving the Process of Care for Substance Abuse Treatment" will teach strategies for simplifying and improving organizational processes, including paperwork flow, appointment making, staffing, patient intake and others, that lead to treatment access and early engagement. Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor Emeritus David Gustafson is directing the project. [MORE]
  • General Motors Corp. funded a five-year, $5 million collaborative research laboratory at the Engine Research Center (ERC) to help develop cleaner, more efficient diesel and gasoline engines. The ERC will use part of the funding to conduct extensive modeling of diesel exhaust after-treatment systems and diesel particulate emission traps. The ERC is one of only seven institutions worldwide to have received the collaborative research laboratory designation from General Motors. Mechanical Engineering Professor David Foster is the principal investigator for the GM grant.
  • With a five-year, $5 million grant from the Department of Defense funding, Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Dan van der Weide will work with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Delaware to build nanoprobe tools and instruments. The Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) will develop tools not only able to touch, hold and move molecular-scale objects, but also identify and control molecules and molecular-scale objects like nanowires based on their chemical species or function.

Recognition for faculty and alumni

Engineering faculty received many honors over the past year. One of the most celebrated was Grainger and Shubnikov Professor David Larbalestier's election to the National Academy of Engineering. Larbalestier is one of 18 College of Engineering faculty members who have been elected to the NAE.

In addition, four assistant professors received prestigious CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation. They are Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Scott Sanders, Chemical and Biological Engineering Assistant Professors Sean Palecek and Eric Shusta and Industrial and Systems Engineering Assistant Professor Dariusz Ceglarek. These awards are given to researchers on the basis of creative career-development plans effectively integrating research and education.

The college also honored an alumnus with its second Dean's Award for Excellence. Alumnus Howard Curler, BS '48 chemical engineering, received the award for his pioneering leadership in the food packaging industry as co-founder of Curwood, Inc.

Educational advances and student news

Mariam Gonzalez

Graduate Engineering Research Scholars student Mariam Gonzalez was featured in SHPE Magazine in 2003 for her work with the college's student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. (30K JPG)

Efforts to diversify the college's student body are having positive results. The freshmen class in pre-engineering last fall was more than 11 percent minority students, including more than six percent underrepresented minorities. The college now awards more than 100 diversity student scholarships, and enrollment in engineering pre-college programs such as the Engineering Summer Program for high school students and the PEOPLE Program (Pre-college Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence) remains steady.

The college's programs to encourage underrepresented students to attend graduate school are showing strong attendance numbers. The Opportunities in Engineering Conference hosted 15 students and two faculty members. The Graduate Engineering Research Scholars program, a unique fellowship program offering a supportive community and monetary assistance, hosted 43 students this year.

Reflecting an increase in the scope of the discipline, the Department of Chemical Engineering this year changed its name to the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. More than one-third of the department's graduates find jobs in the food and pharmaceutical industries, while an increasing number of those employed in the chemical, consumer products and energy industries are finding life sciences applications in their work as well. Of the 18 faculty members in the department, 12 have research projects with strong biological components, while four focus their research efforts entirely on life sciences.

The Master of Engineering in Engine Systems debuts this fall, with full enrollment for its first semester. The program will provide broad-based technical expertise specific to internal combustion engines while also developing project leadership skills. It is aimed at mid-career engineers in the engine industry who want to expand their expertise in areas such as thermal sciences, design and mechanics, electronics and controls, applications and manufacturing. Content is delivered on-line, with a week-long summer residency in the first two years of the program.

The College of Engineering student teams and extracurricular groups continued their winning ways. For the second year in a row, the college's student team won the national FutureTruck Competition. The team took first place among the 15 teams competing from universities throughout North America. The competition pits teams who have spent a year modifying sport-utility vehicles provided by the Ford Motor Co. The UW-Madison team garnered first-place wins for best on-road fuel efficiency, best vehicle design report, best off-road performance, best workmanship, and best technical report. The team also won the Delphi Advanced Technology Award.

Concrete Canoe team

The FutureTruck won its second straight national title in June, besting 14 other university teams at competition held in Michigan at Ford Motor Co. test tracks. The team won first-place awards for best on-road fuel efficiency, best vehicle design report, best off-road performance, best workmanship and best technical report. They were joined as national champions by the Concrete Canoe team, which beat out 23 teams in competition held in Philadelphia. The canoe team, which had never finished higher than fifth in national competition, placed high in the team rowing races and easily bested the other canoe teams in the technical reports and oral presentations.

For the first time in its history, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Concrete Canoe team won the national championship. They beat 23 teams in winning the 16th annual National Concrete Canoe Competition. The three-day competition tests student teams and their canoes on design and construction skills, academic and oral presentations, racing, durability and aesthetics. The team this year dominated the academic portion of the competition, winning for its strong paper and oral presentation. It finished second in the racing portion of the competition.

Engineering EXPO 2003

Biomedical Engineering student Bern Jordan shows a grade-school student the engineering campus in LEGO form at Engineering EXPO 2003. Thousands gathered on the engineering campus in April for the biennial event. The three-day student-run exhibition aims to showcase the world of science and engineering to young students and the public. (26K JPG)

For the second consecutive year, the national Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) has chosen UW-Madison's student BMES chapter to receive its Meritorious Achievement Award, the society's highest student honor. The Wisconsin student chapter of the American Nuclear Society was chosen as the outstanding student section in the U.S. for 2002-03. And the college's Steel Bridge team took second place at the 2003 National Student Steel Bridge Competition in San Diego, its highest finish ever.

One of the newest student groups is the recently formed UW chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Faculty and students who founded the group are committed to developing areas worldwide, and faculty hope it will help cultivate more internationally responsible engineering students.


University of
Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering logo

Copyright 2003 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
Date last modified: 09-Feb-2004
Date created: 17-Oct-2003