New department heads named for mechanical engineering, aeronautics and astronautics, and math

Former head of the architecture department will begin as Dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell in January 2019

The Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Mathematics have each named new department heads.

Department of Mechanical Engineering

Evelyn Wang ’00 began her appointment as the new head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering July 1.

As an undergraduate, Wang was initially drawn to the design aspect of mechanical engineering. “I started to realize that mechanical engineering had a wide spectrum of topic areas,” Wang said in an interview with The Tech. “I could learn about all sorts of different things and then ultimately use that knowledge to think about systems [requiring] understanding of materials, thermodynamics, the design, the controls.” She received her MS and PhD from Stanford University.

She was previously the Gail E. Kendall (1978) professor and served as the associate department head for operations  She is currently also the director of the Device Research Laboratory. Wang said her hope as department head is to “sustain the excellence that we have and the leadership that we have in mechanical engineering in the world.”

The department has identified four major areas to focus on: helping the planet, design and manufacturing, energy sustainability, and robotics and autonomy. “My hope is that collectively as a faculty, we can start to express [these areas of impact] both on the education side as well as on the research,” Wang said.

“Everything evolves, so we have to think about how we educate now in this day and age. ... How do we incorporate digital learning and interface with the things that we should still teach in the classroom?” Wang continued. “Also with emerging trends and the importance of new research areas, how do we incorporate that into the things that we do in terms of the research and how we define these general directions for our department?”

Wang is taking over the role of former department head Gang Chen. “Being department head is a privilege, being able to facilitate our department to be able to do things that are hopefully bigger than what we can do ourselves, so it’s an exciting opportunity,” Wang said.

Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics has named its next department head, Professor Daniel Hastings PhD ’80, effective January 2019.

Hastings is currently the Cecil and Ida Green Education professor. He earned a BA at Oxford University before coming to MIT in 1978 for his SM and PhD. He joined the faculty at MIT in 1985, and his research interests include space systems, propulsion, space policy, and spacecraft manufacturing processes.

His work has earned him a number of awards. The U.S. Air Force gave Hastings its Exceptional Service Award in 2008. Previously, the Air Force had granted him two Air Force Distinguished Civilian Awards, in 1997 and 1999. Hastings is also a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics as of 1997, and since 2007 he has served as a International Council of System Engineering Fellow. In 2017 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Hastings declined to comment because his appointment has not started yet. He will succeed Professor Jaime Peraire, who has served as the department head since July 2011. Peraire stepped down July 1, and Professor Edward Greitzer ’83 is serving as interim department head until the end of this year.

Department of Mathematics

Effective July 1 of this year, Professor Michel Goemans has been named the head of the Department of Mathematics. He had served as the interim department head for the year preceding his appointment, succeeding Tomasz Mrowka, who served from 2014 until 2017.

Goemans was the Leighton Family professor of mathematics for a decade before he became the interim department head in 2017. He earned a BS and MS from the Catholic University of Louvain before coming to MIT and earning his PhD in operations research in 1990. His research has focused on discrete algorithms and combinatorial optimization.

Goemans is currently advising John Urschel, who played professional football for the Baltimore Ravens and is now a graduate student in mathematics at MIT.

The value of Goemans’ work has been recognized in multiple ways. In 2012 he was awarded the Farkas Prize, in 2000 the Fulkerson Prize, and has twice earned the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Optimization Prize, in 1996 and 1999. He is a fellow of the American Mathematical Society, the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the Association for Computing Machinery.

Goemans was unavailable for comment.

Department of Architecture

J. Meejin Yoon, formerly the head of MIT’s Department of Architecture, has been appointed as Dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University. Yoon will start the position in January 2019.

Andrew Scott, professor of architecture and urbanism, assumed the role of interim department head Aug. 15. Scott had previously served as director of the Master of Architecture program, director of the Architectural and Urbanism discipline group, and associate department head. Scott was unable to be reached for comment before the publication of this article.