Nadine Aubry named new head of mechanical engineering

Carnegie Mellon’s mechanical engineering department has a new face.

Nadine Aubry was officially appointed head of the department of mechanical engineering this semester.

“I’m very excited,” Aubry said of her new position. “It is a very good department with a strong foundation. But we also have to make sure that we move it forward.”

To move the department forward, Aubry hopes to promote large-scale research and to create a center for mechanical engineering.

Aubry also plans to introduce more globalization for research and education to the program so that students will be able to work in diverse environments and cultures.

Aubry herself is no stranger to diverse cultures. Born in France, she attended undergraduate school at the National Polytechnic Institute in Grenoble, France. After earning her B.S. degree there, she received her M.S. from Grenoble’s Scientific and Medical University. She received her Ph.D. from Cornell University.

As a woman in engineering, Aubry encourages both women and minorities to major in mechanical engineering. Aubry realizes that some young women think they have to sacrifice raising a family for such a career, but she said that she has been able to dedicate time to her three children as well as her profession.

“It’s a challenging field, but women can do it too,” said Aubry. “I think that as we increase in numbers, more women will become confident that they can major in engineering.”

First-year student and mechanical engineering major Jennifer Tang believes that having a female department head will encourage female scientists and engineers.

“I think it’s great that the department appointed a woman,” she said. “It shows young women that they can be very successful in engineering.”

Statistics taken from 1992 to 2001 by the National Science Foundation reveal that a greater percentage of American women than men are receiving degrees in science and engineering. In 2001, 97 percent of women who earned their bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering were U.S. citizens and permanent residents. This is compared with 95.4 percent of natural-born men who earned bachelor’s degrees in these fields.

In the same category and year, 78.3 percent of American women earned their master’s degrees in science and engineering, while only 65.9 percent of American men did.

Although Aubry has faced her own challenges in the field, she cherishes her accomplishments and experiences.

“You have to be strong, but it’s doable,” Aubry said.

“But if you ask me if I would do it again, yes. I don’t regret anything. I am very happy to be where I am today.”

After Carnegie Mellon contacted her about the position, Aubry decided to apply and attended a series of interviews.

Once the department made Aubry the offer, she had to go through the tenure process again, which required her to resubmit her résumé and reference letters from students and faculty at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).

As a professor at NJIT, Aubry taught undergraduate and graduate fluid mechanics courses. She was also the chair of NJIT’s department of mechanical engineering for five years and the research director of the New Jersey Center for Micro-Flow Control.

Outside of teaching, Aubry was involved with research in nanotechnology and microtechnology, including microfluidics. She and her colleagues worked on designing channels that were only a little thicker than a strand of hair.

Aubry is the vice chair of the U.S. National Committee on Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. Some of her other accomplishments include winning the National Science Foundation’s Presidential Young Investigator Award and being elected to the American Physical Society and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.