Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Awards
Every year, the School of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University recognizes alumni who have demonstrated excellence in industry, academia, governmental service, or other endeavors related to mechanical engineering. Honorees have shown outstanding character and leadership and have accomplished great things. Since 1991, 313 of our alumni have been honored with the prestigious Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Award.
Congratulations to all our 2022 OME recipients for showing us the best that Mechanical Engineering has to offer!
William E. and Florence E. Perry Head and Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Robyn Brands | Mark Breuker | Ashish Gupta | Robert Lucht | William Moseley | Becky Mueller | William Partridge | Eric Schwenker | Sarah Smith | Todd Summe | Yoshimi Takeuchi
Executive Chief Engineer, GE Aviation (retired)
Robyn Brands worked at GE for over 32 years on both the technical and commercial side in roles of increasing responsibility. Her roles varied from military design engineer, where she received her first patent that eliminated uncontained failures on single engine military aircraft; to managing the engine program on for the world’s most successful commercial aircraft engines. At one point, an aircraft took off every 2 seconds around the world, powered by her engines! She recently retired from being the Executive Chief Engineer for the GP7200 Engines on the Airbus A380.
She has a BSME from Purdue University and a Masters of Aerospace Engineering from the University of Cincinnati.
As a self-proclaimed “Engineer with a Creative Flair,” she and her husband love the arts and are appreciative of all of the opportunities to share them in their community. She is secretary of Mutual Dance Theater and Co-Chair of Greater Cincinnati Braver Angels. Additionally, she is a CPS (Cincinnati Public School) Girls to Women mentor and a Purdue ME Mentor.
Above all, Robyn is a member of the community, wife, mother, daughter, aunt, sister and friend. She is a born and raised Cincinnatian who has had the privilege of getting a global perspective by traveling extensively worldwide through her roles at GE Aviation. She has a passion for diversity and inclusion, and truly believes we are all better off when we use the collective wisdom of diverse inputs to achieve our goals, striving to lift others up.
Managing Partner, Burton Energy Group
In his leadership position at Burton for the past 13 years, Mark has helped the company build a national reputation as a flexible, innovative, and high integrity consulting partner to large national corporations looking to reduce utility costs and improve their environmental footprint. Mark’s technical and results-focused skill sets refined during his time at Purdue University has given him the ability to stand above his peers. Mark’s knowledge of core energy management strategies, ability to solve complex problems, and passion for sales and customer service helped him land new clients and grow several new solutions for Burton’s clients. Burton Energy Group has grown at a steady rate from $500,000 annual revenue in 2008 to over $15 million in 2021.
Throughout Mark’s career, he has stayed focused on this goal and become a nationally recognized leader in the field of multi-site energy and sustainability management. He began his career at Duke Solutions, a division of Duke Energy, as an energy engineer in the field providing energy efficiency assessments to commercial and industrial clients. From there he leveraged his professional network established through his work at Herrick Labs, technical background in building optimization, and emerging strategy and client skills with positions of increasing responsibility with Service Resources, Prenova, and AdvantageIQ (now part of Engie).
Mark obtained his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Michigan and worked for three years with Conoco before pursuing his Master’s Degree at Purdue in the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories. Working with Dr. Jim Braun, he completed his MSME research focusing on automated fault detection and diagnostics for HVAC equipment. After his time at Purdue, Mark helped develop and oversee research with the ASHRAE Smart Buildings subcommittee and has gone on to earn certifications as a Professional Engineer, LEED AP, and Certified Energy Manager.
Senior Director, Hardware Engineering, Intel Corp.
Ashish Gupta started working at Intel in 2004, and has advanced to become Senior Director of Hardware Engineering in the Data Center and Artificial Intelligence Group. He guides the professional efforts of a product development team of 150+ people across US, Mexico, and China, including requirements analysis, feasibility, design and prototyping, testing, deployment, and scale. Their customers range from cloud service providers (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Facebook, Alibaba, Tencent) to original equipment manufacturers (Microsoft, Apple, Dell, HP, Lenovo).
He has an excellent understanding of both the business and engineering side of the tech industry. As a manager, he defines strategic vision, establishes strong partnerships with customers, and maintains a high-performing diverse and inclusive agile organization, delivering hardware that support tens of billions of dollars of yearly revenue. As an engineer, he has managed various functions such as thermal, mechanical, packaging, signal-integrity, boards, power-integrity and software. He has been issued nine patents, and has published more than 35 external papers about his research.
Ashish is currently serving on Board of Advisors of Mechanical & Material Engineering Department, Washington State University. Previously he has also served on Board of Advisors of ME Dept., Univ. of California Riverside. Ashish has been elected as a Senior IEEE member, is the executive organizer of international IEEE ITherm conference.
Since becoming a manager in 2010, he has always sent members of his engineering team to Purdue’s Cooling Technologies Research Center. He also recruits Purdue students for Intel, including three PhD students (one each advised by Professors Garimella, Weibel and Xu).
Ashish is married and has one daughter. He and his family live in Hillsboro, Oregon.
Ralph and Bettye Bailey Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University
Director, Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories
BSNE 1977 MSME 1979 PhD 1981
Bob Lucht received his bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from Purdue University in 1977, before going on to complete his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering. Upon graduation, he joined Sandia National Labs. In 1991, he became a Manager of Diagnostics Research Department, where he directed a research program focused on the development of laser-based combustion diagnostics.
In 1992 he joined the academic world, becoming a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and then in 1998 moving to Texas A&M University. In 2002 he returned to his alma mater, and is now the Ralph and Bettye Bailey Distinguished Professor of Combustion, with appointments in both Aeronautics and Astronautics and Mechanical Engineering.
In 2016, he became the eighth director of the Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, the largest academic propulsion lab in the world. Under his leadership, Zucrow Labs has undergone unprecedented growth and expansion, both in physical space and research output. It has grown to include more than 175 graduate students and $18.5 million of research projects every year – and more to come with new hypersonics facilities currently under construction.
Professor Lucht is an exceptional combustion researcher, developing the new technique of femtosecond coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) for temperature measurements at data rates of 5 kHz. He has also helped to develop high-pressure gas turbine combustion test facilities with optical access, and demonstrated first-of-its-kind measurements of solid propellants. He has authored more than 190 articles in scholarly journals, and advised nearly 40 PhD students. He is a Fellow of ASME, AIAA, the Combustion Institute, and the Optical Society of America.
Founder and President, Moseley Venture Capital
After high school, Bill Moseley joined the US Marine Corps. Following his initial tour of duty, the Marine Corps sent Bill to Purdue University as a part of its commissioning program for enlisted troops. While at Purdue, he participated in the US Navy’s ROTC program and graduated from Purdue as an officer in the US Navy. After graduating from the School of Mechanical Engineering in 1980, he began a decade of service as a Navy Nuclear Engineering Officer. To this day, he is heavily involved with software projects that directly support the United States Navy’s submarine forces.
He then entered the world of industry, starting with an 11 year stint as Plant Manager and Production/Maintenance Superintendent at Corning Incorporated. He then served in positions at BP Solar, Tech-Assist, and Volvo Trucks.
Following a successful career in industry, Bill began to build his own company, Moseley Capital Investments, in 2014. Over the past decade, he has built his company into a 9-figure business through investments in land development, restaurants, stone quarries, technical innovations in the field of optics, and much more.
Over the past few years, Bill has made significant contributions of his time, talent, and treasure to Purdue, as a member of the ME Advisory Council and philanthropic supporter of important ME initiatives. He is the author of the book Succeeding by Leading, which focuses on effective leadership and industrial relations within the manufacturing environment.
Bill and his wife Lynn are heavily involved in their community of Hollis, New Hampshire.
Senior Research Engineer, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
From the age of 10, Becky Mueller wanted to be a car crash test engineer. Car crash testing was one way she could combine her love of cars with her lifelong goal of saving people’s lives.
She pursued college degrees in Mechanical Engineering, receiving a bachelor’s from the University of Wisconsin in 2007. She was one of the first non-Purdue students to participate in SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship), spending her summer at Herrick Labs. That helped to land a career-defining internship at General Motors in the vehicle safety group, when she was recognized for her leadership in the Department of Energy’s Challenge X student hybrid vehicle competition. She finished her master’s at Purdue in 2009.
After graduation, her first job was at Transportation Research Center, a vehicle proving grounds and testing facility, where she worked as a contractor for NHTSA on future vehicle safety regulation. Soon after, her dream of being a car crash test engineer came to fruition as she accepted a position at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as a research engineer. She is currently a senior research engineer, specializing in vehicle crashworthiness and injury biomechanics, where she has researched front crashes, side crashes, head injuries, new dummy technology, and vulnerable road users.
In her current role, she has led multiple teams to develop new car crash tests, presented research at international conferences, and authored a dozen research papers. She periodically appears on TV, radio, and newspaper interviews as a crash test expert. In 2020, she created a series of Lego crash test stop-motion videos to entertain people during the pandemic, garnering more than 70,000 views.
Her personal mission is to share her story of successes and failures to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to pursue their dreams.
Distinguished Research Staff, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bill Partridge serves in the Applied Catalysis & Emissions Research Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with more than 34 years of developing and applying advance diagnostics based on a wide range of technologies including laser-induced fluorescence, absorption, Raman, multi-photon spectroscopy, holographic interferometry, mass spectrometry, phosphor & organic sensor fiber-optic probes & pyrometry.
After a BSME and MSME from the University of Tennessee, Bill came to Purdue for his PhD, advised by Norman Laurendeau. After graduating, he did postdoctoral research at Oak Ridge, and has stayed there for his entire career.
Bill has extensive experience working with industry partners, as evidenced by his 25-year partnership with Cummins. The diagnostics he developed helped Cummins to create engines for the Nissan Titan and Dodge Ram.
He has 52 archival peer-reviewed publications, 26 invited or keynote lectures, 9 patents, and two commercialized technologies related to these diagnostics, in addition to numerous book chapters, non-archival publications and technical reports. He was recognized as ORNL’s 2008 Distinguished Engineer for his sustained and innovative developments related to engine, aftertreatment, and fuel-cell systems knowledge development. He received the 2010 Outstanding Mentor Award from the United States Department of Energy Office of Science, for his work with students and post-graduates. He has many ongoing national and international university collaborations focused on catalyst, engines and combustion, environmental and planetary exploration research, and developing the next generation of engineers and researchers.
Eric Schwenker made history twice over: a lifelong military officer who left Purdue to join the Army during World War II, and an engineer who forged a successful career in the refrigeration industry.
Raised in Evansville, Indiana, Eric wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, both as a military officer and as an engineer. He got the chance to pursue both in 1941. As a freshman at Purdue, he – like most Americans – found himself huddled around a radio to learn from President Roosevelt about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He left Purdue to join the Army Corps of Engineers, and eventually served six weeks in Germany as the war was ending.
With his Army experience, Purdue determined that Eric only needed a full senior year to finish his degree. And Eric made the most of that time. Because he already had a lot of drafting experience, he actually taught drafting to industrial engineers in the afternoons, after taking his own classes in the mornings. He also taught fencing in the Fieldhouse.
Academically, Eric was drawn to HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), just like his father. His near-pristine senior notebook from 1947 contains pages of notes and charts about temperature gradients, air distribution, pipe friction, radiators and convectors, and more. He was mentored by Professor Bill Miller, who had written the Professional Engineers’ exam on the subject, so he was well prepared for industry.
During the post-war consumerism boom, Evansville became known as the “refrigerator capital of the world.” In its prime, Evansville produced 10,000 units per day. Eric joined International Harvester, which eventually was acquired by Whirlpool-Seeger, combining for more than two million square feet of factory floor space. Eric designed refrigerators on drafting boards, and worked side-by-side with the actual factory production supervisors to build prototype versions. The assembly line was then tasked with constructing the prototypes of the refrigerators, and would immediately make changes in design and then reassemble the prototype, before the final design was released for mass production.
Eric also continued with the Indiana Guard Reserve in several capacities, eventually becoming a two-star Major General, and receiving the Sagamore of the Wabash award in honor of his military service.
He was heavily involved with ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. He helped charter the Evansville chapter in 1947, and frequently participated in conferences and events. In 2022, Eric celebrated the 75th anniversary of his membership in ASHRAE, the only member to ever reach that milestone.
Even into his 90s, Eric enthusiastically shared his talents with others. He taught military classes at Camp Atterbury. He participated in ASHRAE meetings. He even volunteered as a handyman at his daughter’s school, riding his motorcycle there every day to hang shelves and change light bulbs.
Eric Schwenker passed away on May 25, 2022, just a few months after his 99th birthday. For exceptional performance in both military and engineering careers, and a lifetime of hard work, persistence, and positivity, Purdue is proud to posthumously honor Eric Schwenker with the Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Award.
VP of Strategic Sourcing and Procurement, W.R. Grace & Co.
Sarah Smith is a driven executive, offering more than 15 years of success in delivering operational improvements and inspiring employee excellence in global environments.
Sarah graduated from Purdue with her BSME in 2003, after completing a five-semester co-op with Procter & Gamble. After graduating, she joined Halliburton in Houston, Texas, where she served in numerous positions over 15 years. She started as a supply chain manager, and then manager of a business unit overseeing drill bits and services manufacturing, which she eventually became the director of. She was promoted to Vice President for Health, Safety, and Environment; Service Quality; and Continuous Improvement, reporting directly to the President of Halliburton, and initiating company-wide strategies to increase efficiency and safety.
In 2017, Sarah completed an Executive MBA from Texas A&M. Then in 2018, she joined Amazon, first as a General Manager of a robotics fulfillment center. She then embarked on a brand new role with Amazon Web Services, creating business alliances with strategic global customers to deliver supply chain solutions. These multi-year, multi-million-dollar alliances span industries such as retail, pharmaceutical, industrial manufacturing, and energy.
She is now the Chief Procurement Officer for W.R. Grace & Co., a leading global supplier of specialty chemicals.
President, ENCENDIA Inc.
In a career spanning multiple companies and industries, Todd has led new venture and market development, product design and development, and materials research for global markets that include automotive, aerospace, defense, semiconductor, renewable energy, and consumer products.
Following the passion instilled at Purdue, Todd’s career started at Bell Helicopter with the first flight of the V22 Osprey tilt-rotor military aircraft. Then he moved on to Pratt & Whitney, working on the design of propulsion system components for the NASA Space Shuttle.
He spent the next thirty years at Alcoa and Novelis, pioneering system designs, materials and production processes. He was at the heart of transformations such as the Ford F-series and other iconic vehicle lines moving to energy-saving aluminum structures produced through closed-loop systems, transforming Novelis into a leading automotive supplier. Most recently, Todd co-led the creation and corporate spin-off of a semiconductor device business for a new paradigm in high performance computing power delivery, efficiency, and design freedom.
He held the positions of Chief Research & Development Officer, Vice President of Corporate Development Special Projects, and Global Automotive Technology Director of Novelis, the world leader in aluminum recycling & sheet products. Todd led the corporation’s innovation strategy, customer design centers, R&D centers, and new domain growth initiatives.
Todd is now the President of ENCENDIA, an executive consulting firm founded in 2022 with the mission of igniting sustainable transformation through materials, design, and business model innovation.
Senior Project Leader, The Aerospace Corporation
MSME 1991 PhD 1997
Yoshimi Takeuchi has built a prolific career in aerospace, leading interdisciplinary teams to solve complex challenges impacting satellites and launch vehicles.
After completing her Purdue PhD in fracture mechanics, she started her professional career at TRW and Hughes, before moving to The Aerospace Corporation in 1999. She now serves as a Senior Project Leader, problem-solving and performing research on a wide range of engineering topics: cable mechanics, electro-mechanical switches, bearings and bearing systems, battery systems, solar arrays, slip-ring assemblies, and other areas impacting space systems. The work performed by her teams has yielded solutions that prevented multi-million dollar launch delays and resolved design issues to ensure mission success for multiple space organizations.
Yoshimi attributes her accomplishments to the inspirational teachers and professors who provided essential guidance at critical times in her life. Following their examples, she feels strongly in ‘paying it forward,’ motivating future young leaders to find their path. For 25 years she’s mentored engineers, interns, and students interested in exploring and developing an aerospace career. Under her tutelage a number are now leading teams of their own. She also completed an MBA at Pepperdine in 2017 to extend her passion for engineering into business.
Yoshimi believes in innovation, leadership, community service, and entrepreneurship, consistently applying these philosophies to steer her career. She’s grateful to Purdue University and all the professors, teachers, staff, and friends who helped lay her foundations, enabling her to achieve these once unthinkable dreams.