The Mechanical Engineering Department has worked diligently to respond to institutional mandates regarding research. Indeed, the faculty embrace UofL’s drive to become a preeminent American research institution, and as a result, the department played a leadership role in Speed School’s response to the Challenge for Excellence. It was the lead department in developing the school’s 21st century doctoral programs. Mechanical Engineering also played a primary role in recruiting bioengineering faculty to UofL and developing a supporting curriculum. The department established effective partnerships with the local healthcare industry and the UofL School of Medicine. A Mechanical Engineering faculty member, Dr. Robert E. Keynton, left the department to serve as founding chair of Speed School’s new bioengineering department.
Mechanical engineering’s research performance has been disproportionately productive relative to its resource base. In fiscal year 2005-06, the department had reached the rank of 15th among all UofL departments/academic programs in externally funded research as measured by departmental research incentive fund returns from the office of the Executive Vice President for Research. Even more impressively, the department ranked third among non-medicine/dentistry departments (behind A&S Psychology and Speed School's ECE department) in externally funded research as measured by OEVPR DRIF returns.
Based upon principal investigator totals, the twelve tenure-track Mechanical Engineering faculty members then employed were responsible for $2.48m in new external funding in 2005-2006, a figure that is twice as large as the department’s annual faculty payroll. This total corresponds to $207k on a per capita basis. Among Speed School departments, ME trailed only ECE in total PI funding. Mechanical Engineering was the only Speed School department with as many as half of its faculty serving as principal investigator on externally funded projects. Nine of the twelve tenured/tenure-track ME faculty members were involved in externally funded research as principal- or co-principal investigators. Per capita faculty scholarship productivity as measured by publications, graduate student numbers , and proposals continued to increase through 2005-2006. In 2006-2007, the department’s performance in external research funding was even stronger, with $4,947,381 in contracts. M.E. Department research totals exceed those of its benchmark departments.
Economic changes and developing research directions presage a growing role for mechanical engineering programs in our nation’s research enterprise. UofL M.E. is well positioned to take advantage of these trends. From 1994-2004 the department went through a profound transformation that equipped it to play an academic leadership role within the University of Louisville. During this period, the department successfully established a new doctoral program, increased its research productivity from almost nothing to a nationally competitive level, and almost doubled its enrollment. However, the faculty also recognizes that this is not a time to rest on laurels. On November 19, 2007, the M.E. faculty discussed a second, even more profound transformation, with a goal of elevating the department to national prominence in all of its mission areas.