Michalek Discusses Engineering Challenges at LINC

February 25, 2011

Dr. Donna Michalek, chair of the Department of Engineering at the University of Mount Union, discussed “Engineering in the Future: Going Where No One Has Gone Before” on Tuesday, February 22 at the LINC Luncheon. Her presentation focused on past engineering achievements of the 20th century as well as the challenges that lie ahead.
Ironically, her presentation fell within National Engineers Week, a time in which to celebrate engineers, their accomplishments and achievements as well as bring awareness to the profession. Michalek explained that one of the main activities during engineers week is to introduce a girl to engineering. “We’re striving to diversify the profession,” she said. “But we’re engineers, so we’ll solve it eventually.”
Dr. Donna MichalekMount Union began offering two bachelor of science degree programs in mechanical engineering and civil engineering this past fall. Currently, there are 25 students in the two programs, and six are women.
“As engineers, we are constantly trying to solve problems and improve things for the benefit of society,” said Michalek. “And, I don’t think we as engineers talk about that enough. People think of doctors helping people, but engineers do a lot to help society as well.”
Some of the greatest achievements that have been developed and/or improved by engineers include electrification, water supply and distribution, electronics, agricultural mechanization, air conditioning and refrigeration, highways, spacecrafts, Internet, household appliances, nuclear technology, airplanes and automobiles, among others.
Although it’s not a physical invention, Michalek believes that codes and standards are one of engineers’ greatest achievements. “It does allow for international trade, which leads to globalization,” she said. “If we didn’t have codes and standards then a widget made in China would be different than one made in India. And, how could those things fit together properly?”
Michalek admitted that some of the challenges are created as a result of past achievements. Some of the challenges that engineers face today include (but are not limited to):
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
These achievements and challenges were complied from the National Academy of Engineering and ASME.
According to Michalek, educating engineering students to solve these challenges are important because some of the challenges are so serious that we could cease to exist as a society if the problems go unsolved. At Mount Union, engineering students have been designing logos, creating a ping-pong launcher, conducting research and learning in interactive classrooms.
Aside from her duties as chair, Michalek is the director of mechanical engineering and associate professor of mechanical engineering. A member of the Mount Union faculty since 2010, Michalek earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Clarkson University in 1985, a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1988 and a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1992.
Michalek came to Mount Union from Michigan Technological University, where she most recently served as assistant provost and associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics (ME-EM). She currently serves as a member of the Board on Government Relations for ASME. She also has been appointed by ASME to serve as an ABET evaluator for mechanical engineering programs.
She was a former ASME science and engineering fellow, having served in the office of Senator James M. Inhofe. Michalek has been awarded the Michigan Tech Distinguished Teaching Award and the Outstanding Student Advisor of the Year Award, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Dow Outstanding New Faculty Award and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award. She also was inducted into the Michigan Tech Academy of Teaching Excellence and Order of Omega.
An additional session will be held on March 22 featuring Dr. James Thoma, associate dean of the University and professor of human performance and sport business. He will present “Sports Going Global: Life’s Lessons.”

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