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Department to add three new faculty

Three new faculty members will join the Department of Mechanical Engineering (MECH) at Rice University on July 1.

newfac2016_03Matthew Brake, the principal research and development engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, will come to Rice as an assistant professor. Brake earned three degrees in MECH from Carnegie Mellon: a B.S. in 2002, an M.S. in 2004 and a Ph.D. in 2007.

He joined Sandia in 2008 after working there as a post-doctoral fellow. In 2012, Brake was a visiting academic at the University of Oxford, where he helped establish a multi-institution collaboration to pioneer research in mechanical joints and interfacial mechanics. Since 2012, Brake has served as an adjunct research assistant professor at the University of New Mexico. His primary research interests include interfacial mechanics, model reduction theory and nonlinear dynamics.

C. Fred Higgs III will become the John and Ann Doerr Professor of Mechanical Engineering and faculty director of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership. He joined the Carnegie Mellon University faculty in 2003 and was promoted to full professor in 2012. There he headed the Particle Flow and Tribology Lab and was a thrust leader in the NextManufacturing Center which focuses on the future of additive manufacturing.

Higgs’ research focuses on tribology, the study of interacting surfaces and the associated friction, lubrication and wear. His group focuses on problems involving sliding surfaces with particulate media flowing between them, from the nano- to the macro-scale.

Higgs earned a B.S. in MECH from Tennessee State University in 1995, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in MECH from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., in 1997 and 2001, respectively. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology for two years, joined the Carnegie Mellon faculty in 2003 and was promoted to full professor in 2012.

Pedram Hassanzadeh will join MECH as an assistant professor. He received his M.A. in mathematics and Ph.D. in MECH from the University of California at Berkeley in 2013. In 2007 he earned a master’s in MECH from the University of Waterloo, Canada, and in 2005 a B.S. in MECH from the University of Tehran.

Since 2013 Hassanzadeh has been a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University, where he received a two-year Ziff Environmental Fellowship from its Center for the Environment. His research interests include fluid dynamics of extreme-causing weather patterns, closure models for geophysical turbulence, eddy-mean flow interaction, stochastic models for climate systems, and jets and vortices in rotating stratified turbulence.

–Patrick Kurp, Engineering Communications