UMass Lowell profs honored for inspiring their students

12/09/2006
By From the Lowell Sun

By RICK HELLER, Sun Statehouse Bureau

BOSTON -- Two University of Massachusetts Lowell professors were honored at the UMass Club yesterday for guiding engineering students to public service projects that give them practical experience in their field.

John Ting, dean of the College of Engineering, and John Duffy, a professor of mechanical engineering, were among six winners of the 2006 President's Public Service Awards. UMass Lowell was the only campus with multiple winners this year.

Ting and Duffy were honored for inspiring engineering students to help communities as far away as the Andes Mountains in South America and as near as Lowell's Merrimack Street.

Duffy takes students to Peru, where they set up systems that provide lighting and refrigeration while gaining practical experience.

"I go down with students twice a year," Duffy said. "We design and install systems in remote villages that have no electricity and no running water and no space heat."

Ting has made UMass Lowell one of two schools in the country that integrate public service projects into the engineering curriculum.

"Our students try to provide a service to the community while (learning) the technical content of whatever the course is," Ting said, adding that most classes have some component of public service.

One project close to home was to help the Merrimack Valley Food Bank retain heat in a mill building with offices directly above a warehouse.

"We actually worked with one of the engineering classes," Amy Pessia, the food bank's executive director, said by phone. "They sent a group of students over who surveyed the second floor."

The students determined that heat was lost from the stairway between the offices and warehouse, and developed a plan to enclose the staircase.

Linda Barrington, the coordinator of the engineering program, said that it welcomes proposals for public service engineering projects anywhere in the Greater Lowell region.