Alumni Underscore Value of Design for Sustainability Class

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Ask Lewis Morgante about the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Design for Sustainability (ENME489E) class and he’ll tell you about how students experience real-life engineering applications through the lens of sustainable design and the importance of mentors.

“All of the success I have achieved at work has to some degree stemmed from the relationships I’ve built with a handful of close mentors, whether through personal guidance as I worked through a tough assignment, or through opportunities provided to me by my mentors because they are aware and supportive of my personal goals,” says Morgante, who participated in a project with HDR when he took the class three years ago.

The class explores opportunities for engineers in the sustainability arena, covering design for sustainability principles, methods to measure greenhouse gas emissions, life cycle assessment databases, life cycle costing, business case analysis, and state-of-the-art technologies in the energy, transportation, and waste management sectors.

Morgante's project earned him a full-time position at HDR, where he now works. He credits his teacher and mentor, Dr. Senthil Arul. “Dr. Arul has mentored me since I was his student in 2015 and has continuously helped me identify practical ways to develop into the person and engineer I strive to become,” Morgante adds. “His course not only helped me land a job with the firm I worked with on my project, but it gave me a better understanding of how to practice real-world engineering more than any other course I took as an undergraduate.” As a way of saying thanks, Morgante has helped sponsor ENME489E course projects and mentored students.

So has Dan Fitzgerald, an alumnus and senior manager of product sustainability at Stanley Black & Decker. “I remind students how much influence they will have as professional engineers,” he says. “Their day-to-day decisions will have both environmental and social consequences, possibly on a global level, and they have a responsibility to serve the public interest.”

Fitzgerald’s experience at UMD continues to have a big impact on his career. “I was introduced to both sustainability and Stanley Black & Decker through graduate work with my advisors Dr. Jeffrey Herrmann and Dr. Linda Schmidt,” he says. “As a result, I’ve been happily employed by Stanley Black & Decker since 2006 and my current role is focused on improving the sustainable performance of our products.”

Alumnus Matt Eshed has also helped in sponsoring course projects and mentoring students. “I enjoy this opportunity to add value by working with students whose shoes I was in a few years ago,” he says. “I value the drive and insight I receive from interacting with students very highly. Their energy is critical to maintaining a curious and growth-oriented mindset.”

Eshed, who graduated seven years ago, cofounded Impossible Labs, a sustainable development and advanced technology consultancy based in San Francisco. “The way Impossible Labs has facilitated the projects is by providing a creative space for students to learn and make mistakes without explicitly succeeding or failing, much like the reality that we face after graduating from school,” he observes. “As a student, working with a company outside of the university is a way to gain experience leading to a happy career, much like an apprenticeship gives a new worker a skillset [to] build on.”

The Design for Sustainability class offers students many learning opportunities, advancing multi-disciplinary collaboration, ethical responsibility, and the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context.

Published January 8, 2019