Key source of auto industry talent wins rare honor
GREENVILLE — A professor who is based in Greenville and plays a key role in supplying the automotive industry with engineers is bringing home an honor that goes to a small percentage of mechanical engineers.
Beshah Ayalew, professor of automotive engineering at Clemson University, was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, or ASME. The honor recognizes engineering achievement and goes to just over 3.1 percent of the organization’s 112,647 members.
Ayalew is a founding member of Clemson’s automotive engineering department, where he played a key role in developing the curriculum. His students have gone on to some of the biggest names in the automotive industry, including Michelin, Mercedes-Benz, Fiat-Chrysler and Tesla.
Ayalew helped Michelin develop simulation and experimental tools for analyzing and improving the design of the Tweel, an airless tire. The work spanned many projects, including braking, handling and ride performance. Michelin is now making the Tweel at a plant in Piedmont.
Of all that Ayalew does as a professor, he said that he gets the most satisfaction brainstorming with his doctoral students each Thursday in free-flowing sessions that sometimes last the better part of the afternoon.
“It feels really great to see how much they accomplish, how much they transform in three or four years they work with me,” Ayalew said. “I hold that dear. It’s the most important accomplishment and I consider it all the time.”
Ayalew became the fifth member of Clemson’s automotive engineering faculty to achieve status as Fellow of ASME, amounting to a third of the department. The department started with three graduate students in 2006 and now has nearly 200.
Ayalew is among the 41 faculty members who have come together from across Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences to form the Center for Advanced Manufacturing. They are working to support industry in a variety of research and workforce development projects.
Ayalew’s ascension to Fellow comes at a pivotal time, said Zoran Filipi, who is chair of automotive engineering and also a Fellow in ASME.
“Dr. Ayalew is giving South Carolina another shot of prestige, just as Clemson is strengthening its commitment to growing jobs and the economy with the new Center for Advanced Manufacturing,” Filipi said. “Beshah’s contribution to the automotive engineering curriculum is helping create the next generation of engineers, and his track record of industry-relevant research is impressive. As an example, he teaches one of the most popular classes in our program on Automotive Powertrain Control, and has delivered tools and methods to Michelin that have proven to be invaluable in their R&D process. Election as Fellow is a well-deserved honor.”
The society’s Committee of Past Presidents confers status of Fellow on ASME members. Automotive engineering is a specialized branch of mechanical engineering.
For Ayalew, it is the latest in a string of honors, including the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award, SAE International’s Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award and the Clemson University Board of Trustees’ Award for Faculty Excellence.
Ayalew’s lab and office are at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville. Ayalew currently serves as the graduate program coordinator for the automotive engineering department.
He has graduated 10 Ph.D. and 15 master’s students in mechanical and automotive engineering in 11 years, and he is now advising eight Ph.D. students.
He was responsible for developing six new graduate courses and contributed to two others.
Ayalew has received more than $5.6 million in research funding from industry and federal sources.
He primarily teaches graduate courses in control systems dealing with vehicle stability and safety, and advanced powertrains. He also pursues wide-ranging research in vehicle dynamics control, including control algorithms for autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, in vehicle energy management systems, and in mathematical modeling of manufacturing processes.
Ayalew was recruited to Clemson by Imtiaz Haque, founding chair of automotive engineering, whom Ayalew also credits for mentoring him in his early career. They met at a gathering of the society’s Vehicle Design Committee. Ayalew is now chairman of that committee.
His professional accomplishments include serving as principal investigator for the GATE Center of Excellence in Sustainable Vehicle Systems, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy that integrates research and education. The center made original contributions with new estimation and diagnostics algorithms for lithium-ion battery systems.
Ayalew has 13 years of membership in ASME. He has served as organizer and co-organizer of several symposia and chair of several conference sessions. He is serving as associate editor for the ASME Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement and Control.
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said that Ayalew is richly deserving of Fellow status.
“The honor is a testament to the level of scholarship that Dr. Ayalew brings to his profession, the department of automotive engineering and the Center for Advanced Manufacturing,” Gramopadhye said. “I offer my wholehearted congratulations to him for all his success.”