Mechanical Engineering head steps down effective July 1

Boyce to become dean of Columbia University’s School of Engineering & Applied Sciences

The head of MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering (Course 2) Mary C. Boyce PhD ’87 will be stepping down in order to become dean of Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science effective July 1, 2013.

“I’ve had an incredible experience here at MIT as a graduate student to junior faculty up through the tenured ranks, and eventually as department head,” said Boyce in an interview with The Tech. “But, the opportunity at Columbia is an opportunity to take their engineering school to new places and have an impact in a very different environment. That really was the motivation. They’re undergoing growth and the city of New York is really a growing hotspot for engineering.”

Regardless of her departure, said Boyce, Course 2 will still have the same priorities. The department has always been “guided by principles for pushing the frontiers of knowledge and new technology and preparing the next generation of engineers,” said Boyce. Under her leadership since 2008, Course 2 has seen a surge in enrollment for graduate students, with a 25-percent rise in graduate applications.

“Professor Boyce has distinguished herself throughout her academic career not only as a scholar but also as a teacher and mentor driven by an abiding commitment to nurturing the next generation of engineers,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger in a statement to the Columbia News.

The most important things Boyce has learned at MIT that will help her as dean are the sense of collaboration and the “we can solve this together” attitude. At MIT, she said, “there are no boundaries that are in your way in regard to what knowledge is needed to bring to solve a problem. By that, I mean the very interdisciplinary environment not only in research but also in the curriculum. Just because you’re a mechanical engineer doesn’t mean you don’t have to know about biology or chemistry.”

Boyce graduated from Virginia Tech in 1981 and received her PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT in 1987. She joined MIT as an assistant professor in 1987 and has remained at MIT since then. She was appointed as department head of Mechanical Engineering in 2008.

During her time at MIT, Boyce has garnered many accolades. According to the Department of Mechanical Engineering, she has published over 150 publications, and mentored 36 SM thesis students and 20 PhD students. In addition, she has been honored with various distinctions and awards, including becoming an MIT MacVicar Faculty Fellow, winning the Department of Mechanical Engineering Keenan Award for Teaching, the Spira Award for Teaching, and the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award. She is also a fellow of many academies, including American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

“Mary has been an exceptional colleague and department head, distinguishing herself in research, teaching and service,” said Ian A. Waitz, dean of the MIT School of Engineering in a statement to the MIT News Office. “We will miss her very much, but wish her the best in this new role.” Waitz is in the process of forming a search committee to find the next department head.