UCSB Mechanical Engineer Recognized for Work in Micro-Scale Mechanical Systems

Mechanical engineering professor Kimberly Turner was recently elected a Fellow of the prestigious American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), becoming the sixth professor from UCSB to receive the title.

ASME is a nonprofit organization that advances the engineering sciences by helping engineers around the world share their research and collaborate on projects intended to improve the quality of life. Becoming an ASME member is an extensive process requiring nomination by another ASME member or fellow, and in order to be nominated, a member must have published scientific research and have 10 or more years of practice in their field, as well as at least 10 years of membership with ASME.

According to Rod Alferness, Dean of the College of Engineering, Turner’s appointment as a Fellow is a prestigious and well-respected accomplishment in the engineering community.

“For faculty, election as a Fellow to ASME, IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] or the National Academies, just to name a few examples, is a prestigious recognition of their contributions to science and engineering disciplines,” Alferness said.

Turner’s research focuses largely on microelectromechanical systems, also known as MEMS, which are miniature devices that can function as filters, sensors and switches. She has written over 80 peer-reviewed scientific articles, and her research has made potentially noteworthy gains in the use of signaling devices as well as the development of technologically advanced adhesives.

Turner is currently working to develop devices that can detect changes in mass so tiny that they can indicate the presence of a single molecule of a given material. According to Convergence, an online magazine of Engineering and the Sciences at UCSB’s College of Engineering, these sensors could have multiple applications such as in areas such as food safety, detection of trace amounts of chemicals used in chemical warfare and guiding satellites and missiles. The technology even has the potential to replace the ever-popular GPS system.

Turner’s Mechanics of Microsystems Lab at UCSB, comprised of undergraduates working alongside established researchers, also works to create an adhesive that mimics the stickiness of gecko feet. The adhesives are modeled on the nano-scale hairs that allow geckos to stick and unstick their feet from various surfaces as they move and may be applied to robots, which the United States Army has expressed interest in using as scouts in war zones, according to Convergence.

In addition to becoming a Fellow, Turner has also received the UCSB Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award, the National Science Foundation CAREER award and the Michigan Tech University Outstanding Young Alumni Award. She is a member of the Michigan Technological University Presidential Alumnae Council and is the General Chair for the 2010 Americas Workshop on Solid-State Sensors & Actuators. Turner was voted one of the Pacific Coast Business Times’ Top 50 Women in Business in 2007.

According to Alferness, recognition of Turner’s accomplishments has positive implications for the UCSB community as a whole.

“It reflects the credibility and impact of our faculty’s research and academic achievements here at UCSB,” Alferness said.


A version of this story appeared on page 3 of Wednesday, April 2, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.