Get to know MEES’s New Program Director: Dr. Andrea Strzelec

MADISON, Wis.—Andrea Strzelec is returning to the University of Wisconsin–Madison to lead the Master of Engineering Engine Systems Online Master Degree Program and here’s what she tells us about her return:

What sparked your interest in combustion research?
Truly, I have had a life-long love of fire, so in some ways it was fated to happen. Specifically, my sister Susie was a student hourly worker in the Engine Research Center while I was working on a graduate degree in Chemical Engineering. Professor Chris Rutland recruited me across the street to work on a diesel after-treatment project with him and Professor Dave Foster—it changed my career trajectory for the better (and dirtier: I did my Ph.D. work on diesel soot!).

What advice do you have for students considering a Master’s degree in Engine Systems?
Do it! It is an exciting time to be an engineer in this area. The demise of the internal combustion engine has been gravely over hyped. While electrification makes a lot of sense, hybrids have great benefits, without the range anxiety issues—they still have engines! Actually, the trend towards hybridization is why we are introducing two new classes in powertrain electrification in the program.

Plus, the engines community is dynamic and full of really great people. The overall vehicle community is large, but the engine-specific community is close-knit—going to meetings (Combustion Institute, ASME ICEF, and SAE) is like going to a class reunion. It will be one of the most rewarding returns on your time investment.

You completed your Combustion Engineering Ph.D. at UW–Madison. What are you looking forward to in your return to Madison this May?
This is a very easy question to answer broadly: EVERYTHING. I completed all of my degrees at UW–Madison (check out my brick on the Terrace!) and I like to call myself a Triple Threat Badger! This return to Madison and the UW represents the achievement of a dream 13 years in the making (I left Madison to do my PhD research at ORNL in 2006) during that time, I’ve been making leaps all around the country (TN, WA, TX, MS), and I am so thrilled to be able to say that my next leap is the leap home—to Wisconsin and the UW.

You demonstrate a collaborative teaching style that benefits students and teachers alike. In what ways do you hope to impact the students of the MEES program?
In my experience, teaching, research, and industrial collaboration are inseparably intertwined. My experience in my own research and industrial interactions allows me to bring fresh ideas and practical, relevant problems to the classroom to demonstrate the applications of the fundamentals. One of the things that excite me most about the MEES program, or even the short courses I teach, is that I’m talking to people who are actually working in the field—and the things we talk about will be immediately applicable for them. Plus, I learn a LOT in return from the discussions we have and the types of questions they ask—it is extremely rewarding.

Andrea’s Background
Andrea transitions from being an Assistant Professor for the Department of Mechanical Engineering and principal investigator of the Combustion & Reaction Characterization Laboratory (CRCL) at Mississippi State University and Texas A&M University. Previous to her academic career, she did postdoctoral fellowships at Oak Ridge and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories. She received her interdisciplinary Combustion Engineering, combining Chemical and Mechanical Engineering, Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, working through the Engine Research Center and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Her teaching experience is in thermodynamics, heat transfer, internal combustion engines, automotive engineering, and combustion science. Dr. Strzelec is also the Vice Chair of the SAE Exhaust Aftertreatment and Emissions Committee, Associate Editor of the Journal of Emissions Control Science and Technology, a recipient of the 2016 SAE Forrest R. McFarland Service Award, 2015 SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award and the recipient of the Texas A&M Mechanical Engineering 2015 Brittian Undergraduate Teaching Award.