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June 03, 2015

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New faculty member is feeling the vibes

Tan Chai is feeling the good vibes.

The newest member of the team in the College of Engineering, the assistant professor of mechanical engineering and energy processes focuses on vibration and system dynamics in mechanical systems. She studies issues such as improving noise and vibration and isolation devices used widely in automotive applications in vehicle suspension and engine mount assemblies. One of her current research projects tackles the difficult job of modeling such systems.

“Scientific modeling of such devices and sub-systems with these components has been challenging,” she said. “Our research would provide physical insights of these devices and improve vehicle sub-system modeling.”

Before coming to SIU in January, Chai worked in the field of vehicle noise, vibration and harshness at Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Mich.

“She was developing noise and vibration analysis methods and tools, evaluating vehicle level road noise, and working with cross-functional teams to determine root causes and implement countermeasures at Ford,” said Rasit Koc, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Energy Processes.

“Dr. Chai is exceptionally educated and experienced in industry,” Koc said. “Drawn from a well-known institution such as Ford Motor Co., she is a promising faculty member. She will contribute to the research in the areas of structural dynamics, vibrations of mechanical systems, acoustics and signal processing and educational activities of the department and beyond.

“She is well-accomplished and her research spans some of the most important challenges in the world.  The students in the department will benefit from her educational and research backgrounds,” Koc said.

Chai earned her Bachelor of Science degree at Hefei University of Technology, China. She earned her doctorate in mechanical engineering at The Ohio State University in 2013.

Her other research interests include acoustics, structural dynamics and digital signal processing.

Chai said the key to encouraging the enthusiasm and curiosity of students is to make students as involved in the classroom as possible.

“That requires an interactive and stimulating learning environment, inquiry-based activities, real-life examples and well-organized guidance through the teaching process,” she said. “I believe experimental learning is essential to mechanical engineering students. Hands-on laboratory experience can greatly help students understand theories and concepts. Project-based learning also gives students the opportunity to carry out original work.”

Coming most recently from the private sector, Chai said SIU impressed her in many ways.

“I was impressed by the faculty and research facilities in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Energy Processes,” she said. “I believe teaching at SIU is a great opportunity for me. I like the beautiful campus here, as well.  Also, Carbondale is located next to many forests and lakes, living here gives me a lot of opportunities to explore nature.”