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2018 SME Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineers

These 18 Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineers, age 35 or younger, are being recognized for their exceptional contributions and accomplishments in the manufacturing industry. Each year, the award is named in honor of a specific individual who has made lifelong contributions to manufacturing and SME. The 2018 award is named after 2002 SME President Marcus B. Crotts, FSME, CMfgE, PE, retired chairman of Crotts & Saunders Engineering Inc.

Yogesh Balajee
Senior Control Engineer
Puratos USA
Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Armed with a master’s degree from Drexel University, Balajee has led several projects on the U.S. automation front — the best of which is a $60M site expansion to increase throughput and efficiency. His hard work ethic, adaptive nature, tenacious ability to find solutions to difficult problems coupled with his willingness to provide support at any time of the night, make him a great asset. Balajee represents the engineering sector in best light outside of work as well. He is the director of International Society of Automation Controls & Robotics Division and has been trusted with leading its development until 2020. He is also an eloquent speaker and has been invited to speak at several leading conferences around the world. His humanitarian interests include working on projects in under-developed countries, one of it being in Mozambique


Mostafa Bedewy, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Industrial Engineering
University of Pittsburgh

At the University of Pittsburgh, Bedewy leads its NanoProduct Lab. Previously, he was a postdoctoral associate at MIT in bionanofabrication. In 2013, Bedewy completed his doctorate at the University of Michigan, after receiving both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical design and production engineering from Cairo University. He recently received the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities in 2017; the Robert A. Meyer Award from the American Carbon Society in 2016; the Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement from the University of Michigan in 2014; and the Silver Award from the Materials Research Society in 2013. Bedewy’s research interests include nanomanufacturing, materials characterization and metrology; synthesis and self-organization of low-dimensional materials; self-assembly of nanoparticles, block copolymers and proteins; and design of medical devices. SME Member Since 2017


Dan Braley
USN/USMC Flight Control Surfaces and Wings Technical Integrator
Boeing Global Surfaces and F/A-18 Program
The Boeing Co.
St. Louis

Braley has more than 13 years of aerospace program and R&D experience in additive manufacturing, technical program management, materials and process engineering, composites, electromagnetic product development and manufacturing technology development. Prior to this role, he held positions with Boeing Research and Technology, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, L-3 Communications ESSCO and the Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Aerial Vehicle Directorate. Braley currently holds 12 patent applications and two trade secrets in the areas of additive manufacturing and conductive composite materials development. He is a previous winner of the Boeing PRINT IT Innovation Challenge, as well as a past recipient of the Northrop Grumman Innovation Award, the F-35 Lightning Rod Award, and the Northrop Grumman Space Technology Production and Supply Chain Excellence Award. Braley received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Florida State University, and a master’s degree in engineering management from Drexel University. SME Member Since 2015


Grant Brandal, PhD
Research Scientist
Manufacturing Technologies
GE Global Research Center
Niskayuna, New York

Brandal joined GE Global Research after completing his mechanical engineering doctorate at Columbia University, having previously received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Whitman College. Currently, most of his time is spent developing laser-based advanced manufacturing processes for a breakthrough ceramic material for use on next-generation GE aircraft engines, interfacing along the way with design and supply chain to help bring this manufacturing technology to life. This desire to see technology successfully transferred from research labs to real-world applications led Brandal to work for three years as a fellow at Columbia Technology Ventures during his time in graduate school, assessing the patentability and commercialization potential of research across Columbia University’s labs. Brandal’s research has been featured in nearly 20 publications, on topics including welding of small-scale medical devices, laser shock peening to improve corrosion resistance, and thin-film laser annealing and scribing for solar cells.


Mariely “Ely” Brooks
Manager of Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Automation
St. Augustine Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence
St. Augustine, Florida

In her role as manager of manufacturing technology and advanced automation, Brooks is responsible for providing leadership and strategic direction to identify, develop and transition to production emerging and innovative manufacturing technologies and advanced automation systems for current and emerging programs. This includes demonstration efforts for affordability, producibility and risk reduction in addition to coordination of common manufacturing technologies at the manufacturing center. She has over 12 years of industry experience with recent focus over the last six years in the development and transitioning to production of large-scale robotics and automation systems for aircraft manufacturing. SME Member Since 2016


Christina Fontanos
Production Build Manager
Manufacturing & Quality Engineering Division
Naval Air Systems Command
Patuxent River, Maryland

Fontanos is currently functioning as a production build manager for a major Department of Defense aircraft program. During her service on various aircraft and airborne weapons programs as an M&Q engineer at NAVAIR, Fontanos has led program risk reduction efforts through analysis of contractor and fleet data to assess trends and offer business-based solutions to identify, monitor and mitigate manufacturing risk in light of program affordability needs. As part of temporary assignments during her time in the Naval Acquisition Development Program, Fontanos researched and co-developed materials and processes suitable for additive manufacturing of defense-relevant end items. She has championed standardized training across the M&Q Division and continues to produce training materials as part of a cross-functional team to fill critical competency gaps and position new hires to reach organizational goals. Fontanos is a graduate of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Program at the University of Maryland (2014), NADP (2016) and was awarded the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers Promising Professional Award in 2017.


Arun L. Gain, PhD
Analytics Project Leader
Caterpillar Inc.
Urbana-Champaign, Illinois

At Caterpillar Inc. Gain leads the Structural Optimization Group, which is responsible for developing novel analytics and optimization algorithms for the company’s manufacturing needs. He has developed numerous design concepts of Caterpillar machine components with superior stiffness, stress, fatigue and cost performance suitable for fabrication, casting and additive manufacturing. Gain has also developed software and algorithms for optimization, data analytics and workflow automation. His past and current work has generated eight peer-reviewed journal publications with over 230 citations and has three pending patent applications. Gain is also serving as peer reviewer for seven prestigious journals and conducted over 30 reviews. He received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and master’s degree and doctorate in civil engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His doctorate research focused on developing robust and efficient approaches for topology optimization using polyhedral elements.


Thomas Hedberg Jr., PE
Mechanical Engineer
Systems Integration Division
Engineering Laboratory
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Gaithersburg, Maryland

At NIST, Hedberg is the project leader of the digital thread for smart manufacturing project in the Smart Manufacturing Operations Planning and Control program and the co-leader of the Smart Manufacturing Systems Test Bed. His current research focus is in the areas of digital product design, smart manufacturing and lifecycle engineering. Prior to joining NIST, Hedberg was a senior mechanical engineer and technical lead of the Model-Based Enterprise group at Honeywell Aerospace. In this role, he developed a strategy and implementation of MBE in Honeywell’s engineering operations. Hedberg is also a voting member of ASME Y14.37, Y14.41 and Y14.41.1 subcommittees from the ASME Y14 suite of standards. He is a licensed professional engineer in Arizona and Maryland.


Moneer Helu
Mechanical Engineer
Engineering Laboratory
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Gaithersburg, Maryland

Helu is a mechanical engineer in the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology where he co-leads efforts to advance prognostics, health management and control of smart manufacturing systems. Helu is also the co-leader of the NIST Smart Manufacturing Systems Test Bed. His current research focuses on developing the digital thread to enable and support diagnostics, prognostics and control. Helu has also made contributions in the areas of green manufacturing, process monitoring, and manufacturing data interoperability and management. He is a member of the Technical Steering Committee and Technical Advisory Group for MTConnect, Executive Committee of the ASME Manufacturing Engineering Division and a corporate member of CIRP. Helu has been recognized with SME’s 30 Under 30: Future Leaders of Manufacturing and an ASME Best Paper Award. He received his doctorate and master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley and bachelor’s degree from MIT.


Matthew L. Hilgendorf, CMfgT, EIT
Value Stream Manager
Atkore International
Harvey, Illinois

Hilgendorf, who joined Atkore International in Aug. 2017, is responsible for manufacturing operations at its Allied Tube & Conduit facility. Previously, he was the supplier development and quality manager at Black Horse LLC, a Caterpillar Inc. and Ariel Corp. joint venture. Hilgendorf led quality, sourcing and operational excellence efforts within Black Horse. His past roles in Caterpillar include leadership positions in operations, quality and supply chain. During Hilgendorf's quality career, he spent five years as a chief metrologist. During this time, Hilgendorf developed modern metrology strategies and measurement technologies in several facilities including some of the largest and most advanced coordinate measurement equipment in the U.S. He holds bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and manufacturing engineering from Kettering University and a master’s degree in engineering management from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Hilgendorf is an SME endowment member, active SME Education Foundation donor and scholarship committee member. SME Member Since 2002


Thanh Duc Nguyen, PhD
Assistant Professor
Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering
Institute of Regenerative Engineering
UConn Health Center
University of Connecticut
Storrs, Connecticut

Nguyen’s research is highly interdisciplinary and at the interface of biomedicine, materials and nano/microtechnology. His works focus on the manufacturing and transformation of medical materials into useful shapes/structures at small scales, and enable them to exhibit special functions for various applications in controlled drug delivery, tissue engineering and medical devices. Recently, Nguyen has invented and developed a platform technology that can create three-dimensional microstructures of biodegradable polymers for single-injection vaccines. His research group at UConn has also developed a new piezoelectric polymer, used to make a novel implantable force-sensor, which can monitor vital biophysiological forces inside the body and self-vanish without a need of invasive removal surgery. Nguyen’s works have been published in prestigious journals including “Science,” “Nature Nanotechnology” and so on, and highlighted in major media such as “The New York Times,” “BBC News,” “Fox News” and more. He achieved several prestigious awards including the NIH trailblazer Award for Young and Early Investigators (2017).


Ala Qattawi, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of California, Merced
Merced, California

Qattawi is an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California Merced. She earned her doctorate from Clemson University in 2012. Prior to joining the University of California Merced in 2015, Qattawi was a postdoctoral fellow at the International Center for Automotive Research at Clemson University. She is a recipient of the 2016 Hellman Faculty Award and was named one of the emerging scholars by The Diverse: Issues in “Higher Education” magazine. In 2017, she received the Outstanding Advisor Award from University of California Merced. Qattawi’s research focus on design for manufacturing for novel manufacturing process for sheet metal inspired by Origami folding to reduce machinery and energy needs. Her work adds to the body of knowledge in considering material thickness and manufacturing requirements when optimizing Origami structures. Qattawi’s developed a flattening procedure that includes manufacturing indices optimization for automotive vehicle structures to be manufactured by Origami. SME Member Since 2016


Yancheng Wang, PhD
Associate Professor
School of Mechanical Engineering
Zhejiang University
Hangzhou, China

Wang received his doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Zhejiang University in 2011. Before joining Zhejiang University, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan. His research interests include advanced biomedical device design and manufacturing, projection-based additive manufacturing processes and their applications in biomedical and tactile sensor fields. Wang has published more than 25 journal papers and over 25 peer-reviewed conference papers. He received several awards including the best paper awards in ASME Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference (MSEC2013), IEEE International Conference on Intelligent and Automation (ICIA/ICAL2014), International Conference of Manufacturing Technology Engineers (ICMTE2014), International Conference on Wearable Sensor and Robot (ICWSR2015), International Conference on Frontiers of Design and Manufacturing (ICFDM2016).


Changxue Xu, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Industrial, Manufacturing & Systems Engineering
Texas Tech University
Lubbock, Texas

Xu obtained his doctorate degree in mechanical engineering from Clemson University in 2014, and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Sichuan University in 2006 and 2009, respectively. Prior to joining Texas Tech, he was a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida from 2014-15. His research interests focus on advanced manufacturing in biomedical applications. Currently, Xu’s lab investigates 3D bioprinting of tissue-engineered blood vessels, organs-on-chips, cell printing and cell encapsulation, cell-biomaterial interaction, additive manufacturing of functional materials and electrohydrodynamic jet printing.


Wenjun Xu, PhD
School of Information Engineering
Wuhan University of Technology
Wuhan, China

Xu received his doctorate and both his master's and bachelor's degrees from Wuhan University of Technology in 2010, 2007 and 2005, respectively. Between 2008 and 2010, he was a visiting researcher in the Manufacturing Engineering Centre at Cardiff University. His research is focused on manufacturing informatics, sustainable manufacturing, human-robot collaborative manufacturing and so on. Xu has published more than 20 journal papers and 30 conference papers. He is an associate editor of “Cogent Engineering,” Taylor & Francis (since 2014), and served as a co-chair of IEEE ICNSC 2018 and a session co-organizer of ASME MSEC 2017. Xu received the Distinguished Young Investigator Award from the IEEE SMC Society Technical Committee on Enterprise Information Systems in 2017 and the Best Paper Award at the 12th International Conference on Frontiers of Design and Manufacturing in 2016. SME Member Since 2013


Meng “Peter” Zhang, PhD
Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering
Kansas State University
Manhattan, Kansas

Zhang is an assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering at Kansas State. Prior to that, he was a visiting assistant professor in the same department. Zhang received his doctorate in industrial engineering from K-State in 2014 and bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Dalian University of Technology, China in 2009. Zhang’s research is focused on advanced manufacturing processes and their application in bioenergy, aerospace materials and healthcare. His research findings have generated over 60 publications. Zhang is a passionate educator of manufacturing. He has been teaching manufacturing courses to over 150 students every semester since 2015. Zhang’s research and education activities have been supported by the National Science Foundation through four grants. He has provided research experiences for more than 10 undergraduate students to participate in different NSF projects. Zhang also supported his undergraduate researchers to present their papers at conferences such as NAMRC/MSEC. SME Member Since 2016


Yu Shrike Zhang, PhD
Research Faculty and Associate Bioengineer
Division of Engineering in Medicine
Department of Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Harvard Medical School

Zhang received his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in 2008 from Southeast University, China, and doctorate in biomedical engineering in 2013 from Georgia Institute of Technology. He is currently a research faculty and associate bioengineer in the Division of Engineering in Medicine, Department of Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. His research is focused on innovating medical engineering technologies to recreate functional biomimetic tissues for regenerative medicine and tissue models for personalized medicine, using a multidisciplinary approach combining biomaterials, biofabrication, microfluidics and bioanalysis.


Xin Zhao, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Clemson University
Clemson, South Carolina

Zhao received his doctorate degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 2014. He also holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physics from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. Zhao’s research focuses on advanced laser-based manufacturing and materials processing. Specifically, his research is aimed at fundamental understanding of laser-matter interaction mechanisms, laser-induced plasma dynamics and novel applications in micromachining, multiscale surface structuring, shock peening and microscale additive manufacturing. Zhao’s research also involves novel joining techniques for dissimilar materials in automotive applications. He chaired and organized several technical sessions at MSEC and IMECE. Zhao is a member of ASME, SME and LIA. SME Member Since 2016