Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics welcomes new head

June 30, 2022

By Mariah Chuprinski

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Vincent Meunier has been named head of the Penn State College of Engineering’s Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, as well as the P.B. Breneman Department Head Chair and professor of engineering science and mechanics. He will start on July 1.   

“I am excited to join Penn State, interact with new colleagues and establish new collaborations,” Meunier said. “I enjoy hearing about faculty members’ research pursuits and look forward to extending my current interests in research and pedagogy.” 

Meunier is currently head of the Department of Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy and professor of physics and materials science engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he also holds the Gail and Jeffrey L. Kodosky ’70 Constellation Chair.  

When describing his vision for the ESM department, Meunier focuses on community. 

“There is no such thing as a one-person vision; a vision is the fruit of a collective effort involving all department stakeholders: faculty, students, staff and alumni,” he said. “We must work together to make an impact in science, research and in developing student skills, making the world better one step at a time.”  

Vincent Meunier introduces himself and describes his plans as head of the Penn State Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics.

Management style, Meunier said, is key to accomplishing a supportive, community-focused department.  

“I love to listen to people, keeping in mind that the individual is the technical expert, not the department head,” he said. “I want to foster an environment where everyone knows their opinions and views are taken into consideration.”  

One of Meunier’s goals is to expand on the hands-on research experiences for undergraduate students. He is particularly interested in further developing ESM’s Engineering Science Honors Program. All engineering science undergraduates are required to complete and defend a yearlong honors thesis prior to graduation, and several students also complete a capstone design project. 

“Gaining research experience in a lab alongside world-class faculty members is key to training undergraduates to enter the workforce or pursue a graduate degree,” he said. “I want our department to prioritize what is needed to place graduates in the best position to be employed.” 

Meunier received a bachelor’s degree in physics, a master’s degree in physics and chemistry and a doctorate in physics from the University of Namur in Belgium before completing a postdoctoral fellowship in physics at North Carolina State University. He then became a research associate at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in computer science and mathematics, followed by a stint as a senior research and development staff member with the lab’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences. In 2010, he joined Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.   

Today, Meunier’s research centers on computational physics, quantum mechanics and materials engineering. Scientists, he said, have entered the “second quantum revolution,” where they are now exploiting quantum concepts to develop opportunities like quantum computers, quantum information technology, encryption and applied quantum mechanics. The first such revolution occurred at the start of the 20th century, Meunier said, when scientists first discovered and formulated the foundations of quantum mechanics.  

“Dr. Meunier has a strong record as an effective, interdisciplinary leader, both as a department head and as a researcher with a national laboratory,” said Justin Schwartz, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean in the College of Engineering. “Innovation lives where disciplines meet, and Dr. Meunier is well positioned with his significant leadership and research experience to lead the most interdisciplinary unit in the College of Engineering: the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics. We enthusiastically welcome Dr. Meunier to Penn State, and we look forward to working together.”  


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