Professor S. Jack Hu has been appointed to the G. Lawton and Louise G. Johnson Professorship of Engineering. Given the Johnsons’ interest in engineering and business, it’s fitting to honor a man who has successfully combined the two.
Working in automotive assembly plants in the early 1990s, Hu developed methodologies for improving automotive body quality that are still in use by companies such as GM and Chrysler.
Today, the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education for the College of Engineering also serves as University Co-Director of the General Motors Collaborative Research Laboratory on Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing. The lab is an extension of the automotive and manufacturing research activities at UM and Hu’s work entails developing mathematical models and software for production system design and improvement. He and his students are also developing new lightweight body structures, such as those made from aluminum and assembly methods for advance powertrain systems, such as batteries.
Hu’s research interests include manufacturing systems, assembly and materials joining, metal forming and statistical methods. “Progress has been made in individual manufacturing processes,” he says. “And while each of those individual processes may be optimized for quality, throughput, tool life and the like, if they are not integrated in a holistic way then the system will not function well.”
Working to ensure another system functions optimally, Hu, along with Professor Alec Gallimore, is leading the task force on improving the College’s graduate program. Their first recommendation has been to admit only doctoral students whose areas of study correspond with the faculty expertise and who the university can also financially support. “Once we’ve fully implemented the five recommendations we’ve developed our Ph.D. program will be on its way to becoming one of the very best in the country,” enthuses Hu.
In other leadership roles, Hu served as Director of the Program in Manufacturing and Director of Interdisciplinary Professional Programs within the College of Engineering. He led the development of the Global Automotive and Manufacturing Engineering (GAME) masters degree program together with Professor Huei Peng of ME. The two saw the need for a degree that integrated elements of both automotive systems and manufacturing that was also available to professional engineers globally. Working with leaders from the General Motors Technical Education Program, Hu and Peng designed a program that attracted one hundred thirty three students hailing from the U.S. Australia, Mexico and Canada. That was in 2005 and today, more than 250 GM employees are enrolled in the program. The program won the Sloan Foundation Program Profile Award in 2006.
Hu’s expertise isn’t limited to the automotive field. Since 2002, thanks to a referral from colleague Professor Noel Perkins, he has worked with Golf Digest, testing golf equipment and advising the equipment editors of the magazine’s annual Hotlist issue on what design characteristics one should look for in a golf club.
The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Hu was given the 2006 Research Excellence Award and the 2005 Robert Caddell Faculty/Graduate Student Team Award (with Ph.D. student Guosong Lin) both from the University of Michigan. He was also named Outstanding Overseas Young Scientist by the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation in 2004 and a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 2003. He serves as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Manufacturing Systems of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
Hu began his graduate study at UM in 1985 and received his Ph.D. in 1990. After eight months as a post-doctoral researcher, he was promoted to assistant research scientist before becoming a tenure track assistant professor in 1995. Since then, he’s found great satisfaction in working with students and is looking forward to continuing. “With a named professorship I hope to recruit even better students; not just to my own research group, but to the general area of manufacturing, and to the college,” he says.