Taub installed as Robert H. Lurie Professor of Engineering

In a special ceremony on June 7, Professor Alan Taub was celebrated for his leadership and research contributions toward making vehicles lighter and thus more energy efficient.
Taub installed as Robert H. Lurie Professor of Engineering

College of Engineering Dean Alec Gallimore with Professor Alan Taub, Robert H. Lurie Professor of Engineering

On June 7, Alan Taub was inducted as the Robert H. Lurie Professor of Engineering in a special ceremony/lecture in the Chrysler Center. 

“Endowed professorships are among the highest honors presented by the College of Engineering,” said Dean Alec Gallimore in his opening remarks. “They help attract, reward and retain outstanding faculty members. They acknowledge faculty members’ research, teaching and service.”

Taub’s former Ph.D. student, Caleb Reese, now a materials researcher at GM, talked about how Taub's mentorship and willingness to collaborate shaped his "profoundly positive" graduate school experience. “In the lab I was always motivated by his passion for research and striving for scientific understanding in general across many disciplines and fields,” Reese said.

Assistant Professor Ashwin Shahani followed, highlighting the influence Taub has had on him in terms of seeing and articulating the bigger picture of a research project. "He understands at a fundamental level the role of materials in technology and in society. His wisdom in this regard is truly profound."

In her remarks, Miki Banu, a collegiate research professor in ME didn't mince words about how influential Taub is in the materials field: "He is an invincible leader, exceptional researcher, creative engineer and wonderful collaborator." She went on to talk about what a tremendous impact he's had on society in terms of people-centric materials research - from pioneering 25 kilowatt amp power transformers that now make MRIs more comfortable and stress-free for patients - to founding the Lightweight Innovation Facility, a thriving pillar of metals and manufacturing that serves as a bridge between basic research and final product commercialization. With its advanced metals research and workforce training, Banu said, this $150-million cutting-edge facility "has lead to substantial economy recovery in Detroit."

Following all the complimentary comments by cohorts, Taub presented a lecture, “Contributions of a Materials Researcher Towards Sustainable Mobility,” highlighting his thirty-plus-years career with Ford and GM. The automotive industry, which is at a sustainability cross-roads with an urgent need to move away from the combustible engine.

"It is a marvelous machine," Taub said of the combustible engine, "but we are at the point where the roadmap for the improvement in the baseline architecture in terms of reciprocation has been met. That roadmap was made thirty years ago and we have achieved it. We can't live where you're worried about CO2, where you're worried about petroleum availability and where two-thirds of the energy is lost in the engine." 

At U-M Taub is still very much a part of the automotive industry's push to produce a more sustainable product, specifically in the area of making vehicles lighter so they need less energy to accelerate. Currently he is researching polymer composites and thermoplastics to help recycle "enemy of the environment" plastics, and creating negative-CO2 materials using natural fibers. To that end, Taub and his team are growing plants in-house with the goal of making natural fibers strong enough to replace glass fibers.

"It's not a moon shot," Taub said. "It's all within reach."

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Dean Gallimore presented Taub with a personally engraved medal (which he is to wear at all official university events, such as graduation), and unveiled his professorship chair before inviting him to take an official first seat. Guests then mingled and congratulated Taub at a reception immediately following in the Chrysler Lobby.