The Department of Mechanical Engineering would like to introduce you to one of our newest faculty members: Assistant Professor Grace X. Gu. Professor Gu joined us here in Etcheverry Hall in the Fall of 2018. Below, Professor Gu shares how she became interested in the field of mechanical engineering, her hobbies outside the office, and what she looks forward to most here at Berkeley.
“As a young child, I always thought that the row of metal objects lying on my father’s desk were dumbbells. As I’ve never seen him lift these ‘dumbbells,’ I asked him if he ever used them to exercise. My father began to explain that these were not actually dumbbells, but components of an automotive engine called crankshafts. He continued to explain as best as one could to a 6-year old that crankshafts are these long cylindrical rods that convert translational motion to rotational motion to turn the wheels of automobiles. Growing up around the design and manufacturing of crankshafts in engines instilled in me an appreciation for the complexity and elegance of mechanical engineering thanks to my father who was never shy on giving an impromptu engineering lesson. The more I learn about mechanical engineering the more I realize the possibilities for design and problem solving are endless. I wish to pass along this excitement for mechanical engineering to the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Beyond work and the office, I enjoy keeping healthy by staying active. I particularly am fond of group exercise classes; the group energy is invigorating and the format lets me try anything from yoga to Pilates to Zumba. Plus working out is nothing other than an applied exercise in biomechanics, although I’m usually not trying to solve complicated boundary value problems in my head when I’m doing yoga. I also like to keep the mind and spirit healthy by traveling and experiencing new settings and cultures. Whether it be for a conference or vacation, I enjoy taking in the sights and places around the world. Traveling allows me to get out of my bubble and meet people from all around the world.
One of the things that also drew me to mechanical engineering is its ability to enable creative expression from formulating models of the physical world to the alchemy of transforming raw materials into finished brand new functional products. It is really exciting for me to see something that was once a drawing in a computer transform into a product that we can use in our daily lives. Art and drawing let me transition from the busy day to day work and travel to a space where I can reset my mind. Mostly I draw nature: flowers, skies, animals, and fruits. I believe the interplay of art and design is a beautiful aspect of mechanical engineering.
I am really excited to build my research group at Berkeley, meet and mentor undergraduate and graduate students, teach foundational mechanical engineering classes, collaborate with exceptional faculty members within and outside the university, and work on 3D-printing projects with students to create a better tomorrow. “