UM-Dearborn to confer first Ph.D. in automotive systems engineering

Xuan ZhouXuan Zhou planned to earn his master’s degree from University of Michigan-Dearborn and then pursue a job in the automotive industry. But a new opportunity arose when the university launched a Ph.D. program in automotive systems engineering in 2009.

This Saturday, Zhou will become the first person to earn a Ph.D. from UM-Dearborn.

It’s been a long journey for Zhou, who came to UM-Dearborn after earning a master’s degree from Xi’an Jiaotong University. Zhou says he has taken the time throughout the past five years to learn what topics interest him and how he could best contribute.

“With a Ph.D., Xuan saw the big picture; he could begin to shape the future of the field as a researcher,” said Pravansu Mohanty, Paul K. Trojan Collegiate Professor of Engineering.

For his dissertation, Zhou researched a new cold spray titanium coating for biomedical applications. The coating would improve longevity and compatibility of products—such as hip implants and elbow joints—at a lower price than what is currently available.

Although Zhou looked at biomedical applications, the basic knowledge could be transferred to automotive and transportation applications.

“I hope I can be a good example for future students,” he said, “to contribute challenging, interesting research to the field.”

Mohanty, who served as chair of Zhou’s doctoral committee, thinks he’s a strong model for other students.

“Completing work at this level requires tenacity and patience, and Xuan has that,” Mohanty said. “The fact that he published four journal articles while working toward his Ph.D. demonstrates his strengths and the competitiveness of the program.”

The College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) launched Ph.D. programs in automotive systems engineering and information systems engineering in 2009 in an effort to provide advanced knowledge and research experience to engineers and scientists working in the area.

Since that time, more than 30 students have enrolled in the programs.

“The demand for career scientists and researchers will continue to grow, especially in the automotive fields as consumers need safer, more fuel-efficient vehicles,” Mohanty said. “Now, the university is in a position to provide that training for career scientists.”

Zhou will continue his work at UM-Dearborn as a post-doctoral researcher.

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