Visiting Lecturer Amy Banzaert Begins Work at Wellesley with Albright Institute

January 8, 2013

Visiting Lecturer Amy Banzaert joins Wellesley in the Spring 2013 semester as the College’s first engineering faculty member; she is also a member of the 2013 Madeleine K. Albright Institute for Global Affairs Wintersession faculty. On January 8, she—along with Wellesley Professor of Physics Robert Berg and Associate Professor of Computer Science Franklyn Turbak—will present to the Albright Fellows a session called “Building a Better World: Leadership, the Liberal Arts, and Engineering.”

She has been engaged in building a better world herself through her doctoral research and subsequent work. Her doctoral research determined the viability of waste-based cooking fuels intended for use in developing countries, considering combustion emissions and field feasibility. Her work demonstrated that carbonized fuels made from agricultural waste have promise from emissions and socioeconomic standpoints and that certain household and industrial waste fuels have hazardous emissions. She describes this work in a short MIT video.

She has also published work exploring the benefits of the use of service-learning in engineering education, finding particularly positive outcomes for women.

She received her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from MIT in mechanical engineering, with her Ph.D. completed in association with MIT’s D-Lab, a program that fosters the development of appropriate technologies and sustainable solutions within the framework of international development.

She writes, “I am proud to have received the first Ph.D. associated with D-Lab and hope and expect that it will be the first of many. Now, I am looking forward to my next step: becoming Wellesley College’s first professor of engineering, helping students broaden their liberal arts education to include engineering that emphasizes project-based, humanitarian investigations. Study of more advanced engineering topics will be available through cross-registration with Olin College and MIT. Part of my work will be to continue to build the connective tissue between MIT and Wellesley College. I am very pleased that, among other things, this work ensures that I will maintain a strong connection with D-Lab.”

Her present work is focused on developing and expanding Wellesley's introductory engineering opportunities with a particular emphasis on humanitarian projects that benefit underserved communities locally and internationally. Her upcoming courses include Fundamentals of Engineering and Making a Difference through Engineering. These classes will provide students with project-based opportunities to learn engineering problem-solving, estimation, creativity, and product development, and to understand how these skills are applicable across disciplines.

Professor Banzaert's research interests are focused on engineering education and on the development of consumer-oriented technologies that can benefit underserved populations.