GE + UConn: Research Recipe for Success

By Kate Johnston, GE Industrial Solutions

Start with a tough engineering challenge, add in a healthy dose of curious and talented graduate students, then mix well with the new UConn Technology Park and industry-supported grant programs and you‘ll have all of the ingredients required for accelerated, collaborative discovery.

Last week the University of Connecticut (UConn) School of Engineering, hosted the first annual GE Night at the University’s Alumni House on the Storrs, Conn., campus. About 75 faculty, students, GE executives and engineers gathered to review and recognize the tremendous progress the 14 engineering research fellows have made in their quest to build better products tomorrow, from what they discover today.

GE.UCONN118-months ago GE Industrial Solutions committed more than $7 million dollars to the UConn School of Engineering for the express purpose of targeted academic investment in 1) graduate student fellowships 2) research in material sciences and engineering and 3) an endowed professorship in the School of Engineering. Paul Singer, General Manager of Technology for GE Industrial Solutions, and a 1988 electrical engineering graduate of UConn, noted that while GE has had a long tradition of recruiting on the Storrs campus, this marks a major milestone in our relationship. “For as long as I can remember, UConn has been a top-talent school for hiring GE employees,” commented Singer, “but tonight, seeing the first results of our long-term research partnership, in addition to our continuing recruiting relationship, is truly a new beginning, and as an alumnus, particularly gratifying.”

A diverse range of research studies, these GE sponsored fellowship grants enable critical thinking, focused exploration and the promise of discovery. Shilei Ma, a post-doctoral fellow in the Institute of Materials Science, is focused on understanding the gas dynamic properties of an electrical arc and arc chambers within low-voltage circuit breakers. Mehmet Kesim’s attention is on oxidation patterns of various metals for electrical contacts, and Yan Xia is tracking the pathway to single-cell pathogen detection.

These samples, share with all of the projects, a vision of breakthroughs to make the next generation of circuit breakers, jet engines, medical equipment or other advanced technologies, used in our homes, businesses, industries and communities, safer and more reliable than ever before.

“At the University of Connecticut, we are growing our capacity to build partnerships with the corporate community to create great opportunities for our students and advanced discoveries for industry.” said Dr. Mun Choi, UConn Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. “Our partnership with GE is a great example of this type of collaborative innovation.”

Matt Dougherty, Technology Leader for GE Industrial Solution’s Power Components business and the UConn Research Program liaison, closed the evening’s events with a sneak peek of an exciting new engineering challenge.

Working with Nine Sigma, a global leader in open innovation services, on April 15 GE Industrial Solutions will launch an Ergonomic Switch Challenge for a crowd-sourced circuit breaker handle design. The top five global winners will be awarded $10,000 each, and the best among all of the UConn entries will receive special recognition as well.. It’s a radically different approach to engineering components designed to accelerate time to market, reduce development costs and improve usability.

Though the methods, the approach and the paths to invention may evolve, the recipe for success, including the passion to solve tough problems, raw talent and collaborative teamwork, is a constant and one that GE is proud to foster.

Click to view photos from the evening’s event

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