By Thomas K. Grose
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR AN ENCORE WHEN,
AS A MECHANICAL ENGINEERING GRAD STUDENT, YOU HELPED DEVELOP
A SYSTEM THAT REDUCED FORD NAVIGATOR EMISSIONS BY 80 PERCENT?
What do you do for an encore when, as a mechanical
engineering grad student, you helped develop a system that
reduced Ford Navigator emissions by 80 percent? Well Marcus
D. Ashford accepted an appointment as an assistant professor
in the mechanical engineering department at the University
of Alabama-Tuscaloosa. He's been teaching since only
last fall—initially a graduate course in thermodynamics—but
is thoroughly enjoying the experience. The feeling of freedom
that comes from being able to design a course "his way"
is gratifying as well as humbling, he admits. Ashford, 32,
has worked for the ExxonMobile Chemical Co. and the Ford Motor
Co. He draws on those experiences in the classroom. He recalls
how he understood thermodynamics as a student, but not nearly
as well as he did when he worked for a chemical company. The
improved catalytic converter he helped design was part of
his doctoral dissertation at the University of Texas-Austin.
Ashford is planning research projects in the area of automotive
combustion, particularly the use of hydrogen. When Ashford,
who's an African American, was an undergraduate at Louisiana
State University, none of his engineering professors was black.
So he hopes he can be a role model for black engineering students.
"Forget about hydrogen. Women and minorities, in engineering,
they are the real untapped resources," he says.