Samueli School Professor and Student Earn Chancellor’s Awards

McCarthy (center) and Cecchi (right) are congratulated by UROP Director Said Shokair after the awards ceremony.June 7, 2017 - Professor Michael McCarthy has received the 2017 Chancellor’s Award for Fostering Undergraduate Research, and student Nicholas Cecchi was recognized for excellence in undergraduate research last month by UC Irvine’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

One faculty member and one student from each UCI school received the awards.

Samueli School Dean Gregory Washington and Associate Dean John LaRue selected McCarthy, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, for his outstanding work in mentoring undergraduate students engaged in research and/or creative activity; Cecchi was selected by the UROP Faculty Advisory Board.

McCarthy, director of UCI’s Performance Engineering Program, seeks to instill engineering execution and leadership skills in his students. He has introduced project engineering courses for undergraduates and graduate students, and provided course materials for racecar engineering courses in local high schools, including offering a Summer Program in Racecar Engineering.  Since 2004, he has overseen the UCI Anteater Racing Team, which builds custom racecars and competes with other teams globally. His student racecar teams have built 15 racecars powered by gasoline, CNG and electric drive systems. 

He has also served as an adviser to UCI Rescue Robotics teams, and recently oversaw the 2017 Rescue Robotics Competition in which seven high school and college teams built and raced autonomous search and rescue robots. 

A fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), McCarthy also was editor of the ASME Journal of Mechanical Design and founding editor of the ASME Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics. He has received numerous professional awards, including the Machine Design Award and the Mechanisms and Robotics Award from ASME, and the Robert E. Abbott Lifetime Service Award from the Design Engineering Division of ASME International. His teaching recognition includes the Fariborz Maseeh Best Teaching Award, the Outstanding Engineering Educator award from the Orange County Engineering Council and the Faculty of the Year award from the UCI Engineering Student Council.

McCarthy was formally recognized for his accomplishments May 20 at an awards ceremony during the campus’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, held in the UCI Student Center.  

“I was very pleased to be honored by the Chancellor’s Award and I have to share this recognition with the hard work of all of my students in the Racecar Engineering project,” said McCarthy. “These students demonstrate UCI’s engineering education at intercollegiate competitions against racecar engineering teams from around the world.  The support of UROP has been critical to their success.”

Also honored at the symposium was undergraduate student Cecchi, a mechanical engineering major and avid water polo player, who researches head impacts and concussions in the sport.

Cecchi placed small 3-D accelerometers in the caps of UCI's varsity water polo players and quantified the magnitude and frequency of head impacts during practice and games. His research, conducted under the auspices of the Samueli School’s Exercise Medicine and Sports Sciences Initiative, analyzed the effectiveness of various headgear worn in water polo and performed impact testing using an anthropomorphic dummy head and neck setup. Based on the sensor data, Cecchi developed a modified water polo cap lined with a “smart” material.

“As a water polo player who has received a concussion myself, sports injury and concussions are fields that I am very passionate about,” said Cecchi, who is co-advised by engineering professor David Reinkensmeyer and ecology and evolutionary biology professor James Hicks. “Receiving this award is quite an honor, and I'm proud to use my engineering background to make an impact in the sports engineering industry and a difference in the safety and protection of athletes.”

-Anna Lynn Spitzer