Electric-drive vehicle engineering expert, EcoCAR 2 advisor invests time and energy to help students aim higher

DETROIT (Jan. 14, 2014) – For Wayne State University Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Jerry Ku, there are few things more satisfying than helping students succeed.


“I love what I do, and I find incredible value in maximizing the student/faculty relationship. It’s my job to help make students better engineers, better thinkers and better people. In turn, they make me better,” he says.

Ku — a renowned expert in electric-drive vehicle powertrain modeling and simulations, electric-drive vehicle engineering education programs, and alternative energy technology — had dreams of being an engineering professor from a young age.

“I knew I had a bit of a knack for solving problems and thinking critically. I also enjoyed passing on knowledge to others. Becoming an engineering professor was something that provided a great way for me to do both,” he says.

Ku currently holds a number of titles within Wayne State’s College of Engineering. In addition to his work as associate professor, he serves as the program co-director for the college’s Alternative Energy Technology (AET) Program — which, in 2006, was the first in the nation to offer an AET master’s degree and certificate —and WSU’s Electric-drive Vehicle Technology Program, the nation’s first.

The role that might best illustrate his dedication to student success is that of advisor for Wayne State’s team in the EcoCAR 2: Plugging in to the Future Year Two competition. Now in its third year and sponsored by GM and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), EcoCAR 2 gives students the opportunity to gain real-world, eco-friendly automotive engineering experience while striving to further improve the energy efficiency of an already highly efficient vehicle.

According to Ku, who notes that Wayne State’s team is the only Michigan team competing out of 15 North American teams, EcoCAR 2 is the best educational program for future engineers due to its hands-on nature, required outcomes and deliverables, structure, and training.

“It’s an amazing competition. It requires a huge commitment. Our students work full time, attend school full time and still give a large number of hours to this team. I am honored to lead this group of highly dedicated and talented students.”

He added, “EcoCAR 2 has opened up so many doors that have benefited our students, college and me. ”

What Ku neglects to mention, however, is the time and energy he’s personally dedicated to the team throughout the past few years. 

“Professor Ku gives every hour of his day to the EcoCAR2 students. He has been with us every step of the way and provided us with advice and expertise at every turn. We all came to the team with varied levels of skills, experience and knowledge,” says EcoCAR 2 team captain Idan Kovent. “He encourages students to aim higher and go outside of their comfort zone, so they can become much more than the average student. His goal is not only education, but creating the next generation of leaders in engineering, business and communication.”

It’s no wonder that Ku has been recognized for his EcoCAR 2 advisor efforts. In May, he was named one of four faculty advisors on the EcoCAR 2 Faculty Advisory Board. More recently, Ku received a Department of Energy faculty fellowship that is applicable only to EcoCAR 2 lead faculty advisors.

“Dr. Ku is such a dedicated advisor to his team,” said Kristen De La Rosa, EcoCAR 2 director at Argonne National Laboratory. “It really takes a major personal and professional commitment to lead an EcoCAR team, and Dr. Ku’s commitment is unsurpassed.”

In the classroom, Ku’s commitment to student success is evident through the integration of hands-on, practical experience and coursework.

“Dr. Ku assigns projects in modeling simulation class that use the same software tools used in automotive industry to produce the same kinds of simulations as work assignments in industry,” says Kevin Snyder, EcoCAR 2 chief engineer and electric-drive vehicle engineering master’s student.

Added Yuxia Liu, an electrical engineering student, “Dr. Ku’s classes are the best and the most useful courses I’ve ever taken. I can directly apply what I have learned in his classes. He has high expectations, which pushed me and helped me become more efficient and grow.”

Ku, who earned his bachelor’s from Tatung Institute of Technology (Taiwan) and master’s and doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo, also is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers K-11 Committee and the Society of Automotive Engineering.

His current research projects range from modeling and simulation of hybrid electric vehicle powertrains to the experimental and numerical studies of lithium-ion battery pack thermal management, and much more.

For more information about Ku, visit engineering.wayne.edu/profile/jerry.ku/. Additional information about EcoCAR 2 is available on the competition website and blog, Flickr stream, Facebook page and Twitter stream.

EcoCAR 2 is one of many opportunities the Wayne State College of Engineering provides its students to ensure they gain the experience, knowledge and background needed to excel upon graduation. Through its Five Pillars of Student Success, the college provides students with opportunities for experiential learning through co-ops and internships, hands-on learning, scholarships, and undergraduate research, as well as with opportunities to gain the global perspective that employers love.


Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution of higher education offering 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 28,000 students. For more information about engineering at Wayne State University, visit engineering.wayne.edu.

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