Engage & Inspire: Practice Professor Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson doesn't have a teaching philosophy so much as an educational mission: "I want to prepare engineering students for the challenges and possibilities of the world beyond academia." With 35 years of industry experience and major contributions to the field of tribology, Jackson, Practice Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, is a passionate believer in applying engineering to solve real-world problems, from improving a power generation system to developing innovative lubricants for Formula 1 race cars.

Andrew Jackson

Making His Own Mark

Born in the United Kingdom, Jackson received both a B.Sc. in Engineering and a Ph.D. in Tribology, the study of interacting surfaces in relative motion, from Imperial College, London. He joined Mobil's Pennington, New Jersey research facility, drawn in by the company's investment in research and innovation. "At the time, Mobil was unique in its development of synthetic lubricants," he says. "Lubricants are a $70 billion a year business. Efficient lubrication can save energy, money and environmental waste."

Jackson's research resulted in 15 patents, over 45 external papers, 90 internal proprietary reports and awards from the American Chemical Society, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE). He was named president of STLE in 1995 and served as editor of its technical journal, Tribology Transactions, from 2002 to 2009. In 2009, Jackson retired from his senior scientific advisor role at ExxonMobil. That same year, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Out of the Lab

As Jackson advanced professionally, he fostered an equally fulfilling personal life. He and his wife, Dr. Lillian Rankel, a research chemist and later a high school teacher at Hopewell Valley Central High School in Pennington, NJ, are the proud parents of a physician, a mechanical engineer and a science teacher, and dote on their two grandsons. In 2007, Jackson and Rankel led 15 high school students on a life-changing expedition to Kenya. After visiting a remote village, they formed a nonprofit called the Hopewell-Keroka Alliance and have raised over $50,000 to provide the villagers with infrastructure, health and educational support. Jackson and Rankel returned there privately in 2009, and in 2010 led a party of 18 students to Kenya in what is becoming a tradition at the high school.

From Industry to Academia

Ready for a new intellectual challenge, Jackson began teaching at Penn in 2010. His class, EAS 250: Energy Systems, Resources and Technology, is a fundamental overview of the global demand for energy and its supply in the face of climate change. "The objective is to look at real energy solutions for the long term," Jackson says. EAS 250 is now offered each semester, attracting students from Penn Engineering, Wharton and elsewhere at Penn.

Jackson has also taught MEAM 210: Statics and Strength of Materials, and this spring he's gone back to his roots to offer a class on tribology, focusing on bearings, gears, friction and wear. As an advisor for senior design projects, Jackson has worked with students to develop a solar cooker and a nanotechnology- based water filtration system—projects that might have applications in developing countries such as Kenya.

On the Ground With Students

Teaching comes naturally to Jackson, and he enjoys the classroom dialogue. His open-door office policy encourages students to discuss coursework and their options after graduation. "Industry needs well-trained people, so I'm glad I can play a role in helping to shape their careers."

Roshan Rai (MSE'13) has been one such student. "I've taken two classes with Dr. Jackson and they have only further propelled my interest in the subjects," Rai says."His industry experience adds tremendous value to his teaching, and he helps students understand their true potential."

Jackson may be inspiring his students on a daily basis, but the feeling is mutual. "I consider this to be a new career and it's very rewarding. I'm looking forward to continuing to contribute in whatever way I can."

View the article in Penn Engineering magazine "Engage & Inspire: Practice Professor Andrew Jackson" by Elisa Ludwig.

Interested? Learn more!

Andrew Jackson's faculty profile
MEAM departmental website

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