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UC's Jay Lee Defines 'Eminent Scholar' for Ohio with His 'Collaboratory' Concept

When Jay Lee was chosen to be an Ohio Eminent Scholar at the University of Cincinnati, he didn’t come alone.

Date: 2/2/2008
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Lisa Britton, Katie Hageman
In October 2004, it was announced that Jay Lee was joining the University of Cincinnati from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as the Ohio Eminent Scholar in Advanced Manufacturing. But he didn’t come alone — he brought several of his closest friends, namely, the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems (IMS). 

Lee is the founding director of the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems (IMS).
Lee is the founding director of the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems (IMS).

“The center is growing,” Lee says. “Since it has been here at UC, we have renewed all the old members plus added new members.” Starting in 2005, Lee began using Advantech systems for many applications very successfully.

“We realized that the smart informatics tool we developed for our company members could also be used effectively as a teaching tool,” Lee explains. So in January 2006 they began laying the groundwork for the Advantech e-Manufacturing Lab.

“It was aimed at teaching students, using the results from our research,” Lee explains. “A university’s primary goal has to be teaching. From that comes research, which then permits publications. The results of the research and publication are then fed back into and inform our teaching.” Above all, Lee emphasizes, students are in the center of this loop.

“I recruit a number of undergraduate students and encourage them to pursue graduate degrees at UC,” Lee says. Lee speaks of his cadre of graduate students with pride, referring to them as “smart, passionate kids.”

UC and Advantech representatives celebrated the grand opening of the Advantech e-Manufacturing Lab in September 2007.
UC and Advantech representatives celebrated the grand opening of the Advantech e-Manufacturing Lab in September 2007.

Now, thanks to the Advantech e-Manufacturing Laboratory, Lee’s students have gained an additional edge.

“The students are working on real-world projects, not just a theoretical, analytical tool,” says Lee. “They are therefore better able to understand the processes used in industry.” Through the Advantech e-Manufacturing Laboratory, Lee’s students have the opportunity to work on industry-relevant projects to gain a better understanding of the courses that they are taking in school.

“I call it a ‘collaboratory’ concept,” says Lee. He further explains that his “collaboratory” concept is an ideal partnership environment between the “problem-rich” environment of industry and the “intellectual-rich” environment of a university — especially the University of Cincinnati. "Collaboratory enriches teaching and nurturing functions of a university and aims to enhance the speed of discovery and learning." 

“UC is well known for its cooperative education concept for undergraduates,” says Lee. “We use this same philosophy for our IMS graduate students.” Lee points out four key facets to his philosophy.

First, UC graduate students spend summers at the industrial sites “validating the algorithms they developed” in the labs.

Second, people from industry come to campus to work with the students, as one man did recently from Komatsu Corp, returning to Japan after 18 months at UC. “Mr. Ueda was immediately promoted to the second-in-command position after his work with us,” Lee points out.

Third, Lee’s lab hosts doctoral students from other countries for a year — countries such as Australia, Germany and China.

Fourth, Lee’s students travel internationally to work on projects. A number of student researchers have conducted international projects in Japan, Hong Kong, Brazil, Germany and China.

Stanley Tseng from National Yunlin Univ. of S&T, Taiwan; Manish Kumar, Jay Lee, Urmila Ghia and Rupak Banerjee of UC
A gathering of international researchers: Stanley Tseng from National Yunlin Univ. of S&T, Taiwan; Manish Kumar, Jay Lee, Urmila Ghia and Rupak Banerjee of UC's Mechanical Engineering Department

Lee stresses the importance of knowledge transfer and “social and technical exchange, from classroom to factory.” As an example, he says that with conference calls, many times the parties are spending most of their time trying to understand what the others are trying to say rather than what they’re going to do. On the other hand, through immersion in other cultures, students better understand not just the technical issues but also the cultural barriers.

The Ohio Board of Regents defines an Ohio Eminent Scholar as “an individual acknowledged as a scholar of distinction by national measures. As such, she or he should have a continuously distinguished record of research and scholarly achievement.… Moreover, an Ohio Eminent Scholar not only generates and disseminates knowledge but has, and continues to be, engaged in the education and training of other scholars.”

Jay Lee is clearly an example of a researcher and professor who puts students at the center as he practices how to “mobilize student value and provide them borderless career opportunities.” He says that when his students interview for positions, their interviewers can feel the students’ “sharp edges” and “unique perspectives.”

“They can feel it in their souls — ‘This kid is different,’” Lee says enthusiastically. His teaching philosophy is summed up as being one of teaching and nurturing: teaching the course, the materials, providing the physical surroundings, but also responding to the changing needs of knowledge, the international cultural environment and professional practice.

“It cannot just be taught,” says Lee. “You have to physically be involved.”

The Fine Print About a Fine Man

Jay Lee is Ohio Eminent Scholar and L.W. Scott Alter Chair Professor in Advanced Manufacturing at the University of Cincinnati and is founding director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center on Intelligent Maintenance Systems, which is a multi-campus NSF Center of Excellence between the University of Cincinnati (lead institution), the University of Michigan, and the University of Missouri-Rolla in partnership with over 45 global companies including P&G, Toyota, GE Aviation, Boeing, AMD, Caterpillar, Siemens, DaimlerChrysler, ETAS, Festo, Harley-Davidson, Honeywell, ITRI (Taiwan), Komatsu (Japan), Omron (Japan), Samsung (Korea), Toshiba (Japan), Bosch, Parker Hannifin, BorgWarner, Spirit AeroSystems, Nissan (Japan), Syncrude (Canada), McKinsey & Company and CISCO.

His current research focuses on autonomic computing, embedded IT and smart prognostics technologies, design of smart self-maintenance machines and systems, and dominant design tools for product and service innovation. Previously, he held a position as Wisconsin Distinguished Professor and Rockwell Automation Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to joining UWM, he served as director for Product Development and Manufacturing Department at United Technologies Research Center in East Hartford as well as program director for a number of programs at NSF from 1991 to 1998. In addition, he had served on the Board on Manufacturing and Engineering Design (BMAED) of National Research Council during 2000–2005, as well as advisory member for a number of academic institutions including Johns Hopkins University, Cambridge University of UK, Worcester Polytechnic University.

He received the “Professor of the Year” and “Distinguished Engineering Research” awards from UC in 2007, the Milwaukee Mayor Technology Award in 2003, and was a recipient of the SME Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineering Award in 1992. He is also a Fellow of ASME, SME, as well as the International Society of Engineering Asset Management.

About UC’s Other Ohio Eminent Scholars

UC has 10 Ohio Eminent Scholars currently, with two more on the way. (The only two Ohio Eminent Scholars awarded by the Ohio Board of Regents in 2007 were given to the University of Cincinnati to focus on technology commercialization.)