UM laser center puts doctoral research to work

Ann Arbor, MI - The University of Michigan has launched a research center for laser manufacturing that puts doctoral student’s research directly in the hands of corporations. The purpose, says Jyotirmoy Mazumder, a mechanical engineering professor and director of the school’s Center for Laser-Aided Intelligent Manufacturing, is to give students real-world experience.

The Center for Lasers and Plasmas for Advanced Manufacturing already has five members, including Toyota Motor Manufacturing America Inc., General Electric Co., and IMRA America Inc. Companies benefit by having high-level students working on complex research at a greatly reduced cost, reports Mazumder.

Membership is $30,000 annually. Companies also may participate at the associate level for $10,000 annually. The program was partially funded by $50,000 from the National Science Foundation.

“Students will have a much better idea of the kind of approach they’ll need to take to succeed in this industry,” Mazumder says. “Industry gets to try out different concepts in a much more cost-effective manner.”

Students receive a stipend of about $18,000.

Companies that join the consortium have voting rights on the board of directors. Fees go into a general research fund, and each year the board votes to decide what research areas to pursue. Member companies may elect to buy intellectual property generated by the research by negotiating a standard research contract with the university, at which point the intellectual property becomes proprietary.

“The investment is not that large to us,” says Tak Omitsu, president of IMRA. “It’s very cost effective.” He explains that employees with master’s degrees working on similar kinds of research would receive a salary of at least $70,000, and employees with doctorates would receive even more.

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