By Elizabeth Egan
Published January 31, 2024
Francine Battaglia, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is the recipient of the University at Buffalo Graduate School’s Distinguished Postdoc Mentoring Award.
Battaglia was nominated by four of her past mentees, whose nominations were considered by a committee of faculty and postdocs.
“Dr. Battaglia is an exceptional mentor who’s cultivated a caring and supportive environment,” said Munjal Shah, Battaglia’s former PhD student who led the nomination. “Despite her busy schedule and many roles at the University at Buffalo as advisor, mentor, researcher, and department chair, she always has time for her students. She understands my goals and aspirations and works with me to build pathways to achieve them.”
Battaglia said her approach to mentorship changes with each person, evolving as she gets to know them.
“I learn what excites them, how they think and also how they handle challenges and stress. I help them to cope and embrace who they are so that they can be productive and successful,” said Battaglia. “I think a mentor needs to listen and observe, and only then, will they find how best to be supportive.”
Early on in her academic career, working as a tenure track assistant professor at Iowa State University, Battaglia realized her capacity to be a mentor who could inspire new generations of engineers.
While it was by chance that the first graduate student Battaglia hired was female, the increasing number of women signing up for her classes showed her that she could play a role in supporting young women breaking into the engineering field who could be inspired by seeing someone like themselves thriving in the industry.
“Because individuals look up to mentors, the sooner a person finds a mentor, the sooner they realize that they are not alone,” said Battaglia. “They have someone they trust to ask for advice, help and find out if what they are experiencing is typical." Battaglia captured her approach towards mentoring in a book chapter that she co-authored with three of her former students and postdoc advisees, in a series titled “Women in Mechanical Engineering".
After Iowa State University, Battaglia spent a decade at Virginia Tech before coming to the University at Buffalo in 2017.
Outside of working with students, Battaglia is a fellow of both the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American Society of Thermal and Fluids Engineers (ASTFE), of which she is currently serving a two-year term as president. She is the current editor-in-chief for the ASME Journal of Fluids Engineering and is a 2019-20 fellow of the Mid-American Conference Academic Leadership Development Program. She has co-authored 130 refereed journal and conference papers and supervised over 40 graduate students.
Her research interests include computational fluid dynamics; building energy utilization and renewable/alternative energy; turbulent multiphase and reacting flows.
Battaglia earned her PhD in mechanical engineering from Pennsylvania State University and received her master’s degree in aerospace engineering and bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from UB.
“I was extremely humbled to have been recognized by my former postdoctoral students,” Battaglia noted. “I have been fortunate to work with such outstanding individuals and help direct them to become successful engineers and mentors themselves.”