Peiwen “Perry” Li was appointed head of the College of Engineering’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering in August 2018.
Li, who has been a UA faculty member since 2006, said he’s ready for the responsibility.
“As a department head, of course, you have a really high expectation from the faculty and staff to lead the department, increase its reputation for teaching and outreach, and to develop connections to industry,” he said. “It is a challenge, but I’d like to take that challenge and work to create a better department for our rapidly changing world.”
A Strong Leader for Future Engineers
Li earned his PhD from Xi’an Jiaotong University in China in 1995, where he focused on the application of thermal science to energy and power engineering. Before joining the UA, he spent two years at Xi’an Jiaotong University as a lecturer, 4.5 years as a research scientist in the Japanese National Mechanical Engineering Laboratory and Kyoto University, and 4.5 years as a research associate at the University of Pittsburgh.
“The college is delighted that Perry has been selected to serve as the department head for aerospace and mechanical engineering,” said Larry Head, interim dean of the College of Engineering. “Perry has a strong research program and will lead the development of one of the college’s largest programs into the future.”
Li has been awarded $8.5 million in research funding from organizations such as the Energy Department, Office of Naval Research and National Science Foundation.
He says he wants to continue to give AME students a strong foundation in fundamental disciplines so they can tackle challenges in different fields throughout their careers. But he’s also looking forward to further developing opportunities for students to apply their research and work in areas like smart materials and artificial intelligence.
“We want AME to be attractive to good students, and that relies on having challenging research that will give students something interesting to work on,” he said.
Li’s own work in energy and power engineering is currently focused on concentrated solar systems and using solar thermal energy for water treatment, a particularly important area for the UA’s hometown of Tucson, which has plenty of sun and is always in need of new water-purifying techniques.
“We have plenty of solar energy here, and I think one of my interests is to push the public to recognize our local energy resources,” he said.
Li has published one book, five book chapters, 100 peer-reviewed journal papers and more than 90 peer-reviewed conference papers. He is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and serves as an associate editor for Solar Energy, the official journal of the International Solar Energy Society.
When he’s not working on how to harvest and use energy from the sun, he likes to spend time underneath it -- playing badminton and tennis and hiking through Catalina State Park and up Picacho Peak. He encourages students to work hard, but to find time to spend under the sun as well.
“When you study, focus and really work hard, but when you go to have fun, forget about things and just have fun,” he said.