Clemson to award first automotive Ph.D.

December 14, 2009

John Limroth of Austin, Texas, will graduate Dec. 17 with Clemson University’s first automotive-engineering Ph.D., the university announced Friday.

Clemson launched its automotive-engineering program in 2006 at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research campus. Until fall 2009, it was the only automotive-engineering Ph.D. program in the United States listed in Peterson’s, a well-known guide to colleges and universities.

The Clemson automotive-engineering program graduated nine master’s degree students in 2009. Limroth is the first to graduate with a Ph.D.

“We are very proud of John Limroth and this milestone for our automotive-engineering program,” said Tom Kurfess, Limroth’s adviser and professor and BMW Chair of Manufacturing in the mechanical engineering department at Clemson. “Our program is interdisciplinary and our students are from a wide variety of engineering and science backgrounds. They live, eat, sleep and breathe automotive engineering. We are a highly focused group that addresses systems engineering with a specific focus on the automobile. All of our courses use the automobile as our educational platform.”

Limroth has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University.

He began his professional career as a 10-year employee of National Instruments in Austin, Texas, where he was responsible for product strategy of measurement and control software. Through a professional working relationship with Kurfess, Limroth learned of the emerging Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research and its academic program. He moved to Greenville in 2006 with his wife, Elena, and two sons, now 6 and 5.

“This was a real leap of faith that has paid off,” said Limroth. “In my career, I had moved away from any technical engineering work and I had always had a love of automotive engineering, so I thought this might be the right opportunity to pursue it.”

He has already begun a new job with Michelin as a tire-performance research engineer.

“The recognition and attention associated with being the first Ph.D. graduate are nice,” Limroth said, ”but I am more excited to be graduating with the experience I received from a premier program that has an international focus. Just last week I had the opportunity to shake hands with U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu when he toured CU-ICAR. The experience I’ve had and the contacts I’ve made are amazing. As a child I was fascinated with cars and their mechanics and now I am moving on to a career as an engineer in the automotive industry.”

Limroth credits Kurfess and emeritus professor Harry Law with his success in the program. They were heavily involved in his research on electronic-stability control of passenger cars and heavy trucks. Michelin was a project sponsor of the research along with the National Transport Research Center Inc. and National Instruments. His dissertation was in adaptive vehicle electronic-stability control.

“Our 75-plus students participate in courses that have an excellent blend of theory and practice, a large hands-on component and exposure to state-of-the-art, full-scale automotive test equipment,” said Campbell Graduate Engineering Center Executive Director Imtiaz Haque. “And they have extensive interaction with industrial partners. John Limroth embodies the academic program at CU-ICAR. He had an engineering and industry background and embraced the non-traditional global or international element of the program. He is an example of what we aspire to with our graduates.”

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