When the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) recently announced that Marco Amabili was the recipient of the 2020 ASME Worcester Reed Warner Medal, it marked a significant milepost along the path Amabili has been following since he was a young boy in growing up in San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy.
“When I was a child, I was asking for mechanical tools as birthday gifts. I remember that I had an orange bucket containing mechanical parts taken from broken objects. I needed the tools to dismantle those objects and see how they were made inside,” says the Canada Research Chair in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “My parents were teachers at school, but in literature and Latin language (my father) and French language (my mother). Therefore, my passion for science and mechanics does not come from them, but they always supported it.”
Outstanding contribution to engineering literature
Established in 1930 by bequest of Worcester Reed Warner, a charter member and sixteenth president of the ASME, the Medal celebrates outstanding contributions to the permanent literature of engineering.
Amabili earned the honour for his book Nonlinear Vibrations and Stability of Shells and Plates, which, says the ASME, “presents state-of-the-art research and is an established reference for researchers working in the field.”
“The book is on vibrations of shell structures,” says Amabili. “Shells are largely present in nature: they are curved structures with small thickness. Because of the curvature, they can span over large areas by using a minimum amount of material. A plate instead is a flat shell: it requires to be thick enough in order to gain stiffness.”
The ASME distinction is a huge honour for Amabili. “This award is very special for me because it comes from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which is the top professional organization in my field,” he says.
Founded in 1880, the ASME has over 110,000 members in more than 150 countries worldwide. Known for setting codes and standards for mechanical devices, the ASME conducts one of the world’s largest technical publishing operations, holds numerous technical conferences and hundreds of professional development courses each year, and sponsors numerous outreach and educational programs.
Pandemic can’t slow down research
Writing books and earning accolades are great, but Amabili says he gets real satisfaction in his work.
“I love research. I like to develop new theories for mechanics of structures, but at the same I am very interested in designing experiments and in developing computer codes for numerical solutions,” he says. “I have a strong research group that works on mechanical vibrations and vascular biomechanics. Vascular biomechanics is challenging because it involves very large deformations of soft tissues that are very difficult to characterize experimentally and to model theoretically and numerically.”
While COVID-19 has left it up in the air as to whether or not Amabili will be able to accept his Medal in person at the International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition in Portland, Oregon this November, it hasn’t slowed down his research group.
“Myself and my research group did not stop working one day due to pandemic and we did not slow down at all,” he says. “Only some experimental work had a bit of delay. I was in touch with all the members of my research group very often in any possible way, to be sure that they were motivated all the time.”