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Howard University’s Nadir Yilmaz talks publishing, representation in mobility engineering with SAE International

Posted: February 14, 2023

Empowering diverse voices gets better results.

Nadir Yilmaz, Ph.D., P.E., SAE Fellow, has seen this firsthand.

“Innovation drives the world of mobility engineering, and diversity is a necessary component for that to occur.” said Dr. Yilmaz, a professor and department chair of mechanical engineering at Howard University. “As an advocate to empower underrepresented groups, especially in STEM, I have been fortunate to work at both Hispanic Serving Institutions and an HBCU. Educating and interacting with a diverse group of students has changed my perspective and greatly educated me in the context of socioeconomic challenges that underserved communities face both currently, as well as historically.”

Dr. Yilmaz is deeply involved in SAE International, serving as the Editor-In-Chief for the SAE International Journal of Fuels and Lubricants, a SAE Foundation Trustee and former Chair of SAE Education Board and SAE Washington DC section. He received the 2019 SAE International Leadership Citation Award, 2016 SAE International Excellence in Engineering Education (Triple E) Award, 2011 SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award, the SAE Faculty Advisor Award in both 2013 and 2016 and was selected by SAE as a member of the inaugural SAE Top Contributor Class in 2019.

Through this engagement and as a leading voice through his many publications in the fields of combustion, CFD, rocket propulsion, and automotive engineering, Dr. Yilmaz exemplifies the type of diverse and nuanced industry collaboration he advocates. In this capacity, he’s identified a larger opportunity for a more inclusive field.

“Greater ethnic and gender-based diversity will enhance diverse perspectives and lead to further advancement of innovation in the mobility sector,” he said. “I believe that mobility engineering is more diverse now than it was a decade ago, but more still needs to be done by focusing on STEM education as early as Pre-K and creating pipelines through to graduate school.”

As a young person growing up in Türkiye, Dr. Yilmaz was fortunate to attend a science and mathematics specialty high school, where he developed his interest in mechanical engineering. That paved the way for his undergraduate education at Istanbul Technical University—one of the oldest technical universities in the world and the top engineering school in Türkiye—where he received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He eventually went on to complete his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at New Mexico State University, where he began his career in higher education before moving on to serve at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and later joining Howard University. 

But he knows that’s not the case for everyone.

Dr. Yilmaz’s work with the SAE Foundation is a start toward creating these educational opportunities. He noted that STEM education programs A World In Motion, the Collegiate Design Series, and SAE awards and scholarships provide pathways into this field for students from all backgrounds, though there’s still room for improvement.

“The mobility industry as a whole can play a bigger role in supporting STEM education. This will require stronger partnerships between such organizations as SAE and others to create sustainable pipelines of diverse scientists, technologists and engineers for the workforce of the future,” Dr. Yilmaz said.

Where, then, can SAE and industry focus their attention for this workforce development?

Dr. Yilmaz can think of a few ways—and they involve making time for conversations around diverse issues and learning to acknowledge when things could be better. Through acknowledgements of cultural heritage months—like Black History Month—the industry demonstrates a support and understanding of tolerance, harmony, and open dialogue, signaling an openness to diversifying in ways that the engineering profession often lacks.

It's also crucial to meet these underrepresented students where they are at.

“SAE could more explicitly serve students from diverse populations by such activities as starting collegiate design series that are specifically for HBCUs and minority serving institutions,” Dr. Yilmaz said. “Such events would enable opportunities to create better networking among MSIs and SAE, to promote engagement of these institutions within and about the mobility industry and to bolster their ability to participate in mobility events. As the leader in the mobility engineering, SAE could also partner with the mobility sector through SAE Foundation and other channels to create scholarships designated for HBCUs and MSIs.”

As SAE seeks to strengthen its core membership by engaging a diverse pool of the next generation of engineers, we count ourselves lucky to have a partner like Nadir Yilmaz helping to lead these efforts.

This article is appearing as part of our Black History Month series celebrating diverse voices in mobility.