Dr. Michael North, Mechanical Engineering Alum, Co-Host of New Discovery Channel Series, "Prototype This"

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dr. Michael North received his BS, summa cum laude with distinction, in Mechanical Engineering, as well as his MS and PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from UC Santa Barbara.  

(From the Discovery Chanel website): A master of the "nano" world -- and a few larger fire-breathing entities -- Mike earned his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from U.C. Santa Barbara. During his graduate work, he designed and fabricated the world's first adhesive that can be turned on and off electronically. It was inspired by biological adhesives systems, such as the one used by geckos.

Mike's major passion is creating and testing things too small to be seen with the unaided eye, and sometimes beyond the range of normal light microscopes. Mike's interests delve into specialties like micro/nanofabrication, nanoscale microscopy and micro/nanomechanical characterization. His investigations in these areas have been published in leading scientific journals, including Nature.

On the artistic side, Mike uses cutting-edge nanofabrication techniques to create innovative micro- and nano-sculptures. Expanding on techniques used to make computer chips, he photolithographically patterns surfaces, carves out material using biased plasmas, deposits other materials such as titanium or platinum, and even grows nanostructures using a self-developed cleanroom technique. The entire final structure ends up being smaller than the width of a human hair (and Mike concedes that it probably requires a Ph.D. to understand what all this means!).

At the other extreme, Mike has a knack for building large-scale avant-garde art, such as fire-breathing 90-mph dragon ships or classic BMWs loaded with computer-controlled fire-blasting cannons. In the case of the dragon ship, a rusted-out old pick-up truck -- once owned by a long-time fisherman -- was stripped to the frame and then rebuilt with the look of a classic Viking longboat, even down to the overlapping planks of the hull. In keeping with the longboat theme, a dragon head was placed on the front of the boat, but this dragon head spews a 10-foot gasoline flame (and he drives it on the freeway!).

When he's not masterminding builds on Prototype This or making things too small to see, you might catch Mike camping next to a glacier or fumbling with a new foreign language somewhere around the globe.