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Mechanical Engineering professor Dr. William Oates appointed 2018 Cummins Inc. Professor in Engineering

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Neil Coker
Dr. William Oates in his engineering lab

The Cummins Inc. Professor in Engineering endowment, appointed through the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering since 2016, was recently awarded to Dr. William Oates, professor in Mechanical Engineering and the Aero-propulsion, Mechatronics and Energy (AME) center. The endowment is funded through engine-manufacturer and energy powerhouse Cummins Inc., operating in more than 190 countries worldwide.

Engineering dean J. Murray Gibson said Dr. Oates’ nomination and appointment comes “in recognition of [his] exemplary leadership, outstanding record of research accomplishment with a sustained upward trajectory, and contribution to engineering education and career development.” The Dean also noted Oates’ success in raising funds from Cummins Inc. to forward his pioneering work in the field of quantum computing.

Quantum computing is an emerging field that uses what is called is called a qubit (the analog of a computer bit).  Unlike classical bits which process information using their zero or one state, qubits are simultaneously in both the zero and one state afforded by the complex world of quantum mechanics—a branch of physics that deals with matter on a subatomic level.  This property, combined with the mysterious world of quantum entanglement, offers extraordinary computational potential.

Cummins, Inc. is interested in Oates’ research to advance the design of new fuel cell technology—which he aims to improve using quantum machine learning and quantum linear algebra. While quantum computing is still in its infancy, Oates has been awarded $300,000 through the FSU Foundation. The Cummins Inc. professorship is offered for a term of five years, and is eligible for renewal following a review period afterward.

Since joining the college in 2006, other distinctions Oates has amassed during that time include becoming a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) among 3,521 Fellows out of 112,647 members.  He has also been awarded the FSU Developing Scholar Award, the ASME Gary Anderson Early Achievement Award, the NSF CAREER Award, and the DARPA Young Faculty Award. 

“This is quite an honor and a privilege,” Oates said. Referencing the pedigree of Cummins, Inc., he then went on to add: “Growing up with a father who was a diesel mechanic his whole career makes this one particularly special.”