Stevens alumna wins LRET Scholarship

9/6/2010

Maggie Hayes ’09, a graduate student in naval architecture at University College London who brings a multi-disciplinary and sustainable approach to ship design, has won a prestigious scholarship from the Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust, the London-based charitable foundation.

Hayes, who studied naval engineering as an undergraduate at Stevens, hopes one day to design passenger ships with advanced diagnostic systems that are highly maneuverable, energy efficient and less polluting.

The LRET Scholarship will support her research on commercial ships and private vessels as she pursues a master’s degree at UCL. She plans to spend the next several months on a team there designing an environmentally friendly cruise ship to navigate through fjords, among other projects.

“Maggie is in our opinion one of the strongest academic students, but she was also very compelling to us because of her interest in green issues,” said Richard Bucknall, senior lecturer at UCL and course director of the university’s master’s degree program in marine engineering.

Scholarship winners, who receive £10,000 (equal to $16,000 in U.S. dollars) toward their studies, are nominated by the faculty at their respective academic institutions and then considered for final approval by the trust, which provides funding each year to advance education, research and training worldwide within the transportation industries, engineering and technological disciplines.

Hayes, who grew up within walking distance of  bustling New York Harbor in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, has known since high school that she wanted to design ships, a field she viewed as an intriguing hybrid of several engineering disciplines. But it was several vacations aboard cruise liners that sharpened her focus on sustainable practices.

“I wanted to design a green cruise ship, because I figured there has to be a better way of doing things. These boats are enormous colossi that end up half-filled and cause ecological problems by stirring up silt. We need smaller ships,” she said. “There is also the overconsumption and waste represented by the midnight buffet. And while there is a lot of recycling, there could be more.”

Hayes added that her interests are not limited to design, but also include the industry’s sociological and economic impacts.

“The ships come into the harbor for a couple of hours and flood the place with tourists, but then they’re gone. The workforce is built around cruise ships, but it’s not a stable driver of these economies,” she said. “I would also like to see them run in a way that is more economically friendly to the places they stop. I would like to see longer visits and encourage people to get to know these places better.”

Hayes arrived at UCL last fall with a Bachelor of Engineering degree and several years of marine and naval research under her belt. As a top student admitted to the Stevens Scholar Program, she worked  alongside her professors throughout her undergraduate years on projects such as devising and testing hulls with reduced resistance and designing unmanned surface vehicles for possible military use.

“She assisted us admirably on many model testing projects,” said Raju Datla, a Research Associate Professor of civil, environmental and ocean engineering and Hayes’ faculty advisor.

She brought a holistic approach to her senior design project, a 160-foot yacht outfitted with a sky sail system operating high in the atmosphere to save deck space and take advantage of powerful air currents. The model included a device to harness wind energy generated by the boat’s propellers and incorporated environmentally friendly features such as counters fabricated from recycled glass rather than stone. Intended for group ownership, its highly flexible format allowed owners to easily reconfigure rooms for different uses.

Hayes said she was eager to pursue her master’s degree at UCL following graduation from Stevens because of “its highly competitive naval design program.”

There are also longstanding synergies between the two universities, which regularly exchange faculty and students. In 2002, the two teamed up to win a bid from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, which works closely with the British Royal Navy,  to establish a university consortium to enhance education and basic research in ship design, a field that faces a massive wave of retirements, said Michael Bruno, Dean of the Schaefer School of Engineering and Science. Along with other consortium partners, they are researching and designing multi-hull vehicles for enhanced efficiency, among other projects.

The two schools’ skill sets are complementary, Bucknall said.

“Stevens brings real expertise in hydrodynamics to design features such as ship resistance and hull optimization, while we understand naval requirements, such as how ships operate, at what speed and with what number of people, as well as basic design elements,” he noted.

After earning her master’s degree from UCL, Hayes plans to apply to master’s degree programs in environmental engineering so that she can design all aspects of boats.

For now, however, she describes herself as “incredibly honored, blown away really, to learn I’ve been chosen for this scholarship, because I know what a competitive opportunity it is.”