Cecilia Richards is a mechanical engineering professor at Washington State University whose research interests have spanned fuel-air mixing in gas turbine engines to waste-heat harvesting in micro-scale engines. She has been a leader in the development of small-scale engines for portable power applications. Her work on integrating thin film piezoelectrics as generators in micro-scale engines is pioneering and has contributed to the fundamental understanding of power conversion efficiency of piezoelectric components.
A fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Richards has authored over 150 technical papers and proceedings. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Standards and Technology among others.
A leading engineering educator, Richards spearheaded many innovations in the classroom and laboratory. She developed and ran several NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduate Programs at Washington State University. Her work developing and implementing remote laboratory access for off-campus students was recognized by the American Society for Engineering Education.
Richards received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of British Columbia, Canada. She was the first woman in the UCI Department of Mechanical Engineering to earn a doctorate in 1990, working with Professor Scott Samuelsen as her adviser. Following completion of her graduate work, Richards was a fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology for two years before becoming the first woman on the faculty in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University.