Assistant Professor of Engineering Joseph Ranalli is leading the engineering program at Penn State Hazleton.

Engineering the future

Penn State Hazleton is the only campus to offer a degree in engineering with an alternative energy and power generation track. With the retirement of Associate Professor of Engineering Wieslaw “Wes” Grebski, Assistant Professor of Engineering Joseph Ranalli is now leading the program.
With transition in program’s leadership, Ranalli poised to direct degree program at Penn State Hazleton

Assistant Professor of Engineering Joseph Ranalli is proud that Penn State Hazleton is the only campus to offer a degree in engineering with an alternative energy and power generation track.

He’s also enthusiastic to be leading the program at the campus.

From the time he came to Penn State Hazleton in 2012, Ranalli worked with Wieslaw “Wes” Grebski, associate professor of engineering, who was instrumental in bringing the degree program to the campus. With Grebski’s retirement and transition to professor emeritus, Ranalli is now overseeing the program going forward.

“Dr. Grebski has been a fantastic and inspiring mentor. He is someone who would always go the extra mile for students and I learned so much by observing his approach to leading the program,” Ranalli said.

He acknowledged Grebski’s efforts in establishing and solidifying the program and said he looks forward to building on that solid foundation.

“I want to see us continue to put students first. I also want to continue to grow the engineering program at Penn State Hazleton while making sure we’re providing the best opportunities to students enrolled in or considering the program,” Ranalli said.

He plans initiatives that include engaging with industry and students at other campuses as a way to build opportunities for students at Penn State Hazleton. And with the renovation of the Kostos Building nearing completion, Ranalli is looking forward to teaching students inside brand-new laboratory facilities.

“We’re excited to move into the new building and to use our new engineering labs for hands-on technical opportunities,” he said.

Involvement across disciplines is a focus of the engineering program, letting students gain experience across several traditional engineering disciplines – mechanical, electrical and chemical.

“In all of those disciplines, we focus on alternative energy, which is very important in our world and current environment,” Ranalli said.

With renewable energy a major part of Penn State Hazleton’s engineering program, Ranalli also conducts research in that arena. He researches solar energy resource assessment, on which undergraduate student Robert Vitagliano conducted research in collaboration with him in the summer of 2015. The results of their research were published in an article in a scholarly journal, Solar Energy. Ranalli has also collaborated on work in solar energy with faculty at University Park.

The small size of Penn State Hazleton’s engineering program ensures individualized attention and many one-on-one experiences – including undergraduate research – with faculty members. In addition to Ranalli, Ken Dudeck and Will Yourey also teach classes in the campus’ program.

“The Penn State Hazleton engineering program provides an excellent opportunity for students to get to know their professors and have a relationship with them. With opportunities for conducting undergraduate research as well as learning more about research a faculty member has done, students have the chance for a highly personalized experience through our program,” Ranalli said.

His research interests are primarily in engineering education, using different teaching strategies for engineering and finding ways to use technology in the classroom. 

Ranalli holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Penn State as a Schreyer Honors scholar and a Ph.D from Virginia Tech, where he worked in combustion dynamics. He spent three years as a postdoctoral research at the National Energy Technology Lab in Morgantown, West Virginia, before joining the faculty at Penn State Hazleton.

Ranalli said the majority of students who have graduated from Penn State Hazleton’s program are working in the engineering field.

“We have quite a few students who have spoken highly of how they felt the program prepared them for their careers and how happy they are with their careers now,” he said.

The first graduates of the program earned their degrees in 2014, and several alumni return to the campus to speak with students about their experiences.

One of those, Tiffany Veet, works as a production technician at Sanofi Pasteur in the laboratories that manufacture meningitis and influenza vaccines and is completing her master’s degree in biomedical engineering from Wilkes University.

“The engineering program at Penn State Hazleton definitely prepared me for my job and to continue my education. I feel the broad range of engineering fundamentals and applied design of this major gives me an invaluable background,” she said. 

Mentored by Grebski, Veet had the opportunity to learn from and work with Ranalli as well. She praised the support she received from both professors, saying, “Although Dr. Grebski will be greatly missed and is truly irreplaceable, the engineering program was left in good hands with Dr. Ranalli. He makes a positive impact on everyone fortunate enough to meet him. He motivates students by being involved in student research and the Science and Engineering Club. As Dr. Ranalli’s students embark upon our respective careers in engineering, we could not be better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. He is a vital contributor to our success potential.”

Ranalli said he appreciates the opportunity to work with students both in the classroom and through research.

“Teaching in the classroom gives me a chance to share some of my interests with students, and I have also really enjoyed engaging students in research. I have been amazed at some of the contributions that students have been able to make to some of these projects and I have enjoyed the creativity we’ve been able to approach these open-ended problems with,” he said.

Director of Academic Affairs Elizabeth Wright said, “Dr. Ranalli has been a valued part of our faculty since he joined our campus and displays a great knowledge of and enthusiasm for his subject material. We are excited to see the program continue to grow under his direction.”