Dr. Joshua Vaughan is one of our 2021 Outstanding Master’s Mentor Award recipients. This award is presented by the Graduate School to members of the graduate faculty with an exceptional record of fostering the academic and professional development of graduate students, particularly for graduate students in our master’s degree programs.
Vaughan is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. His research includes a variety of controls and robotics-related work, including vibration control, input shaping, crane control, human-machine interfaces, autonomous vehicles, and the design and control of robots for inspection, rescue, and manufacturing.
Since joining the UL Lafayette faculty in 2012, he has advised and chaired committees for fifteen graduates, eleven who completed an M.S. thesis and four who completed the M.S. degree following a non-thesis track. He currently advises three additional M.S. graduate students, in addition to another pursuing the Ph.D. degree in Systems Engineering.
Vaughan is currently stationed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory while continuing to mentor his graduate students. His work at the lab brings his expertise in automation, robotics, and autonomous navigation skills to the problems arising in modern additive and subtractive manufacturing.
His commitment to providing strong mentorship to our graduate students, notes Dr. Alan Barhorst, Alumni Association/LEQSF Professor and Department Head of Mechanical Engineering, is particularly exemplary given his field of study.
“The work that is needed to successfully mentor students in the field of Controls and Robotics is intense,” he says. “The application of this theory to practice takes a melding of many disciplines from electronics to mechanics.”
Vaughan says his primary job as a mentor is to provide students “the support and resources necessary to help them fulfill their potential.”
He stresses the importance of giving students the space to develop their own research questions and pursue the answers to them.
“I prioritize student learning and growth over short-term results.”
Vaughan is also committed to helping his students develop leadership skills. His graduate students serve as the team lead for 3-5 undergraduate student researchers in Vaughan’s C.R.A.W.Lab.
In addition to weekly group meetings, Vaughan meets individually with the students in his research groups, and maintains a Slack chat page as a way for students to quickly get answers to their questions.
Communicating clearly about expectations is also key to his approach to mentoring. All lab members help to maintain a “How to CRAWLAB” document that outlines guiding principles, meeting formats, and scheduling expectations. The group also follows a code of conduct that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Vaughan is dedicated to providing his students with opportunities to travel and connect with other researchers. In addition to presenting their work at conferences, his students have spent time working abroad, including at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan and the Kumoh National Institute of Technology in Korea; and another student also spent several weeks working at HiBot, a Japanese company Vaughan collaborates with for research.
“I believe that researchers, students included, should be active participants in the global research community,” Vaughan says.