David Trumper

Mechanical Engineering
Champion of balance

David Trumper is a reliable guide for his students, one of whom says “He always encourages us to do what we are passionate about and supports us in any way he can.”

As Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Trumper’s research investigates the design of precision mechatronic systems, magnetic levitation for nanometer-scale motion control, and novel actuation and sensing devices. As director of the Precision Motion Control Laboratory, Trumper works with his group to conduct research in the design of electromechanical systems for precise positioning applications such as semiconductor photolithography, high-speed machine tools, and scanned probe microscopy.

Trumper teaches his students to think honestly about what models and experiments “are trying to tell us,” and to work together to create innovative new systems and solutions.

A sage listener

One caring action especially stood out in the C2C nominations submitted by students on behalf of Trumper: active listening. According to his students, Trumper takes the time to sit down and listen, not just as a professor or advisor, but also as a friend. One nominator wrote, “we talked about the loss of my dad, about the presidential election, about life in general, and about life at MIT. It was the most encouraging and helpful experience that I have ever had with an MIT professor.”

Many students remark that Trumper’s impact in their lives is personal. “I could sincerely feel his genuine consideration for me and the difficulties I was having as a foreign student,” one nominator writes. “Ever since the first meeting, he has been always patient with me…I can’t thank him enough for his caring.”

In class, Trumper listens to students’ questions and offers sound advice and guidance in return, “sharing tidbits of hands-on experience and debugging principles which are invaluable in the practical application of the theory.”

Champion of balance

In addition to encouraging a healthy work/life balance (a Mentoring Guidepost), Trumper’s students say, he constantly stresses balance of every kind, for example “between creative thinking and precise detailing, between analysis and learning from prototyping, and between going fast and slowing down.”

Trumper demonstrates to his students that balance is important, and ultimately more effective for everyone. He encourages his students to make time for creative efforts and physical activities and leads by example; Trumper says he likes to spend time photographing, hiking, and rock climbing. “I also encourage my students to be more broadly educated by reading books that have nothing to do with their technical field,” he relays. “Reading for pleasure should be a life-long habit.”

Along with balance comes perspective, and Trumper is always offering a positive outlook. One student recalls that after making a careless calculation, his experiment failed. Trumper “did not criticize me once about the mistake, and instead, he simply said: ‘Now you will never forget this, which is great’.”

Trumper’s research and advising styles are, like everyone’s, a product of his community. While a PhD student, Trumper studied with MIT Professor of Electrical Engineering, James K. Roberge whom he credits with having taught him a great deal about analog circuit design and “how not to sweat externalities.” As a faculty member at MIT, Trumper says his work has been constantly molded by his colleagues and collaborators, in particular Professors Jeffrey Lang, James Melcher (d. 1991), and Alex Slocum. “These and other MIT faculty instilled in me how important it was to see and think physically about design, analysis, and experimentation in research. I try to pass this forward to our current students.”