Mechanical Engineering

Contact Information

Higgins Laboratories, 111
Phone: +1-508-831-5199
Fax: +1-508-831-5680

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John M. Sullivan

Teaching is the most important aspect of my profession. I have strived to teach the full spectrum of college offerings addressing freshman students through Ph.D. students. The project philosophy is a fundamental pillar of the WPI education. I encourage and promote this ideal in all of the projects that I advise. Students who bring a project to fruition gain more knowledge and understanding than most conventional instructional modes. I am committed to MQP and IQP activities. Students completing their projects under my advise have received more than two dozen awards and honors in the forms of undergraduate publications, Provost awards, national competition awards, and ME design of year awards. Some of these projects were associated with the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotic competitions. Under my guidance the WPI team has received numerous awards including the Proctor and Gamble Design of Year Award and the National Number One Seed Award. One of the most significant contributions that I have given to WPI is engineering diversity. I received a BS degree specializing in zoology. A second BS in ME was followed with a Masters in Materials - brittle materials, glass and ceramics. I worked for several years at Owens-Corning research institute in the area of heat transfer and thermal performance of insulation. Afterwards, I completed a doctorate in numerical methods with applications in phase change phenomena. While maintaining diversity I have demonstrated expertise in the development and application of advanced numerical methods for partial differential equations in engineering sciences, and in interactive computer graphics and automatic mesh generation. I have had continuous external sponsored research for my entire time at WPI (25 years 1987-2012, $6.5 million). Simultaneously, I maintain a full teaching and project advising load.

Research Interests

  • MRI Image Analysis
  • GUI Graphical Tools Development
  • 3D Volume Mesh Generation
  • Phase Change Numerical Modeling


  • BS, University of Massachusetts, 1973
  • BS, University of Massachusetts, 1977
  • MS, University of Massachusetts, 1978
  • DE, Dartmouth College, 1986

Featured Publications

  • Ghadyani, H., Sullivan, J.M., Jr., and Wu, Z., “Boundary Recovery for Delaunay Tetrahedral Meshes using Local Topological Transformations”, Finite Elements in Analysis and Design, Volume 46, pg 74 – 83, (2010).
  • Murugavel, M. and J.M. Sullivan Jr., “Automatic cropping of MRI rat brain volumes using pulse coupled neural networks”, NeuroImage, Volume 45, Issue 3, Pg 845-854, ISSN 1053-8119, (2009).
  • Wu, Z. and J.M. Sullivan, Jr., “Multiple material marching cubes algorithm”, IJNME, V58, pg 189-207, (2003).
  • Sullivan, J.M., Jr. and K. O'Neill, "Application of infinite elements to phase-change situations on deforming meshes.", Int. J. Num. Meth. in Engg., 33, pp 1861- 1874, (1992).
  • Sullivan, J.M., Jr., D.R. Lynch, and K. O'Neill, "Finite-element simulation of planar instabilities during solidification of an undercooled melt.", J. Comp. Phys., 69, 81-111, (1987).

See a full listing of publications.

Professional Highlights

  • Total awards exceeding 5 Million Dollars in Sponsored Research
  • Recent sponsored research includes:
    • "Adaptive Dual Mesh Strategy Development in Support of Alternative Breast Cancer Imaging Modalities", NIH subcontract with Dartmouth College Hanover, NH, P01 CA80139, 08/99 - 07/2004.
    •  "Development and Refinement of Registration and Warping Algorithms Necessary to Transform MRI and Histological Images", with Co-PIs Q.Y. Zhang and Z. Wu, NIDA subcontract with University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester, MA, Status=Active.
    • "Magnetic Resonance Microwave Absorption and Tomography Imaging", Co-PI with R. Ludwig (PI), NIH (R21/R33) subcontract with Dartmouth College, Status=Active.
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