Erin MacDonald

Erin MacDonald

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Art & Design


MIT Sloan School of Management, Marketing Postdoctoral Researcher and Mechanical Engineering Instructor, 2008-2009
University of Michigan, Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, 2008
University of Michigan, M.S., Mechanical Engineering, 2004
Brown University, B.S., Materials Science and Engineering, 1998


IRIS Design Lab:

Areas of Interest

Product design; sustainability; design and system optimization; decision modeling; behavioral psychology; marketing; cognitive and learning styles


Dr. MacDonald is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University and Affiliated Researcher at the Ames National Laboratory. She received an M.S. (2004) and Ph.D. (2008) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan; and a B.S. with Honors in Materials Science and Engineering from Brown University (1998). She was a Sloan School of Business Postdoctoral Associate and Mechanical Engineering Instructor at MIT (2008-2009). She spent several years designing hiking products before returning to graduate school, and holds two patents on consumer product designs. She is the 2012 ASME Design Automation Committee Outstanding Young Investigator, a Big 12 Faculty Fellow, a Michael and Denise Mack 2050 Challenge Scholar, and a former NSF Graduate Fellow. Her research integrates concepts from psychology, economics, and marketing into engineering design methods. A main goal of her research is to increase the sustainability of products and technologies by improving the representation of the consumer in the design process.

Current projects in the Interdisciplinary Research in Sustainable (IRIS) Design Lab include optimizing wind farm layout for landowner concerns; improving designers’ ideation skills through behavioral priming; morphing product aesthetics to match consumer preference using novel data; and optimizing product designs with a consider-then-choose consumer decision model.

She teaches courses on design and creativity at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and was an active participant in the NSF workshops on graduate design education.

Selected Publications

1. Chen, L., and MacDonald, E., In Press, “A New Model for Wind Farm Layout Optimization with Landowner Decisions,” Journal of Mechanical Design.

2. MacDonald, E., Gonzalez, R., and Papalambros, P., 2009, “Preference Inconsistency in Multidisciplinary Design Decision Making”, Journal of Mechanical Design, Vol. 131, No. 3, 031009.

3. MacDonald, E., Lubensky, A., Sohns, B., and Papalambros, P., 2009, “Product Semantics and Wine Portfolio Optimization”, International Journal of Product Development, Vol. 7, No. 1/2, pp. 73-98.

4. MacDonald, E., Gonzalez, R. and Papalambros, P., 2009, “The Construction of Preferences for Crux and Sentinel Product Attributes,” Journal of Engineering Design, Vol. 20, No. 6, pp. 609-626.

For a full list of publications, refer to:

Erin MacDonald

Assistant Professor

2020 Black Engineering
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-2161
Phone: 515-294-3298
Fax: 515-294-3261