Risa Robinson

  • Department Head
  • Mechanical Engineering



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Dr. Risa Robinson is a Professor and Department Head of Mechanical Engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She teaches the core mechanical engineering courses in both solid body mechanics and thermal fluid dynamics, as well as a variety of courses in specialized topic areas such as aerosol mechanics. Dr. Robinson is the founder and director of the Respiratory Technologies Laboratory at RIT, has a recognized track record of developing externally funded research programs with National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, American Cancer Society, Department of Defense via a number of private research labs as well as local industry. Her current research projects involve electronic cigarette emissions, puffing topography measurements and particle image velocimetry.


Dr. Robinson is an RIT alumna, having graduated with her BS degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MS in Imaging Science. She earned her PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Buffalo in 1999, joined the tenure-track faculty in the Kate Gleason College in 2000 as an Assistant Professor, and was promoted to full Professor in 2012. Dr. Robinson has held several leadership positions in recent years, including a three-year appointment as Associate Department Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department and Chair of the department’s Curriculum and Assessment Committee. She recently served as co-Chair of the Institutional Academic Portfolio Blueprint Task Force. She is currently involved in innovative curricular development for first-year students, and was previously sponsored by the National Science Foundation to incorporate industry standard data acquisition techniques into the freshmen year. Through these educational and leadership activities, Dr. Robinson has played an integral role in cultivating and disseminating new models for curriculum development and assessment strategies within her department and the college, and in defining a strategic map for future academic programming for the university.

Dr. Robinson’s research interests, generally speaking, are centered on the dynamic behavior of inhaled particles as a means to study the toxicological effects of various tobacco products and nicotine delivery devices. Her expertise is in aerosol mechanics, fluid dynamics and particle transport and deposition in systems, including the respiratory tract. Dr. Robinson established and directs the Respiratory Technologies Laboratory (RTL) in the college which is engaged in a variety of fundamental and applied projects relating to smoking and particle inhalation. In particular, the Lab develops systems to evaluate new tobacco products against manufacturer’s claims for reduced emissions and addictive potential. It develops novel surveillance systems to monitor user’s smoking behavior in natural environments, to evaluate the user’s exposure to harmful constituents upon switching to new purportedly safer products. Additional activities include the design of replica lung models for healthy and diseased lungs and their analysis, with both computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and particle image velocimetry, to map two-phase flow in these models to assess dosimetry of toxic constituents. This research will inform regulatory policy regarding improved standards for testing new tobacco products, and will ultimately have a positive impact on public health. Dr. Robinson’s work has been sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the National Science Foundation. Her work currently is sponsored by the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The major thrust of these current efforts involves the evaluation of electronic cigarettes, a product whose market is rapidly expanding to now include teenagers. Her work will aid the FDA in regulating these new and widely untested products.