Graduating French Exchange Student is Pioneer of New Engineering Project

May 3, 2024 | Graduate News, International, News, UToday, Alumni, Engineering
By Diana Van Winkle

Timothee Cullaz is a pioneer.

Having studied in France, Hungary, Sweden and the United States, Cullaz is the first student to enter a dual doctor of philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in mechanical engineering between The University of Toledo College of Engineering and the École Nationale d’Ingénieurs de Brest (ENIB) in his home country of France.

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: UToledo recognizes the Class of 2024 with a series of stories featuring students receiving their degrees at spring commencement.

After 18 months studying in Brest under Dr. Shabnam Arbab Chirani, a professor of mechanical engineering at École Nationale d’Ingénieurs de Brest, Cullaz arrived in Toledo in August 2022 and began his studies with Dr. Mohammad Elahinia, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering and newly appointed interim dean of the college.

“This project has been a personal journey for me,” Cullaz said. “I had to quickly integrate into two distinct environments: the academic setting and my daily life, including family and friends. Transitioning between countries and universities wasn’t easy, and I had to navigate the unique requirements of both institutions to complete the program. This proved to be truly challenging and pushed me out of my comfort zone.”

The project aims to leverage the expertise of two advisors: one specializing in additive manufacturing of shape memory alloy, and the other focusing on the durability of this material. Notably, Charini joined The University of Toledo College of Engineering as a visiting professor in 2016, thereby strengthening the scientific collaboration between these two academic entities and showcasing their international impact in research.

This joint project is novel, and its findings promise to be compelling. The scientific significance lies in unraveling the mechanical behavior of the material, while from an industrial standpoint, there’s genuine interest in studying and predicting product durability and service lifespan.

Headshot of Tim Cullaz.


“Throughout this endeavor, I’ve had the opportunity to utilize various equipment and material characterization methods, including the Electron Backscatter Diffraction Detector and wire cut-Electro Discharge Machining,” Cullaz said. “They’re new resources available at UToledo, which greatly enhance my prospects for post-graduation employment.”

Throughout this journey, Cullaz has taken pride in the scientific discoveries he has made.

“I am the first person to report on the fatigue mechanism in high-cycle fatigue in shape memory alloys,” he said. “I consider this discovery to be a significant achievement for the scientific community. The novelty of this finding was unexpected and interpreting it was challenging. Consequently, I sought assistance from international experts in the field to help analyze my results. My position is so unique that nobody has done it before, which makes it even more difficult to face the various obstacles inherent in such a dual program. However, the support from UToledo helped me navigate these challenges.”

Cullaz wanted to thank Elahinia for his support thought this journey.

“Through this experience, I developed strong interpersonal skills such as patience, organization and communication,” Cullaz said. “This enabled me to adapt to these changes and fulfill the program requirements.”

Elahinia congratulated Cullaz on his growth.

Tim Cullaz sits on a sign for ithe École Nationale d'Ingénieurs de Brest in his home country of France.

Tim Cullaz is the first student to receive a dual-institution Ph.D. in mechanical engineering between UToledo and École Nationale d’Ingénieurs de Brest in his home country of France.

“I am glad that Tim is reaching this milestone and nearing graduation,” he said. “Tim has been extremely hard-working and has made significant contributions to the field. I am also thankful to Dr. Arbab Chirani who supported him and has been a great partner for our collaboration. Tim proved to be extremely resourceful. He found several other collaborators in the US who have helped him conduct some of his experiments. The other students in my group have learned a lot from interacting with him and the French team. I hope that we can continue this dual institution Ph.D. for program in the future.”

Cullaz’s dual Ph.D. journey in mechanical engineering has been marked by exploration, challenges and significant contributions to the field.

“Navigating through two academic environments and continents, I’ve tackled complexities and made unexpected discoveries,” he said. “As I reflect on this experience, I recognize the transformative power of perseverance and dedication. This journey has not only enriched my academic knowledge but also honed my skills and resilience, preparing me for future endeavors.”



Click to access the login or register cheese