News Briefs

Welcome to the University of Virginia's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering news briefs, a place to find quick notes and posts from the faculty, students, staff and alumni.

    MAE Outstanding Student Awards

    May 19, 2023

    Please help us congratulate our outstanding students:

    De'Ajree Branch, a Ph.D. graduate in mechanical and aerospace engineering, plays a pivotal role in developing an innovative underwater system titled "Bio-Inspired Renewable Energy (BIRE) for Highly-Efficient Low-cost Riverine Hydrokinetics." Led by Prof. Hilary Bart-Smith, the SHARKS program involves multiple institutions. De'Ajree's research focuses on extracting energy from rivers using oscillating hydrofoils. Her remarkable achievements include the 2023 Outstanding Graduate Leadership and Diversity Award, Inclusive Excellence Fellowship, SREB Doctoral Scholarship, NREL GEM Fellowship, and various leadership roles such as Graduate Program Coordinator for MOCHA/WOCHA, MAE Graduate Student Board's DEI Representative, and Co-chair for MAE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Selected as a Nextprof Pathfinder attendee and serving as the Copresident of Shades of Sisterhood, De'Ajree actively contributes to her field. De'Ajree aspires to pursue a career as a professor, combining teaching and research, or exploring opportunities in the industry.

    Advisor: Eric Loth

    Md Shafkat Bin Hoque, a Ph.D. graduate in mechanical and aerospace engineering, is focused on advancing laser-based thermal conductivity measurement techniques. His work is important in characterizing materials critical for enhancing the efficiency and lifespan of microprocessors, integrated circuits, light-emitting diodes, high-power radio frequency devices, hypersonic vehicles, advanced rocket motors, next-generation gas turbines, and nuclear reactors. Leveraging his expertise in thermal characterization techniques, Md Shafkat specializes in characterizing semiconductors and ultrahigh temperature ceramics. Recognized for his outstanding research contributions, he received the Outstanding Graduate Research Award. Post-graduation, Md Shafkat aspires to pursue a career in academia, utilizing his expertise to develop energy-efficient devices that significantly reduce power and electricity consumption.

    Advisor: Patrick Hopkins

    Evan Dooley is a mechanical and aerospace engineering Ph.D. graduate specializing in developing a validated simulation framework. His focus is assessing how propulsive forces from a posterior walker impact walking stability and energy cost. Evan's research aims to create a posterior walker that reduces walking workload, enabling extended walking for improved physical health, muscle development, and quality of life. By enhancing assistive devices, Evan's work benefits individuals reliant on aids, providing physiological, mental, and social advantages. He has recently received prestigious awards including the UVA MAE Outstanding Graduate Leadership & Diversity Award and the American Society of Biomechanics' President's Choice Service Award. Evan is driven to explore industry opportunities in human motion biomechanics, aspiring to help people improve their mobility and well-being.

    Advisors: Shawn Russell, Silvia Blemker (BME), Jason Forman (MAE), Matt Panzer (MAE), Mark Romness (Ortho)

    Cori Espelien, a fourth-year graduate in mechanical and aerospace engineering, engages in automotive safety research with a focus on diverse occupant populations. Her work encompasses two significant projects. The primary project centers on collecting and analyzing data to enhance the response of a new-generation small female crash test dummy, serving as the cornerstone of her dissertation research. Cori's secondary project delves into studying injury trends among pregnant occupants. Her exceptional contributions earned her the MAE Outstanding Graduate Researcher Award in 2023 and the Raven Society Scholarship. She also received the MAE Outstanding Graduate Leadership Award and served as the MAE Graduate Student Board President in 2022. As a SEAS Dean's Scholar Fellow from 2019 to 2021, Cori has demonstrated her commitment to excellence. Cori aspires to pursue a career in the automotive safety research sector post-graduation, though she remains undecided between government, OEM, or academic paths.

    Advisor: Jason Forman

    John Kelly, a Ph.D. graduate in mechanical and aerospace engineering, delves into the world of hydrodynamics in fish schools and fish-like robot swarms through computational fluid dynamics. With an impressive academic journey, John has been recognized as an ASME FEDSM Graduate Student Scholar, ASME FEDSM Graduate Returning Scholar, and recipient of the prestigious Physics of Fluids: Editors Pick Paper award. His exceptional work also secured him first place in the ASME FEDSM Who's Who video competition and third place in the UVERS Poster contest. John envisions embarking on a research career in a national lab or university after graduation.

    Advisor: Haibo Dong

    Kristen Reynier is a mechanical engineering Ph.D. graduate who focuses on biomechanics research, specifically focusing on brain injuries from automotive crashes. Her work quantifies the impact of sex and biomechanical factors on brain deformation, enhancing understanding of injuries in both male and female crash victims. Kristen recently received the UVA MAE Outstanding Graduate Student Award (April 2023). Looking ahead, she aims to leverage her expertise as an engineering consultant in sports. Kristen's goal is to study brain injuries and protective equipment, ultimately improving athlete safety.brain injuries and protective equipment in sports, with the ultimate goal of better protecting athletes.

    Advisor: Matthew B. Panzer

    Sophia Tushak is a Ph.D. graduate in mechanical and aerospace engineering, specializing in biomechanics and injury prediction of lumbar spine fractures in motor vehicle crashes. She was awarded the NSF GRFP Fellowship, the UVA Graduate Endowed Fellowship, and was a participant in the AAAM H. Clay Gabler Scholars Program in recognition of her academic accomplishments. Sophia has her sights set on a career in research, either in university or in industry.

    Advisor: Jason Kerrigan



    Acting NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson Tours the UVA Center of Applied Biomechanics

    March 02, 2023


    From left to right: Richard W. Kent, chair and professor of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Jason Kerrigan, director of the Center for Applied Biomechanics; Ann Carlson, acting administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and Jennifer L. West, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science (Photo by Tom Cogill)

    Acting NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson came to tour the UVA Center of Applied Biomechanics on March 1. She was particularly interested in the center’s ongoing research initiatives related to population diversity and the improvement of federal standards to enhance protection across ages, sizes and genders.

    The Center for Applied Biomechanics was founded with funding from NHTSA in the early 1990s as the UVA Automobile Safety Laboratory. The center’s research has been continuously sponsored by NHTSA for over 30 years as part of its mission to “save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes, through education, research, safety standards, and enforcement.”  The center’s research supports the development of better crash test dummies and other human body models. It provides the scientific foundation for many Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and New Car Assessment Programs (the “5-star crash safety ratings” published by NHTSA). 



    Xu earns 2023 Young Investigator Medal from the Society of Engineering Science

    December 01, 2022


    Congratulations to associate professor Baoxing Xu for earning the 2023 Young Investigator Medal from the Society of Engineering Science! This medal is awarded to a young researcher in their ascendancy and whose work has already impacted their field within engineering science. Xu was recognized for “outstanding contributions to multi-physics mechanics of materials and ITS-driven unusual engineering design and nanomanufacturing of heterogeneous structures, soft-hard integrated materials, and transferred film structures." Xu is invited to give an address at the annual meeting of the society.

    Solving the Sports-Related Concussion Dilemma

    November 10, 2022


    UVA Mechanical and Aerospace Engineers Lead the Way

    The Consensus Head Acceleration Measurement Practices (CHAMP) group was founded to develop and recommend the best practices for using wearable sensors to study the head impact biomechanics associated with sport-related concussions. A series of six papers were written by experts in the field, including Matthew B. Panzer, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the deputy director at the UVA Center for Applied Biomechanics. Panzer co-authored a paper on the use of computer models to simulate how a person’s brain is affected during a head impact using data measured by wearable sensors. UVA mechanical and aerospace engineering emeritus professor Jeff Crandall was a member of the CHAMP leadership committee, which helped organize this group of experts. Mechanical and aerospace engineering alumni James Funk and Lee Gabler also co-authored papers related to the validation, analysis, and use of wearable data in physical reconstructions of concussive events.

    Balachandran’s Research Group Uncovers Low Thermal Conductivity Behavior of Novel Thermoelectric Materials

    September 27, 2022

    Thermoelectric materials have been of great interest for a number of decades due to their ability to generate power, such as recycling of waste heat. Prasanna Balachandran, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and mechanical and aerospace engineering, is conducting research to deepen theoretical knowledge about polar thermoelectric materials for energy conversion technologies. 

    Self-Powered In-body Sensors

    September 21, 2022


    Implantable biosensors are revolutionizing healthcare by providing real-time information to patients and clinicians. Powering these sensors is challenging because battery recharging or replacement can be expensive, cumbersome and painful. Self-powered sensors avoid these problems by harvesting energy from within the body. Self-powered sensing of air or liquid fluid flows could be especially efficient because the flow speed is both the measured signal and a power source.

    Researchers at Dan Quinn's Fluid Systems Lab developed a model of self-powered sensing for flows in the body, which they validated with a bench-top simulator of a human trachea using air flows. The simulator offers a way to explore what applications are possible given available materials and size constraints and what input variables to consider when designing self-powered implantable biosensors. 

    Their findings were published today in the high-impact Journal of the Royal Society Open Science. Much of the paper is a culmination of Lucy Fitzgerald's work as a Ph.D. student and as a fourth-year undergraduate doing her capstone project. Fitzgerald is the first author on the paper

    Although the paper is largely a roadmap for using sensing and energy harvesting in the body, one promising application could be the treatment of asthma, one of the use cases in the paper. Some severe asthmatics struggle to self-diagnose worsening conditions. In the hours leading up to an asthma attack, these patients may not realize their lung function is deteriorating, yet prior work has shown that their breathing patterns are slightly different during this window. If the sensor could pick up this change, it could ping the patient and/or the doctor via wireless connection and trigger an early intervention.

    NMCF Featured in SEAS Open House

    May 05, 2022

    UVa's Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility (NMCF) featured during SEAS annual public open house.

    UVA MSE Open House 14.jpg


    Saturday, April 23rd, 2022, our laboratory spaces were opened to the public.

    Demonstrations by NMCF scientists and students were given during UVa's School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) Open House, which included engineering school building tours and program visits.

    This year's tours featured NMCF's new FEI Themis High-Resolution Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (HR-STEM), the Helios Focused Ion Beam and Scanning Electron Microscope (FIB-SEM), the X-ray Diffraction Laboratory with both powder and single-crystal diffractometers (XRD) on display, as well the Versaprobe III Imaging X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopic (XPS) Microscope.

    Expert student users and scientists spent time describing each sophisticated instrument and materials characterization methodology, providing real-world examples to participants, as well as demonstrating the type of data acquired and answering questions.


    UVA MSE Open House 15.jpg     UVA MSE Open House 5.jpg


    David Green Honored as Scholar-Athlete

    October 13, 2021

    UVA Engineering joins the West Potomac (Virginia) High School Wolverine nation to celebrate its outstanding student athletes, coaches and administrators. David L. Green, associate professor of materials science, chemical, and mechanical engineering is among the 2020 inductees in the West Potomac Athletic Hall of Fame.