Q&A with lecturer Brian Mercer
Dr. Brian Mercer began his teaching career in MechSE in the fall of 2018. He has taught ME 330 (Engineering Materials), and ME 371 (Mechanical Design II). After earning his PhD in 2016, he worked as a Research Engineer at the Illinois Applied Research Institute before joining MechSE. His areas of expertise are computational multiscale methods for materials modeling, including multiscale finite element methods for materials with intrinsic microstructure, and molecular dynamics methods for computing continuum-level material properties from atomistic simulations.
Q: What initially drew you to engineering?
A: I’ve always been fascinated by theory from math, physics, etc. and its ability to accurately model and make predictions about the behavior of the world around us. I was drawn to engineering as an outlet for practical applications of such theories to design structures, machines, and materials to benefit and advance society.
Q: What classes have you taught so far, either at Illinois or elsewhere?
A: So far at Illinois I have taught TAM 251, ME 330, and ME 371. This is my first faculty position, but I was a TA for Introduction to Solid Mechanics and Introduction to the Finite Element Method while completing my PhD at Berkeley.
Q: What was your research focus during your PhD program, and where did you study?
A: I did my PhD at UC Berkeley. My research focus was computational solid mechanics and multiscale modeling of materials: using nano- and micro-scale computational models to predict and explain macroscopic material behavior. My dissertation research focused on molecular-level modeling of Kevlar polymer fibers.
Q: If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
A: Grizzly bear: I have a healthy respect for their awesome strength and ferocity. The whole winter hibernation thing is also a pretty good idea!
Q: What drew you to the University of Illinois?
A: The opportunity for a teaching-focused faculty position while working with some of the best and brightest engineering students in the world!
Q: What advice would you give to undergrads?
A: Take advantage of all the student project groups (professional and otherwise) and undergraduate research opportunities available on campus. These can be extremely helpful in giving you guidance on what you want to do after graduation. But, work-life balance is also important, so don’t forget to budget some time for yourself, your hobbies, and some fun.
Q: Are there any fun facts about yourself you’d like to share?
A: I’m a pretty decent guitarist and enjoy music as a hobby. I enjoy playing hard rock, blues, metal, and also fingerstyle classical guitar. I’m not good enough to quit my day job though!