Matlack receives NSF CAREER Award


Assistant Professor Katie MatlackMechSE assistant professor Kathryn Matlack has received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation.

Her awarded proposal is titled “Controlling Nonlinear Wave Propagation in Metastructures with Contact Interfaces.” She will conduct fundamental research to uncover the relationship between the mechanical response of interfaces in metastructures and nonlinear mechanical wave propagation.  Metastructures are engineered materials that control how mechanical waves propagate. However, current metastructures aren’t yet used as engineering materials, since they can only control small-amplitude waves, require compliant structures, or require complex systems to constrain the components.

“I will integrate measurements, analytical models, and finite element simulations to understand how contact interfaces can lead to desirable nonlinear wave responses,” Matlack said.  “The work is expected to result in new engineering materials and structures that can mitigate damaging vibrations and impacts.”

Matlack also plans to develop an outreach program that combines music and STEM. The program will implement learning modules that relate music and acoustics to K-12 students in Champaign county middle schools, and local and international youth summer music camps.  In particular, she is teaming up with Music at Port Milford, a summer music camp in Ontario that Matlack attended in high school, to implement the acoustics learning modules.

“This outreach program brings me back to my original inspiration of pursuing acoustics-related research, as I was an avid musician back in my high school days,” she said. “I’m excited to team with summer youth music camps, especially Music at Port Milford, a program that had a big impact on me as a kid. I’m hoping to engage students with acoustics in an environment they would not normally associate with STEM, maybe sparking an interest that they may not otherwise be excited about.”

Her program will also cultivate a university-wide acoustics community here at UIUC, through supporting student groups and facilitating seminars. Her goal is to integrate this community with the outreach program, providing a unique mentoring experience for undergraduate and graduate students.

Matlack earned her PhD in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2014, followed by a postdoc at ETH Zurich. She joined MechSE in 2017, where she leads the Wave Propagation and Metamaterials Lab (WPM Lab).