Our Women Faculty
The inspiring talent of our women faculty has helped solidify the department as a home for greatness. Mechanical science and engineering offers so many opportunities for life-changing innovations in health and biology, energy, the environment, national defense, manufacturing, and transportation. Our women faculty are well-represented across all of these areas and much more.
Lili Cai, Assistant Professor
Lili’s focus involves developing rapid, scalable methods to create new materials, primarily using flame methods. She also aims to apply these materials in energy conversion processes and smart wearable applications. With a background in material science, Lili does very interdisciplinary work combining combustion science and nanotechnology. In her teaching, she also aims to enrich the content and develop new courses to better prepare students for industry.
Alison C. Dunn, Assistant Professor
In her Materials Tribology Laboratory, Alison’s research centers on what she calls “non-traditional tribology,” and she is most interested in natural tribological systems—specifically, any part of the body that has a sliding interface, like knees, hips, and eyes, and therefore has the potential for disease associated with damage. Reducing friction, particularly of an implanted material, could extend the life of implants and cause less damage or rejection.
Elif Ertekin, Associate Professor
Elif incorporates a mixed background in the mechanics of materials and materials physics, using atomistic computational methods to design and understand new materials and structures to address a wide range of globally relevant issues, such as energy sustainability, next-generation electronics, and environmental remediation. She also invests hugely in her teaching, and is part of a core group of faculty who are transforming the department’s TAM 2XX-level courses.
Naira Hovakimyan, W. Grafton and Lillian B. Wilkins Professor, University Scholar, Schaller Faculty Scholar
A leading expert in the field of robust adaptive control systems, Naira developed the L1 adaptive control system, the only one tested on manned aircraft and able to override a variety of failure configurations. In September, she’ll test it for the first time on a manned F-16. Additionally, her team is designing “friendly drones” to assist with daily household tasks and interact on a more personal level, as well as robots for the elderly, allowing this growing population to live independently for longer and improve their quality of life.
Elizabeth T. Hsiao-Wecksler, Professor, Willett Scholar, Associate Head of Undergraduate Programs
Methods from control theory, movement analysis, design, and dynamic systems modeling form the basis of Liz’s research program to investigate issues related to musculoskeletal biomechanics and rehabilitation engineering. She seeks to improve quality of life by improving mobility—focusing on movement control and function through locomotion biomechanics and assistive device development.
Shelby Hutchens, Assistant Professor
With a background in chemical engineering, Shelby characterizes soft materials – primarily polymers – at small scales and studying soft materials fracture. She is developing a new class of materials, and by tuning their material properties and geometry, she hopes to use them as implantable “soft casts” to help heal soft tissue that’s been traumatized, leading to better recovery of the tissue’s original function.
Iwona Jasiuk, Professor
As co-director of the Center for Novel High Voltage/Temperature Materials and Structures (HV/TMS), Iwona conducts precompetitive research in materials and methods that can improve the efficiency of our country’s system of electrical power lines. The impact could include huge energy savings, potential prevention of power outages due to ice and wind, and novel solutions for the next-generation electrical grid.
Mariana Kersh, Assistant Professor
Using clinical-level medical images and finite element analysis in her Tissue Biomechanics Lab, Mariana examines the structural and mechanical properties of musculoskeletal tissues to better discern and develop treatments for bone and joint diseases. With a new grant to study the long-term effects of subchondroplasty procedures on bone and cartilage strength, she hopes to understand where the problems of osteoarthritis start and present treatments for subchondral bone defects.
Kathryn Matlack, Assistant Professor
Katie’s fascination with acoustics and sound waves inform her research to understand how waves propagate through various materials. Her research shares many ideas from the civil engineering field, and her interests also apply in areas of turbines and aircraft, as well as in seismic wave propagation. She has also been working on the idea of designing new materials that can change properties according to their environments. As an example, there could be a spacecraft covered with material that could change its characteristics—such as structural properties and vibrational response—to adjust to the various layers of atmosphere it passes through.
Glennys Mensing, Research Assistant Professor, MNMS laboratory coordinator
With a master’s degree in chemistry from Clemson and a PhD in physics from Vanderbilt, Glennys’ work focuses on design, fabrication, and characterization of micro-electromechanical (MEMS) devices in silicon. As MNMS lab (cleanroom) coordinator, she assists other scientists with this process as well.
Kelly Stephani, Assistant Professor
Kelly’s research interests have a foundation in the modeling of fundamental processes involved in gas-surface and plasma-surface interactions. Working with experts in plasma processing and plasma-material interactions, she conducts computational simulations of non-equilibrium flows and studies of gas-surface and plasma-surface interactions. A recent award from NASA funds her work on state-of-the-art simulation capabilities for high-velocity atmospheric vehicles under unique conditions.
Amy Wagoner Johnson, Professor
To address complications in the repair of diseased or traumatized bone, Amy designs synthetic bone substitute materials and scaffold systems that may one day replace bone grafts currently harvested from patients or donors. Working with local surgeons, her team studies the scaffolds’ macro- and micro-structure, characterizing their biological response.
Sophie Wang, Research Assistant Professor
Xiaofei’s primary point of interest is the experimental aspect of energy conservation in air conditioners and refrigeration systems—aiming for sustainability and new, renewable energy. She tests the flow regime, a two-phase flow in air conditioning and refrigeration systems that allows for heat transfer, with the goal of reducing energy consumption from these systems in residential and commercial buildings.
Aimy Wissa, Assistant Professor
Inspired by the agility, adaptability, and efficiency of birds’ wings, Aimy designs and builds adaptive structures that change their shape in response to external stimulants. In her Bio-inspired Adaptive Morphology (BAM) Lab, her current research aims to revolutionize UAV design and has both military and civilian applications – including surveillance for combat intelligence and inspection of crops.