Faculty Profiles

Suresh Advani

Suresh Advani

SURESH ADVANI has made a significant scientific impact through a mixture of research, education, and leadership. His leadership in the composites manufacturing area, in particular, has helped Delaware earn a number of multi-million-dollar grants over the last three decades, and has contributed to the success of UD’s renowned Center for Composite Materials. Process modeling tools developed by Advani’s lab are now considered a crucial component to address the challenges and gaps in the advancement of composites. In addition, starting in 2004, he helped establish a fuel cell bus program with Professor Ajay Prasad, which has resulted in contributions in fuel cells, batteries, hydrogen generation and storage in addition to testing with a fleet of fuel cell buses on the UD campus.

Advani is a Fellow of American Society of Mechanical Engineers and is the North American Editor for the journal Composites A: Applied Science and Manufacturing. He is also a prolific writer, having co-authored nearly 300 refereed journal papers, co-authored or edited six books, and holding three patents. He received the American Society of Composites Outstanding Research Award for his exceptional contributions.

Advani has created an educational legacy as well. He has mentored more than 85 graduate students.  When he served as department chair, he made significant improvements to undergraduate education, including a renewed focus toward hands-on and interdisciplinary learning accomplished through the creation of the maker space (i.e. the Design Studio), increased department funding for undergraduate researchers, and the integration of other engineering majors alongside mechanical engineering students in our Senior Design capstone course. He was awarded the graduate Student Mentoring Award in 2008 and was recognized as the Educator of the year by the Society of Plastic Engineers in 2015.

Thomas Buchanan

Thomas Buchanan

THOMAS BUCHANAN is director of the Delaware Rehabilitation Institute. He is also coordinator of the Delaware Clinical and Translational Research ACCEL program, an NIH-sponsored strategic partnership with Christiana Care Health System, Nemours and the Medical University of South Carolina.

He has led NIH research grants continuously since 1990—his work primarily addressing neuromuscular and musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis, stroke and sports medicine problems. His research involves biomechanics, medical imaging and neuroscience. As an engineer, he uses computer models to characterize and quantify healthy and pathological tissue, and he models the forces in the human body that can lead to injuries or long-term damage.

Buchanan’s research is focused on developing a better understanding of how muscles compensate for injury or disease. Research interests include knee stability and osteoarthritis, medical imaging and models of muscle coordination.

Jennifer Buckley

Jenni Buckley

JENNI BUCKLEY’s research focuses on the development and mechanical evaluation of orthopaedic, neurosurgical and pediatric devices. She is also interested in mechanical testing standards, academic-industry research partnerships, and mentoring practices in engineering.

A graduate of the University of Delaware, she went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, where she worked on computational and experimental methods in spinal biomechanics.

She joined the UD faculty in 2011 and now teaches a range of courses as part of the undergraduate curriculum, including the senior design capstone course, in which students collaborate across disciplines to solve a broad range of real problems.

Buckley received UD’s Excellence in Advising and Mentoring Award in 2013, an Excellence in Teaching Award in 2016, and she is the Delaware state leader for Project Lead the Way, which provides hands-on, project-based STEM curricula and high-quality teacher professional development through a network of corporate and community partners.

Buckley is very involved in issues of gender diversity in engineering. She is co-founder and president of The Perry Initiative, a nonprofit outreach sponsor encouraging women to pursue careers in engineering and orthopaedic surgery. In 2015, she was awarded the E. Arthur Trabant Award for Women’s Equity for her work with The Perry Initiative, which was founded in 2009 and now reaches 1,700 young women nationwide annually.

David Burris

Dave Burris

DAVID BURRIS, who joined UD in 2008, directs the Materials Tribology Laboratory, where the overarching research mission is to better understand how material properties can be tailored to control friction and wear.

Lack of access to the buried tribological interface is one of the primary barriers to progress in this area. The Burriss group specializes in the development of in situ methods to gain more direct access to interfacial processes and phenomena. Their research activities involve instrument design, software developments, materials synthesis, materials characterization and surface analysis. Areas of interest have applications in health care, national security and energy sustainability.

In 2015, Burris received the American Society of Mechanical Engineer’s Burt L. Newkirk Award, which is given to a person under 40 who has made notable contributions to research or development in the field of tribology. He was cited for “exceptional contributions to his field, particularly in the area of cartilage tribology.” For the past several years, he has investigated the disruption of lubrication in damaged cartilage and its contribution to progressive failure.

Burris, who studied solid mechanics, design and manufacturing at the University of Florida and received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 2007, has several patents in the areas of polymer nanocomposites, wear-resistant solid lubricants and in situ lubrication strategies.

Tsu-Wei Chou

Tsu-Wei Chou

TSU WEI CHOU—considered a pioneer in the field of composite materials and named among the top 100 materials scientists of the past decade—has conducted research worldwide in the areas of materials science, applied mechanics, fiber composite materials, piezoelectric materials and nanocomposites.

His most recent work focuses on the development of advanced materials for use in supercapacitors. In one project, he demonstrated the use of graphene films, produced via chemical vapor deposition for this application. Due to their exceptional flexibility and transparency, CVD graphene films have been regarded as an ideal replacement of indium tin oxide for transparent electrodes, especially in applications where electronic devices may be subjected to large tensile strain. However, the search for a desirable combination of stretchability, and electrochemical performance of such devices, remains challenging. Chou and colleagues recently demonstrated the implementation of a laminated ultrathin CVD graphene film as a stretchable and transparent electrode for supercapacitors.

His team also successfully developed stretchable wire-shaped supercapacitors based on continuous carbon nanotube fibers. The remarkable stretchability was accomplished through a prestraining-then-buckling approach. The researchers reported a unique combination of outstanding electrochemical performance and stretchability with this type of supercapacitor. Their findings should facilitate the potential integration of wire-shaped supercapacitors with miniaturized and portable electronic devices.

Heather Doty

Heather Doty

HEATHER DOTY earned her Ph.D. in physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she studied the electronic properties of semiconductor heterostructures at low temperatures and high magnetic fields. She completed a postdoc at UCSB and then worked as a patent examiner specializing in semiconductor devices before coming to UD.

As co-PI on UD’S NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant, Doty’s research explores the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women faculty in STEM fields. As a member of the UD ADVANCE leadership team, she oversees activities that directly
impact faculty (e.g., faculty workshops, panels, mentoring programs).

Doty is faculty advisor to UD’s Women in Engineering Graduate Student Steering Committee and is a member of the College of Engineering’s Diversity Committee. She is the 2017 recipient of UD’s Trabant Award for Women’s Equity. In the mechanical engineering department, Dr. Doty teaches classes that apply physics concepts such as thermodynamics and classical mechanics to engineering applications.

Joseph P. Feser

Joe Feser

JOE FESER’s MuTT (Microscale Thermal Transport) Lab focuses on understanding how heat propagates through materials at microscopic length scales. Using that information, he engineers new materials and interfaces that have extreme heat transfer abilities.

Using ultrafast lasers, Feser’s lab characterizes heat transfer on femtosecond timescales— and, since heat can’t move very far on short timescales, that also means that heat transfer can be confined to nanoscale distances, where much of the fundamental physics can be observed.

Ultrafast lasers can even be used to detect heat transfer resistance across a single atomic layer. Feser is currently using that capability to investigate how atomic vibrations—called “phonons” because of their similarity to light or “photon” properties—interact at abrupt interfaces between materials. Interfaces are common in high-tech devices like computer chips, next-generation hard drives, and military-grade amplifiers. In many cases, heat dissipation across interfaces represents a performance bottleneck, which Feser’s lab works to address.

He is also developing computational tools to simulate atomic vibrations and their heat-carrying capabilities. These tools can be used to investigate scattering of vibrational energy from nanoparticles in composite materials, with the goal of raising the efficiency of thermoelectric devices.

John W. Gillespie Jr.

John Gillespie

JACK GILLESPIE is director of the Center for Composite Materials (CCM), which now involves more than 60 companies and some 200 researchers, including faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, research professionals, visiting scholars and postdoctoral fellows. Under his leadership, CCM has been designated a Center of Excellence by several federal agencies over the past three decades.

Gillespie’s decades-long career at UD is marked by a number of major accomplishments, including the creation and commercialization of new processes, automated equipment, materials and composite structures—leading to $187M in funding as PI/Co-PI, 19 patents and more than 800 co-authored publications.

Research in Gillespie’s lab has addressed a broad array of areas as composites science and technology have evolved since the mid-1980s. Recently, he was an inventor of TuFF (Tailored Universal Feedstock for Forming), a high-performance material with properties equivalent to the best continuous fiber composites used in aerospace applications.

Gillespie is a fellow of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the American Society for Composites,  the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering and the Society of Plastics Engineers.

Jill Higginson

Jill Higginson

JILL HIGGINSON leads research aimed at improving understanding of muscle coordination for normal and pathological movements through coupled experimental and simulation studies.

Higginson’s group uses state-of-the-art modeling and optimization techniques to develop a cause-and-effect framework that relates muscle impairments to gait deviations. Experiments involve three-dimensional kinematic and kinetic analysis and electromyography (EMG) recording during treadmill and overground gait. Modeling and optimization are used to develop simulations based on experimental data.

Ongoing research projects are related to muscle deficits and subject-specific interventions for post-stroke hemiparetic gait, simulation-based analysis of muscle coordination in healthy and pathological gait, and interactions between cognitive function and gait performance. Recent papers have focused on measurements of propulsion and dynamic structure of lower limb joint angles during walking post-stroke.

The overarching goal of the work is to form a scientific rationale for therapeutic interventions to improve movement. Higginson is also co-PI with X. Lucas Lu on an NSF program to provide a biomechanics research experience for undergraduate students on the UD campus each summer.

Zubaer Hossain


ZUBAER HOSSAIN joined the ME faculty in Fall 2015. He received his PhD degree in 2011 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to joining UD, he served as a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include mechanics and physics of heterogeneous materials and structures with applications in electronics and composites.

Hossain’s team is exploring new ways of designing toughness and strength in nanocomposites. By using material and structural heterogeneity as a set of engineering tools, their aim is to control various quantum and classical mechanical mechanisms that govern mechanical properties at multiple length scales under varied thermomechanical conditions.

Hossain is an active member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Materials Research Society, the American Physical Society, the American Society of Engineering Education, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Guoquan Huang

Guoquan Huang

GUOQUAN HUANG leads the UD Robot Perception and Navigation Group, where the research efforts are driven by the desire to understand intelligence and develop robots that better serve people—for example, autonomous systems for search and rescue—and augment human capabilities, such as working in dangerous or inaccessible environments. The group’s mission is to enable robots to understand their surroundings so as to navigate autonomously, safely and efficiently in any environment.

To this end, their research has been primarily focusing on probabilistic localization, mapping, estimation and control of autonomous ground, aerial and underwater vehicles. Theoretically, they seek to design and develop robust, efficient, consistent, secure state estimation and control algorithms for various perception and navigation problems.

Huang earned master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science (robotics) from the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities in 2009 and 2012, respectively. He joined the UD faculty after serving as a postdoctoral associate with the Marine Robotics Group in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

He received the 2006 Academic Excellence Fellowship from the University of Minnesota, the 2011 Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-Financed Students Abroad, and the 2013 MIT Postdoctoral Associate Travel Award. He recently received funding from the National Science Foundation and the University of Delaware Cybersecurity Initiative for research aimed at achieving attack-resilient, resource-aware, consistent drone navigation.

Joseph Kuehl

Joe Kuehl

JOSEPH KUEHL joined the mechanical engineering department in 2017. He was previously faculty of mechanical engineering at Baylor University. He earned doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering and physical oceanography from the University of Rhode Island. His research interests include hypersonic boundary-layer stability, nonlinear vibrations and geophysical fluid dynamics.

Kuehl received an AFOSR Young Investigator Award in 2015 for his hypersonic boundary layer stability and transition research, is a member of the National Academy of Science Committee on Advancing Understanding of the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current Dynamics and is a member of the NATO STO AVT-240 working group on Hypersonic Boundary-Layer Prediction.

Kuehl is expanding his hypersonic stability and transition research and has established a geophysical fluid dynamics laboratory at UD. He collaborates with colleagues in the College of Engineering; College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, and the Department of Mathematical Sciences.

X. Lucas Lu

Lucas Lu

X. LUCAS LU and his collaborators are addressing several bioengineering problems. The first is prevention of post-trauma osteoarthritis. Although arthritis is generally associated with aging, it can also result from the type of trauma experienced by young soldiers and athletes. With support from the Department of Defense, Lu has teamed with surgeons and biologists to study the effectiveness of statins in the treatment and prevention of osteoarthritis. Statins are FDA-approved and prescribed to hundreds of millions of people in the US for cholesterol control. Lu’s group is also performing a big data study to analyze the statin use and osteoarthritis occurrence in the Delaware population.

He is also investigating the mechanics and lubrication of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Using novel mechanical technology and finite element simulation, Lu is studying the structure-function correlation of the cartilaginous tissues in the TMJ and its lubrication mechanism. He is also working with a team of oral surgeons to investigate the use of natural polyphenols for the treatment of TMJ disorders.

Another area of interest for Lu is rehabilitation for microfracture surgery to repair cartilage lesions. Young athletes suffering from trauma-induced cartilage loss are often treated with microfracture surgery, a minimally invasive procedure that creates tiny punctures in the bone to stimulate bone marrow growth in the damaged area. Lu is working with physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons to optimize the rehabilitation protocol after surgery and to enhance the deposition and quality of newly repaired tissue at the injury site.

Ioannis Poulakakis

Ioannis Poulakakis

IOANNIS POULAKAKIS’ research interests are in the area of dynamics and control with application to bio-inspired robotic systems, specifically legged robots. He is also interested in problems related to the dynamics of collective decision making in multiagent systems.

Poulakakis and his team are focused on providing the necessary robotics science and technology to create dexterous, highly mobile legged robots that can autonomously plan actions in human-centric environments. They are working to develop real-time planning algorithms that can bridge the gap between a robot’s platform controls and higher-level motion planning objectives.

If successful, this research will bring highly mobile and versatile robot platforms like legged machines closer to real-life applications in industry, agriculture and emergency response. For example, in supply chain management systems, legged robots could help companies rapidly reconfigure their production or assembly lines to adapt to changes in demand or new product designs.

Similar to their counterparts in nature, small- and large-legged robots operate differently. The researchers are working with robots of different types and sizes so they can study the effect of scale on their approach.

Ajay Prasad

Professor Ajay Prasad

AJAY PRASAD’s leadership in the field of automotive fuel cells for transit applications has had worldwide impact and attracted significant interest from industry. He has devoted a major portion of his career to clean energy research. Other research interests include wind and ocean current energy, lithium-ion batteries, thermoelectric devices, vehicle-to-grid technology and solar thermal energy.

As the founding director of the UD Center for Fuel Cell Research (currently the Center for Fuel Cells and Batteries), he facilitated coordination among some 20 UD faculty members working in the area of clean energy, as well as companies involved in fuel cells and hydrogen infrastructure activities. He also led efforts to improve Delaware’s hydrogen infrastructure activities as director of UD’s Fuel Cell Bus Program, which currently operates hydrogen fuel cell-powered transit buses on the UD campus.

Prasad’s lab is focused on improving the performance and durability of fuel cells for automotive applications. His fuel cell research spans the full range from the development and characterization of novel component materials—including membranes, catalysts, gas diffusion layers and bipolar plates—to system-level modeling, simulation and experiments, as well as accelerated stress testing. He has also made original contributions to renewable methods for hydrogen generation using solar-powered thermochemical cycles and solid-state materials and systems for automotive hydrogen storage.

Prasad serves on the University of Delaware Energy Institute’s Council of Fellows and on the steering committee of the Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration, and chairs the UD Gamesa Wind Consortium Research Committee. He has played a vital role in the development of clean energy technologies at UD, and the promotion of clean energy in the state of Delaware.

R. Valery Roy


Many natural and technological processes involve phenomena that take place over widely differing scales of time and space. Such multi-scale problems pose considerable difficulties. Porous media—which abound in modern technologies, such as drug delivery substrates, membrane reactors and chemical sensors, batteries and fuel cells—are a typical example. These heterogeneous systems involve multi-physics phenomena, such as diffusional or convective transport, and electrochemical conversion.

VALERY ROY’s research focuses on the modeling and simulation of porous media and, more generally, on multi-scale systems. He uses a combination of mathematical modeling, continuum theories and advanced computational techniques. One such mathematical technique consists of devising pre-treatments of the multi-scale system so as to make the smallest scale vanish, leaving effective macroscopic, homogeneous models, which are much simpler to simulate.

Roy has also conducted research in the area of interfacial phenomena, nonlinear dynamics and stochastic dynamics. He teaches sophomore and graduate-level courses on engineering dynamics and an advanced course in applied mathematics. He recently published undergraduate and graduate textbooks in engineering dynamics and is working on a new book project on the modeling and simulation of multi-scale systems.

Roy joined the UD faculty in 1989 after earning his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Rice University.

Michael Santare

Michael Santare

MICHAEL SANTARE joined the UD faculty in 1986. He was a founding member of UD’s Orthopedic and Biomechanical Engineering Center (now called the Center for Biomechanical Engineering Research) and served as its director from 1993 to 1998 and again from 2014 to 2017. He was also a founding faculty member of the nationally ranked interdisciplinary Biomechanics and Movement Science graduate program at the University.

Santare’s research focuses on the mechanics of materials and structures. He combines analytical and experimental studies to understand and predict the relationships among microstructure, mechanical response and material failure, with specific applications in the areas of fuel cells materials, composite and functionally graded materials and orthopedic biomechanics.

His most recent publications have focused on mechanics of soft tissue damage and characteristics of polymer electrolyte membranes for fuel cell applications. He is a member of the mechanical engineering department’s Center for Fuel Cells and Batteries. Santare is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and consults with private companies and law firms in addition to his academic research.

Erik Thostenson

Erik T. Thostenson

ERIK THOSTENSON heads the Multifunctional Composites Laboratory, which focuses on developing a fundamental understanding of the processing-structure-property relations in nanostructured materials and composites.

Key initiatives include experimental and theoretical research in processing, characterization and predictive modeling of nanocomposites. A major focus is on the development of novel and industrially scalable approaches for hybridizing nanostructures with traditional fiber reinforcements.

Working at the microscopic scale, his team is tailoring the local stiffness, strength, toughness and other properties through control of the fiber orientation, type and volume fraction. Recent advances in producing nanostructured materials with novel material properties have stimulated research to create macroscopic engineering materials by designing the structure at the nanoscale.

Thostenson’s work is highly cited in the literature, and he has received a number of awards and honors, including a National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award and a Young Investigator Program Award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

He is also the recipient of the Elsevier Young Composites Researcher Award from the American Society for Composites, which recognizes researchers who, early in their careers, have made a significant impact on the science and technology of composite materials through a sustained research effort.

Thostenson performed his master’s (Mechanical Engineering) and Ph.D. (Materials Science) research at UD’s Center for Composite Materials.

Liyun Wang

Liyun Wang

LIYUN WANG, who joined the department in 2005, conducts research on how mechanical forces influence the health maintenance and disease development in the body. She focuses on osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and diabetes, three diseases that inflict huge socioeconomic cost to the society. Supported by the National Institutes of Health, Wang is investigating how mechanical forces generated during physical activities are transferred to the tissue level and perceived by cells. This work may pave the way to identifying new molecular targets that could be used to improve bone’s sensitivity to exercise, with the potentials of preventing and slowing the onset of osteoporosis.

Wang also works with clinicians at Christiana Care to investigate the effectiveness of exercise in improving bone health in Type 1 diabetic patients, who are at increased risk of sustaining fractures. Wang continues to investigate the effects of diabetes on the vascular health as well, and in particular, how the disease alters the way that the inner lining of the vessel responds to forces caused by blood flow.

Wang’s research activities have provided rich training opportunities for undergraduates, graduates, and postdoctoral students. More than 50 undergraduates students have participated in undergraduate research in her laboratory. Wang also serves as Co-Director of the Cytomechanics Core, a shared facility to assist research in cell mechanics. She is a member of the Center for Biomechanical Engineering Research in UD, Orthopedic Research Society, American Society of Bone and Mineral, Biomedical Engineering Society, American Society of Engineering Education, and International Chinese Musculoskeletal Research Society.

Bingqing Wei

Bingqing Wei

BINGQING WEI’s recent work focuses on the synthesis, processing, characterization and physical properties of carbon nanostructures and carbon nanotube nanocomposites. In particular, he has been exploring the feasibility of using carbon nanotubes for energy storage applications, such as supercapacitors.

He has achieved a tunable means to couple or decouple the mechanical, electrical and electrochemical properties of carbon nanotube macro-films through mechanical buckling. His current work focuses on further improving the energy density of these materials and enhancing charge/discharge cyclability.

This research offers significant potential to impact new energy technologies, such as deformable energy storage devices. Beyond traditional electronics, potential stretchable applications include biomedical, wearable, portable and sensory devices, such as cyber-skin for robotic devices and implantable electronics.

Wei and his team have also recently discovered a “sticky” conductive material that may eliminate the need for binders in lithium-ion batteries. Their discovery that fragmented carbon nanotube macrofilms can serve as adhesive conductors, combining two functions in one material, could reduce both the cost and the environmental impact of lithium-ion batteries.

Wei received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing and joined the University of Delaware in 2007 after spending four years at Louisiana State University.

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