Syracuse engineer receives top NSF career award for work in soft materials
Syracuse University mechanical and aerospace engineering assistant professor Teng Zhang received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his work on mechanics of interfaces in soft materials. The CAREER Award is the NSF’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who have the potential to become leaders in research and education.
The award will support Zhang’s research on the deformation and failure of interfaces that connect two soft materials, or a soft material to a hard material. These interfaces are essential in scientific and engineering applications. Advancing the mechanics of soft material interfaces will help heal wounds, diagnose failures of biological joints, and design underwater adhesive patches, flexible electronics, and lighter composite materials.
“This research seeks inspiration from nature,” said Zhang. “I want to understand how nature makes strong and robust interfaces to connect tendons and bones and apply the learned principles to design better materials and structures.”
In addition to funding research, the grant allows for educational outreach on the Syracuse University campus and beyond. His modeling simulation and tools will be integrated into graduate and undergraduate curriculum.
“It’s very exciting news to me. I’m also honored that NSF recognizes the potential of this work,” said Zhang. “With this award, I will focus on the fundamental research of this classical and challenging mechanics problem and share the modeling platform that can enable more researchers to predict interfacial mechanical properties of soft materials based on their molecular structures.”
Zhang appreciates the support from the College of Engineering and Computer Science as well as colleagues in the Physics Department. “Our University is very supportive of interdisciplinary research,” said Zhang. “I feel lucky to be able to find cutting-edge researchers in the University institutes, such as the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute and the Soft and Living Matter Program. I also would like to thank the Women in Science and Engineering Program and Office of Institutional Research and Assessment for supporting my education plan.”