Four Faculty Members Receive 2023 YIP Award

1/4/2023 Cassandra Smith

Written by Cassandra Smith

Left to right: Shelly Zhang (Civil Engineering), Rasoul Etesam, (Industrial Systems and Engineering), Jacob Covey, (Physics), Melkior Ornik (Aerospace Engineering)
Left to right: Shelly Zhang (Civil Engineering), Rasoul Etesam, (Industrial Systems and Engineering), Jacob Covey, (Physics), Melkior Ornik (Aerospace Engineering)

Several faculty members of The Grainger College of Engineering have received the 2023 Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) award through the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. 

The AFOSR is the basic research arm of the Air Force Research Laboratory. They have awarded $25 million to 58 scientists and engineers from 44 research institutions and businesses from around the United States. 

YIP recipients receive 3-year grants of up to $450,000. For this award session, AFSOR received more than 175 proposals requesting around $78.5 million in FY23 funding. 

There were four GCOE faculty members who will receive funding. Those faculty members include Jacob Covey (physics), Shelly Zhang (civil engineering), Rasoul Etesami (industrial & systems engineering), and Melkior Ornik (aerospace engineering). 

Rasoul Etesami’s research plans to address robustness regarding resource allocation strategies. Etesami said, “The scope of the proposed research is to study resource allocation strategies in peer-to-peer networks, socioeconomic networks, and cyber-physical network systems.”  

Their goal is to design effective allocation strategies that can endure network externalities. “Externalities capture the effect that networked agents may have on each other as a result of different resource allocation strategies and can substantially affect resource allocation strategies and outcomes.” They also want to analyze network resource allocation strategies in both strategic and dynamic environments. 

Etesami said this research would have direct impact on problems such as analyzing cascade failure in power grids and allocating bandwidth in autonomous vehicular networks interacting in new terrains. 

In the quantum realm, Jacob Covey wants to use the award on an effort that “constitutes the first confluence of the three main pillars of modern cold atom research.” Those pillars include optical atomic clocks and precision control of alkaline earth-like atoms; arrays of individually controlled atoms and programmable gate operations; and cavity quantum electrodynamics. 

“Arrays of individual neutral atoms in tightly focused optical traps are rapidly emerging as a leading platform for quantum science,” said Covey. “However, one key deficiency limits the applicability of this platform in myriad quantum science applications: fast, non-destructive, single-atom readout.” 

He said real-time measurement and feedback onto the quantum circuit would be required for things like error correction, one-way quantum computation and holographic quantum simulation. “This work seeks to address this deficiency, thereby enabling real-time measurement and feedback for the first time.” 

Civil Engineering Professor Shelly Zhang said her project “aims to create a generative design approach and validation strategy for next generation, light-weight composite flight structures made of multiple materials with dissimilar properties.” She went on to say the goal is to improve the strength and durability of structures under dynamic environments. 

“Composites are commonly used in flight structures because of their excellent performance under extreme conditions, but current composite structures are often designed based on intuition and may not fully consider all potential configurations with superior properties,” said Zhang. “To address this, we will develop a multi-material design optimization approach. By leveraging optimization theory, mechanics, and computational models, this approach will simultaneously maximize the stiffness, strength, and toughness of light-weight composite structures to find the optimal structural shape and distribution of multiple material phases. She also said they will use 3D printing techniques to build prototypes and validate their performance based on strength. 

Melkior Ornik, aerospace engineering professor, is working on a project regarding adverse events in systems and how to correct them.  

“By ensuring a real-time verifiably correct response to adverse events affecting complex systems the proposed research has the power to impact future Air Force and DoD operations across domains,” said Ornik in a project summary. “While the natural approach to avoiding adverse events is to use extensive safety and security measures to try to protect any system—vehicle, physical plant, or a cyberphysical network—from failure, damage or adversarial takeover, perfect protection is often impossible in DoD operations. Hostile actions, unexpected mechanical failures, and extreme natural events will inevitably degrade the system’s capabilities, change its dynamics, or affect its actuators.”  

He continued to say while highly trained human operators could be able to—with time—figure out how to response to changes, some events may require immediate correction in “an unfeasibly short time.” 

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This story was published January 4, 2023.