Zhang wins Air Force Young Investigator award

1/9/2023 3:06:11 PM

CEE assistant professor Shelly Zhang has received the 2023 Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) award through the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). 

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. 

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.”

The goal is to improve the strength and durability of structures under dynamic environments, Zhang said. 

“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,” Zhang said. “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.”

Zhang’s group will use 3D printing techniques to build prototypes and validate their performance based on strength. 

Zhang is one of four faculty members from The Grainger College of Engineering who were awarded funding from YIP in this round.