Ph.D. in Engineering

Focus Areas

Students conduct dissertation research in one of seven research focus areas. Focus areas draw on faculty resources throughout the college.

On this page:

Computational Design and Optimization

Using cutting-edge research in the application of computational methods for solving real-world problems, the Computational Design and Optimization focus area concentrates on the continuous design improvement of aircraft and automotive components for strength, performance, and reliability. It also investigates and applies multidisciplinary design methodologies to solve problems and utilizes automated computer modeling and "what-if ' design scenarios for cost analysis of complex new systems with ambitious performance requirements. Recent developments in this focus area include improved computer interfaces and manufacturing methods, as well as automated tool design.

Focus Area Chair: Dr. George Huang, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering


Controls and Robotics

Current research efforts in the controls and robotics focus area include discrete observer-controller design, efficient implementation of digital controllers using microprocessors for robotics and manufacturing, adaptive digital controllers for uncertain systems, and intelligent controllers with learning capability. Research is also being done to develop reliable and efficient computational schemes that interface with computer-aided control systems design packages. In the area of robust control, efforts are underway to facilitate control system design, which accounts for uncertainties between the real system and the system mathematical models. Fuzzy control is being applied to a number of applications in robotics, manufacturing, and medicine, and other research is being conducted on advanced prosthesis design using actively controlled, electromechanical control of single and multi-jointed prosthetics.

Focus Area Chair: Dr. Frank ZhangDepartment of Electrical Engineering


Electronics, Microwave, VLSI, and Nanotechnology

Research in power electronics includes high-frequency power conversion, dc-dc and resonant converters, electronic ballasts, radio transmitters, and semiconductor power devices. Research in the microwave area includes computational electromagnetics, electromagnetic scattering, MMICs, electronic packages, planar antennas for wireless, RF/mixed-signal, and evanescent microwave microscopy. Research in VLSI is based on research demand targeted to a variety of nanotechnologies (CMOS, BiCMOS, SiGe, GaAs), digital and mixed-signal IC and SoC, VLSI testing, fault tolerance, FPGAs based systems, and analog IC for signal processing (high performance AID and D/A converters, PLLs, RF circuits). Research in nanotechnology includes ferromagnetic materials for RF tunable devices, Si/SiGe for high-speed transistors, and Porous silicon fuel cells for portable electronics.

Focus Area Chair: Dr. Henry Chen, Department of Electrical Engineering


Industrial and Human Systems

The Industrial and Human Systems research focus area contributes to societal needs by modeling large-scale industrial systems, developing methodologies for improving industrial systems, and investigating the fundamental and applied nature of human interactions with complex systems. This knowledge is then applied to systems design, evaluation, and implementation. Within this context, the focus is on the development and validation of system models with theoretical contributions and practical applications. Principles, methods, and tools from systems engineering, human factors engineering, human-computer interaction, neurosciences, neuroengineering, cognitive sciences, biomechanics, psychology, systems physiology, computation, statistics, and mathematics are used and developed toward this effort. Research results are applied to human­ machine interfaces, decision support systems, virtual environments, ergonomics, transportation, manufacturing, military, and medical systems.

Focus Area Chair: Dr. Pratik Parikh, Department of Biomedical, Industrial, and Human Factors Engineering


Materials and Nanotechnology

Performance requirements for engineering applications call for materials with specific sets of properties. The properties of a material depend upon its structure, composition, and processing history. Research in the focus area of Materials and Nanotechnology covers length scales from the nanometer range to microscopic and macroscopic ranges for aerospace, automotive, and other traditional applications, as well as emerging areas, such as nanotechnology, alternative energy, and biomaterials. Examples include (i) Design and development of metallic, ceramic, and polymeric materials and their composites, (ii) Nanoscale Characterization and Processing, (iii) Energy-related materials and devices, (iv) Theoretical modeling and simulation, (v) Interfacial phenomena including chemistry and mechanics, (vi) Natural and Bio-Geo inspired solids, and (vii) Bio-medical materials.

Focus Area Chair: Dr. Maher Amer, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering


Medical and Biological Systems

The Medical and Biological Systems focus area applies the engineering sciences (mechanics, thermodynamics, materials science, electrical and computational sciences, control and information theory) to the medical and biological sciences (anatomy, physiology, biophysics, biostatistics, biomathematics, and neurosciences) in order to contribute jointly to fundamental biomedical engineering knowledge and to innovative engineering design applications. The interactions of these three sciences results in a wide range of biomedical engineering studies with applications in cardiovascular biomechanics and hemodynamics, tissue engineering, mechanobiology, orthopaedic biomechanics, prosthetic and orthotic engineering, clinical/engineering orthopaedics, cancer research, rehabilitation engineering, biomedical implants, new product design and realization, medical imaging (including diagnostic ultrasound and computed tomography), biological visualization, biomathematical modeling, neuromuscular control systems and biomaterials.

Focus Area Chair: Dr. Philippe Sucosky, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering


Sensor Signal and Image Processing

Research in the Sensor Signal and Image Processing focus area concentrates on holistic approaches to modeling, extracting, processing, and exploiting signals and outputs produced by a variety of sensors in widely diverse applications. Aggressive research programs span sensor phenomenology, signal models, processing and fusion techniques, and performance analysis as well as image degradation characterization with associated correction techniques. Recent projects have developed technologies in computer-aided non-invasive medical diagnosis and monitoring; commercial applications of speech and image recognition; military and law enforcement techniques for the tracking and identification of targets. Students working in this focus area embrace issues ranging from sensor physics to information utility and emerge with a unique appreciation for capabilities in sensor system design and development.

Focus Area Chair: Dr. Josh Ash, Department of Electrical Engineering


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