By Deborah Silliman Wolfe/College of Engineering
Adel Alaeddini and Justin Wilkerson, two assistant professors in the College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, have been named as award recipients of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Young Investigator Research Program. They are among only 56 researchers in the nation who received AFOSR funding this year. Both Alaeddini and Wilkerson will receive $360k each over the next three years.
“We are delighted to have two AFOSR Young Investigator awards in our mechanical engineering department in Dr. Wilkerson and Dr. Alaeddini,” said JoAnn Browning, dean of the UTSA College of Engineering. “This prestigious award is an indicator of research excellence, the promise for future novel discoveries, and meaningful impact on society – something that both of these professors possess, and that permeates through the College of Engineering faculty.”
The Air Force Young Investigator Program (YIP) supports scientists and engineers who have received Ph.D. or equivalent degrees in the last five years and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research.
“When I heard about the award, I was very excited and a little bit surprised at the same time as this was one of my first experiences applying for an Air Force award,” said Alaeddini. “This award means a lot to me. As a junior faculty member, I have been spending a lot of time and effort on this high-risk topic during the last few years and it’s sweet to see it’s started paying off.”
Alaeddini said that the majority of his funding will be used to recruit and train a number of Ph.D. graduate students for the next three years in the area of design and analysis of complex experiments. The main objective of the proposed research is to advance capabilities for design and optimization of complex and expensive medical tests using advanced data analytics for very small datasets.
“It was a very pleasant surprise when I heard I received an AFOSR Young Investigator Research Award,” said Wilkerson. “The award will enable me to provide 2-3 years of tuition and stipend support for two new Ph.D. students, as well as provide some support for an undergraduate student interested in gaining exposure to materials research. These students will assist me in carrying out the experimental and modeling research.”
Wilkerson said the primary objective of his proposed research funded by this award is to demonstrate the efficacy of strategically introducing carbon nanotubes to the binder phase of polymer-bonded explosives in order to reduce their sensitivity without adversely affecting detonation performance. In other words, Wilkerson hopes to design explosives that are less susceptible to accidents.
The objective of the YIP is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and the related challenges in science and engineering.