Najafi Receives NSF-CAREER Award

Ahmad Najafi
Ahmad Najafi

Ahmad Najafi, PhD, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics, has received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Grant (NSF CAREER) award for his project “CAREER: A Holistic Framework for Designing Multifunctional Materials and Structures Using Computational Optimization Methods”.

The project offers design-themed educational and outreach activities to enhance public knowledge and attract talented students to STEM careers in the design area. The educational plan improves design-related educational activities by integrating several modular lectures based on the “philosophy of design” into engineering courses. The project also targets academically at-risk and underrepresented minority students to reduce school dropout via an out-of-school-time STEM education program.

“The idea is to engage earlier and more often with students who have shown an interest in STEM topics,” Najafi says. “We must regularly revisit our curricula to be certain that our lectures, course materials and topics are relevant and engaging for students and can best prepare them to become practicing engineers or researchers.”

Najafi’s research focuses on using computational methods to optimize the creation of multi-functional structures and materials. This is achieved through the formulation of a holistic framework for the design of such materials, engaging new multiphysics algorithms that optimize material constituents and architectures simultaneously. The advantage is that new materials can be designed with specific functions in mind, rather than trying to find a suitable existing material to achieve something it wasn’t necessarily designed for. Such novel materials are critical to many technologically advanced biomedical, clean energy aerospace and transportable electronics applications.