James Allison

James Allison

Assistant Professor

313 Transportation Building

For more information


  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan, 2008
  • MSE, Industrial and Operations Engineering, University of Michigan, 2005
  • MSE, Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan, 2004
  • BS, Mechanical Engineering, University of Utah, 2003
  • AAS, Automotive Technology, Weber State University, 1998


James T. Allison is the director of the Engineering System Design Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Professor Allison's research interests include engineering system design, multidisciplinary design optimization, integrated physical and control system design, design of sustainable energy systems, automotive design, and design of synthetic biological systems. Current research projects include exploiting passive dynamics in mechatronic systems for energy-efficiency, design of ocean wave energy harvesting systems, wind turbine and farm co-design, counterbalanced robots, reconfigurable robotics for agile manufacturing, derivative function surrogate modeling, power electronics and electro-thermal systems, automotive suspension and powertrain design, and fluid systems and rheological materials. Professor Allison joined UIUC in 2011 and worked previously as a lecturer at Tufts University in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, as a senior engineer at MathWorks, Inc. in the area of dynamic system modeling and design, at GM in hybrid powertrain design, and at Ford Motor Company in the area of engine design optimization.

Academic Positions

  • Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, 2011 - Present
  • Lecturer, Tufts University, Mechanical Engineering, 2010-2011
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Michigan, Mechanical Engineering, 2008

Other Professional Employment

  • Senior Engineer, MathWorks, Inc., Natick MA, 2008-2011
  • Consulting Engineer, Ford Motor Company, Dearborn MI, 2008

Professional Highlights

  • Prof. Allison has transformed ISE education at the freshman-level by creating and delivering a new project-based curriculum to help students develop engineering judgment and understand the connection between mathematics, science, and practical engineering design. He has been awarded several curriculum development grants (internal and external) to support this work. Prof. Allison has extended these hands-on approaches to a variety of other courses that he teaches. Media coverage: http://fieldnotes.engineering.illinois.edu/ge-410-educating-and-engaging-students/
  • Joined the Institute for Genomic Biology Biosystems Design theme as the Robotics and Automation Team Lead. 2013. Prof. Allison is Co-PI on a $2M grant from the Roy J. Carver Trust for a large-scale robotic automation system. Prof. Allison is Co-PI on a DARPA center grant. He has been awarded the phase-one grant, and if the second phase proposal is successful Prof. Allison will be a lead investigator in a $35M research center.
  • Invited to deliver the Keynote Lecture at the 2012 Deere & Co. Model-Based Systems Design and Systems Engineering Conference on November 29th in Moline IL.
  • Selected as the 2013 ASME Design Automation Young Investigator Award Winner. Prof. Allison is the first person to receive the DAYI Award after only two years as a faculty member. Media coverage: http://engineering.illinois.edu/news/article/2013-06-04-illinois -professor-james-allison-wins-design-automation-young-investigator-award

Resident Instruction

  • GE 413: Engineering Design Optimization
  • GE 410: Component Design
  • GE 598: Dynamic System Modeling and Design
  • GE 598: Engineering Design Science
  • GE 100: Introduction to ISE

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Several undergraduate students are involved in research projects at the Engineering System Design Lab, and we are always looking for bright and ambitious students to join our group. Interested students should review research topics and publications listed on the ESDL website and then contact Professor Allison to talk about current research opportunities.

Research Interests

  • Automotive Design (Hybrid Powertrains, Active Suspension Systems)
  • Design for Additive Manufacturing
  • Electro-Thermal System Design Optimization
  • Spacecraft Design and Control
  • Structural Design Optimization
  • Hybrid Electric Powertrain Design
  • Robotics and Automation
  • Design of Synthetic Biological Systems
  • Sustainable Energy Systems (Wind and Wave Energy Systems)
  • Topology Optimization and System Architecture Design
  • Dynamic System Modeling and Simulation
  • Generative Design
  • Integrated Physical and Control System Design
  • Multidisciplinary Design Optimization
  • Design Optimization
  • Engineering System Design

Selected Articles in Journals

Articles in Conference Proceedings

Invited Lectures

Other Publications


Conferences Organized or Chaired

  • Member of the Scienti c Advisory Committee and special session organizer (Multidisciplinary Design Optimization of Dynamic Systems), World Congress on Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization (2012-Present).
  • Member of the Scienti c Committee, International Conference on Engineering Design (2012-Present).
  • ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Symposium Organizer and Chair (2008-Present). Topics: Multidisciplinary Design Optimization; Design for Energy Efficiency; Design and Optimization of Sustainable Energy Systems; Design of Complex Systems; Risk, Uncertainty, and Robustness.


  • Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising (April 2012)
  • Engineering Council Outstanding Advising Award (April 2016)

Teaching Honors

  • Nominated for the Illinois Student Senate Teaching Excellence Award (Official Voice of the Student Body) (February 2012)
  • Recognized on the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent, UIUC (Fall 2013) (March 2014)

Research Honors

  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (April 2004)
  • Nominated for the ISSMO/Springer Prize, Young Investigator Award (unsolicited nomination) (May 2007)
  • 2013 ASME Design Automation Young Investigator Award (August 2013)
  • 2014 JPL Research Poster Conference Award. (May 2015)

Other Honors

  • Member Phi Kappa Phi, Collegiate Honor Society (1999)
  • Member Pi Tau Sigma, Mechanical Engineering Honor Society (2001)
  • Member Tau Beta Pi, Engineering Honor Society (2002)
  • Lincoln Arc Welding Foundation Gold Award (advisor), student design competition (2014)

Courses Taught

  • GE 100 - Introduction to ISE
  • GE 410 - Component Design
  • GE 413 - Engrg Design Optimization
  • GE 598 - Dynamic Sys Modeling and Dsgn
  • GE 598 - Dynamic System Design
  • GE 598 - Engineering Design Science