ISE's Allison receives NSF CAREER Award

Rick Kubetz

Assistant Professor James Allison has been awarded the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award for his project, “Integrated Design of Intelligent Structures with Tailored Distributed Damping.” The prestigious and competitive NSF CAREER Awards are given to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their respective organizations.

Allison’s successful proposal includes creation of some unique hands-on activities that allow K-12 and undergraduate students to experience the value of design automation tools.

“The project aims to investigate a fundamentally new approach for designing intelligent structures for vibration and motion control, create new numerical design strategies, and to generate a foundational understanding for how best to design this new class of intelligent structures,” Allison writes in his proposal. “Existing intelligent structures use integrated sensors and actuators, such as piezoelectric materials, distributed across the surface or interior of a flexible elastic material to control dynamic behavior. Here embedded viscoelastic materials (VEMs) are introduced to overcome current performance limitations. New integrated design optimization strategies will be used to accelerate generation of design knowledge for this new type of intelligent structure, and to reduce computational expense.

“Numerical and physical experiments will center on application to precision pointing for space- based telescopes. More precise pointing has the potential to enhance significantly scientific data gathering, including search for exoplanets. These advances also have potential to advance other domains where ultra-quiet structural stability or precision motion control is critical (e.g., manufacturing, robotics, and defense)." Allison is the director of the Engineering System Design Laboratory at Illinois. His research interests include engineering system design (dynamic systems in particular), multidisciplinary design optimization, integrated physical and control system design, system architecture design, and design for energy efficiency. Design application domains include renewable energy system design, automotive and aerospace system design, robotic system design, and synthetic biology.

Prior to joining the Illinois faculty in 2011, he worked as a lecturer at Tufts University in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, as a senior engineer at MathWorks in the area of dynamic system modeling and design, at General Motors in hybrid powertrain design, and at Ford Motor Company in the area of engine design optimization.