New AE professor creates programs for simulation, complex structures design
“I am especially interested in developing novel algorithms that leverage high-fidelity, non-linear computational models and numerical optimization methods for the design of complex engineering systems,” James said.
“Some of my major research projects include aerostructural optimization of aircraft wings, and design optimization of resilient structures while accounting for material damage and viscoelastic creep effects. I develop algorithms that simulate the physics of engineering.”
Because of this focus, the Blue Waters supercomputing facility and campus computing cluster were major draws in James’ decision to begin his academic career at Illinois. “The computational facilities are topnotch; probably the best in the country,” he said. “That’s something I hope to leverage.”
Beyond his technical interests, James is passionate about increasing diversity in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields through outreach to economically disadvantaged students, women, and underrepresented minorities.
“It’s something I have been involved with going back to my undergrad years,” he said. “As a junior and senior in college, I volunteered at a drop-in tutor program for disadvantaged youth, providing mentorship, helping with homework, and helping the students explore their options.”
At his most recent position as a postdoctoral research associate at Columbia University in New York City, James participated in Diversity in Graduate Engineering, a program mandated to increase the number of underrepresented students enrolling in engineering graduate school.
He also enjoys teaching, having gained experience as a course instructor while earning his PhD in aerospace engineering at the University of Toronto (2012), where he also earned a bachelor’s (2004) and master’s (2006). He will teach AE 321, Mechanics of Aerospace Structures, this fall, and plans to develop an optimization course to teach in the spring.
James also wants to develop a lab that would include 3D printers to be used as learning tools. “I think it’s important to have some hands-on research, and to validate computer programs with things you can see and touch. It anchors in reality what can be a pretty abstract research program.”