By Kyra Arena, Written Communication Assistant
MSE Assistant Professor Xueju “Sophie” Wang has been awarded the NSF Faculty Early Development Program CAREER Award for her proposal entitled “Mechanics of Active Polymers and Morphing structures: Determine the Role of Molecular Interactions and Stiffness Heterogeneity in Reversible Shape Morphing.” It is one of NSF’s most prestigious awards.
Wang’s NSF CAREER award will support her research on fundamental studies of the mechanics of innovative active polymers and morphing structures. Soft active polymers that can change their shapes and therefore functionalities upon exposure to external stimuli are promising for many applications, including soft robotics, artificial muscles and tissue repair. This research project aims to establish the missing correlations across the molecular, material and structural levels of novel active polymers for their rational design, manufacturing and applications, by using liquid crystal elastomers as a model material system. “I am very grateful and honored to receive this prestigious award, and I look forward to working with my students to address challenges in innovative active polymers and to apply them in emerging fields like soft robotics,” Wang said.
Through this award, Wang will expose students and the general public to research frontiers in morphing materials and structures through starting an overarching program, “Morphing Beyond Imagination,” where simple and entertaining demonstrations of morphing flowers, spiders and octopuses will be provided to elementary school students. Additionally, Wang’s program will be used to help develop curricula for high school students to promote their pursuit of STEM related studies.
The award and funding are administered through the NSF Mechanics of Materials and Structures (MOMs) program in the Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) in support of early-career faculties who have led academic advancements in research or education in mechanics as related to the behavior of deformable solid materials and structures.
UConn’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering congratulates Wang on her impressive achievement.
Wang joined MSE in 2020. Her research group focuses on mechanics, advanced materials and functional structures for applications from flexible electronics to soft robotics. In 2016 she received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. After completing her post-doctoral research at Northwestern University, she served as an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Missouri, Columbia.
In addition to the NSF CAREER award, her research has been recognized through numerous awards including the ASME Orr Early Career Award, the ASME Haythornthwaite Foundation Research Initiation Award and the Gary L. Cloud Scholarship Award from the Society of Experimental Mechanics.