Two Junior Faculty Members Earn Prestigious NSF ERI Awards

December 1, 2021
Two Junior Faculty Members Earn Prestigious NSF ERI Award

Two SDSU Engineering junior faculty members have earned NSF Engineering Research Initiation awards to advance their careers as researchers and innovators.

Aerospace Engineering professor Dr. Jun Chen and Mechanical Engineering professor Dr. Elisa Torresani each recently earned prestigious awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Engineering Research Initiation, or ERI, awards, are highly selective grants by the NSF Directorate for Engineering to build engineering research capacity across the nation by investing in and supporting new academic investigators investigators as they initiate their research programs and advance in their careers as researchers, educators, and innovators. 

Jun Chen

Chen's abstract is titled,
"Towards Safe Aviation Autonomy: A Risk-bounded Planning Framework for Dynamical Systems under Uncertainties." The award of almost $200,000 will support Chen's research to enable safe operations in the increasingly autonomous environment that comprises the national airspace system (NAS). Increasing autonomy in the NAS can help relieve congestion by increasing traffic density in limited airspace but demands high assurance of safe operations. 

The project will also support graduate students and enhance the graduate program at San Diego State University, a Hispanic Serving Higher Education Institution. Chen will also use a simulation platform to engage K-12 and undergraduate students, especially those from underrepresented groups, in the areas of aerospace engineering, information science, and artificial intelligence.

An Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering Department in the College of Engineering since 2018, Chen's research area includes dynamics, control, machine learning and artificial intelligence, particularly in data-driven modeling, control and optimization for large-scale networked dynamical systems, with applications in mechanical and aerospace engineering such as air traffic control, traffic flow management, and autonomous air/ground vehicle systems. His research spans theory and practice, including both algorithm development and real-world field tests.

Chen holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Purdue University and a B.S. degree in Aeronautics Engineering from Beihang University (China). 

Graduate Research (Ph.D and MS) positions for Fall 2022 are currently open in Chen's labs. Visiting students/scholars are also welcome to apply. Click ​​here for more details. 

Elisa Torresani

Torresani's ERI abstract, titled, "Making High-Temperature Alloyed Components by Combining Additive Manufacturing and Spark Plasma Sintering: Enabling Shape Complexity and Predicting Microstructures," has also been granted an award of almost $200,000. Her project focuses on spark plasma sintering, a well-known manufacturing technology, in which pressurizing and rapid heating are simultaneously applied to achieve particle-to-solid consolidation with a low level of defects even for high-temperature metals. However, spark plasma sintering has been historically limited to simple-shaped components (i.e., in cylindrical forms).

Including technology integration in the study represents a novel and promising approach to produce complex-shaped components, made of high-temperature alloys, in an efficient and cost-effective manner, and yet, ensure the quality in part dimensions as well as microstructures. Moreover, the project will explore new possibilities for the investigation into the fundamentals of the field-assisted sintering processes.

This project will also contribute to the education, outreach and retaining of undergraduate and graduate students from minorities and to engaging high school students with hands-on experiences with high-end technologies such as additive manufacturing and spark plasma sintering via the collaboration with industry partners involved (California Nanotechnologies).

Part of the Mechanical Engineering Department in the College of Engineering since her postdoctoral research began in 2017, Dr. Elisa Torresani is now an Assistant Professor in the department. She received her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from University of Trento (Italy).

 Dr. Torresani’s research is focused on understanding the fundamentals of sintering and developing con-stitutive models of sintering which enable the prediction of the macroscopic and microscopic behavior of porous bodies (shape distortion, density distribution, grain growth, etc.) Her current research emphasizes the coupling of experimental and theoretical investigations for a better understanding of the chemical and physical phenomena that drive and influence sintering-assisted additive manufacturing and field-assisted sintering processes. 

Ph.D. student positions are currently open in Torresani's Powder Technology Laboratory. Click here for more details.