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Douglas Holmes, a College of Engineering assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has received the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award in recognition of his outstanding research and teaching capabilities. The awards support high-impact projects that combine research and educational goals.

Holmes will receive $500,000 over the next five years to study the mechanics of how thin rods move through soft and fragile media, such as tissue and granular materials. Knowledge gained from the study could enable the construction of advanced, autonomous structures capable of navigating around obstacles in such media. Thin rods and other active materials that can bend and fold on command are essential to the engineering of smart needles, soft robotic arms, and other flexible devices.

“The results of this award will help predict the deformation and buckling of slender structures within complex media, while providing a general framework for designing structures that can actively and controllably bend within soft and fragile matter,” says Holmes.

Part of the funding will be used to develop open, online course content designed to improve the public’s understanding of mechanical engineering.

To date, 38 ENG faculty members have received NSF CAREER awards.