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Leading expert in aerospace engineering at forefront of emerging technologies

ASU Regents' Professor Aditi Chattopadhyay
February 04, 2014

Editor's Note: The 2013 ASU Regents' Professors will be honored at a special induction ceremony at 4:30 p.m., Feb. 6, in the Galvin Playhouse on the Tempe campus.

As a youngster growing up in India, Aditi Chattopadhyay says the words engineering, research and aerospace were in her vocabulary before she even knew what they meant.

Her father was an agricultural engineering professor, and her mother a statistician; their passion for research and learning played a big role in making her the internationally renowned aerospace engineer she is today.

To add to a long legacy of engineering achievements, Chattopadhyay has been awarded the Regents’ Professor title –  the highest honor for faculty at Arizona’s state universities – for her strides in cutting-edge aerospace research and contributions to students.

She is the ninth ASU engineering faculty member to be selected as a Regents' Professor, and the fifth in the past five years.

Chattopadhyay is an Ira A. Fulton Professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Research strides

Chattopadhyay is a leading expert on composite materials, structural health monitoring, multidisciplinary design optimization and their application to addressing a range of challenges central to the aerospace industry and a growing variety of civil/structural engineering industries.

Her research encompasses many elements of aerospace engineering, but the heart of her endeavors is an interest in designing autonomous structural health monitoring techniques and multi-functional materials. “These are materials that have the potential to sense and communicate, that can heal themselves and operate at increasingly higher temperatures,” she says.

Chattopadhyay and her students are currently working to develop a material that can sense material damage and deterioration through changes in piezoresistivity and color. This type of multi-functional material can help improve structural health monitoring systems, reducing repair and maintenance time and possibly saving lives.

“It is contributions like this that have propelled her to the forefront of emerging technologies,” says Antonia Papandreou-Suppappola, a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, part of Fulton Engineering.

The Adaptive Intelligent Materials and Systems (AIMS) Center at ASU, where Chattopadhyay is the founding and current director, connects industry with ASU engineering researchers to pursue advances in aerospace and mechanical systems, as well as civil infrastructures that have a direct impact on the national economy, while also addressing problems of national and global significance.

“It is extremely impressive that Chattopadhyay’s research discoveries have had a direct impact on not only the technological and engineering fields, but on people’s lives around the world,” says Lenore Dai, an ASU chemical engineering professor.

Her persistence in achieving meaningful research results is visible in the form of 67 grants from sources outside the university since she joined ASU faculty in 1990.

The grants have come from the Army Research Office, the Office of Naval Research, the Department of Transportation Research and Innovative Technology Administration and NASA. Among the largest has been a $6 million grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Chattopadhyay is the author of 153 research journal papers, 290 refereed conference papers and 16 book chapters. She has co-authored one book, "Integrated Health Management of Complex Composite Structures: From Detection to Prognosis," and is currently co-authoring another.

Excellence in the classroom

Chattopadhyay credits her father with instilling in her a love of teaching. “I grew up seeing groups of students in our home working with my father and I always loved the interaction,” she says.

Chattopadhyay is passionate about having a good student research group, and selects students motivated to work on projects driven by their own interests.

“It’s not about a thesis sitting on a shelf, but about producing results that can be put to use by NASA or other organizations for decades to come,” she says.

Since joining ASU, Chattopadhyay has supervised 23 students who earned master’s degrees and 25 who earned doctoral degrees.

“We are very proud of Chattopadhyay’s research achievements, her leadership of the AIMS Center and her mentorship of so many excellent students over the years. Her research embodies what we strive to achieve in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy – cutting-edge advances that improve foundational understanding with clear connections to technologies important to national needs,” says Kyle Squires, the director of the school.

International recognition

Chattopadhyay has received national and international recognition for her research leadership in several areas of critical importance to national priorities in aerospace engineering.

Among the more notable of her recent honors is the election to the National Research Council Panel on Mechanical Sciences and Engineering from 2013-2015. The council is part of the National Academy of Sciences, which includes the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine.

For her impressive legacy in mechanical and aerospace engineering, she also earned the 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, where she received her bachelor’s degree. She did her graduate work at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and in 1995 she was inducted into Georgia Tech’s Hall of Fame.

She has also received several NASA Tech Brief awards, which are among NASA’s most prestigious awards.  

Chattopadhyay is a Fellow of both the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In 2009 she earned a patent for “Strain Rate Dependent Analysis of Polymer Matrix Composites.”

When she isn’t in the classroom or laboratory, you can find Chattopadhyay reading classic and contemporary literature, and traveling or hiking with her family. And if the weather is nice, you might even find her tending her rose garden, which reminds her of her parents’ garden and their passion for teaching and learning.

Written by Rosie Gochnour