Posted on April 27, 2023 by Katrina Kehoe

The Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design is proud to announce two faculty members who have been approved for a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Project Award in 2023.
David Restrepo (Left) and Chris Combs (Right)

David Restrepo (Left) and Chris Combs (Right)

The Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design is proud to announce two faculty members who have been approved for a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Project Award in 2023. CAREER is the NSF’s most prestigious award designed to support early-career faculty who demonstrate potential to serve as academic role models in research and education. Faculty members may apply for the award to recognize research activities that set a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in their academic discipline. 

David Restrepo  | NSF CAREER Award 2023

Nudging and Leveraging the Onset of Buckling in Architected Materials for Performance Gains 

David Restrepo, an Assistant Professor and Endowed Faculty Fellow in Mechanical Engineering at UTSA’s Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design (Klesse College), has been awarded a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his groundbreaking work on elastic micro-buckling in periodic architected materials. As a result of this award, Restrepo will receive $641,398 in funding over the next five years. 

Architected materials (AMs) are an emerging area of research that leverage unit cell designs to achieve unique material properties and functionalities. Restrepo's project aims to investigate micro-buckling instabilities in AMs to create a pathway for fine-tuning these properties and functionalities. The project has the potential to revolutionize various fields by providing advanced materials for applications in medicine, transportation, chemical processing, aerospace, construction, and military and civilian protection.  

Beyond the research itself, Restrepo's project also seeks to boost the participation of Latinx and Hispanic students in STEM research.  The grant will provide support for recruiting, mentoring, and training of undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented groups in STEM.  

“It is so important to explore new and innovative ways to use materials and functionalities in the engineering world,” said JoAnn Browning, dean of Klesse College. “Dr. Restrepo’s work helps us to advance our thinking as we explore possibilities beyond what is currently being done and it provides opportunities to test how to introduce new materials to existing concepts. We are so proud of this accomplishment and the education and training that it provides for our students.” 

“The Department of Mechanical Engineering is proud of Dr. David Restrepo’s impressive accomplishment in winning this NSF CAREER award. The proposed research and educational program for this award will build on his expertise in experimental and computational mechanics, multi-scale analysis, and the design of materials,” said Ender Finol, Department Chair.  “Since joining the department, Dr. Restrepo has demonstrated outstanding potential as a brilliant researcher and educator. I am confident Dr. Restrepo is on the right path to developing a highly successful academic career. 

Restrepo's research on elastic micro-buckling in periodic architected materials is at the forefront of the field of mechanics of materials. The project has the potential to create significant advancements in numerous areas and to inspire future generations of researchers and engineers. With the support of the NSF CAREER award, Restrepo and his team will have the resources and the platform to push the boundaries of mechanics of materials and material’s design to make a lasting impact. 

Chris Combs  | NSF CAREER Award 2023  

Experimental Investigation into the Impact of Incoming Boundary Layer State on the Unsteady Dynamics of a Transverse Jet in a Hypersonic Crossflow 

Since 2019, Chris Combs has been working on a research project that involves jets, engines and endless possibilities in air and space travel. In his quest to explore hypersonic flight systems, Combs has created a research initiative that has recently been approved as a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Project Award and will benefit his work as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UTSA.  

Through collaborative efforts between Combs, several PhD students, and current (and future) students in the Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design at UTSA, this project will provide valuable insights into how aircrafts operate at hypersonic speeds and how aircraft control is impacted at such high speeds.  Essentially, traditional aerodynamic control surfaces seen on aircrafts like flaps and fins are ineffective at certain speeds and high altitudes owing primarily to the low pressures and densities in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. This necessitates the use of alternative means of vehicle control for hypersonic systems, which generally takes the form of control jets. An improved understanding of the physics of these interactions will also help improve high-speed engine efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint. 

This research initiative will be accomplished in three phases and will have an impact on hypersonic aerodynamic research and educational outreach with the potential to revolutionize commercial air transport, space access, and national defense. As a result of this award, Combs will receive $617,941 of funding over the next five years. 

“We are proud and pleased to see the excellence found in Dr. Combs’ work recognized by this prestigious research award,” said JoAnn Browning, Dean of Klesse College. “The research itself is critically important, and the students who will benefit from working with Chris will be able to take these experiences all the way through life.” 

“With this NSF CAREER award, Prof. Chris Combs will leverage his impressive Mach 7 wind tunnel to investigate the effect of incoming boundary layer state and Mach number on hypersonic flow. The research he will perform with this award will add to his already diverse research portfolio and improve UTSA’s position as an important academic hub for aerospace engineering research,” said Ender Finol, Chair of Mechanical Engineering at UTSA. “As the NASA CAMEE Director and Aerospace Engineering program director, Dr. Combs is positioning himself as the lead principal investigator for aerospace engineering at UTSA.” 

— Katrina Kehoe