Katia Bertoldi, associate professor in applied mechanics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), has been selected to receive the 2014 Thomas J. R. Hughes Young Investigator Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

The award, established in 1998, recognizes special achievements in applied mechanics for researchers under the age of 40.

The ASME Executive Committee selected Bertoldi on the basis of her significant contributions to the theory and simulation of the mechanics of soft materials and structures. Her research combines theoretical, computational, and experimental methods to gain deeper insight into the nonlinear behavior of materials and structures. In particular, she uses large deformation and instabilities to drastically change the properties of soft materials in response to external stimuli such as applied forces and electric fields.

The aim of her group is to establish relationships between the internal structure of a material and its mechanical properties, especially those with “tunable” properties, in order to understand, improve, and even discover materials that would impact a wide range of fields. The possible applications of her work include, for example, acoustic switches, robots capable of changing shape based on changes in the environment, and adaptive optical systems.

Bertoldi is also a faculty associate of the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at Harvard, and a Kavli Scholar at the Kavli Institute for Bionano Science & Technology at Harvard SEAS.

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