Ken Kennedy Institute's May Member of the Month: Satish Nagarajaiah

The Ken Kennedy Institute's May Member of the Month, Satish Nagarajaiah, is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering


The Ken Kennedy Institute's May Member of the Month, Satish Nagarajaiah, is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Nagarajaiah's research areas focus on Structural Dynamic systems, earthquake engineering, seismic isolation, structural control and monitoring, adaptive stiffness systems, smart tuned mass dampers, sparse structural system identification and low rank methods, and non-contact laser based strain sensing using nanomaterials.

He has been a tenured full professor at Rice University since 2006. Dr. Nagarajaiah obtained his Ph.D. from State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was a post-doctoral researcher before he started his academic career in 1993.

What is your favorite book?

"The Study in Scarlet" Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

How do you explain your research in one sentence?

Analytical modeling, sparse system identification and discovery of equations that govern the behavior of materials and structures (at multiple scales) with physics-based machine/statistical learning algorithm development.

What is your favorite aspect of your research?

Creative thinking, innovation, and applied mathematical formulation in structural engineering and mechanics - with practical implementation as the end goal. Every topic of my research (1) computation structural mechanics, (2) sparse structural system identification, (3) adaptive structural systems and structural control, (4) structural monitoring/advanced sensing has had real world applications. Such real-world impact of my research really motivates me as scientist and an engineer. Another aspect is the love of teaching/communicating the knowledge and intuitive concepts that I have developed (over a career spanning three decades) to my students and mentor them into working on problems at the cutting edge of the chosen field.

What challenges do you see in your research that you didn't expect?

Sustained research funding is the greatest challenge facing all science and engineering disciplines. Although I have been fortunate to attract steady federal, state, defense, industry, and private funding for my research needs - it is a continued challenge. Hope is that with the new infusion of funding that is anticipated at the federal level and the impact of pandemic that has forced a complete rethink of education and research will have an upside in the coming decades.

What is a favorite experience with the Ken Kennedy Institute?

My favorite experience with Ken Kennedy Institute is the interactions with its leaders such as late Sidney Burrus, Tony Elam, Moshe Vardi, and Lydia Kavraki, its members, and collaborative research that has resulted from it - particularly with ECE, MECH, and MSNE faculty. Also, the Ken Kennedy Institute sponsored seminars and distinguished lectures have provided access to a steady stream of state-of-the-art lectures in the field.