Pedro Reis, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was one of 60 engineers under the age of 45 selected to attend the U.S. National Academy of Engineering's Japan-America Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, held June 6-8 in Osaka.
The intensive symposium focused on recent developments in engineering technology with sessions on massive data management, smart grid, bio-inspired materials and robotics. The symposium facilitates international and cross-disciplinary research collaborations and promotes the transfer of new techniques and approaches across disparate engineering fields. The program began in 2000 and is held twice every three years with 30 participants from Japan and 30 from the U.S. and with a 50/50 representation from academia and industry.
The 2011 symposium was particularly timely because participants discussed some of the major engineering challenges associated with the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit the northern coast of Japan in March.
Reis' research is on the mechanics of thin objects and structures, such as rods, plates and shells. His research group — EGS.Lab: the Elasticity, Geometry and Statistics Laboratory — studies and exploits novel functionalities in thin structures over a wide range of scales. The group is also interested in the coupling of the elasticity of thin objects with other phenomena such as fracture, adhesion, ﬂuid forces at liquid interfaces and ﬂow. Examples range from thin elements in stretchable electronics at the micron scale to large civil engineering contexts such as domes and wellbore drilling.
The starting point of the lab investigations is usually through controlled desktop-scale model experiments using objects made through advanced digital fabrication techniques. The final goal is to gain a predictive understanding of the large deformations of these thin structures and associated geometric nonlinearities. After the team develops a theoretical framework and rationalizes the underlying mechanics, the next step is to take it from the desktop scale back to the scale of the original problem, be it mini- or macro-scale.