MSEE collaborators visit Eglin AFB for Student Symposium and UQ Short Course

A group of students and researchers stands outside for a group photo

The Materials Science in Extreme Environments University Research Alliance (MSEE URA), one of HEMI’s major research centers, is a consortium that aims to understand and mitigate the effects of weapons of mass destruction. The alliance works closely with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and features collaborators from all kinds of backgrounds. As a basic research consortium, workforce development is a key driver of the MSEE URA. Many MSEE participants are students or postdoctoral researchers.

In the first week of September, MSEE held two events for their graduate students and postdocs in support of the alliance’s workforce development goals. Both events took place at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida, where attendees were able to network and explore the facilities and career opportunities available at an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

The first of these events was the second annual Student Symposium. On September 5 and 6, attendees of the student-organized symposium participated in a full slate of networking, mentorship, and educational opportunities.

The symposium’s first day featured a discussion with Kyle Overdeep, an AFRL technical program manager. Overdeep, a former DTRA-funded graduate student, discussed his journey from PhD student to technical program manager. After hearing from Overdeep, students presented their MSEE research through oral talks and a poster session, followed by tours of some of the facilities within the Advanced Munitions Technology Complex at Eglin AFB.

Day two of the symposium continued with a networking session and tours of the Terminal Engagement Research Facility and the McKinley Climatic Laboratory. Throughout the symposium, MSEE students and postdocs were able to engage with AFRL researchers and scientists, including the Branch Chief of the Energetics Materials Branch, Jacob Morris.

Following the student symposium, AFRL researchers and MSEE students and postdocs participated in a two-day short course on uncertainty quantification (UQ) in physics-based modeling using Python. The UQ Short Course was held at AFRL’s off-site facility, the Doolittle Institute.

Participants in the short course were introduced to uncertainty quantification (UQ) in computational modeling using the Python programming language and a variety of UQ methods, including forward propagation of uncertainty, surrogate modelling, and Bayesian inference using the UQpy toolbox.

The short course was led by Dimitris Giovanis, a HEMI fellow and assistant research professor of civil and systems engineering, and Dimitrios Tsapetis, a postdoctoral fellow in the Whiting School of Engineering.

High school apprenticeship opportunities in HEMI

For the 8th consecutive year, the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute (HEMI) has partnered with the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) to provide high school apprenticeship opportunities.

Students will work on an exciting research project in HEMI which is one of Johns Hopkins University’s premier, non-medical engineering institutes. HEMI’s mission is to advance the fundamental science associated with materials and structures under extreme conditions and demonstrating extreme performance. Students will assist HEMI faculty and graduate students with conducting experiments, developing software code to perform computational analysis/modeling, and in synthesizing new materials. These apprenticeships are best suited for students interested in the following engineering disciplines: mechanical, civil/systems, electrical, chemical/biomolecular, and materials science. Students will improve their communication skills by presenting their research project in a research group meeting, poster symposium, and at a final presentation event attended by US Army and university VIPs.

The dates of the apprenticeships are tentatively scheduled for June 27 through August 7, 2023. Students will be able to earn a stipend of $3,000. The apprenticeships are focused on students from underrepresented minorities in STEM.

For more information and to apply, visit: The deadline to apply is March 5, 2023.

MICA extreme arts interns present final projects

Interns in the Extreme Arts program, a collaboration between HEMI and Maryland Institute College of Art, presented their final projects recently to an audience including HEMI mentors, staff, and students.

Started in 2015, the HEMI/MICA Extreme Arts internship program brings students from MICA to HEMI to translate results of HEMI’s research on extreme events in creative and visual ways.

Riley Cox, MICA student majoring in fibers, interned with Rebecca Schulman, an associate professor in the Whiting School of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Cox experiments with weaving structures that contain LED matrices and can be coded to light up portions of cloth in desired patterns. Her goal is to create responsive, smart textiles that could be programmed to generate patterns, both through the physical process of weaving and through integrated technology.

During her internship, Cox says she was “inspired by Professor Schulman’s use of synthetic DNA computing circuits as a way to generate patterned responses.”

In Schulman’s research, chemical patterns act as a blueprint, defining the growth of cells. The process of weaving can function in a similar way, relying on patterns embedded in the order and placement of threads to create an output of different structures of cloth, according to Cox.

“The loom has historically been considered the precursor to modern computing,” said Cox,  whose project explores this relationship between technology and handcraft.

In tackling her project, she used digital drafting software which allowed her to experiment with patterns that could be generated within the threading process.

Fibers work by Riley Cox

Fibers work by Riley Cox

Candice EH Cramer, a MICA student majoring in multidisciplinary art, says, “The most resilient of things on Earth are what comprises the planet: minerals. Some of these minerals, like zircon and garnet extracted today, could share evidence of evolution during the earliest part of Earth’s history.”

Cramer interned at HEMI with Emmy Smith, an assistant professor in the Krieger School of Arts and Science’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Cramer said that through Smith’s work, she was able to “glean whispers of Precambrian life recorded in sedimentology, which endures beyond carbon dating by using uranium lead dating.” Through observing rocks extracted for their zircons, searching for sulfur as metabolism markers in marine sediments, and witnessing garnets prepared for spectrometry, she said she “gained a fondness” for minerals for their intrinsic value and their innate storytelling.

“As we face an age on Earth that is being shaped in front of our eyes by humans to the detriment of the environment, I wonder if these minerals can offer us wisdom by examining and replicating their forms through drawing,” said Cramer.

She is also inspecting minerals found in paint pigments to ponder upon the sustainability of the painting practice.

The event completes the eighth consecutive year of the Extreme Arts program which is a collaborative program between HEMI at Johns Hopkins University and the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Multidisciplinary Art by Candice EH Cramer

Resilient Shard
(Snowball Earth)
by Candice EH Cramer

Kshitiz Upadhyay receives 2022 WCB Early Career Research Award

Kshitiz Upadhyay, a postdoctoral fellow in HEMI, recently received the WCB Early Career Research Award. Given by the World Congress of Biomechanics, (WCB) the award recognizes the research of promising scientists, six years removed from completing their doctoral degrees and is distributed every four years during the Congress.

He was selected by committee after completing a three-step process: submitting a short abstract, being selected to submit an extended abstract, then giving an oral presentation of his abstract during the WCB 2022 Young Researcher Award Session.

Upadhyay’s research interests lie in the broad area of mechanics of soft materials, with emphasis on constitutive modeling, injury biomechanics, experimental solid mechanics, and data-driven methods. He is is a postdoctoral fellow in the Ramesh lab within the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He received his PhD and MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida, and B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering from the National Institute of Technology–Bhopal, India. Prior to his graduate studies, he worked as a Mechanical Design Engineer at Applied Materials India.

He was awarded the Best Dissertation Award, the Graduate Student Research Award, the Gator Engineering Attribute Award, and the Outstanding International Student Award, all from the University of Florida. He also won first place in the 2019 SEM Michael Sutton International Student Paper Competition for his research on the experimental characterization of high strain rate shear response of soft materials.

Dr. Upadhyay will be starting as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Louisiana State University in August 2022.


Student-Built, Dime-Sized Instrument Is Venus-bound on NASA’s DAVINCI

DAVINCI Descent Sphere above Venus
DAVINCI will send a meter-diameter probe to brave the high temperatures and pressures near Venus’ surface to explore the atmosphere from above the clouds to near the surface of a terrain that may have been a past continent. During its final kilometers of free-fall descent (artist’s impression shown here), the probe will capture spectacular images and chemistry measurements of the deepest atmosphere on Venus for the first time.
Credits: NASA/GSFC/CI Labs

Venus Oxygen Fugacity (VfOx) is a small, button-sized sensor aboard NASA’s DAVINCI mission to Venus’ atmosphere that will be designed, fabricated, tested, operated, and analyzed by undergraduate and graduate students as the mission’s Student Collaboration Experiment.

Planned for launch in 2029, the DAVINCI mission (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) will send a spacecraft and a probe to Venus to investigate numerous unsolved mysteries of the planet. Prior to dropping its descent probe into the Venus atmosphere, the spacecraft will perform two flybys of the planet, taking measurements of clouds and ultraviolet absorption on the Venusian day side, and taking measurements of heat emanating from the planet’s surface on the night side. Two years after launch, the mission’s probe, called the Descent Sphere, will enter the Venus atmosphere, ingesting and analyzing atmospheric gases and collecting images as it descends to the surface of the planet at the Alpha Regio region.

VfOx will be mounted on the outside of the Descent Sphere, where it will measure the oxygen fugacity – the partial pressure of the oxygen – in the deep atmosphere beneath Venus’ clouds, including the near-surface environment.

By analyzing these ground-breaking VfOx measurements, scientists will, for the first time, seek to identify what minerals are most stable at the surface of Venus in the highlands and link the formation of rocks to their recent modification histories. VfOx will measure the amount of oxygen present near the surface of Venus as a “fingerprint” of the rock-atmosphere reactions that are going on today. The balance of how much oxygen is present in the atmosphere, compared to the amount of oxygen captured in the rocks of Venus, will provide information towards a new understanding of the surface minerals in a mountainous region of Venus (known as “tessera”) that has never been visited by a spacecraft.

Understanding how much oxygen is contained in Venus’ atmosphere will be important in preparation for characterizing Venus-like worlds beyond our solar system with the JWST and future observatories. How much oxygen Venus has in its deepest atmosphere will help scientists studying these remote worlds distinguish between oxygen produced by life, such as what happens on Earth, from oxygen produced solely by abiotic chemical planetary processes, such as what happens on Venus.

The instrument will operate similarly to the oxygen sensor in many automobile engines, which measures the amount of oxygen in the fuel system relative to other components of the fuel. Like all instruments aboard the DAVINCI Descent Sphere, VfOx must be adapted to survive Venus’ inhospitable atmosphere. Even though temperatures at the surface of the planet are hot enough to melt lead, the temperatures in internal combustion car engines are even hotter, so VfOx will operate in a comparatively cooler environment on Venus. Additionally, VfOx will be built out of ceramic, a material that is resistant to temperature changes.

The motivating goal for DAVINCI’s Student Collaboration Experiment is educating and training young scientists and engineers in planetary science and engineering skills and providing a real-world application for those skills. “We are trying to engage and encourage the next generation of planetary scientists and engineers,” says Dr. Noam Izenberg, principal research staff at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and student collaboration lead for VfOx on DAVINCI.

Students will build the VfOx instrument, analyze the data it returns from Venus, and participate in science activities with the DAVINCI science team. Students involved will be advised by faculty at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The excitement of being actively involved with a real space-flight mission as an undergraduate may be one of the best incentives to attract a diverse group of students to this project. “We want to attract more students from all backgrounds, including the less-advantaged and the less-represented,” says Dr. Izenberg. “There will be lots of mentors across the board – on the mission and science side, and the engineering side – where students can find not just mentors of the professions that they might be looking for, but also mentors who look like them, because the DAVINCI team itself is fairly good in its own diversity.”

Johns Hopkins will be working in collaboration with the Applied Physics Lab to plan and implement the student experiment. Johns Hopkins will also work in collaboration with the Maryland Institute College of Arts in Baltimore, which has an extreme arts institute that will be involved with an intersection between science and art. The Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute in Baltimore will help coordinate this project, and Morgan State University in Baltimore is an intended partner.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the principal investigator institution for DAVINCI and will perform project management and scientific leadership for the mission, as well as project systems engineering to develop the probe flight system. Goddard also leads the project science support team and provides two key instruments on the probe.

Prototype VfOx instrument
These images of a prototype of the shirt-button-sized VfOx instrument show the disk of the sensor itself. It has a diameter of just under one centimeter (almost 0.4 inches) and will be located on the side of the DAVINCI Descent Sphere.
Credits: Johns Hopkins APL

Brooke Hess
​NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

Media Contacts:

Bill Steigerwald
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
[email protected]

This article originally appeared on the NASA website.

Mach Conference celebrates 10th year

The 2022 Mach Conference, held virtually in April, brought together representatives from academia, government and industry to share their work in the field of materials, with an emphasis on advancing the fundamental science and engineering of materials and structures in extreme environments.. The conference’s plenary speakers included Prof. Wei Chen (Northwestern University), Prof. Reuben Kraft (Penn State University), and Prof. Tao Sun (University of Virginia).

Conference-goers attended lectures, presented on research, and socialized with their peers in the discipline. Attendees also participated in the Student/Postdoc poster competition. Winners in each category are listed below.

Judge’s Award: 

High-throughput methods using laser-driven micro-flyers for interrogating spall failure, Presenter: Christopher DiMarco, Johns Hopkins University 

High pressure induced precipitation in Al7075 alloy, Presenter: Abhinav Parakh, Stanford University

People’s Choice Award:

Interaction-Based Damage Model for Heterogeneous Brittle Solids under Uniform High-Rate Loading, Presenter: Sakshi Braroo, Johns Hopkins University

The Mach Conference is held in April each year. For more information, visit

Graduate students advised by HEMI Fellows win poster awards at 2021 SES Conference

Graduate students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering earned poster awards at the 2021 Society of Engineering Science (SES) Annual Conference.  Each student is advised by a HEMI Fellow.

The virtual event was spread over five days in October and each day focused on a theme, which included a fishbowl event, presentation, and poster session.

    • Bibekananda Datta, advised by Vicky Nguyen, won a Best Poster award in the Soft Matter category for his work, “A Swelling and Deswelling Kinetics Driven Thermo-responsive Crawler.”
    • Adyota Gupta, co-advised by Ryan Hurley and KT Ramesh, won the Audience Vote award in the Interactions Matter category for his work, “The Effect of Force-Chain Buckling and Fabric on Bulk Stiffness and Stress Response in Granular Media.”
    • Brett Kuwik, advised by Ryan Hurley, won a Best Poster award in the Interactions Matter category for his work, “Quantification of Breakage During the Compaction of Granular Materials.”
    • Zheliang Wang, advised by Vicky Nguyen, won a Best Poster award in the Frontiers Matter category for his work, “In-situ Measurement of Residue Stresses in Material Extrusion Additive Manufacturing.”

From top left: Bibekananda Datta, Adyota Gupta, Zheliang Wang, Brett Kuwik.

This post originally appeared as a news item on the Department of Mechanical Engineering website.

2021 AEOP Apprentices Showcase Their Gained Knowledge in Extreme Science During Final Presentations

Earlier this month, four students from high schools around the state of Maryland presented the results of their summer Apprenticeship Program  virtually to an audience of  friends, family, mentors, HEMI Fellows, and representatives from the U. S. Army – Dr. Sikhanda Satapathy (Collaborative Alliance Manager for MEDE CRA) and Mr. Brian Leftridge (U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command).

Adesola Adelegan, Nahuel Albayrak, Kathy Ho, and Emma Liu each were paired with a HEMI Fellow and student mentor to complete their six-week project. During the presentations, each student summarized their research experience, answered questions, and were virtually awarded with a certificate of completion.

During the course of the presentations, HEMI Fellow hosts and mentors had a chance to reflect on each student’s accomplishments. Across the board, the students were lauded for their work ethic and ability to grasp high-level concepts.

“I’m ready to offer her a graduate position,” said Jaafar El-Awady, HEMI Fellow and associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, when speaking about his group’s intern, Kathy Ho. “She’s done such great, high-level work.”

Echoing Prof. El-Awady’s sentiments was Mitra Taheri, HEMI Fellow and professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, about her group’s intern, Emma Liu. “Emma is underplaying her role in this project. Her research has moved us forward in the state-of-the-art.”

These apprenticeships, sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP), allows students to gain valuable research experience before attending college. With over 40 sites from which to choose, Johns Hopkins ranks as a very competitive location. Johns Hopkins University received 185 applications for four positions this year.

HEMI Graduate Student Suhas Eswarappa Prameela Publishes Article in Nature about Importance of Collaboration

Suhas Eswarappa Prameela, a graduate student in HEMI, has been published in Nature‘s “Why It Matters” section with a paper about the benefits of collaboration for young scholars.

In the paper, Prameela emphasizes the importance of collaboration, especially for graduate students and postdocs. Multi-PI (principal investigator) grants have seen an increase in funding as opposed to grants for single principal investigators. He highlights the Center for Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments (CMEDE), a collaborative research alliance led by Johns Hopkins University and the Army Research Laboratory, as an example.

Prameela underscores the importance of being a part of a multi-PI project for students. From having the opportunity to work cohesively with others to engaging with a variety of scientists to exchange ideas, collaboration is crucial – and inter-university collaboration allows each student to enhance their professional network beyond their home university. He writes, “Large collaborative efforts like consortia can develop a workforce that sees the big picture and works across disciplines. These grand views can be very beneficial to students, helping to motivate collaborative efforts.”

The article was co-authored by K. T. Ramesh (HEMI Director, Alonzo G. Decker, Jr. Professor of Science and Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, with joint appointments in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering) and Tim Weihs (HEMI Fellow, Director of the MSEE URA, and professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering).

Nature’s “Why It Matters” section features articles that discuss the applications of science, with topics ranging from the intersection of science and politics to mental health in research culture.

Click here to read the full article.