Brown University School of Engineering

Professor Huajian Gao Awarded von Karman Medal

July 13, 2017

Huajian Gao, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Engineering at Brown University, was awarded the 2017 Theodore von Karman Medal from the Engineering Mechanics Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), at its annual conference in San Diego, Calif., in June.

The award was established and endowed in 1960 by the Engineering Mechanics Division (now Engineering Mechanics Institute) of the Society, and recognizes distinguished achievement in engineering mechanics, applicable to any branch of civil engineering. Previous winners of the award include several Brown engineering alumni and former faculty: Ares Rosakis Sc.M.’80 Ph.D.’82 (2016), James R. Rice (2014), George Dvorak Ph.D. ’69 (2006), Daniel Drucker (1966), and William Prager (1960).

Gao has been honored by several professional societies for his work. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 2012 for contributions to micromechanics of thin films and hierarchically structured materials. In 2015, he was elected as a Foreign Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) for his scientific achievements and contributions made to promoting and developing science and technology in China. In 2017, he was elected to the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in recognition of his scientific achievements. He received the William Prager Medal from the Society of Engineering Science (SES) in 2015 in recognition of his outstanding research contributions in theoretical solid mechanics. Gao was awarded the 2015 Nadai Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) for groundbreaking contributions to hierarchical nanotwinned metals, energy storage materials, metallic glasses, and diffusional creep of metal thin films. His previous awards and honors include the Rodney Hill Prize in Solid Mechanics (highest international award in mechanics; only one awardee every four years), Alexander von Humboldt Research Award (highest German award for international scientists), and Guggenheim Fellowship (for exceptional scholarship or creativity; only 1-2 awards in engineering per year).

Professor Gao received his B.S. degree from Xian Jiaotong University of China in 1982, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in engineering science from Harvard University in 1984 and 1988, respectively. He served on the faculty of Stanford University between 1988 and 2002, where he was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1994 and to full professor in 2000. Gao was Director and Professor at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research in Stuttgart, Germany between 2001 and 2006. He joined Brown University in 2006. Professor Gao has a background in applied mechanics and engineering science. He has more than 30 years of research experience and more than 400 publications to his credit.

Professor Gao’s research group is generally interested in understanding the basic principles that control mechanical properties and behaviors of both engineering and biological systems. His research spans over solid mechanics, nanomechanics, and biomechanics. He works on mechanics of thin films and hierarchically structured materials, mechanics of biological and bio-inspired materials, mechanics of nanostructured and nanotwinned materials, mechanics of cell adhesion, mechanics of cell-nanomaterials interactions, mechanics of energy storage systems, and mechanics of metallic glasses.