Los Alamos National LaboratoryEngineering Institute
Addressing national needs by fostering specialized recruiting and strategic partnerships

Science of Signatures: 2015 Program

April 13 - May 1, 2015


  • Institute Director
  • Charles Farrar
  • (505) 665-0860
  • Email
  • Executive Administrator
  • Ellie Vigil
  • (505) 667-2818
  • Email
  • Institute Administrator
  • Sarah Balkey
  • (505) 665-8777
  • Email

2015 Projects and Teams

Structural Health Monitoring of the Human Musculoskeletal System

Project Description

Musculoskeletal injuries are one of the leading causes of reduced downtime and lost wages in the United States. According to OSHA 33% of all injury and illness cases in 2013 were musculoskeletal disorders. According to the CDC musculoskeletal disorders lead to $20 billion dollars in costs for workers’ compensation, and $100 billion in lost productivity annually in the US alone. It is of interest to both the government and industry to detect the onset of musculoskeletal injuries before they lead to downtime and the downtime associated with the required recovery period. This project will focus on addressing this problem by focusing on new measurement technologies that can be used to non-invasively detect and quantitatively characterize loads and/or damage in the human musculoskeletal system. This work will be applicable to preventing repetitive stress injuries as well as help enable the next-generation of exoskeletons.

Project TeamCristian Clajijo, Patrick Brewick, and Bridget Martinez

Cristian Clavijo Cristian Clavijo is originally from Peru, but has been living in  the United States since he was 12 years old. He graduated from  the University of Utah with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree,  and is currently pursuing his PhD at Brigham Young University  (all degrees are in mechanical engineering).  Most of his  undergraduate and graduate level projects have been in the area  of thermal fluids, although he also has experience with regenerative medicine  research.  For his PhD, he is investigating the interaction between water droplets and heated superhydrophobic surfaces.  His research consists of both theoretical and experimental work.  For leisure, he enjoys salsa dancing and  watching National Geographic documentaries.

Patrick Brewick Patrick Brewick earned his B.S. in Civil Engineering from the  University of Notre Dame in 2009 and his Ph.D. from the  Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at  Columbia University in 2014.  Dr. Brewick's research interests  focus on addressing the problems facing our aging  infrastructure and improving the state-of-the-art in structural health monitoring by developing new system identification methods and advancing our understanding of the mechanics that govern load-structure interactions.  Dr. Brewick recently joined the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Southern California as Viterbi Postdoctoral Fellow.  In addition to his focus on system identification methods, and Dr. Brewick has been collaborating with faculty at USC on seeking new ways to utilize sensor data and measurements towards improved structural modeling and parameter estimation for both linear and nonlinear systems.

Bridget Martinez Bridget Martinez Bridget is currently completing her doctorate  degree in the field of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the  University of California's Quantitative and Systems Biology  Program in Merced. As a comparative physiologist, Bridget's  research focuses on expanding our knowledge of the evolution  of endocrine systems in prolonged fasting-adapted mammals. Bridget is a published author in the Journal of Experimental Biology with results from her studies, which have impactful biomedical implications. Her academic and research training includes extended experiences from all around the world.  In 2009, Bridget received the Benjamin Gilman Scholarship enabling her to participate in a yearlong study abroad opportunity and attend the American University in Cairo, Egypt where Bridget volunteered and taught Sudanese refugees the English language and mastered the Arabic language. In the spring of 2011, Bridget attended Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, Republic of Korea, where she joined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology to conduct research in the field of Cancer biology. During the 2012 and 2013 summers, Bridget participated in collaborative research efforts in the field of pharmacology as a Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program Fellow (MHIRT) at Kagawa Medical University, in Japan. In 2014, Bridget received a University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS) research grant enabling her to conduct her research at Sonora University for the summer while simultaneously supporting, strengthening, and fostering productive collaborations with colleagues in Mexico and increasing the visibility of positive Mexican and US relationships. Bridget is funded by Horatio Alger Association and the Dennis R. Washington Achievement Pre-Doctoral Scholarship.

Non-line-of-sight Wireless Communications in Denied and/or Jammed Environments

Project Description

It is oftentimes desirable to realize non-line of sight communications in environments that are experiencing high electromagnetic and acoustic interference. This is important because there is currently interest in enabling cooperative unmanned aviation system operations in environments that do not allow high-bandwidth communication with current technology and also feature communication disruptions. In this project we would like to develop concepts for a new capability that would allow wireless, non-line-of-sight communications in environments that are experiencing heavy electromagnetic and acoustic interference. Solutions to this problem could come in the form of novel signal-processing/ receiver/transmitter techniques, protocols, data encodings, as well as novel physical solutions for communications.

Project TeamBlake Lance, Jared Hobeck, June Zhang, Mohammed Aly

Blake Lance Blake Lance is currently a Graduate Research Assistant in the  Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department at Utah State  University.  His experience has been focused on experiments in  fluid mechanics and heat transfer with a specialization in  Particle Image Velocimetry.  He has worked on a variety of  projects including transient convection on a vertical heated plate, oscillating channel flow, and open channel fluid measurements.

Jared Hobeck Jared Hobeck received a B.S. degree in general engineering from  Montana Tech at the University of Montana in 2008, an M. Eng.  degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic  Institute and State University in 2012, and a Ph.D. degree in  aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan in 2014  where he is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow.  From 2009 to 2011 he was a Graduate Research Assistant in the Center for Intelligent Materials Systems and Structures and in the Center for Energy Harvesting Systems. Since 2007 he has performed research in multiple academic, private, and government labs.  His research interests include linear and nonlinear structural dynamics, energy harvesting technologies, smart materials, flow-induced vibration, and composite structures.  Dr. Hobeck’s honors and awards include being an invited speaker at the United States Naval Research Laboratory in 2014, he received the Best Paper Award and was Best Hardware finalist at the ASME SMASIS Conference in 2011, he is a member of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, and received the Outstanding Student of the Year Award for the general engineering department at Montana Tech in 2008.

June Zhang June Zhang received her B.S. with Highest Honor in Electrical and  Computer Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology  in 2005 and a M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from  Stanford University in 2008. She is currently a Ph.D. student in  Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon  University.  She was a recipient of the Georgia Hope Scholarship and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She was a finalist in the 2014 CMU 3-Minute Thesis competition and the recipient of the Microsoft Azure Research grant in 2015. Her research interests are complex networks, network science, human-computer interaction, stochastic processes, and graph theory. She is particularly fond of koalas and hopes to apply her knowledge to help in their study and preservation in the future.

Mohamed Aly Dr. Eng: Mohamed Ezzat El Hadedy Aly is Research Associate at  the Department of Computer Science at the University of  Virginia, with an interest in contributing to the application of  reconfigurable computing devices for computational  acceleration. His current research is to implement various  algorithms such as encryption and signal processing algorithms on different FPGA platforms, studying the tradeoff between the performances, area, and power. He received the PhD Degree in computer engineering from the telematics department, Faculty of information Technology, Mathematics and Electrical Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) - Norway in 2012.

In-situ Characterization of 3D Melt Pool Characteristics to Enable Qualified-as-Built Parts During Additive Manufacturing

Project Description

In-situ Characterization of the 3D temperature, phase, and shape characteristics of a melt-pool to enable qualified-as-built parts during additive manufacturing.

Project Team:  Robert Zedric, Amy Mensch, and Adam Wachtor

Robert Zedric Robert Zedric is a graduate student at Texas A&M University,  where he is studying nuclear engineering with a focus on  nuclear nonproliferation.  He is pursuing a PhD under  appointment by the Nuclear Nonproliferation and International  Safeguards (NNIS)Graduate Fellowship Program, which is  sponsored by the South Carolina Universities Research and Education Foundation (SCUREF).  His research focuses on improving safeguards of spent nuclear fuel through non-destructive assay (NDA) techniques. Robert holds a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.  He is licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate the Aerojet General Nucleonics (AGN) nuclear reactor at Texas A&M.  In his free time, he enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and sailing.

Amy Mensch Amy Mensch is a doctoral student in the Mechanical and Nuclear  Engineering Department at the Pennsylvania State University  with plans to graduate in May 2015.  Ms. Mensch received her  master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Penn State in  2009.  After receiving her master’s degree and prior to starting  her doctoral degree, she performed research in the Fire Research Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology where she evaluated the thermal performance of fire fighting respirator masks.  Her doctoral research has focused on developing a method to simulate the conjugate heat transfer and cooling relevant to gas turbine airfoils.  Ms. Mensch served two years as one of the three founding officers of the Student Advisory Council of the ASME’s International Gas Turbine Institute.  In the fall of 2014, Penn State awarded Ms. Mensch the College of Engineering Distinguished Teaching Fellowship, which involved teaching a required junior level applied math course. 

Adam Wachtor Adam J. Wachtor graduated with honors from University of  Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Engineering Physics  with an emphasis in Fluid Mechanics.  He then attended  Chalmers University of Technology as a Master’s student in  Computational and Experimental Turbulence.  It was the thesis  research for his Master’s degree that first brought Adam to Los  Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  During his initial year at LANL, he adapted the use of the Proper Orthogonal Decomposition to the studies of transition to turbulence and variable density turbulence.  Adam completed his Ph.D. work at the University of California, Irvine, while conducting research as a Graduate Research Associate at LANL on the numerical simulation of turbulent mixing.  During his Ph.D. career, Adam was also a visiting Graduate Student Researcher at the Université de Poitiers, a Henry Samueli Endowed Fellow, and U.S. Department of Education GAANN Fellow.  Adam is currently a Postdoc at LANL, where his research interests include experimental investigations of buoyancy driven mixing due to voluemetric energy deposition and numerical simulations of shock-structure interaction.

Non-destructive, Below-ground, Field Characterization of the Topology, Architecture, and Mass of Crop Root Systems

Project Description

Economical production of the large amounts of biomass needed to displace petroleum will require significant productivity and efficiency improvements from the agricultural sector, which is also responsible for human and animal nutrition. In 2014, the United Nations warned that world agriculture must increase its output 60% by 2050 (1.6% per year, on average) to support global population growth and economic development.2 Meanwhile, Hall and Richards report that the annual genetic gain for the main cereal crops best varieties and hybrids falls well below 1.16–1.31% per year and are not able to satisfy projected growing demand.3 Consequently, the realization of commercially viable agriculture for energy purposes requires unprecedented increases in productivity and resource use efficiency. (ARPA-E)
The goal of this project is to help work toward the goal of increasing crop yield by developing a capability for rapidly and noninvasively measuring the mass, topology and architecture of root systems below ground and in the field. Current root characterization practice involves the use of soft-x-rays on plants in purpose-made containers, Rhizotron techniques only provide information at the window barrier, wash and scan methods require uprooting the plant, current computed tomography techniques are only suitable for laboratory environments, require the collection of core samples, are very slow, and are limited by the volume of the measurement system. Litterbag techniques are also used to characterize root mass, but they may alter the mass properties due to changes in decomposition dynamics.

Project Team:  Dan Shields, Jack Wadden, and Precious Cantu

Daniel Shields As a Ph.D. candidate in physics, Dan Shields has a deep curiosity  about how and why the world around him functions at the most  fundamental level that has only intensified as he relates the  answers to these questions to solve universal issues. He chose  to study applied physics Colorado School of Mines to  understand how science could be employed to solve critical problems relating to global security, clean energy, and sustainability. His thesis research centers on nuclear fission at the Los Alamos National Laboratory with the long-term professional goal of bringing about a safe, economical, and efficient future for nuclear applications. With a strong history as a teaching assistant and technical presenter, he is also invested in sharing that information to others effectively and instilling his passion in them. As the end of his graduate career approaches, he has an expanded interest to use his skills and expertise to explore solutions for a broader class of problems. Dan is an avid outdoor enthusiast as a member of the Los Alamos Mountaineers and a volunteer on the Pajarito Ski Patrol. He also enjoys delving into the culinary and musical arts as an avid chef, aspiring gardener, and guitarist. A selection of professional work is available: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwshields . Dan can best be reached at dshields@lanl.gov.

Jack Wadden Jack Wadden is a graduate student at the University of Virginia  studying heterogeneous and reconfigurable computer  architectures. He received his BA in computer science from  Williams College and went directly to graduate school at UVa.  His master's thesis focused on software solutions to GPU  hardware reliability in the context of HPC and supercomputing  systems and he is currently pursuing a PhD in programmability of heterogeneous and reconfigurable systems-on-chip. In his spare time, Jack enjoys cooking, golfing, swimming, and laughing.

Precious Cantu Precious Cantu is originally from Houston, TX. She received her  B.S. from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge where with  the support of the Ronald McNair Scholars program she studied  optics and nanotechnology. After completion of her B.S. she was  awarded several doctoral fellowships in 2011 including the  National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship  (GRFP), the Graduate Training Program in Nanotechnology at the University of Utah, and the GEM Fellowship. Currently she is a 4th year PhD candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the LONS laboratory under the direction of Prof. Rajesh Menon. Her research focuses on extending the spatial resolution of optics to the nanoscale.

Signature Presentations

  • William Junor - Applications of RF to National Security Interests
  • David Clark - Proposal Writing
  • Thomas Lienert - Metallurgy of Additive Manufacturing
  • Lakshman Prasa - Multiscale Image Decomposition and Analysis of Shapes
  • Richard Sayre - Making Next Generation Biofuel Systems Work
  • Bill Priedhorsky - Proposal Writing, Living in Northern New Mexico
  • Michael Kane - ARPA-E Perspective on Writing Proposals
  • Phil Cornwell - Giving Presentations and Preparing Lectures
  • Tarasankar DebRoy - Modeling Additive Manufacturing/Welding
  • Kathleen McDonald - Tech Transfer
  • Albert Migliori - Acoustic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Mark Bourke - Neutron Radiography: Opportunities and Examples
  • Momchilo Vuyisich - International Collaborations
  • Pei Zhang - Air, Land, and Body-bourne Sensors: Knowledge Discovery Through Ambient Inferencing
  • David Mascarenas - Design Thinking
  • Todd Murphey - High Performance Control Using Low Performance Infrastructure, Excellence in Instructions as Proof of Excellence in Research
  • Kent Kiehl - Mobile Brain Imaging and Psychopathy
  • Danielle Tullman-Ercek - Molecular Biology and Recent Breakthroughs in Bacterial Expression at UC
  • Paul Welch - Machine Learning Over Simulation Data
  • Mike Todd - Faculty Life at a Research University: What to Expect and How to Survive
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