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Mechanics of materials

The Mechanics of Materials group at UW-Madison combines the study of mechanics (the study of forces, stresses, deformation and motion as applied to engineering structures) and materials science (the study of material development, fabrication, chemical composition, microstructure and properties) to study a wide variety of engineering problems. We merge these disciplines to dramatically enhance our capability both to understand and characterize existing materials and to invent exceptional new materials. The Mechanics of Materials group comprises faculty members in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, as well as four within the Department of Engineering Physics.


Materials with extreme and unique properties

Professor Thevamaran’s laboratory focuses on advancing the fundamental knowledge of process-structure-property-function relations in structured materials and creating innovative structured materials with extreme mechanical properties. He studies a variety of advanced materials from hierarchical carbon nanotube foams and gradient-nano-grained metals to non-Hermitian metamaterials.

In Professor Lakes‘ laboratory, he and his students synthesize and characterize novel materials for engineering applications. Materials that undergo phase transformation are of interest in the context of viscoelastic damping and of negative stiffness. They have developed new materials with reversed properties, including negative Poisson’s ratio, negative stiffness, and negative thermal expansion. Designed materials can have thermal expansion or piezoelectric sensitivity of arbitrarily large magnitude. Professor Lakes and his students have demonstrated, in the lab, composite materials stiffer than diamond over a temperature range.


Professor Crone studies biomechanics at the cellular and multicellular scales. Her lab has developed a platform that allows the production of a range of micropatterns on substrates of varying stiffness to study cardiomyocytes (CMs) and skeletal muscle cells differentiated from stem cells. In contrast to standard two-dimensional culture systems where cells form cell-cell junctions in all directions, they have shown that immature CM cells patterned in interconnected lanes repeatability form extremely polarized structures which produce synchronous contraction, increased nuclear alignment, and highly enhanced sarcomere organization. In recent research exploring the co-culture of CMs with cardiac fibroblasts, they have shown aligned extracellular matrix remodeling and enhanced cardiomyocyte functionality. This platform is highly adaptable and is relevant to fundamental cardiomyocyte research, drug discovery, and toxicity testing.

Professor Notbohm studies mechanics of fibrous materials, cell-matrix interactions, and collective cell migration. His lab’s research focuses on mechanics, in particular, relating force to deformation or motion. Applications of the research are in human health, including wound healing, tissue engineering, and progression of fibrotic diseases, most notably cancer. There are also traditional engineering applications of this research, as fibrous materials are lightweight and thought to have desirable properties such as resistance to fracture.