Strategic Plan

Five-Year Strategic Research and Hiring Opportunities (FY2022-2027)

Objective: To identify potential opportunities and directions over the next five years (FY2022-2027) that are aligned with the strategic goals of the department, the College of Engineering, and Iowa State University, as well as state and national priorities from industry and government that are likely to generate research funding opportunities that will have a positive long-term impact on the lives and well-being of the people of Iowa, the U.S. and the world.

Developed by: The Mechanical Engineering Strategic Research Planning Committee—Xianglan Bai (committee chair), Shan Hu, Reza Montazami, Soumik Sarkar, and Ethan Secor—with feedback from department faculty in each research area.

Cyber-Physical Systems & Artificial Intelligence

With a focus on machine learning and XR (extended, virtual, augmented and mixed reality) with applications in energy systems, design and manufacturing, agriculture, autonomy and robotics. Justification: Numerous funding opportunities including NSF, NIH, NIST, USDA, DoT, DoD, DARPA, ARPA-E, I-ARPA, FAA, DOE, and industry partners (e.g., John Deere, the Boeing Company). Significant growth opportunities have been created by the National AI Initiative Act, and ISU is in an excellent strategic position to become nationally recognized in this area with the recent NSF award and establishment of the Translational AI Center (TRAC). Additionally, the Mechanical Engineering department has a leading role in the new CPS minor (possibly a major in the near future). XR has long been a strength of the ME department, especially the relationship to the Virtual Reality Applications Center.

Energy & Sustainability

With a focus on energy storage, low-energy technology, energy-efficient systems, low-carbon fuels, energy system modeling, health monitoring for distributed energy and hybrid propulsion systems, and with Environmental Sustainability focus on carbon sequestration, carbon neutral technologies, renewable electricity-based technologies, repurposing/recycling of materials, reducing the energy and material consumption of critical manufacturing processes, the design, modeling, fabrication, and manufacturing of sustainable engineering systems and reducing land impact of agriculture. Justification: With increasing climate change related challenges in the world, it is anticipated that demand for technological solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts will keep growing. There are already significant funding opportunities from NSF, DOE, USDA, NASA for the research areas.


With a focus on biomaterials, biomanufacturing (bioprinting, and soft materials), bioinstrumentation, bio-inspired materials and systems, prosthetics design and biomedical devices. Justification: Aligned with the National Academy grand challenge on engineered medicines as well as the new college of engineering biomedical engineering program. There are significant funding opportunities through NSF, NIH, DOD, DOE and NASA. Our department’s strong computational science capability can lead to a significant growth.


With a focus on hypersonic propulsion, UAV propulsion systems, propulsion/ energetics, multiphase interactions, theoretical kinetics, experimental thermofluids, biological spray modeling, droplet surface interaction, rheology, and computational modeling for extreme conditions such as hypersonic propulsion. Justification: Increased funding opportunities as evidenced by multiple MURI calls from DOD and large DARPA efforts. Centers such as CoMFRE and TRAC position Iowa State and Mechanical Engineering to compete for these opportunities with a high chance of success. The addition of more experimentalists may benefit the department.

Advanced Manufacturing

With an emphasis on materials (including nanomaterials), design, 3D printing, remanufacturing waste into useful products.