Research Areas

The Penn State College of Engineering is one of the largest engineering research institutions in the world. If there’s an area you want to explore, chances are Penn State Engineering faculty are investigating it.

Here are some key research areas, by department:


Program Chair: Victor W. Sparrow, professor of acoustics

Research areas include adaptive signal processing, aeroacoustics, architectural acoustics, atmospheric acoustics, computational acoustics, intensity sensors, noise control, nondestructive evaluation, nonlinear acoustics, ocean acoustics, physical acoustics, signal processing, sonar engineering, structural acoustics, transducers, ultrasonics, underwater acoustics, thermoacoustics, and sound quality. More

Aerospace Engineering

Department Head: Amy Pritchett, Professor of Aerospace Engineering

Research areas include astrodynamics; analytical, computational, and experimental fluid dynamics and aeroacoustics; flight science and vehicle dynamics; rotorcraft; structures, structural dynamics, and adaptive structures; space propulsion, and turbomachinery.

Research facilities include subsonic and supersonic wind tunnels, a laminar flow water channel, an anechoic hot jet noise facility, a supersonic shear layer facility, massively parallel computer systems, a rotor test stand, flight simulation facilities, an advanced composites laboratory, a vibration control laboratory, an electric propulsion test stand, and turbomachinery compressors and turbines. More

Agricultural and Biological Engineering (College of Agricultural Sciences)

Department Head: Paul Heinemann, professor of agricultural and biological engineering

Programs are available in food engineering, soil and water resource management and conservation, properties of biological materials, environmental control, expert systems, particulate materials, agricultural structures, systems engineering, machinery systems, safety engineering, horticultural engineering, microclimate modifications, and wood engineering.

Facilities include modern laboratories for food engineering, geographic information systems, controlled environmental studies, water quality, electronics instrumentation, waste management, hydraulic power and engines, physical properties of biological materials, structural component testing, computer vision, and machine research and design. More

Architectural Engineering

Department Head: Sez Atamturktur, Harry and Arlene Schell Professor of Architectural Engineering.

Graduate studies and research encompass four main subject areas:

  • Construction: process modeling, lean construction, specialty contracting, productivity improvement, project delivery methods.
  • Illumination Systems: modeling and visualization, daylighting, optical design, photometry, human factor issues.
  • Mechanical and Energy Systems: CFD modeling, district energy, thermal storage, indoor air quality, EMCS/real-time tools, system modeling/optimization, decoupled sensible and latent cooling, emerging technologies.
  • Building Structural Systems: advancement of analysis and design methods, optimization, seismic evaluation, structural control, natural hazard resistance and serviceability of building envelope systems, housing, historic preservation, cable and membrane structures.


Biomedical Engineering

Department Head: Cheng Dong, professor of biomedical engineering

A multidisciplinary program with core departmental faculty and associate faculty members in other departments with studies on artificial organs, biomaterials, blood rheology, cell mechanics, hemodynamics, medical imaging, microvascular function, molecular mechanics, neuroeletrophysiology, physiological transport, pulmonary function, ultrasound imaging and transducer engineering, and ultrasound therapeutics. More

Chemical Engineering

Department Head: Phillip Savage, Walter L. Robb Chair and Professor of Chemical Engineering

Research areas encompass:

  • Biomolecular Engineering: separations of biomolecules, sensing, informatics, bioreactors, protein and metabolic engineering.
  • Nanoscale Engineering: nanoscale reaction and reactor engineering, catalytic membranes, nanoscale tribology, and nanowire probes.
  • Computation Engineering: molecular dynamics at the nanoscale, multiphase fluid dynamics, complex polymeric solids and multi-length scale modeling.
  • Classical Chemical Engineering: polymers, mass transfer, catalysis, fluids, control optimization.


Civil Engineering

Department Head: Patrick Fox, professor of civil engineering

Emphases include civil and building construction, project management, civil engineering materials (geotechnical engineering, Portland cement and asphalt concrete, pavement design), water resources (watershed models, groundwater modeling, systems analysis, hydraulics of open channels), structures (earthquake, blast, abnormal loadings; bridges, buildings, and the building enclosure; off-shore structures, structural control, reliability, and rehabilitation), and transportation (traffic engineering, transportation planning, facilities design, network optimization algorithms, and intelligent transportation systems). More

Computer Science and Engineering

Department Head: Chita Das, distinguished professor of computer science and engineering

Focus areas include bioinformatics, data mining, computer architecture, digital system design, embedded processors, fault-tolerant computing, interconnection networks, parallel processing, performance evaluation, VLSI design, database systems, distributed computing, global information, sharing, programming language design, semantics and implementation, software engineering, computer networks, data communications, computer vision, document image analysis, machine learning algorithms, pattern recognition, algorithmic design, computational complexity, numerical computing, scientific visualization, and computational molecular biology. More

Electrical Engineering

Department Head: Kultegin Aydin, professor of electrical engineering

Research areas include antennas, propagation, microwaves, computational electromagnetics, radar and lidar remote sensing, radiometry, in situ and remote sensing of the ionosphere; digital communications, networking, optical networks, wireless networks, image and signal processing, multidimensional signals, signal recognition, reconstruction, neural networks; nonlinear optics, fibers, optical storage, computing; silicon, III-V, organic, wide bandgap semiconductors and devices, MEMS, ceramic, ferroelectric, and quantum devices, processing techniques; linear systems, active vision, control systems; power system planning and control, drive systems, power electronics. More

Engineering Design

Program Director: Matthew Parkinson, associate professor of engineering design and mechanical engineering

Graduate students focus their studies in one of three focus areas:

  • Engineering Product Design
  • Systems Design
  • Data-Driven Design

Potential research topics in these focus areas include design automation and optimization, design for additive manufacturing, design for human variability, design theory and methodology, engineering design pedagogy, systems engineering, design decision-making, product architecture and families, design of complex systems, design for the developing world, design of sustainable products and systems, product-service systems design, simulation-based design under uncertainty, design cognition, design innovation, human-centered design, value-driven design, decision-based design, multidisciplinary design optimization, and data-driven design. More

Engineering Science and Mechanics

Department Head: Judith Todd, P.B. Breneman Department Head Chair and professor of engineering science and mechanics

Research emphases include optical, electronic, and/or mechanical material properties and their role in design; advanced materials fabrication and processing including nano-scale; simulation of behaviors and processing.

Specific research areas include composite materials; rheological and biological materials; continuum mechanics; powdered materials; fatigue and fracture mechanics; failure analysis; micromechanics; surface engineering including wear/tribology; CVD and ion implantation; microelectronic materials and devices; ESR; thin films; solid-state devices; display materials and devices; nanofabrication; nanobiotechnology; biomaterials; microfluidics, diamond films; self-lubricating coatings and cold-spray coating methods; nondestructive evaluation; sensors and actuators; MEMS, adaptive control; smart materials; wave-material interactions including lasers; ultrasonics, structural dynamics; chaos, acoustics; boundary and finite elements; condition monitoring; and artificial intelligence.

Facilities are available for SEM, SAM, AFM, X-ray, clean rooms, metallography, shock and vibration, tribology, lasers, and fracture/fatigue. More

Environmental Engineering

Department Head: Patrick Fox, professor of civil engineering

Research areas include water and wastewater treatment processes, aquatic chemistry and microbiology, solid and hazardous waste treatment, industrial pollution prevention and waste minimization, air pollution treatment and control, water resource systems, and soil bioremediation. More

Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

Department Head: Janice Terpenny, Peter and Angela Dal Pezzo Department Head

Focus areas include:

  • Human Factors: ergonomics engineering, human/machine interface design, safety.
  • Manufacturing Systems: metal cutting, theory, plastic deformation and welding processes, group technology, design of production systems, CAPP, engineering for production, automation, robotics, control, micro-machining, CAD/CAM, flexible manufacturing systems, machine tool sensing and diagnostics, tolerancing.
  • Operations Research: applied stochastic processes, decision analysis, mathematical programming, graph theory and networks, engineering economy, artificial intelligence, expert systems.
  • Systems Design: quality assurance, reliability, experimental design, and systems simulation techniques.


Mechanical Engineering

Department Head: Karen Thole, professor of mechanical engineering

Major fields of specialization include acoustics, automatic control, biomechanics, compressible and incompressible flow, computational fluid dynamics, batteries and energy storage, biomedical devices, transport phenomena in fuel cells, combustion and flame kinetics, dynamics of machines, turbulence measurements and simulations, simulation and modeling, power generation, vehicle dynamics, mechatronics, heat and mass transfer, design analysis, precision manufacturing, simulation of mechanical systems, robotics, smart materials, structural dynamics, vibrations and control, and tribology.

Departmental facilities include wind tunnels, laser and advanced diagnostics for combustion, battery manufacturing and synthesis, electroactive material characterization, electrochemical engines, control and mechatronics, vibrations, robotics, computational clusters, and computer-based data acquisition. More

Nuclear Engineering

Program Chair: Arthur Motta, professor and chair of nuclear engineering

Graduate studies and research focus on:

  • Reactor Safety: advanced reactor design, thermal-hydraulic modeling, transient analysis, accident analysis.
  • Reactor Theory: computational methods, transport theory.
  • Reactor Control: advanced control methods, use of artificial intelligence.
  • Reactor Operations: fuel management, radiation instrumentation, radiation monitoring and dosimetry.
  • Materials Research: radiation effects, plant-life extension issues, hyperfine probes for defects in solids.
  • Radiation Applications: neutron radiography.

Facilities include a 1-MW TRIGA reactor, hot cells, a thermal-hydraulic test facility, and gamma irradiation, neutron radiography, neutron activation analysis, reactor simulation, nuclear materials engineering, and low-level radiation monitoring laboratories. More