College of Engineering

UTSA researcher to play key role in $7.5 million project

KC Gonzalez
Public Affairs Specialist

(Aug. 19, 2013) –University of Texas at San Antonio researcher and assistant professor of mechanical engineering John Foster will play an important part in a $7.5 million Department of Defense contract to advance the understanding and use of a relatively new mathematical modeling theory called peridynamics, which allows scientists to more accurately predict material failure.

Foster is one of approximately two dozen people in the world who specialize in peridynamics.

The five-year project will contribute to the advancement of a modeling and predictive simulation framework that will allow the technical community to better understand how heterogeneous materials behave under stress. This could allow for significant improvements in the safety and cost of materials that make up everything from airplanes and cars as well as assisting in energy production technology such as hydraulic fracturing. The project is part of the federal government’s highly competitive Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI).

The MURI program supports research by teams of investigators that intersect several traditional science and engineering disciplines in order to accelerate research progress. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) granted seven awards, totaling $67.5 million, to various academic institutions to perform multidisciplinary basic research.

“As UTSA continues toward a goal of becoming a top tier research university, it is programs like the MURI that give us the proverbial seat at the table,” said Foster. “The opportunity to attend and present at national program reviews with the high-profile visibility of a MURI and where other top tier researchers are in attendance will only enhance the reputation of UTSA as a serious place for research. Hopefully, our success with this program will lead to similar opportunities in the future.”

Foster will collaborate with researchers at the University of Arizona, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Pennsylvania State University and Arizona State University.

As a partner, UTSA will receive $959,153 over the next five years for direct research. The grant will provide additional support for travel, student collaboration and workshop organization.

Including the MURI grant, Foster has been awarded nearly $2 million in research grants since he joined UTSA in Fall 2011. Currently, he is also collaborating with researchers at the University of Texas at Austin to study hydraulic fracture modeling and with researchers at Johns Hopkins University on building materials that can withstand extreme environments. Additionally, he works with researchers at Sandia National Laboratories on meso-scale modeling of granular materials and on the continuous development of a massively parallel open source peridynamics simulation code.

He has authored more than 25 published articles, conference proceedings and technical reports and has presented his work at more than a dozen conferences and meetings. In January 2013, he was honored with the prestigious AFOSR Young Investigator Award. He is also a core faculty member of the UTSA Center for Simulation, Visualization and Real-Time Prediction.

Foster earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Texas Tech University and received his PhD at Purdue University. Prior to joining UTSA, Foster held an adjunct professorship in mechanical engineering at the University of New Mexico and served as a senior member of the technical staff of the Terminal Ballistics Technology Department of Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M.