Sep 28, 2022
nkur Mehta, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, has received a prestigious Young Faculty Award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a research and development agency of the United States Department of Defense.
The two-year, $500,000 grant will support Mehta’s research into control devices that are free of silicon components and can be produced with simple manufacturing processes using readily available raw materials. The project may be eligible for an additional $500,000 in funding following the initial grant.
The concept is based in part on the research thesis, “printable mechanical autonomy,” by Mehta’s doctoral student Wenzhong Yan. It explores design and fabrication strategies to embed intelligence using origami-like, folding-based manufacturing processes. Mehta’s research team aims to develop a roadmap for building mechanical “transistors” that could help make critical infrastructure — such as power plants or water projects — less vulnerable to electronic cyberattacks or disruptions in the supply chain.
DARPA’s Young Faculty Award program recognizes rising research stars at U.S. academic institutions and provides funding, mentoring and industry contacts to awardees early in their careers so they can develop their research to meet national security needs. The program aims to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers in the research community who will focus a significant portion of their future careers on defense and national security issues.
Mehta also holds a faculty appointment in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. This is his second major early career honor. In 2018, he received a National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award for research that explores democratizing robotics — making robots available to everyone, everywhere. He joined the UCLA faculty in 2015 and directs the Laboratory for Embedded Machines and Ubiquitous Robots (LEMUR), which focuses on developing printable robotics, rapid design and fabrication, controls algorithms and wireless sensor networks.