Faculty appointments in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Jacqueline Thomas, Perry Johnson and Alexandra Voloshina

In the midst of the unprecedented challenges that our department and university face every day, we are delighted to welcome six new faculty colleagues to our department this fall, three tenure-track and three adjunct. This addition to our faculty represents an extraordinary influx of new talent into our vibrant and internationally renowned program.

Jacqueline Thomas earned a double bachelor’s degree in aerospace and mechanical engineering from the University of California, Irvine, where she was also the manager of the Human Powered Airplane team. She earned her master’s degree and doctorate in aerospace engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During this time, she received an Amelia Earhart Fellowship and worked for the MIT International Center for Air Transportation, where she conducted research in systems level aircraft performance, flight procedure design and environmental sustainability in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and industry. To this end, she collaborated with Boeing to demonstrate one of her procedure concepts on the Boeing ecoDemonstrator. In addition, she was a composite manufacturing teaching assistant for the MIT AeroAstro senior aircraft design classes and was involved in the design and build of an electric distributed propulsion UAV, a five-day long endurance UAV, and a water landing UAV. Her current research interests are in assessing the emissions and noise reduction possibilities for existing and future aircraft technologies, such as electric propulsion, and examining how existing and future technologies may be modified or applied to aircraft to improve airport operations.

Perry Johnson cut his teeth in fluid dynamics research as an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida (UCF) conducting wind tunnel tests of cooling flows for enhancing the efficiency of gas turbine engines, but he quickly found his way into the world of computational fluid dynamics. His research on turbulence-resolving computer simulations of gas turbine cooling flows formed the basis for two internships at NASA Glenn Research Center and won an Outstanding Thesis award at UCF, as well as a Best Student Paper award at an AIAA conference. He completed a master’s degree while working at Siemens Energy, where he developed computational tools for addressing deleterious thermoacoustic instabilities in gas turbine combustion chambers. As a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, Johnson's doctoral research at Johns Hopkins University on fundamental questions in small-scale turbulence dynamics won him the Corrsin-Kovasznay Outstanding Paper award. He joined the Center for Turbulence Research at Stanford University as a postdoc upon completion of his doctorate. His postdoctoral work included developing simulations techniques for particle-laden turbulent flows in particle-based solar receivers, exploring turbulent bubble breakup beneath breaking ocean waves, and elucidating fundamental aspects of the turbulent energy cascade and turbulent boundary layers. Johnson continues to be interested in using theory and computer simulations for both understanding fundamental aspects of turbulence physics as well as advancing predictive tools for a wide range of applications. At UCI, he looks forward to teaching courses on fluid dynamics and turbulent flows.

Alexandra (Sasha) Voloshina earned her bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan. Also, at the University of Michigan, she completed master's degrees in mechanical engineering and kinesiology, and received her interdisciplinary doctorate in mechanical engineering and kinesiology. During this time, she was a Rackham Merit Fellow with her work focusing on understanding human gait performance on uneven surfaces through empirical and numerical methods. She then joined the Technical University of Darmstadt for her postdoctoral research, where she worked with collaborators in academia and industry to evaluate how changes in prosthetic devices affect walking on rough surfaces in people with lower-limb amputation. Voloshina then performed postdoctoral work at Stanford on developing assistive robotic devices, such as exoskeletons and prostheses, for individuals with impaired mobility. Her current research interests include identifying the biomechanical limitations of people with motor impairment, developing individualized training regimens with robotic devices, and designing assistive devices that more effectively interact with the user and environment.

Nina Robson, Lawrence Kulinsky and Mircea Gradu

In addition, the appointment of three adjunct professors will further enrich our research and curricular activities:

Nina Robson is an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Cal State FullertonShe has extensive experience in the areas of mechanical systems design, robotics, biomechanics and developing technologies to aid people with disabilities. She has obtained master’s degrees in electronics and automation engineering (1994) and in robotics and flexible manufacturing systems (1996) from the Technical University of Sofia. She also completed a third master’s degree in mechanical and aeronautical engineering from the University of California, Davis (2001) and a doctorate in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of California, Irvine in 2008. Robson's current research interest is in human motion planning with reduced mobility with the goal of developing novel technologies to facilitate the recovery of patients with neurological disorders.

Lawrence Kulinsky is a project scientist in MAE.  He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in materials science and engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.  The focus of his research lies in the areas of electrokinetic microassembly, fabrication of personalized biotechnology platforms, and additive manufacturing of novel cellular structures. He has been active in the field of micromanufacturing for many years, organized and chaired the International Conference on Micromanufacturing (ICOMM 2016), and presently serves as a Scientific Chair of the International Institution for MicroManufacturing (I2M2).  Kulinsky is the inventor of the guided electrokinetic microassembly technology for placement of micro- and nano- components onto specific areas of microelectrodes.

Mircea Gradu is senior vice president of product and quality at Velodyne Lidar, where he is responsible for the development and manufacturing of world-class products compliant with international quality standards and satisfying customer needs. He brings over 25 years of experience in the automotive and commercial vehicle industry, which includes deep technical knowledge of design, development, manufacturing, safety and cybersecurity. Gradu holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Stuttgart. He has been awarded 56 patents on mechatronic automotive systems and was the 2018 President of SAE International.