NSF Grants Prestigious CAREER Award to Professor Timothy Rupert

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has recognized Timothy Rupert with a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. Rupert is an assistant professor in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering’s Departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

An award of $537,053 over five years will support Rupert’s research involving the grain boundary network of nanocrystalline metals. Nanocrystalline metals are metallic materials (steel, nickel, copper) made of tiny crystals packed closely together -- orderly arrays of atoms forming a perfectly repeating pattern. At the nano scale, the grain boundaries between crystals begin to control the properties of the material. Rupert is investigating how these boundaries fit together and connect, and then he plans to explore ways to alter the boundary network, with the goal of improving the properties of the material.

“The hope is to develop new structural materials that are tougher,” says Rupert. “Down the line, these new materials could replace steel, for example, so that when building a bridge or a skyscraper, we might need less material, resulting in a lighter structure.”

The CAREER award is one of the National Science Foundation's most respected grants. It is given to support early career-development activities of teacher-scholars who effectively integrate research and education into their organizations.

Rupert has been conducting research on nanocrystalline materials for 7 years, since he was an undergraduate. He’s encouraged by the NSF’s support. “It’s nice to know they think I have a good idea,” said Rupert, “and great to know that I will be able to support my team of grad students and research assistants.”

Rupert earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Johns Hopkins University and his doctoral degree in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the faculty at the Samueli School in 2011.