NSF CAREER Award Goes to Taha

Haithem TahaFeb. 14, 2019 - Haithem Taha, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has won a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award. Among the NSF’s most prestigious, the CAREER award supports early career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education.

Taha will receive $500,000 over five years from the NSF Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI), which supports the integration of research and education.

Taha’s project focuses on understanding the fundamental aspects and mechanisms of the dynamic interaction between the wing-body and fluid dynamics during flight. While existing research over the past two decades has resulted in a near consensus that an insect hovering over a flower is unstable (requiring feedback control to stabilize its hovering flight), recent research in Taha's lab contradicts that theory. His more rigorous mathematical modeling and analysis of insect flight dynamics reveals a hidden stabilization mechanism that insects unconsciously exploit during flight. The natural oscillations of their wings (inevitably needed for keeping the insect aloft) provide flight stability without feedback via a phenomenon called vibrational stabilization.

Taha’s research will boost the design capabilities of micro air vehicles and other drones, which have great potential for use in search and rescue missions, reconnaissance missions, filming, border monitoring, emergency response, etc. The multidisciplinary project bridges the gap between mathematics, physics, engineering and biomechanics.

“I'm truly honored by this award, which is judged by experts in the community,” said Taha. “We, as young faculty, face extreme challenges in the early period of our career; it is very natural to feel lost or to question your competence. This award with the commending statements by the expert reviewers tells you that you are on the right track and really pays off a tireless period of hard work.”

– Lori Brandt