Ounaies receives prestigious NSF CAREER Award for nanocomposites research
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Dr. Zoubeida Ounaies, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University, has received the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) for her research in smart polymer nanocomposites. The CAREER award will grant Ounaies $400,000 through 2012 to advance her research and integrate new teaching policies as her work advances. Ounaies will further her research on electric field-responsive polymer nanocomposites by advancing the fundamental knowledge and technological impact of structural materials with multiple functionalities. Insights from this research are a step towards the development of "engineered materials" with specially designed properties, she said. Through this research, Ounaies said she plans to enhance her contributions to the aerospace engineering department and the interdisciplinary program in Materials Science and Engineering. She is currently training students in interdisciplinary research on emerging materials and developing courses to enhance the existing materials curriculum in the aerospace engineering department. Ounaies said her work with nanocomposites leads to materials that have multiple functions. For example, she also studies the sensing capabilities of nanomaterials, which will enhance the ability to detect cracks in the body of an aircraft before catastrophic failures occur. Her research is designed to reduce cost, weight, power consumption and design complexity while improving overall performance. "Smart structural nanocomposites will enable the development of future lightweight air and space vehicles that sense and adapt to flow, and this will produce a more efficient flight," Ounaies said. Ounaies joined the Texas A&M Aerospace Engineering Department in 2005. She is also a faculty in the Materials Science and Engineering Program and a researcher in the Polymer Technology Center of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station. She received her bachelor¿s and master¿s degrees in mechanical engineering, and her Ph.D. in engineering science and mechanics, all from the Pennsylvania State University.