Title: Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Expertise: Fracture Mechanics
Most engineers try to keep things together. Professor Arun Shukla breaks them apart. He shoots bullets, sets off blasts, and strikes things with mighty force — all in the name of science.
For three decades Professor Shukla has operated a lab at the University of Rhode Island that tests how materials fracture under unusual circumstances. Much of the research is unconventional by necessity. These researchers are, after all, solving unconventional problems. As a result, Shukla and his colleagues have written the book on how materials will act under extreme temperatures, pH, heat transfer rates, and pressure.
Reporters turn to him to explain bridge collapses and generals ask him to find better ways to defend against bullets and bombs.
“I don’t like to do research under normal conditions,” Shukla says. “It has to be an extreme environment.”
That extreme research has brought Shukla national acclaim. Reporters turn to him to explain bridge collapses and generals ask him to find better ways to defend against bullets and bombs. Last spring, the California Institute of Technology invited him to serve as the Clark B. Millikan Visiting Professor in the aerospace engineering department.
Shukla has appeared on the Discovery Channel and NBC’s Today show. Although Shukla is considered the preeminent researcher in his field, he is also known for sharing his knowledge with his students, helping them do the best they can, and always encouraging their creativity.
“Research by definition means creativity,” he says. “We’re all trying to learn new things in everything we do,” he says.