Diana Lados, Milton Prince Higgins II Distinguished Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the founder and director of WPI’s Integrative Materials Design Center (iMdc), has been elected a fellow of ASM International, the world’s largest association of materials-centric engineers and scientists.
Established in 1969, the ASM Fellow award is the society’s highest recognition for distinguished contributions in the field of materials science and engineering. Fellows join a broadly based forum of technical and professional leaders who serve as advisors to the society. Lados was honored for “developing and implementing a new integrative design paradigm in materials science and engineering research, education, and application through unique collaborations between university, industry, and government.”
A full-time faculty member at WPI since 2006, Lados conducts fundamental research in the areas of materials and advanced manufacturing, with a special focus on design, evaluation, characterization, and optimization for fatigue, fatigue crack growth, thermo-mechanical fatigue, creep, and fracture resistance. In her research, she has established fundamental relationships with broad applicability between materials’ microstructures and their behavior and properties, advanced our understanding of underlying failure mechanisms, and developed computational models able to link the performance of materials to their manufacturing processes and accurately predict component life. These developments have had a major impact on materials processing and manufacturing, as well as design, and have been extensively used for high-integrity structural and engine applications in all transportation industries.
Lados has integrated the knowledge, databases, tools, and strategies she has developed into a unified methodology for sustainable material-process-component design and manufacturing for high-performance and reliability. The methodology builds connectivity within the field of materials science, as well as interdisciplinary bridges between materials science, mechanical engineering, and physics. This integrated material design approach is the core mission of WPI’s Integrative Materials Design Center (iMdc), which Lados founded more than 10 years ago. An industry-government-university research and educational alliance, iMdc has more than 35 members representing the transportation and defense industries and their suppliers, materials producers, manufacturing and testing facilities, equipment manufacturers, government organizations, and national laboratories.
In 2012 Lados received a five-year, $525,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, the agency's most prestigious award for young faculty members, to develop a comprehensive understanding of the initiation and propagation of fatigue-related cracks, along with unified fatigue-life predictive methods and tools. The research and resulting computational models help designers more confidently increase and accelerate the use of light metals in transportation applications, ensuring enhanced structural performance, greater fuel economy, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
With a subsequent three-year, $424,000 NSF Award, Lados explored a novel manufacturing process for lightweight metal-matrix nano-composites; the process earned her the 2011 Kalenian Innovation Award from WPI’s Collaborative for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Lados and her team have also been funded by the U.S. Army and several national laboratories for their original work on several other advanced manufacturing technologies, including cold-spray processing and friction stir welding. They are at the forefront of research on additive manufacturing (AM), having developed a fundamental understanding of the processing, microstructure, and properties of AM materials, along with systematic databases and computational tools, which are helping to expand the use of the technology in high-integrity applications and are providing a means for rapid product qualification and repair. Recent work, focused on 3D printing of polymer-metal composites, has uncovered unique combinations of structural and functional properties for these new materials.
In addition to her research awards, Lados has secured two major equipment grants: a $467,000 Major Research Instrumentation award from the NSF for the acquisition of a system of high-speed cameras with quantitative stereo imaging and digital image correlation, and a $299,000 U.S. Army Research Office grant, through the highly competitive Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP), for acquiring a sophisticated nondestructive evaluation system that provides unique capabilities for in-situ damage detection and crack monitoring in structural components.
These new capabilities are being used in research funded by a recent five-year, $450,000 aviation grant, which supports the development of a new methodology for characterizing materials and damage in structural components, made with traditional and advanced manufacturing methods, that combines digital image correlation, electron backscattered diffraction, tomography, and other nondestructive evaluation techniques.
The ASM Fellow honor follows Lados’ numerous other significant national and international awards and distinctions. These include, in 2013, the inaugural Constance Tipper Silver Medal from the World Academy of Structural Integrity; the 2012 Silver Medal of the Society from ASM International, the society’s most distinguished honor for mid-career professionals; the 2014 Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award from SAE International; the 2010 Robert Lansing Hardy Award; the 2011 Early Career Faculty Fellow Award; and the 2014 Brimacombe Medalist Award from the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS). As the recipient of the TMS Early Career Faculty Fellow Award, Lados, in 2012, launched a highly regarded symposium series on “Integrative Materials Design: Performance and Sustainability,” which she organizes every three years at the TMS annual meeting.
In 2010 she became the first WPI professor chosen by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) to participate in the prestigious U.S. Frontiers of Engineering symposium for exceptional research; the NAE also selected Lados to participate in the Frontiers of Engineering Education symposium that same year for her significant innovations in teaching and learning. These programs represent the highest NAE recognition for U.S. researchers and educators under the age of 45. She was the only woman on a team of five leaders in her field selected in 2011 to participate in a Department of Energy program established to identify critical areas where materials science and engineering will shape research, business opportunities, and funding in the current decade.
Lados was also the recipient of WPI’s Sigma Xi Outstanding Junior (2010) and Senior (2015) Faculty Researcher Awards, as well as the Graduate Research Scientific Award for the best PhD dissertation. In 2012 she was honored by Mass High Tech as one of 20 Women to Watch in New England for technical innovation and leadership in the community. Other recognitions include her naming to Foundry Management & Technology’s 2009 list of Metalcasting’s Next Generation of Future Leaders, the 2008 Orr Early Career Award and the Orr Best Paper Award from the Materials Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Axel Madsen Award from the Center for Powder Metallurgy Technology, the American Foundry Society’s Aluminum Division Scholarship Award, and the ASM Worcester Chapter Chester M. Inman Award.
Lados earned BS and MS degrees in mechanical engineering at Polytechnic University of Bucharest, an MS in mechanical engineering at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and a PhD in materials science and engineering at WPI. She has published more than 80 articles and two book chapters, delivered over 250 conference and industrial presentations and invited lectures, and has two patent developments, one for a novel manufacturing method for metal matrix nanocomposites and one for the integrated fabrication of polymer-metal composites with structural and functional properties using 3D printing.