Media Contact

Ashley Lindstrom
Communications Coordinator

The Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin is pleased to introduce its newest three faculty members, who have recently joined the department. Associate Professor Wei Li, Assistant Professors Luis Sentis and Donglei Fan arrived in January 2010. All are teaching their first classes during the spring 2010 semester. Dr. Li previously served as an Associate Professor at The University of Washington. Assistant Professors Fan and Sentis are beginning their teaching careers after completing post doctorate studies at Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University, respectfully.

Assistant Professor Donglei Fan

Dr. Donglei Fan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin since January 2010. She received her bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1999 from the Department of Intensive Instruction (DII) in Naning University, an honor program with enhanced curriculums for gifted youth, selected from the top 2% of high school graduates from the exemplary schools in Jiangsu Providence. Students were waived of the national college entrance exam and admitted with scholarship. She built a solid foundation in chemistry, physics, and biology in her college years. Her strong interest in scientific research led her to publish in core journals such as Applied Physics Letters and Physical Review B beginning as an undergraduate researcher. She obtained her master's (2003) and doctorate (2007) degrees in Materials Science and Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University (JHU). During the time of Ph.D. study, she also obtained another master's degree in Electrical Engineering in 2005. Between 2007 and 2009, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at JHU before joining The University of Texas at Austin as a faculty member.

Her research focuses on the fabrication, characterization, and manipulation of nanoscale entities. Various nanomaterials have been fabricated including nanowires, nanorings and nanoporous networks. She is the inventor of "electric tweezers," which can precision transport nanoscale materials in aqueous suspension with controlled speed, orientation, along arbitrary trajectories. The nano-entities can also be rotated with controlled angle, speed, and chirality to at least 26,000 rpm, the speed of a jet engine (with two pending patents). Based on this technique, nanoparticles can be assembled into arrays of nanosensors, nanovehicles for cell specific drug delivery, and nanomotors. She has 11 publications including Physical Review Letters, Advanced Materials, and Applied Physics Letters. Her research was reported by the media news such as "Nano Today," "MRS bulletin," "World Gold Council," "," "APS news" and selected multiple times by "Virtual Journals of Nanoscale Science & Technology."

Future research is in the following areas:

  • Nanomaterial Synthesis: Rational synthesis nanomaterials into wires, rings, and porous superstructures.
  • Nanobiotechnology: Biological cell patterning, precision gene/drug delivery, and biosensing.
  • Nano Electromechanical System (NEMS) Devices: Nanoparticles will be integrated as active elements for NEMS devices.
  • Energy: The synthesized nanomaterials will be integrated into solar cells for energy conversion.

Associate Professor Wei Li

Dr. Wei Li joined the faculty as an Associate Professor in January 2010. Previously, he taught at The University of Washington, where he started as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to an Associate Professor in 2006. He received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1999. Dr. Li is an active researcher in the fields of manufacturing, materials processing, and design. His work has been well funded and recognized. Funding support for Dr. Li's research has come from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, state agencies, and industry partners such as Chrysler and Boeing. Among many honors and awards he has received, Dr. Li is a recipient of the 2002 Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineers Award from Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the 2004 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Dr. Li is serving as a Board Director for North American Manufacturing Research Institution of SME, Chair of the Biomanufacturing Technical Committee of the ASME Manufacturing Engineering Division, and an Associate Editor of ASME Journal of Manufacturing Science and Engineering.

Dr. Li's research interests are in nano-, bio-, and energy materials processing and manufacturing. Current topics include:

  • Polymer nanofoam and nanocomposites for multifunctional applications
  • Biomedical devices for 3D cell culture and drug discovery
  • Nanoporous materials for energy storage
  • Manufacturing processes for alternative transportation energy

Assistant Professor Luis Sentis

Dr. Luis Sentis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin since January 2010. Between 2007 and 2009 he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in 2007 from Stanford University and his B.S. (Honors Thesis) from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) in 1996. He worked as a Control Engineer in Silicon Valley between 1996 and 1998.

He received the La Caixa Fellowship to pursue doctoral studies at Stanford. He was also awarded a Fellowship from the Networked Systems Technology Center of the Boeing Company to pursue his postdoctoral studies.

His research is focused on modeling and controlling whole-body compliant behaviors of humanoids and mobile robots. The control methods he has developed have been implemented in various robots, including the Honda Humanoid Asimo robot and the robot PR2 from the technology incubator, Willow Garage. He is co-creator of the Whole-Body Control Framework, an open source embedded control software developped for Willow Garage's ROS Operating System.

At the University of Texas at Austin, he is starting new research in biomechatronics design, compliant grasping, and dynamic locomotion in complex terrains. He is teaching a new class called Topics in Human Centered Robotics to explore foundations and applications of robots for the assistance and augmentation of humans in their daily lifes.


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