Faculty Directory
Catherine Brinson


Ph.D. Applied Mechanics, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

M.S. Applied Mechanics, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

B.S. Engineering Science and Mechanics (summa cum laude), Virgina Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, VA

Research Interests

Mechanics of Advanced Materials

Professor Brinson's research interests lie in the study of advanced material systems and developing new methods to characterize and to model material behavior. The materials of interest all exhibit interesting hierarchical structural features, necessitating a consideration of length scales spanning the range of molecular interactions, micromechanical and macroscopic behavior. Hierarchical structure also leads to challenges in experimental analysis and constitutive descriptions and a reassessment of traditional concepts of deformation.

Specific current and future interests include nanoconfinement in polymers, characterization of nanoparticle reinforced polymers, the phase transformation response of shape memory alloys, nano and microscale response of biomaterials, and materials genome informatics research. The research encompasses analytical, numerical and experimental investigation. Analytical micromechanics methods, finite element simulations of scanned material microstructures, and results from molecular level simulations are combined with continuum mechanics techniques ad data mining methods to provide microstructurally based prediction of macroscopic environmental-mechanical response.

On the experimental side, small scale testing includes optical and electron microscopy of samples with in situ loading; for example, examining reorientation of martensitic variants with applied load in shape memory alloys. Nanoscale mechanical testing using probe microscopy is of exceptional interest for understanding local polymer behavior near surfaces and functional nanoparticles. Macroscopic scale testing is also performed. Experimental and modeling approaches are used hand-in-hand to better understand, predict and design hierarchical response of advanced materials.

Significant Recognition

  • Fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineering, 2009
  • Fellow, Society for Engineering Science, 2007
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Prize, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, 2006-07
  • President of the Society of Engineering Science, 1999; Vice-President, 1998
  • DSSG - Defense Science Study Group, Institute for Defense Analysis, 1998-2000
  • NSF CAREER Award, 1995-99 ASEE
  • ASEE New Mechanics Educator Award, 1995
  • ASME Thomas JR Hughes Special Achievement Award for Young Investigators, Applied Mechanics Division, 2003
  • New Mechanics Educator Award, 1995

Significant Professional Service

  • National Materials Advisory Board member, Jan. 2005 - Dec. 2010
  • President of the Society of Engineering Science, 1999
  • DSSG - Defense Science Study Group, Institute for Defense Analysis, 1998-2000

Selected Publications

    1.  Breneman CM*, LC Brinson*, LS Schadler*, B Natarajan, M Krein, K Wu, L Morkowchuk, Y Li, H Deng, H Xu, Stalking the Materials Genome: A Data-Driven Approach to the Virtual Design of Nanostructured Polymers, Advanced Materials, 2013, doi: 10.1002/adfm.201301744

    2.      K Putz, OC Compton, MJ Palmeri, ST Nguyen, LC Brinson, High Nanofiller-Content Graphene Oxide-Polymer Nanocomposites via Vacuum- Assisted Self-Assembly, Adv Funct Mat, 2010.

    3.      R. Qiao and L. C. Brinson, Simulation of interphase percolation and gradients in polymer nanocomposites, Composite Science and Technology, vol 69, 491-499, 2009.

    4.     Wood CD, Chen L, Burkhart C, Putz KW, Torkelson JM, Brinson LC, Measuring Interphase Stiffening Effects in Styrene-based Polymeric Thin Films, Polymer, DOI 10.1016/j.polymer.2015.08.033, 75: 161-167, 2015. 

    5.      T. Ramanathan, A. A. Abdala, S. Stankovich, D. A. Dikin, M. Herrera-Alonso, R. D. Piner, D. H. Adamson, J. Liu, R. S. Ruoff, S. T. Nguyen, I. lhan A. Aksay, R. K. Prud’homme, L. C. Brinson, Functionalized Graphene Sheets for Polymer Nanocomposites, Nature:Nanotechnology, vol 3:6, pp. 327-331, (2008). 

    7.      OC Compton, DA Dikin, KW Putz, LC Brinson, and ST Nguyen, Electrically Conductive “Alkylated” Graphene Paper via Chemical Reduction of Amine- Functionalized Graphene Oxide Paper, Advanced Materials, 22:8, 892, 2009.

    8.    H Deng, Y Liu, D Gai, D Dikin, C Burkhart, M Poldneff, B Jiang, GJ Papkonstantopoulos, KW Putz, W Chen, LC Brinson, Utilizing real and statistically reconstructed microstructures for the viscoelastic modeling of polymer nanocomposites, Composites Science and Technology, vol 72, pp. 1725-1732, 2012.

    9.  Stebner AP and Brinson LC Explicit Finite Element Implementation of an Improved Three- Dimensional Constitutive Model for Shape Memory Alloys, Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering, vol 257, pp17-35, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cma.2012.12.021, 2013.

    10.    Cheng X, Putz KW, Wood CD, Brinson LC, Characterization of Local Elastic Modulus in Confined Polymer Films via AFM Indentation, Macromolecular Rapid Communications, DOI 10.1002/marc.201400487, 36: 391-397, 2015.


Professor Brinson has been integrally involved in the development of the novel Engineering First undergraduate curriculum at Northwestern University. She taught enhanced sections of sophomore level "mechanics of materials" where matrix methods of structural analysis were integrated using finite element syntax. This course formed a basis for the second course in the Engineering Analysis sequence, Mechanics. Professor Brinson was also a co-developer of the third course in the EA sequence, Dynamics of Systems. The four course Engineering Analysis sequence teaches freshman engineering students the fundamentals of matrix algebra, differential equations, mechanics, dynamics, and computer programming in an integrated fashion with emphasis on engineering applications. Professor Brinson has also developed a graduate course entitled Mechanics of Advanced Materials, in which microscale mechanisms and their relation to macroscopic behavior and mathematical constitutive modeling for advanced material systems is developed, with emphasis on polymer viscoelasticity and shape memory materials. Professor Brinson is especially interested in new modes of teaching and learning to expand the educational frontier.