Research
  /  
Areas of Research
AI and Design

Developing human-centered, physics-based, and AI-enabled design methods for creating engineering products and systems that address societal challenges

Design combines engineering, business, the arts, and the social sciences to tackle complex societal challenges. Designers use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to work at the interface between technology and society. In collaboration with the Segal Design Institute and the Center for Human-Computer Interaction+Design, we develop human-centered design principles, collective-innovation platforms, and AI-enabled computational design methods.

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Research Area Subtopics

Design researchers brainstorming human computation and social computing systems (E. Gerber)
Design researchers brainstorming human computation
and social computing systems. (E. Gerber)

Human-centered Design

Technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives from how we work and learn to how we play and socialize. We blend engineering and social sciences to build novel socio-technical systems to augment human behavior and develop theories of society and technology interactions. We consider the context in which the systems are deployed and the human cognition, emotion, and behavior and the ways in which the technology can support, complement, or augment human ability.



Brenna Argall
A human demonstrates a behavior for a robot arm to
learn. (B. Argall)

AI for Physical Human-machine Interaction

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing human-machine interaction through methods such as natural language processing, computer vision, machine learning, and neurotechnology. We exploit and enhance machine learning and AI techniques in the design of engineering systems that involve human-machine interaction, such as human-in-the-loop control systems, surface haptic technology, cyber manufacturing, human-robot co-adaption, swarm robots, and rehabilitation devices.


Data-driven topology optimization of heterogeneous metamaterial systems. (W. Chen, L. Wang)
Data-driven topology optimization of heterogeneous
metamaterial systems. (W. Chen, L. Wang)

Physics-based Machine Learning

The rapid growth of machine learning and AI techniques has augmented engineers’ ability to model complex phenomena. We study physics-based machine learning using multi-modal data from simulations, experiments, on-line sensors, and expert knowledge for rapid predictive modeling, uncertainty quantification, and design. Applications include multiscale modeling and design, manufacturing process control, and creation of cyber-physical systems.


Nanostructure optimization in design of organic photovoltaic solar cells (W. Chen, J. Munshi, and G. Balasubramanian)
Nanostructure optimization in design of organic
photovoltaic solar cells. (W. Chen, J. Munshi, and
G. Balasubramanian)

Design of Engineered Materials Systems

We accelerate the discovery of novel materials and their deployment into engineering systems by leveraging our strengths in mechanics, materials, manufacturing, and design. In particular, we develop novel design representations and data-driven design optimization approaches, leading to novel materials and structures associated with soft matter, composites, quantum materials, and metamaterials, that exhibit multiple functionalities such as impact resistance, light weight, friction reduction, and energy saving.


McCormick, Mitra Hartmann
A bioinspired artificial whisker system. (M. Hartmann)

Bioinspired Design and Synthesis

When using nature as inspiration we learn from a system that has evolved resilience, adaptability, and efficiency for over 3 billion years. Using bioinspired design approaches, we translate biological knowledge into the design of innovative products and processes such as underwater robotics, metamaterials, optics, and 3D nano synthesis.



ME Faculty

Photo of Brenna Argall

Brenna Argall

Associate Professor of Computer Science

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

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Photo of Jian Cao

Jian Cao

Cardiss Collins Professor of Mechanical Engineering and (by courtesy) Civil and Environmental Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering

Director, Northwestern Initiative for Manufacturing Science and Innovation (NIMSI)

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Photo of Wei Chen

Wei Chen

Chair and Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Wilson-Cook Professor in Engineering Design

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Photo of J. Edward Colgate

J. Edward Colgate

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Kornel Ehmann

Kornel Ehmann

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Horacio Espinosa

Horacio Espinosa

James N. and Nancy J. Farley Professor in Manufacturing & Entrepreneurship

Director, Theoretical and Applied Mechanics Program

Director of the Institute for Cellular Engineering Technologies

Professor of Mechanical Engineering and (by courtesy) Biomedical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering

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Photo of Elizabeth Gerber

Elizabeth Gerber

Professor of Mechanical Engineering and (by courtesy) Computer Science

Professor of Communication Studies

Co-Director, Center for Human Computer Interaction + Design

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Photo of Mitra Hartmann

Mitra Hartmann

Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Director of Graduate Studies for Biomedical Engineering

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Photo of Sinan Keten

Sinan Keten

Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering and (by courtesy) Biomedical Engineering

June and Donald Brewer Professor

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Photo of Sridhar Krishnaswamy

Sridhar Krishnaswamy

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Director of Center for Smart Structures and Materials

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Photo of Wing Liu

Wing Liu

Walter P. Murphy Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Civil and Environmental Engineering and (by courtesy) Materials Science and Engineering

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Photo of Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Director, Center for Robotics and Biosystems

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Photo of Malcolm MacIver

Malcolm MacIver

Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Todd Murphey

Todd Murphey

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Michael Peshkin

Michael Peshkin

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Breed Senior Professor of Design

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Photo of Michael Rubenstein

Michael Rubenstein

Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Cheng Sun

Cheng Sun

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Ryan Truby

Ryan Truby

Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Q. Jane Wang

Q. Jane Wang

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Courtesy Faculty

Photo of Ange-Therese Akono

Ange-Therese Akono

Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering (by courtesy) Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Jennifer Dunn

Jennifer Dunn

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and (by courtesy) Mechanical Engineering

Associate Director, Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience

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Photo of Julio Ottino

Julio Ottino

Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and (by courtesy) Mechanical Engineering

Distinguished Robert R. McCormick Institute Professor

Dean

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