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Honors and Awards

Ryan Truby Earns Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award

Truby will receive $510,000 over three years to develop new artificial muscles

Northwestern Engineering’s Ryan Truby has received an Office of Naval Research’s Young Investigator Program (ONR YIP) award. 

Ryan Truby

An assistant professor of materials science and engineering and of mechanical engineering, Truby is one of 32 recipients who will share $17 million in funding from the ONR YIP. Truby, whose focus area will be “Self-Sensing, Optoelectronic Artificial Muscle Tissues for Energy Efficient Locomotion in Soft Machines,” will receive $510,000 over three years. 

The award will support Truby’s research in developing new types of soft robotic actuators. The research has the potential to shape several technologies beyond soft, bioinspired robotics, including wearable devices, haptic interfaces, and adaptable materials. 

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” Truby said. “This is one of the project ideas I have been most excited about launching at Northwestern. This award will support our efforts in creating high-performance artificial muscles, a research idea that truly sits at the intersection of materials, 3D printing, and robotics.” 

The ONR YIP is a highly competitive early-career award program in which academic achievement and potential for scientific breakthrough are key factors in the evaluation process. The final candidates were chosen from more than 220 applicants — all of whom are college and university faculty and obtained a PhD within the past seven years.

Truby, who joined the McCormick School of Engineering faculty in September 2021, also earned a 2022 Young Investigator Research Program award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in November. Truby was granted $450,000 over three years for the proposal, “Robotic Architected Materials with Distributed Sensorimotor Capabilities via Free-form Electrochemical Composites.”

Truby’s Robotic Matter Lab at Northwestern designs material systems – or robotic materials – that provide robots unprecedented capabilities via novel material forms and functions. Its research programs focus on three core themes in pursuit of this mission: design, fabrication, and control of robotic materials.

Truby is interested in translating soft material functionalities into novel robotic capabilities, beginning with a focus on new actuation strategies for the design of artificial muscles. Central to his team’s design efforts are enabling new material properties and computationally guided fabrication of robotic materials via new methods of digitally patterning and assembling soft materials. Finally, the material systems Truby is working on require new control strategies designed specifically for soft matter devices. He is interested on leveraging machine learning and new soft sensing strategies to create more autonomous soft machines.