CEMS welcomes Nathan Mara as a new tenured associate professor in the department. Mara comes to CEMS from the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). There, he was a co-director of the Institute for Materials Science at LANL, and Thrust Leader for the Nanoscale Electronics and Mechanics thrust at CINT. His research spans the fundamental to applied, and consists of correlating how a material is synthesized, characterizing its resulting structure, and measuring and understanding the mechanical properties and performance of a bulk material. “The need for lightweight, strong, and tough materials spans any area where structural reliability is an issue. This includes the transportation, military, manufacturing, biomaterial, and energy sectors, where lightweighting of components can result in major energy savings, increased part lifetimes, and lower environmental impact. A single new discovery in materials science can translate to a disruptive technology that takes humanity to our next defining age,” said Mara.
Mara further explained that, “I focus on looking at deformation phenomena where unit processes on the atomic scale collectively dictate a mechanical response that can occur over meters. Most of this work is hands-on experimental in nature, but one of my favorite aspects is that I work closely with those in the modeling community to validate and guide new models for materials design. The field of structural materials is rich with opportunities, and my 12 years at a National Laboratory has taught me that effective collaborations can produce a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. Students in my laboratory stand to benefit from such an atmosphere, where they will be afforded the opportunity to follow their research interests deep into a subject, while collaborating with others to fully address the broad implications of their findings.”
Mara is eager to conduct research at the University of Minnesota, which will provide a contrast to his prior career experience. Mara remarked, “Working at a National Laboratory, one learns that application-driven customers can have different deliverables than those that have a direct interest in fundamental mechanisms and behaviors. The University of Minnesota (UMN) is located in a major metropolitan area with leading companies that develop materials for biomedical, energy and electronic applications as well as research manufacturing approaches and mechanical test methodologies. Industrial challenges provide unique problems to address in new materials systems, and collaborating with industry represents an exciting part of being on the UMN faculty."
"My research requires four main components: state-of-the-art synthesis capabilities, characterization facilities, multi-scale mechanical property measurement capabilities, and a community of collaborators that specialize in materials modeling across length and time scales. As an academic institution, UMN possesses all four components in one place. The CEMS department provides an environment where this collaborative spirit is encouraged, and I look forward to working with my new students and colleagues,” said Mara.