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Welcome Nikolaos Bouklas
- New Faculty Year: 2018
Nikolaos Bouklas has joined the faculty of the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell. Bouklas most recently held a post-doctoral researcher position at the Institute of Mechanical Engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
Bouklas is interested in the fundamental study of soft materials, active materials and biomaterials, fracture and instabilities, as well as multiscale modeling in coupled multi-physical systems. “My work is at the intersection of engineering, materials science, mathematics, and physics,” says Bouklas. “All of these are necessary to finding the best way to predict what a material is going to do.”
Bouklas grew up in Thessaloniki, Greece, where he says he was always drawn to mathematics. At the age of eighteen Bouklas decided to study engineering. “I really liked math, but engineering was more alluring due to the applications,” says Bouklas. He earned a B.S. and an M.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. It was during his years at Aristotle that Bouklas was introduced to finite element analysis and mathematical simulation.
“The group I worked with had a lot of programming, simulation, and design,” says Bouklas. “I got to see the level of mathematical sophistication needed to follow up with engineering tasks.” Bouklas knew he wanted to learn more “I have always wanted to learn more. Always,”says Bouklas during a recent conversation in his Upson Hall office.
“I considered graduate schools in Europe, but then I thought ‘if I’m going to go far for school, why not go really far?’” Bouklas answered his own question by moving to Austin, Texas and started a Ph.D. program in Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin. Academically and professionally, Austin was perfect for Bouklas. “UT is so strong in computational and solid mechanics,” he says. “I was very lucky to work with both Rui Huang and Chad Landis.”
While living in Austin, Bouklas also had the chance to indulge in his second love—jazz saxophone—but he never seriously thought about ditching engineering for music. “The best decision I ever made professionally was choosing between a path in music and a path in engineering. In science and in music there is always the excitement of looking for something new--but the career path in engineering is much safer,” says Bouklas with a small laugh.
During his doctoral studies at Austin, Bouklas created predictive computational techniques for understanding new soft materials. After earning his Ph.D., Bouklas stayed at UT-Austin for a two-year post doc with Mark Mear at the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES). During this post-doctoral appointment he delved into fatigue failure for aerospace structures and generally learned more about how materials fail. From Austin, Bouklas moved to EPFL where he worked with William Curtin on cell and tissue modeling, and was also introduced to multi-scale predictive modeling of materials.
In 2018 Bouklas joined Cornell as an assistant professor in the Sibley School. “In coming to Cornell, I have the chance to work with people whose research I have followed for years,” says Bouklas. “There is such a modern approach to engineering here. I can see many applications of the predictive modeling tools I am working on. It is great to be in a place where the fundamentals are so strong and at the same time the focus is on the future.”
At Cornell, Bouklas will continue to focus on the fields of theoretical and computational solid mechanics. He aims to improve the fundamental understanding of materials and structures, and to enhance the predictive capabilities in relevant engineering applications.
He is currently co-teaching a class in Experimental and Applied Mechanics with Professor Matt Miller, also of the Sibley School. “Creating and co-teaching this class with Matt is great for me,” says Bouklas. “It is mostly juniors and they are starting to specialize, so this is the first class where they see all of the aspects brought together—theoretical, experimental, and computational. It is really interesting to talk with Matt as we plan the class and decide what will be most helpful to the students.”