Tech professor receives Young Investigator Award


COOKEVILLE – Steven Anton, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is representing Tennessee Tech University among 41 other research institutions and small businesses as a recipient of the Young Investigator Award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

In 2016, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research awarded 56 recipients a total of $20.6 million in grants through its Young Investigator Research Program, or YIP. In order to be chosen as a young investigator, the candidate must have received his or her doctorate, or equivalent degree, within the last five years and show exceptional ability to conduct basic research.

Anton was awarded $360,000 for a three-year period for his project on “continuous real-time state monitoring in highly dynamic environments.” The award will support one doctoral and one master’s student.

Anton began research on this topic last summer through the Air Force Summer Faculty Fellowship Program where he spent 10 weeks conducting research in the Munitions Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, with collaborators at the Air Force Research Laboratory. The fellowship allowed Anton and one of his doctoral students to perform research with Air Force scientists and collect preliminary results that helped lay the groundwork for his competitive YIP proposal.

“I’m very honored to be chosen as part of such an elite group of young researchers. This award demonstrates the Air Force’s confidence in my ability to perform world-class research and I look forward to developing a fruitful collaboration with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and researchers at the Air Force Research Laboratory.”

Anton’s research focuses on the development of a monitoring system capable of determining the physical state of a structure, or system, in real-time so decisions can be made almost instantaneously to ensure the safety, reliability and proper operation of the system.

“Our goal is to detect the state of a system on an extremely short time scale – on the order of microseconds to milliseconds – to allow for portrayal of the structure during a highly dynamic event, such as a blast or high velocity impact,” Anton said. “Examples of such systems to be monitored include buildings during earthquakes, drill bits on oil rigs, hypersonic aircrafts and munitions systems.”

Traditional structural health monitoring systems can determine the state of structures on a time scale of seconds to minutes, but the goal in this study is to push the limits of this technology in order to create a new standard in the measurement of dynamic systems.

Anton directs the Dynamic and Smart Systems Laboratory at Tech which focuses on characterizing the dynamic response of smart material systems for energy harvesting, structural health monitoring, sensing and actuation.

“Our research combines knowledge of structural dynamics, behavior of active materials, experimental mechanics, and signal processing to discover new phenomenon associated with the dynamics of smart materials,” Anton said.

Prior to joining the Tennessee Tech faculty, Anton worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory from 2011-13. He earned his doctorate from Virginia Tech in 2011.

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