Xiaoyu “Rayne” Zheng, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, has received a 2019 Young Faculty Award from the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

The program recognizes researchers at U.S. academic institutions and provides funding, mentoring and industry contacts to awardees early in their careers so they may develop their research ideas in the context of national security needs. The long-term goal of the program is to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers in the research community who will focus a significant portion of their future careers on defense and national security issues. The award provides eligible tenure-track faculty members up to $1 million in research funding.   

The award will support Zheng’s project to develop new types of 3-D printing technologies for multi-functional materials that convert their inherent electrical charge to high-speed and high-frequency motions. These materials, called ferroelectric materials, can interface with electronic components, and will be designed and used as actuation building blocks for miniaturized robotic platforms.

Zheng leads the Additive Manufacturing and Metamaterials Laboratory at UCLA Samueli. His research group develops additive manufacturing (3-D printing) technologies and material synthesis to create multi-functional materials and systems with controlled micro-architectures and encoded properties.

The DARPA award is the latest of several major early career honors that Zheng has received. Previous awards include the Air Force Young Investigator Award, the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award and the Freeform Additive Manufacturing Excellence Award.