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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 874-7892

URI engineering professor awarded $400,000 grant

Prestigious ‘early career’ grant funds research on damage diagnosis

KINGSTON, R.I. -- January 31, 2003 -- University of Rhode Island Assistant Professor David Chelidze’s research into damage diagnosis and prognosis just received a significant boost. The National Science Foundation recently awarded him a $403,202 five-year grant through its Faculty Early Career Development program.

Formerly from the Republic of Georgia and now a resident of South Kingstown, Chelidze joined the faculty in the URI Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2000 after earning his Ph.D. in engineering science and mechanics at Penn State.

"An NSF Career Award is very prestigious because it means that they believe David is going to be a star in the engineering world," said Arun Shukla, interim dean of the College of Engineering and the Simon Ostrach Professor of Mechanical Engineering. "They give the award to young faculty members who are looking to establish their careers. This is the first one that someone in the College has received in the more than 20 years since the program was established, and only the second in the history of the University."

Chelidze is a founder and director of the URI Nonlinear Dynamics Lab where he is studying how to identify, diagnose and predict damage in parts and components of engineered systems using a novel mathematical concept he and collaborators developed called phase space warping.

Phase space warping refers to the small distortions in the dynamics of an engineered system – a machine, for instance – that are caused by the accumulating damage to its parts. By quantifying the phase space warping, Chelidze can track the damage accumulating in the system and predict when it may fail. Predicting the imminent failure of machinery parts, for example, could enhance a product’s reliability and safety while maximizing its durability.

"Using phase space warping we can see the incipient damage accumulating in the components before it can be observed macroscopically," Chelidze said. "Most damage that occurs is hidden from the observer or can only be seen after the equipment is taken apart or even destroyed. Through this research we’ll be able to provide early tracking of incipient damage as well as to infer an actual damage evolution for each part while the equipment is still in operation. This yields all the necessary information for successful damage prognosis."

Chelidze believes his methodology can be applied in the medical field as well.

"The development of mechanical damage is very similar to the development of repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome in patients," he said. "I’m working with Professor Jonathan Dingwell at the University of Texas at Austin on using this same process to predict changes in biomechanics so we can tell ahead of time if someone is developing an injury."

In addition to funding his research, the grant will also be used to support a variety of educational and outreach activities. These include the development of a new graduate course in experimental nonlinear dynamics, development of related classroom activities for existing courses, and a collaboration with the SMILE and GEMS-NET programs to provide science and math enrichment activities for minority and disadvantaged children in kindergarten through grade 6.

The National Science Foundation created the Faculty Early Career Development program to recognize and support the career-development activities of scholars who are likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. Limited to faculty in their first five years of a tenure-track position, the grants are awarded on the basis of creative career-development plans that effectively integrate research and education.

For Further Information: David Chelidze 874-2356

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