Ever since he was a graduate student in the 1980s, Dr. Peter Ifju has held the Society for Experimental Mechanics (SEM) close to his heart. And after 25 years of membership, which included a stint as president in 2011-2012, he received one of the society’s highest honors on June 14.
In front of about 400 people at the SEM Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, Ifju had the opportunity to deliver the Murray Lecture, the keynote presentation of the conference and the society’s “prestige lecture,” as it’s described on their website. He was chosen “for pioneering contributions to optical stress analysis methods and composite materials stress analysis and fabrication, including micro air vehicle design.” The recognition also came with a plaque, the Murray Medal, which, along with the lecture itself, is named for the society’s first president, Dr. William Murray. It wasn’t the first time Ifju has been honored by the SEM, as he also won the Harting Award in 1993 and 2011 (for outstanding papers published in Experimental Techniques), the Peterson Award in 2004 (for best paper published in the Journal of Dynamic Behavior of Materials), and the inaugural Durelli Award also in 2004 (for introduction of an innovative approach or method early in career).
The main portion of Ifju’s hour-long lecture was about how experimental mechanics can be used to develop flying vehicles, including micro air vehicles. He described how his team was the first group to use the digital image correlation technique in a wind tunnel, which influenced their flying machine designs. He talked about his work in the area of fluid structure interaction, where he studied the aerodynamics of flexible wings as opposed to rigid ones. Some of his current projects were also discussed, such as a new invention called the Bathydrone, which is designed for underwater surveying and mapping. He mentioned that Archer Aviation, a company that builds electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, originated in his lab in Gainesville and is now at the cutting edge of sustainable urban air mobility, working to develop electric flying taxis and having made a $1 billion sale to United Airlines last year.
“It was probably the best presentation I ever gave,” Ifju said of his lecture. He dedicated it to Daniel Post, a former Virginia Tech professor who was Ifju’s advisor decades ago, and who gave the Murray Lecture himself in 1971.
Because of COVID-19, this was the first in-person SEM conference since 2019, and Ifju appreciated the chance to deliver his presentation to “the society that is most near and dear” to him free from the all-too-familiar tribulations of Zoom lecturing. The third UF professor to earn this recognition from the SEM Honors Committee (after Daniel Drucker in 1967 and Chuck Taylor in 1974), he said it “brings notoriety” to the university due to the eminence and prestige of the award in the field of experimental mechanics.
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July 25, 2022