Current Members

Tianyu Su (he/him)

Tianyu was born in a small city in Central China. He grew up near the Yangtze river but never learned to swim. Tianyu obtained his bachelor's degree in Chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China. He joined the Ertekin Group as a Ph.D. student in the Fall of 2019. He is interested in simulation and modeling of complex materials which provide insight into solving real-world problems. His research is now focused on applying atomic simulation to study hydrogen embrittlement, especially the interaction between hydrogen and short-range order in austenitic stainless steels. During his free time, he loves cooking and playing basketball.

Tawfiq Rakhib (he/him)

Tawfiq was born in Chattogram, Bangladesh. He completed his undergraduate in mechanical engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). Then he came to the US for his pursuit of science and started gus Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His Ph.D. focuses on the effects of mechanical deformation on the properties of two-dimensional (2D) materials. In his work, he develops and implements multi-scale models to understand material physics and mechanics. Outside of academic activities, he enjoys playing tennis, watching movies, TV series, and sports. Tawfiq wishes to have teleportation superpowers so that he can visit his home in Bangladesh any time he wants.

Rees Chang (he/him)

Rees was born in Hong Kong before moving to Connecticut at age 6. He received his BS with honors in Materials Science & Engineering from Cornell University in 2020 after barely passing his final exam on wines. He thinks materials science is pretty hard, so he currently develops machine learning methods to do it for him. He is particularly interested in crystalline and energy materials as well as few-shot and generative deep learning. When not doing research, Rees enjoys exploring new places, being a bedroom DJ, and pursuing his life’s dream of winning an intramural T-shirt.

Kelly Hwang (she/her)

Kelly was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she lived until 11 before moving to Korea. She graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Sogang University. Before graduate school, she did a variety of work including interpretation services for an Indian construction firm, working as a security operator at the Pyeongchang Olympics, and was employed as an engineer at a 3D printing startup. Currently, Kelly is co-advised by Professor Ertekin and Professor van der Zande, where she is delving deeper into research to understand how strain affects the optoelectronic properties of 2D materials. She strives to combine high-throughput computation with experiments. In her free time, she likes to explore new places and try new things.

Jiaxing Qu (she/her)

Jiaxing came from the coastal areas of China. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in engineering mechanics from Hohai University, followed by a master’s degree in the same major from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Her master’s research was about nano-mechanics in 2D materials, especially the graphene family. Currently, her research interests focus on computational discovery, design, and optimization of thermoelectric materials. She is a big fan of deep-learning assisted material design. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with pets. She now has two lovely cats and a Bernese Mountain Dog, and the record will definitely keep increasing.

Isiah Ramos (he/him)

Isiah joined our group as a Masters student in the Fall of 2022. He earned his BS in Agricultural and Biological Engineering in the previous spring at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His previous work involved the training of neural networks to characterize graphene in SEM images and looks to further develop this work during his time as a Masters student.

Grady Clopton (he/him)

Grady was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee and received his B.S. in Chemistry from Tennessee State university. He is currently working on a Masters in Mechanical Engineering at Tennessee State University. Grady joined the Ertekin group in the summer of 2022 during a summer REU where he studied polarization dependent optical properties of transition metal doped . He is interested in using various computational techniques to model point defects and impurities in semiconductors in an effort to understand their effects on properties of materials. In his spare time, Grady enjoys playing classical and jazz piano.

Grace McKnight (he/him, she/her, they/them)

Grace reigns from the great state of Michigan which coincidentally boarders their favorite body of fresh water: Lake Michigan. Grace graduated magna cum laude from Kalamazoo College June 2022 with a B.A. in Chemistry and minor interests in Math/History. In August 2022, Grace joined the Ertekin group’s computational efforts in tailoring semiconductor defects. Grace is currently investigating light photostimulation effects on ion transport in in wide-bandgap semiconductor and mixed ion electron conductor materials. Grace is interested in the emergence of quantum materials for applications in energy generation/storage, computing, and catalysis. Outside of research, Grace enjoys exercising, getting ice cream after dinner, and looking at bugs outside.

Channyung Lee (he/him)

Channyung was born and raised in South Korea. He received his B.S. and M.S degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Seoul National University. Channyung’s master’s research focused on the experimental characterization of micro-patterned solid oxide fuel cells. After building up three years of experience as an experimentalist, he has started a new life as a computational theorist here at UIUC, pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering & Science. His current research interests include first-principles characterization of the diffusion network of gallium oxide and high-throughput-based design of new functional wide band gap semiconductors. In his spare time, he enjoys playing golf and cooking spicy foods.

Brian Blankenau (he/him)

Brian was born and raised in the Great Plains of eastern Nebraska. He received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Kansas State University and his MS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Brian’s master’s research focused on developing first-principles based models of magneto-structural phase transformations in magnetic shape memory alloys and he has continued this work during his PhD program. Brian has also ventured away from the comforts of computational work and into the unforgiving world of the experimentalist. There he is studying phase transformations in magnetic shape memory alloys at high-pressures. When he isn’t doing research, he enjoys working on his novel (a future New York Times best seller), and learning about history, especially if pirates are involved. Eventually, after a long career in the engineering field, Brian hopes to retire near a beach where he can find some pirate treasure.

Ferdaushi Alam Bipasha (she/her)

Bipasha was born and raised in Bangladesh, a country known for its abundant waterways and beautiful greenery. She completed her undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). Her research interests focus on the computational design and performance optimization of thermoelectric materials. She is passionate about understanding statistical modeling to combine DFT and data-driven approaches for designing energy-efficient semiconductors. She enjoys traveling to new places, watching movies, and cooking foods from different cuisines in her free time.

Ballal Ahammed (he/him)

Ballal was born and raised in one of the world’s largest river deltas called Bangladesh. He completed his undergraduate in mechanical engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) which is followed by a master’s at Miami University of Ohio. His master’s research was focused on understanding the self-healing, mechanical, and thermal properties of dynamically crosslinked polymers. Currently, he is investigating the origin of superionic transport in solid electrolyte materials. While working on superionic conductors, he developed strong interests in rich physics and mechanics of disordered solids. Besides his academic activities, he is very passionate about cricket, geography and history. In an alternate universe, he wants to be a fearsome fast bowler!

Angela Pak (she/her)

Angela grew up in Round Rock, Texas and received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin (HOOK ‘EM!!). Now a PhD student in the department of Materials Science and Engineering here at UIUC, Angela is advised by Drs. Elif Ertekin and André Schleife. Her research interests are largely centered on high-throughput, computational design and selection of novel materials. In her free time, Angela likes to do yoga, bake, and play with her dog, Barley. She is always open to trying new activities/foods and thinks becoming a Zumba instructor is one of her life callings.

Adrian Xiao Bin Yong (he/him)

Adrian received his Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Queensland, Australia. He is not from Australia. Or America. Or well, China. A proud Malaysian, his parents named him Adrian because they knew no one would be able to pronounce or remember the name Xiao Bin. Xiao Bin’s research interest is in the fields of energy materials and solid state ionics. Adrian is also interested in leveraging machine learning to solve complex problems that would be difficult/impossible via conventional methods. One ongoing project is examining whether transfer learning from Chinese to Japanese would result in catastrophic forgetting in his neural networks. In his spare time, he tries to convince his parents that they need an electric vehicle and solar panels in their lives, to which they respond with skepticism because they think he’s not a real scientist. Adrian hopes to one day use his PhD to enforce his authority as a real scientist make a contribution to science.

Aagam Shah (he/him)

Aagam was born and raised on the island city of Mumbai in India. He did his undergraduate studies in Materials Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar. His research focusses on data-driven predictive modelling for graphene synthesis by chemical vapour deposition and metal processing by laser powder bed fusion. Outside work, he enjoys swimming, live music, 3D printing, and taking the road less travelled.

Elif Ertekin (she/her)

Boss Lady-ish

Elif was born and lived in central Pennsylvania, where she grew up staring at a large number of cow pastures for extended periods of time. She is motivated by learning new things and understanding why, and generally loves that her job allows her to always …. learn new things and understand why. She did her undergrad in Engineering Science and Mechanics and in Applied Math at Penn State, and her graduate work in Materials Science and Engineering at UC Berkeley. She is currently Associate Professor and Director of Mechanics Programs in the Mechanical Science and Engineering Department, an Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied Physics, and Co-Director of the HDR Institute for Data Driven Dynamical Design. In her spare time she enjoys cats, good food, mixing cocktails, and is currently trying very hard to complete a never-ending kitchen renovation.


Prashun Gorai, PhD Student, ChBE (Advised by Ed Seebauer)
Heonjae Jeong, PhD Student, MechSE
Xiao Zhang, PhD Student, MechSE
Ashwathi Iyer, PhD Student, Physics
Taishan Zhu, PhD Student, MechSE
Naheed Ferdous, PhD Student, MechSE
Namhoon Kim, PhD Student, MechSE
Jaehyung Yu, PhD Student, MechSE
Joshua Schiller, PhD Student, MechSE
Kevin Cruse, Undergraduate Student, MechSE
Emil Annevelink, PhD Student, MechSE
Will Gustafson, MS Student, MechSE
Kara Kearney, Postdoc, MechSE
Bin Ouyang, Postdoc, MechSE
Tanmoy Chakraborty, Postdoc, MechSE
Kristina Miller, Undergraduate Student, MechSE
Chendi Lin, Undergraduate, MechSE
Patrick Duffy, Undergraduate, MechSE
Bryan Hoffman, Undergraduate and Web Designer, MechSE
Alex Gruebele, Undergraduate, MechSE
Emily Turner, Undergraduate, MechSE
Brian Xu, Undergraduate, MechSE