Shashank Priya, professor of mechanical engineering and Turner Fellow in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, has received the university's 2014 Alumni Award for Excellence in Research.

Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Research is presented annually to as many as two Virginia Tech faculty members who have made outstanding research contributions. Alumni, students, faculty, and staff may nominate candidates. Each recipient is awarded $2,000.

A member of the Virginia Tech community since 2007, Priya has made significant contributions in the fields of smart materials for energy and bio-inspired systems. He is an internationally recognized expert on vibration energy harvesting and multifunctional materials.

His research has led to the development of high performance materials which has spurred the development of miniature components such as microrobots and strain/force sensors, and energy harvesters that are able to provide enhanced power density while meeting the requirements of specific platforms.

In addition to designing the high performance materials, Priya has made contributions towards their deployment in practical platforms such as engines and buildings. 

To further research in this area, Priya established the Annual Energy Harvesting Workshop series, which has been bringing international experts to Virginia Tech each year to discuss energy harvesting and its applications. Four workshops in this series have been held at Virginia Tech. 

In 2013, the eighth workshop was held at the Virginia Tech’s National Science Foundation sponsored Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems site in Hannover, Germany. In 2014, the workshop will be held in Suzhou, China.

In 2012, Virginia Tech announced the establishment of a new Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science-led research center located in India where Priya will be collaborating with researchers to adapt small-scale windmills and flexible solar panels for use in households in rural India.

During the past six years, through the support of an Office of Naval Research Multi University Research Initiative Award, Priya has led the development of jellyfish inspired propulsion mechanism, better known as “Robojelly.” This research has led to a better understanding of jellyfish locomotion and to design unmanned vehicles based upon their findings. 

The long term goal of this research is to place self-powering, autonomous machines in waters for the purposes of surveillance and monitoring the environment, in addition to other uses such as studying aquatic life, mapping ocean floors for magnetic fields, and monitoring ocean currents.

In his time at Virginia Tech, he has been principal investigator or co-principal investigator on research grants amounting to more than $23 million with a personal share of approximately $11 million.

Throughout his career, Priya has authored or co-authored more than 240 journal papers in relatively high-impact-factor journals, authored or co-authored more than 55 proceedings, written five invited book chapters, edited eight books/special issues, and has made at least 75 significant presentations. He has graduated 24 graduate students and is currently advising 11 graduate students.

The research from his laboratory has been covered by technical magazines and news media around the world, including Nature, Discovery, Nova, CNN, and Bloomberg News.

Priya is Fellow of the American Ceramic Society and editor-in-chief of the journal Energy Harvesting and Systems.

Priya received his bachelor’s degree from Allahabad University, an integrated master’s degree from Indian Institute of Science, and a doctoral degree from Penn State University.

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