Dr. Hongyi Xu might not look like your average university professor, and some of his students may have wondered if he was not the graduate teaching assistant for the course as opposed to the actual class professor, but don’t let his youthful appearance fool you. Dr. Xu is a qualified and highly skilled instructor for the Mechanical Engineering Department as well as for the Management and Engineering for Manufacturing program at the University of Connecticut.
After earning his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University in 2014, he began his career in industry at the Ford Motor Company as a Research Engineer. While there he led and participated in a variety of research projects including passive safety, in which he worked to design structures to protect the occupant of a vehicle, structure optimization for vehicle lightweighting, Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) of carbon fiber composites, Lithium-only battery impact safety, fuel cell membrane analysis, and the design of mesostructured-structure systems for additive manufacturing.
After leaving Ford Motor Company, he joined the University of Connecticut as an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering. Here, he teaches two courses: MEM 3221 / ME 3295 Introduction to Products and Processes, as well as SE 5702 / ME 5702, a grad level course on Data Science for Materials and Manufacturing.
“I really like teaching [MEM 3221],” Xu said. “The interesting thing about this class is that every year we will finalize some project from a local business or manufacturer and get those real experiences.
He explains that this year, he is working with Connecticut Small Business Development Center to connect with small businesses and manufacturers in Connecticut.
“They propose an idea and we pick which ideas to work on so it closely relates to the course,” he said. “This year we are working with a company the manufactures baby cradles.”
“The 5702 course is also a lot of fun to teach,” Xu said. “It is a diverse student body including recent grads and seasoned engineers in industry, so there are a lot of differing opinions and thoughts on the same topic and the younger students really benefit from the experience that professionals bring as it relates to real world working styles.”
At UConn, his research focuses on developing design optimization and uncertainty quantification methods for the analysis and design of heterogeneous microstructural materials. His research interests also include Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) and data mining-enhanced multi-disciplinary optimization. He also collaborates with the MIT Battery Consortium and has two additional project proposals for which he awaiting funding from outside sources.
While in industry, Xu enjoyed the work life balance and the resources that were available he also has found aspects he loves about working at a university.
“I enjoyed working at Ford where there were a lot of resources and you can always find real world ways to test what you’re developing; however, working at UConn, I have a lot of freedom to work on projects that I want to work on. I am responsible for everything but also in charge of what research I choose, and that ability to shape my research based on my interests, and also getting to interact with students more, is a really nice benefit to university work,” he said.
When Dr. Xu is not working on his many research projects or teaching his courses at UConn, he enjoys playing soccer when he can find others to play with, and flower gardening, a hobby which he picked up during the closures in 2020 and 2021.