Three Engineering Faculty Receive 2016 AFOSR YIP Awards

Author: Nina Welding


Three faculty from Notre Dame’s College of Engineering — Thomas Juliano, Tijana Milenkovic, and Laurel Riek — are among the 56 engineers and scientists from 41 organizations who will be awarded grants totaling approximately $20.6 million as part of the 2016 Young Investigator Program (YIP) of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). These awards support junior faculty who have demonstrated extraordinary research abilities in engineering and science, especially in those areas that support the Air Force mission, including dynamical systems and control, quantum and non-equilibrium processes, information, decision and complex networks, complex materials and devices, and energy, power and propulsion. More than 265 proposals were reviewed before determining this year’s recipients.


Juliano, assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, was selected for his proposal titled “Plasma-actuated flow control of hypersonic crossflow-induced boundary-layer transition in a quiet tunnel.” In conjunction with the construction of the country’s largest hypersonic quiet wind tunnel on the Notre Dame campus, Juliano will design, build, test, and analyze a plasma-based flow control system to affect boundary-layer instability that would be encountered during hypersonic flight. Information obtained during the study can be incorporated into the design of a laminar-flow-control system of a hypersonic vehicle to reduce the high levels of heating encountered by vehicles flying faster than Mach 5. These types of vehicles would include those re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere from orbit, high-speed, long-range missiles, and a future generation of passenger airliners.

A senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Juliano joined the University in 2014 having previously served as a research associate in the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and postdoctoral researcher at The Ohio State University. He received his bachelor’s degree in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology in 2004. He earned his master’s and doctorate in aeronautical and astronautical engineering at Purdue University in 2006 and 2010, respectively.


Milenkovic, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, was selected for her project, titled “Efficient comparison of multiple complex networks,” which deals with the fundamental computational problem of multiple network alignment that aims to find regions of (dis)similarities between complex (heterogeneous, dynamic, noisy) networks. Network alignment can be used to integrate functional knowledge that is common to heterogeneous yet related networks — i.e., that is conserved between aligned network regions — or to infer functional behavior of a poorly-understood network based on functional behaviors of other well-studied networks that align well with it. This has important implications for many real-world applications, such as efficient analysis of heterogeneous types of the Air Force’s networks; studying complex cellular processes in human via network-based transfer of biological knowledge from well-studied model species; understanding of complex interactions between pathogens and hosts, thus aiding therapeutics or defense against bioweapons; natural language processing — e.g., language translation; or cybersecurity of networked systems, such as online social networks.

Milenkovic has been a member of the University faculty since 2010. Her research interests are in network science, computational biology, and social networks. She is the director of the University’s Complex Networks Lab and a member of the Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science & Applications and the Eck Institute for Global Health. She has also received the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award in 2015, another NSF Award in 2013, the Google Faculty Research Award in 2013, and an NSF EAGER Award in 2012, along with three other collaborative awards from the National Institutes of Health. Milenkovic is an associate editor of IEEE/ACM Transactions on Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. She earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 2005 from the University of Sarajevo. She received her master’s and doctorate, both in computer science, in 2008 and 2010, respectively, from the University of California at Irvine.


Riek, the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, received the award for her project titled “Trust affordances in human-automation teaming.” The goal of Riek’s project is to explore the foundational computational and physical design constraints that facilitate robot trustworthiness. It is rooted in questions regarding the processes of trust building and trust calibration within high-risk, human-robot teaming and will involve physical human-robot experimentation, such as collaborating on a time-sensitive, safety-critical tasks, like cooperative manipulation to safely to move a heavy object. The project will enable robots to learn to adapt to and anticipate human motion and alter their own behaviors to become a safe, competent, and trustworthy teammate. Results of this project will substantially inform the science of trust between humans and autonomous systems, including providing new methods for mutual capability assessment and adaptation, informing future design guidelines for trusted automation affordances and improved transparency, and offering new insights for mixed-initiative team training.

In addition to this award, Riek has received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a Qualcomm Research Scholar Award, several best paper awards, and in 2014 was named as one of ASEE’s 20 Faculty under 40. She serves on the editorial boards of IEEE Transactions on Human Machine Systems and IEEE Access and on the Steering Committee of the ACM/IEEE Conference on Human-Robot Interaction. Riek received her bachelor’s degree in logic and computation from Carnegie Mellon University in 2000 and doctorate in computer science in 2011 from the University of Cambridge. From 2000-07 she worked a senior artificial intelligence engineer and roboticist at MITRE. She joined the University in 2011.

Originally published by Nina Welding at on February 26, 2016.