New Faculty Member, 2023–24
Assistant professor, civil, environmental and sustainable engineering
Unraveling the mysteries of nature is what sparked Nariman Mahabadi’s interest in engineering.
“The incredible revelation that the principles of physics can elucidate the governing rules of life and the intricate functions within biological systems is truly remarkable,” says Mahabadi, who is joining the faculty of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.
Most recently, Mahabadi has rejoined the research team he worked with while pursuing his doctoral degree at ASU — the Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics, also known as CBBG. The research team has created computational frameworks that can simulate diverse functions within biological networks like those found in the structure of leaf veins and plant roots. Drawing insights from these natural systems, the research has the capability to make a difference in engineered flow networks.
The framework can encompass a range of applications, spanning from small-scale implementations like fuel cells, solar cells and synthetic organs to large-scale structures such as foundation systems and water drainage networks. Mahabadi says that by leveraging the capabilities of natural systems with engineering, he and his team can aid biologists to solve problems.
Mahabadi and his team have received funding from the National Science Foundation to develop a computational framework for investigating transport phenomena in complex networks. He says this work will bridge the gap between biological systems and sustainable engineering networks.
“My intention is to formulate models that not only broaden and deepen our current understanding of complex structural emergence in natural systems but also yield innovative tools and paradigms for engineering design across a multitude of practical applications, irrespective of their biological implications,” Mahabadi says.
This year at ASU, Mahabadi will share his expertise with students in the foundations of engineering, bio-inspired geotechnics, and numerical methods in geotechnical engineering.
Geotechnics, or the application of geological, geophysical and hydrological principles to construction engineering, has been one of Mahabadi’s overarching interests.
“Over the past five years, our research group has broadened its scope to encompass the burgeoning field of bio-geotechnics,” Mahabadi says. “At ASU, the CBBG provides an excellent platform for advancing our work in this emerging realm within civil engineering.”
From this work, Mahabadi plans to further research in biomimetic systems by creating an autonomous multidisciplinary research initiative.
“The focal point will revolve around multifunctional biological networks and their versatile applications in geotechnical, civil, mechanical and biomedical engineering,” he says.
When Mahabadi isn’t working, he enjoys camping, playing chess and macro-photography, or taking photographs of micro-scaled features on animals, plants and insects.
Written by Bobbi Ramirez