Faculty Spotlight: Renee Zhao
Where is your hometown?
"My hometown is in Xi’an, Shaanxi, a city in the middle of China, where the Terracotta Army is. It was also the capital city of ancient China for 13 empires spanning 1140 years."
What is your field and what made you pursue it?
"Solid mechanics and advanced materials. Things in our daily life are made of different materials. Solid Mechanics is an important tool to understand the exist and to explore the not-yet-exist. It serves as the foundation to understand materials’ mechanical behaviors, and to guide us to design new material systems that have advanced functionalities. The field of mechanics and materials is more and more exciting as it could be naturally coupled with multiple disciplines such as material science, robotics, biomechanics, bioengineering, etc., for developing the state-of-the-art life-advancing components."
What brought you to Ohio State?
"Ohio State is a big university with extremely active research activities in diverse fields. In addition, Ohio State has a large population of talented students. Furthermore, Ohio is well known for its industry, including automobile, aerospace, and biomedical. These together can bring many opportunities for collaborative research at the interface of conventional mechanical engineering and advanced science."
What is the focus of your research and why is it significant?
"My research focuses on intelligent soft materials. These materials are critical for many next-generation technologies, such as soft robotics, morphing structures and devices, and biomedical devices for minimally invasive operations. Our research will develop fundamental knowledge as well as advanced design tools for material design, manufacturing, and advanced applications."
Why should a prospective student consider mechanical?
"The mechanical engineering is no longer just about building machines. It becomes a highly scientific field that integrates diverse disciplines, including information technology, data science, material science, mechatronics, control, etc. We prepare our students to be the leaders in the next round of technology innovations in robotics, manufacturing, transportation, biomedical devices, and biomedicine."
What do you like most about your job?
"As a faculty, I enjoy being independent and collaborative. I like the freedom of collaborating with people who share common research interests with me. I also like to collaborate with my students (both graduate and undergraduate) to implement exciting ideas."
What advice would you give students considering a career in engineering?
"To be always curious. As an engineer or scientist, we want to maintain our curiosity about things around us and always ask the 'why and how' questions."
What is one of your favorite hobbies outside of being a professor and researcher?
"I like swimming. I used to be a competitive swimmer when I was in college. I haven’t done much swimming since I started my academic career, but I would like to continue as I am not so busy."