Skip to main content


Akshay’s Paper Featured on MSDE Cover

Congratulations to Akshay Iyer, whose paper “Data Centric Nanocomposites Design via Mixed-Variable Bayesian Optimization”, has been published in and featured on the cover of Molecular Systems Design & Engineering (Issue 8)! The artwork was prepared by Askhay himself. Please be sure to read the paper, referenced below.

Iyer, A., Zhang, Y., Prasad, A., Gupta, P., Tao, S., Wang, Y., Prabhune, P., Schadler, L.S., Brinson, L.C. and Chen, W., 2020. Data centric nanocomposites design via mixed-variable Bayesian optimizationMolecular Systems Design & Engineering.

Akshay Iyer's MSDE Cover Paper

IDEAL Attends Virtual IDETC 2020

From August 17 through 19, IDEAL attended the ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences (IDETC) 2020, which was held virtually. Two of our papers (led by Liwei Wang and Yu-Chin Chan) received the Papers of Distinction Award in the Design Automation Conference section (DAC)! In total, our group was represented by 5 papers out of the 118 accepted into DAC this year (see below).

Also, our former postdocs, Zhenghui Sha (currently Assistant Professor at University of Arkansas) and Faez Ahmed (currently Assistant Professor at MIT), co-organized the 2020 ASME-CIE Hackathon: Identifying, Extracting, Analyzing Value from Large Unstructured Data Sets in Mechanical Engineering. Some of our group members competed in teams and won prizes – congratulations to Yaxin Cui and Umar Farooq Ghumman!

IDETC Papers
  • Liwei Wang, Siyu Tao, Ping Zhu, Wei Chen. Data-Driven Multiscale Topology Optimization Using Multi-Response Latent Variable Gaussian Process (DETC2020-22595). Session: DAC 10-2: Design of Engineering Materials and Structures.
  • Yu-Chin Chan, Faez Ahmed, Liwei Wang, Wei Chen. METASET: An Automated Data Selection Method for Scalable Data-Driven Design of Metamaterials (DETC2020-22681). Session: DAC 3-1: Data-Driven Design.
  • Siyu Tao, Anton van Beek, Daniel W. Apley, Wei Chen. “Bayesian Optimization for Simulation-Based Design of Multi-Model Systems” (DETC2020-22651). Session: DAC 14-1: Metamodel-Based Design Optimization.
  • Anton van Beek, Umar Farooq Ghumman, Joydeep Munshi, Siyu Tao, TeYu Chien, Ganesh Balasubramanian, Matthew Plumlee, Daniel Apley, Wei Chen. “Scalable Objective-Driven Batch Sampling in Simulation-Based Design for Models With Heteroscedastic Noise” (DETC2020-22629). Session: DAC 18-2: Simulation-Based Design Under Uncertainty.
  • Yaxin Cui, Faez Ahmed, Zhenghui Sha, Lijun Wang, Yan Fu, Wei Chen. “A Weighted Network Modeling Approach for Analyzing Product Competition” (DETC2020-22591). Session: DAC 7-1: Design for Market Systems.

Hackathon Awards
  • 3rd place for Problem 1: Umar Farooq Ghumman along with students from MIT and Stevens Institute of Technology. “Generating a Data-Driven Surrogate Model for Machine Damage Accumulation“.
  • 2nd place for Problem 2: Yaxin Cui along with students from UT Austin. “Melt Pool Prediction in Addictive Manufacturing: A Hybrid Approach Based on the Process Parameter“.

IDEAL Hosts Alumni Panel

As part of our summer panel series, we were honored to invite four lab alumni back (virtually) to IDEAL. The panel discussed their experiences during and after their Ph.D. or postdoctoral positions at IDEAL, imparting our current members and summer interns with words of advice and encouragement. The panelists were:

  • Prof. Harrison Kim (Postdoc, 2003-2004): Professor, Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering and Willett Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC); director of the Enterprise Systems Optimization Laboratory as well as the Hoeft Tech and Management Program at UIUC. Prof. Kim has received numerous awards and researches engineering design, analytics, and systems optimization.
  • Dr. Zhen Jiang (Ph.D., 2015): Lead Analytics Scientist / Analytics Supervisor, Ford Innovation Center, Palo Alto, CA. Zhen’s dissertation was Model Uncertainty Quantification and Uncertainty Reduction in Simulation-Based Systems Design (co-advised by Prof. Dan Apley).
  • Dr. Mingxian Wang (Ph.D., 2016): Research Scientist, Amazon Boston. In the Alexa Entertainment Spoken Language Understanding team, Mingxian researches Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU). She previously worked as a Data Scientist at Ford’s Global Data, Insight & Analytics organization, where she led the research collaboration between Ford and Northwestern University.
  • Dr. Xiaolin Li (Ph.D., 2018): Software Engineer, Microsoft, WA. Xiaolin’s dissertation was Interphase Modeling and Data Analytical Approaches for Polymer Nanocomposites Design (co-advised by Prof. Cate Brinson).

It was impressive to learn how their time with Prof. Wei Chen has helped them reach success in each of their careers since leaving IDEAL! Please enjoy our Zoom group photo below.


Dr. Faez Ahmed’s Proposal Funded

Our Postdoc, Dr. Faez Ahmed, who was already offered a faculty position at MIT before joining us at IDEAL, has received funding for his first proposal, together with Co-PI Dr. Daniel Frey! The title of his project is AI-driven Design Synthesis for Personalized Bicycles, awarded by the MechE Mathworks Seed Fund Program for $100k in Year 1. The goal of the project is to develop an automated method to generate new bicycle designs which meet the specific needs of a user, hence increasing access to bicycles for a broader spectrum of people. Congratulations!

Umar, Anton Awarded at Proposal Competition

Lab members Umar Ghumman and Anton van Beek were each awarded Honorable Mention at the inaugural Mechanical Engineering PhD Proposal Pitch Competition (PPC) on  April 30, 2020! The competition consisted of five teams pitching innovative research proposals to a panel of faculty judges. Umar’s team presented, “Data-driven process-structure-property-performance (PSPP) framework for additive manufacturing alloy design”, while Anton’s proposed, “Molecular structure discovery of fluid molecules with desired physical properties“. Congratulations to both teams!

Summer Graduation 2019

Congratulations to Ramin Bostanabad, Youyi Bi, Jun Lu, Jian Xie, and Wenyu Han, who have completed their study at Northwestern and joined the alumni of IDEAL as of this summer!

Ramin and Youyi finished their terms as postdoctoral researchers at IDEAL. We had a summer party in June to celebrate together with lab alumni Dr. Xiaolin Li, who came back to Evanston for his Ph.D. hooding ceremony. Professor Cate Brinson of Duke University, co-adviser of Xiaolin, and some of her students also joined the party.

[metaslider id=1239]

Summer party

Ramin will work as an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Irvine, and Youyi accepted a faculty position at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.

Wenyu, a Masters student, graduated in June.

Jun Lu and Jian Xie were predoctoral visiting students from China. Both of them joined IDEAL two years ago and they will return to China to finish their Ph.D. studies in September.

Group lunch with Jian

Congratulations to the new alumni. We wish them all the best!


IDEAL Attends IDETC 2019

We attended the 2019 ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (IDETC/CIE2019) in Anaheim, CA.

Several of the IDEAL members received awards during the conference. Anton van Beek and Siyu Tao, our Ph. D. students, won the Best Paper Award from the Design Automation Conference (DAC). This is the fourth time our work has been recognized by DAC.

Best Paper Award from DAC

Prof. Wei Chen received the Robert Abbott Award from the ASME Design Engineering Division for her service on behalf of the Division and the Society. She was also part of the Design Automation Conference Keynote panel for “New Perspectives on Leadership in Engineering Design”.

Prof. Zhenghui Sha of the University of Arkansas, an IDEAL alumni, was awarded the Best Paper Award from the CIE Conference with his students.

As always, we had an illuminating and productive time at IDETC, and reunited with a lot of friends and alumni.

Group photo with IDEAL alumni and Profs. Farrokh Mistree and Janet Allen


We had four publications at this conference:

  • Xie, J., Bi, Y., Sha, Z., Wang, M., Fu, Y., Contractor, N., Gong, Li, and Chen, W., “Data-Driven Dynamic Network Modeling for Analyzing the Evolution of Product Competitions”, ASME 2019 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, IDETC2019-98385, August 18-21, Anaheim, CA.
  • Iyer, A., Zhang, Y., Prasad, A., Tao, T., Wang, Y., Schadler, L., Brinson, C.B., Chen, W, “Data-Driven Mixed-Variable Bayesian Optimization for Materials Design,” ASME 2019 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, IDETC2019-98222, August 18-21, Anaheim, CA.
  • Van Beek, A., Tao, S., and Chen, W., “Global Emulation through Normative Decision Making and Thrifty Adaptive Batch Sampling”, ASME 2019 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, IDETC2019-98223, August 18-21, Anaheim, CA.
  • Bostanabad, R., Chan Y-C., Wang, L., Zhu, P., and Chen, W., “Globally Approximate Gaussian Processes for Big Data with an Application to Data-driven Metamaterials Design”, ASME 2019 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, IDETC2019-98027, August 18-21, Anaheim, CA.