Computational Design Innovation Laboratory

Official homepage of Prof. Kai A. James' research group


Principal Investigator

Kai A. James, PhD


  • PhD, Aerospace Engineering, University of Toronto
  • MASc, Aerospace Engineering, University of Toronto
  • BASc, Engineering Science, University of Toronto


  • Assistant Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2015 – present
  • Affiliated Faculty, Computational Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2016 – present
  • Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Columbia University, 2012 – 2015


My research interests are in the areas of computational mechanics and multidisciplinary design optimization, with a particular focus on problems involving complex, nonlinear structures and aeroelasticity. I am especially interested in developing novel algorithms that leverage high-fidelity computational models and numerical optimization methods for the design of complex engineering systems. Some of my major research projects include aerostructural optimization of aircraft wings, and design optimization of resilient structures while accounting for material damage and viscoelastic creep effects.  Beyond my technical interests, I am also passionate about increasing diversity in the STEM fields, through outreach to economically disadvantaged students and underrepresented minorities

Graduate Students

Anurag Bhattacharyya

  • PhD, Aerospace Engineering
  • Joined in August, 2015
  • Thesis topic: Design of adaptive morphing aeroelastic structures



Ziliang (Troy) Kang

  • PhD, Aerospace Engineering
  • Joined in August, 2016
  • Thesis topic: Topology optimization of active material for soft robotics applications


Prateek Ranjan

  • PhD, Aerospace Engineering
  • Joined in August, 2016
  • Thesis topic: Flow control using structural optimization



Kenny Swartz

  • PhD, Mechanical Science and Engineering
  • Joined in January, 2017
  • Thesis topic: Optimal design of multi-body systems


Alex Jessee

  • MS, Aerospace Engineering
  • Joined in August, 2017
  • Thesis topic: Aerostructural optimization



  • Cian Conlan-Smith, MS 2017: Topology optimization of functionally graded compliant mechanisms

Undergraduate Students & Independent Study Projects

  • Nicholas Anderson, Undergraduate Research Opportunity (UROP)/Illinois Scholars Undergraduate Research (ISUR) Summer 2018 – present: Design of shape memory polymer-based 4D-printed mechanisms
  • Charul Chadha, AE597 Spring 2018: Topology optimization of 3D-printed structures subject to design-dependent thermal loading
  • Darrius Stamps, AE497 Fall 2017 – Spring 2018: Optimal design of polymorphic shape memory polymers via 4D printing
  • Nicholas Napier, AE497 Fall 2016 – Spring 2017: Post-processing of topology optimized designs using an artificial neural network
  • Sai Sriraman, AE497 Fall 2016 – Spring 2017: Automated interpolation of topology optimized designs for 3D prototyping