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Fluid-Dynamics Expert to Join Mechanical Engineering Department

Upon completing a postdoctoral research fellowship at Harvard, Dr. Wonjae Choi will join the UT Dallas Mechanical Engineering Department this fall, bringing small-scale fluid dynamics expertise that has potential applications in oil drilling, antifogging surfaces and the understanding of circulatory diseases.

“Wonjae Choi’s addition to the team will strengthen our ability to develop research and educational initiatives in bio-inspired engineering and microfluidics,” said Dr. Mario Rotea, head of mechanical engineering. “He belongs to an emerging generation of mechanical engineers who are helping create the micro- and nano-devices necessary for a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable world.”

Choi received his PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT in 2009. His doctoral study focused on understanding and manipulating the behavior of liquids on textured surfaces – research inspired by natural surfaces such as lotus leaves and duck feathers that exhibit superior water repellency. He developed textured surfaces that display super-repellency against low-surface-tension liquids such as gasoline, a characteristic that does not exist in nature. He also worked on other unconventional fluid-surface interactions to develop porous membranes that can separate oil-water emulsions and surfaces on which water droplets can roll only in particular directions.

He is now completing a research fellowship in chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard, where he is working on the behavior of two-phase fluids (one fluid dispersed in the other) in confined geometries. For example, he has demonstrated the navigation of bubbles in complex mazes and has discussed how the behavior of such bubbles differs from that of those in a single-phase fluid. He aims to apply the understanding of such complex fluids to the development of soft actuators, hemodynamics and the development of a new generation of heat exchangers.

Prior to MIT he worked as a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) engineer at Daewoo Electronics and later at a Daewoo spin-off company, where he contributed to the development of micro-mirror arrays, film-bulk-acoustic resonators and IR bolometers.

His research activities have been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Department of Energy. He has authored or co-authored 12 journal publications, including highly cited articles in the journal Science and in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describing fundamental contributions to the design of liquid-repellant surfaces.