Engineering Professor Awarded $625,124 Grant for Research on Nonlinear Systems

PhD candidate Dimitrios Karagiannis with postdoctoral fellow Cedrick Kwuimy, PhD, and C. Nataraj, PhD, professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Moritz, Sr. Endowed Chair in Systems Engineering.
PhD candidate Dimitrios Karagiannis with postdoctoral fellow Cedrick Kwuimy, PhD, and C. Nataraj, PhD, professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Moritz, Sr. Endowed Chair in Systems Engineering.

Villanova University’s C. Nataraj, PhD, professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Moritz, Sr. Endowed Chair in Systems Engineering, has been awarded $625,124 from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for “Hybrid diagnostic algorithms for higher order nonlinear systems.” Working on the three-year project with him are postdoctoral fellow Cedrick Kwuimy, PhD, and doctoral candidates Mohsen Samadani and Turki Haj-Mohamad. This is Dr. Nataraj’s fifth research grant from ONR in the past decade, and brings his ONR awards total to more than $2.8 million.

A renowned expert in the field of dynamic systems and nonlinear dynamics, Dr. Nataraj’s current project addresses the fault diagnostics of practical nonlinear systems (i.e., aircraft engines, turbo generators, windmills, motors, gearboxes, etc.). “Being able to understand a system’s behavior will help us to know when to intervene in order to prevent failure, which could be catastrophic, leading to material damage and lost lives,” he says. Finding current diagnostic techniques to be insufficient, Dr. Nataraj proposes innovative and rigorous techniques, which are a synthesis of nonlinear physics, machine learning and information theory. He points out, “We have conceived and developed these unique approaches over the past several years here at Villanova.”

At this stage of the project, three nonlinear oscillators are chosen with sufficient generality to be able to apply to a host of disciplines. Dr. Nataraj’s goal is to derive a general algorithm for the diagnostics of large order nonlinear systems, coupled systems and network of systems. To validate his theoretical approach, he will use custom designed experimental set ups at Villanova and will ultimately apply his algorithms to experimental data from practical machinery such as those provided by United Technologies Research Center. “We work with our industrial partners to ensure the eventual practical applicability of our methods,” Dr. Nataraj explains.

A faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering since 1988, Dr. Nataraj recently resigned his position as department chair so that he can focus on what will be the College of Engineering’s newest research center: the Villanova Center for Analytics of Dynamic Systems. This will be the second center that Dr. Nataraj has launched in the College. In 2002 he was instrumental in founding the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics and Control for which he served as director until 2007.

In addition to control and diagnostics of nonlinear systems, Dr. Nataraj also is recognized for his research in unmanned vehicles, robotics and rotor dynamics. Along with ONR, his work has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Evidence of his contributions both to Villanova and the engineering community at large, in 2013 Dr. Nataraj was honored by the University with the Outstanding Faculty Research Award. Not simply a “recognition,” award, nominees are selected based on their lifetime achievements.  Dr. Nataraj’s subsequent presentation titled “Dynamic Systems: The Science of Machinery, Robots, Medical Diagnostics and Autonomy” reflected some of the research that led him to win this prestigious award.