Yuliya Gorb’s mathematical modeling, analysis and simulation is helping solve problems related to complex composite materials. These types of materials can be found in a wide range of fields from medicine and materials science to subsurface engineering and microelectronics.
Gorb, an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Houston, was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award. The five-year award worth $420,000 covers her research as well as a small after-school program for female high school students.
NSF CAREER Awards are given to promising junior faculty members. Recipients exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.
Gorb is the first Department of Mathematics faculty member to receive an NSF CAREER award while at UH.
In her research, she is developing efficient tools, both numerical and analytical, for describing various phenomena occurring in a composite material.
“You can view a composite as a material consisting of two or more constituents,” said Gorb, who joined the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in 2009. “In particular, I’m looking at high contrast composites, that is those with large variations in material properties and complex geometry. Such composites exhibit some features not seen or observed in regular materials.”
Gorb says that gaining a full understanding of a composite material leads to the possibility of “intelligent” tailoring of the material or an increased ability to predict a drastic behavior.
“For example, in microelectronics, you want a composite material that effectively reduces the heat but has enough conductivity for the processes to run,” she said.
One of the bad features that these types of materials can develop is failure. “I am trying to better understand this critical behavior of the materials through modeling, analysis and simulation,” Gorb added.
She became interested in solving these types of problems while pursuing her Ph.D. at Pennsylvania State University and has devoted a large part of her research career to this topic.
Another aspect of Gorb’s CAREER award is student involvement. In addition to engaging UH undergraduates in her research projects, Gorb will launch a program for 10th through 12th grade girls this spring.
The program will showcase the essential relevance of mathematics to real-world problems. It is expected to give the program’s participants a better understanding of what the modern world and society have to offer them and will introduce career opportunities in science, math and engineering.
Kathy Major, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics