University of South Alabama Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dr. Kuang-Ting Hsiao is leading a three-year NASA-EPSCoR research project of over $1 million for developing a new, lightweight composite for use in space flights. The new material, which is 3-dimensionally structured by nanofibers and carbon fibers, is aimed at outperforming the state-of-the-art lightweight carbon fiber composites currently used in aerospace and defense industries.
USA is the lead institution on the grant, which includes collaboration with Tuskegee University and Auburn University. At USA, Hsiao’s engineering colleagues Dr. Martin R. Parker and Dr. Anh-Vu Phan also collaborate with him on this advanced materials research project.
The latest grant adds to Hsiao’s impressive resume of current federal funded research grant awards, with USA playing an important role in partnering with other universities for sizeable competitive federal grants. His success was recognized with a 2010 Olivia Rambo McGlothren National Alumni Outstanding Scholar Award from the USA National Alumni Association.
In his laboratory, Hsiao involves undergraduate and graduate students in his research projects, harnessing and engaging their creativity and professional knowledge with the leading-edge research topics encouraged by federal and state agencies and industries.
“I like to work with the students here,” Hsiao said. “I enjoy mentoring my research students to develop their own ways to answer new opportunities and challenges with their analytical thinking skills, innovative ideas, decision-making skills, courage, endurance and task management skills.”
Hsiao’s guidance includes teaching students the grant-writing and execution process. It has paid off for his students, who have won prestigious fellowships from the state of Alabama and NASA, and for the undergraduates who have won awards through USA’s undergraduate research program.
Hsiao also is an active inventor, and he has submitted multiple invention disclosure to the USA Office of Technology Transfer.
Reggie Taylor, associate director of the Office of Technology Transfer, said Hsiao has a history of inventing.
“Inventions are basically solutions to problems,” Taylor said.
Once it is submitted, Taylor works with an outside consultant to do a commercial assessment of the disclosure, which includes market research and possibly a preliminary patent assessment. Then, USA would either work to commercialize the invention, with the involvement of the inventor, or return the technology back to the inventor.
“We don’t just put it in a file cabinet and forget about it,” Taylor said. “If we’re not going to commercialize it, we give it back to the inventor to take it forward if they wish.”