Srikanth Pilla Named Director of Center for Composite Materials

Srikanth Pilla

Srikanth Pilla, one of the world’s leading experts in advanced lightweighting and sustainable composites, has joined the University of Delaware as the Director of the Center for Composite Materials (CCM) as of August 1, 2023.

Pilla comes to UD from Clemson University, where he most recently served as the ExxonMobil Employees Endowed Chair for the Department of Automotive Engineering. Prior to that, Pilla was an Assistant Scientist at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at UW-Madison and has industry experience from working at SC Johnson and SuGanit Bio-Renewables LLC.

With the goal of taking discoveries made in the lab and partnering with industry to develop working prototypes, Pilla established the Clemson Composite Center and served as its founding director. He was also recently named the Director of the Artificially Intelligent Manufacturing Paradigm for Composites (AIM for Composites), a U.S. Department of Energy Frontier Research Center, whose goal is to use tools from AI and data science to inform the “inverse design” of new advanced polymer composites.

“We are delighted to welcome Srikanth  as our next CCM Director. Srikanth brings youthful energy and fresh ideas to lead CCM in bold new directions including circular engineering, future sustainable materials, and intelligent manufacturing,” said Ajay Prasad, Engineering Alumni Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “With his primary appointment in Mechanical Engineering, we also look forward to Srikanth’s contributions in mentoring and training our students both in the classroom and the laboratory.”

Pilla has a wide-reaching research portfolio focused on engineering advanced, multifunctional structural polymers, foams and composites and foams for a variety of applications, including energy and sustainability, biomaterials, and the automotive industries. His work is supported by funding from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, and several automotive original equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

Pilla described CCM as the “Mecca of composites” and a place he has looked up to since he first started working in this field. As its new director, his goal is to help envision the Center’s future—a “CCM 2.0,” he said. Some of his goals include fostering collaboration and partnerships across campus and within the College of Engineering, expanding CCM’s research portfolio to new domains, starting new educational programs in composites, and establishing a CCM foundation to support student scholarships, faculty fellowships, and research grants.

“My portfolio includes working with industry and integrating cross-disciplinary expertise to advance the state-of-the-art in composites in the energy and sustainability domains,” said Pilla. “Now, as the Director of CCM, I’m looking forward to bringing my expertise that complements the Center’s outstanding research portfolio and reputation in the field of composites for defense and structural applications.”

Pilla’s tenure begins after nearly 30 years of leadership by Donald C. Phillips Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Jack Gillespie, who helped CCM become one of the top composite centers in the world.

In addition to serving as the Director of CCM, Pilla’s primary faculty appointment is in the Department of Mechanical Engineering with joint appointments in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering and the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering.

Article by: Erica K. Brockmeier