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Graduate Students

Alex Villanueva  

    Alex Villanuava

Alex Villanueva is a Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech. His current research focuses in biomimetic robotics of jellyfish inspired autonomous underwater vehicles. He works primarily on mimicking the propulsion mechanism of jellyfish through the analysis of animal morphology, kinematics and hydrodynamics, and through the development of robotic vehicles which utilize smart material actuators. Alex obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Arizona State University. He has work for NASA, Orbital Sciences and Honeywell where he worked with micro satellites, electric propulsion, structural health monitoring, UAV’s, and rocket ordinance systems.

Colin Stewart  

    Colin Stewart
Colin Stewart received his B.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics from Virginia Tech in 2010. He is currently a graduate student pursuing his Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering under the direction of Dr. Shashank Priya and Dr. Danesh Tafti. Colin's research focuses on jellyfish hydrodynamics and locomotion.

Daniel Apo

 Daniel Apo received a B. Eng in Mechanical Engineering in 2007 from The University of Benin in Benin City, Nigeria. In 2012, he completed his S.M. in Mechanical Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is now on track to earn his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech. His research interests include: MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS), Energy Harvesting and Conversion, Smart Structures and materials, Piezoelectricity and Magnetostriction, and Combustion and Fluid dynamics. 

Dragan Avirovik  

    Dragan Avirovik
Dragan Avirovik was born on October, 17th 1985 in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia. He moved to The United States as a senior year foreign exchange student in a high school in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Upon his high school graduation, Dragan attended Oklahoma State University where he completed his freshman year and then transferred to Virginia Tech. His employment experiences include work with B/E Aerospace in the Testing and Certification department and Good Year Tire and Rubber Company in the Engineering Mechanics Department. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech in May 2009 and at the moment he is a PhD candidate working under Dr. Shashank Priya. His research is aimed towards the biomedical robotics field with a specific focus in developing a medical device for very delicate and intricate surgical procedures.

Eric Baldrighi


Eric Baldrighi moved around a bit in his childhood, as both his parents were in the Air Force. The longest place he stayed in was Northern Virginia, where in high school, physics captured his imagination. He received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech in 2010. In undergrad, he worked on Humanoid Robot's artificial skin, pushing him towards graduate school where he continues to work on artificial silicone skin. He also does mechatronics work and embedded SMA research.


Kenneth Marut





Keyur Joshi  

    Keyur Joshi
After Graduation in Mechanical Eng, Keyur worked in industry on project planning and piping design. He then pursued M.E.(Manufacturing) and went on to do M.Tech(Design) for the IIT, Bombay. Here, he worked on ISRO sponsored project, for slosh characterization, modeling and control as a Research Assistant for 3 years at M.Tech. His other work experiences include GE Healthcare as Software Design Engineer before joining GE Aviation as Analysis Engineer, Aircraft Structures. His acquired skills include stress analysis, fatigue life estimation, damage tolerant design and fracture mechanics, elastic-plastic analysis and root cause analysis for in-field failures. He has acheievd Six Sigma Green Belt Certification and Hats-off Award during his service. Here at VT, he is pursuing a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. under Dr. Shashank Priya and would assists in research in Jellyfish Project in a GRA capacity.

Matt Paluszek


Mike Stevens 





Mike Stevens is pursuing his Master's in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in Robotics. His areas of research include nonlinear controls, real time systems, designing biomimetic components for a humanoid robot, and human interfaces relating to control. Currently, he is designing a humanoid hand with 13 degrees of freedom and a wide array of sensors for closed loop control. Past projects and other work can be found at

Ronnie Varghes  

    Ronnie Varghese
Ronnie Varghese received his B.E. in Chemical Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India in ’92 and his M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Arizona State University in ’95 (thesis: Titanium dioxide thin film preparation for photocatalytic oxidation of VOCs’). From ’92-’93, he worked as Petrochemical Separations Process engineer. From ’96-‘09, he has been employed in various roles with increasing responsibilities at Hewlett Packard’s Corvallis OR fab (CMOS ASIC, BJT), Agilent Technologies Fort Collins, CO fab (CMOS, Image sensor, RF, III-V, and Optical), NanoOpto’s nanotechnology fab (Subwavelength Optical Elements, Interference filters) in Somerset, NJ and finally at the Rohm & Haas Electronic Materials (later, spun off as Nuvotronics) MEMS and Si Photonics fab in Blacksburg, VA. As a PhD student in the MSE department, he is presently conducting research in 3-D Piezo-MEMS devices and multi-ferroic thin film process and device development.

Shashaank Gupta  

    Shashaank Gupta
Shashaank Gupta is a PhD student in the department of Material Science and Engineering. Before joining Virginia tech in Fall 2009, he received his Master’s degrees in Physics and Material Science, respectively, from MJP Rohilkhand University, Bareilly, India and Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIK), India. During his Masters in Material Science from IITK, he worked on bismuth ferrite – lead titnate thin films for sensors and actuators. Presently the main focus of his research is to develop orientation controlled Lead based and lead free piezoelectric thin films and ceramics.

Tyler Michael





Yuan Zhou  

    Yuan Zhou
Yuan Zhou received his B.E. degree in Electronic Science & Technology from Xi’an Jiaotong University in July, 2009. He worked in Electronic Materials Research Laboratory (Key laboratory of Ministry of China) during his B.E. Now he is a PhD candidate at Virginia tech under Prof. Shashank Priya. His research focus on Magnetoelectric sensor & transformer, Pulsed laser deposition of multiferroic self assembled thin films and Piezoelectric thin films for promising functional structure and devices.

Yu Zhao  

    Yu Zhao
Yu Zhao is a Ph.D student in the department of Material Science and Engineering, Virginia Tech. Before joining EMDL, she received her B. S. degree and M.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Zhejiang University, China, in 2007 and 2010 respectively. Her master thesis is on ZnO and La-Mg-Ni based alloys as electrode materials for Ni-MH battery and Li-ion battery. Her current research interests focus on multilayer structure of piezoelectric and thermoelectric ceramics for high capacitors.