Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Raissa D’Souza Receives Department of Defense MURI Grant



The U.S. Department of Defense has granted a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) Award to a team headed by 
Raissa D’Souza, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Department of Computer Science. The $6.25 million, five-year project — titled “Predicting and Controlling Systems of Interdependent Networks: Exploiting Interdependence for Control” — will focus on the control of collective phenomena in complex systems. 

As project PI, D’Souza will collaborate with colleagues from UC Davis, Caltech, Rice University, the University of Washington, and the University of Wisconsin. 

D’Souza obtained a BS in physics in 1990, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She earned her PhD in statistical physics at MIT in 1999, and then completed postdoc work at both Bell Labs and the Microsoft Research Theory Group. She joined the UC Davis College of Engineering faculty as an assistant professor in 2005, rising to associate professor in June 2008. Since 2007, she also has served as an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. 

Her research focuses on mathematical models of self-organization, phase transitions and the structure and function of networked systems. Her publications span the fields of statistical physics, applied math and theoretical computer science. She and third-year PhD student Charles Brummitt recently achieved an important “proof of concept” in the relatively innovative fields of network theory and network science. These results were published — in a paper titled “Suppressing Cascades of Load in Interdependent Networks — in the February 21, 2012, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

The highly competitive MURI program supports proposals by teams of investigators that intersect several traditional science and engineering disciplines, in order to accelerate research progress. During the past 25 years, the MURI program has produced significant capabilities for U.S. military forces and opened up entirely new lines of research. Examples include advances in laser frequency combs, which have become the gold standard in frequency control for precision in navigation and targeting; and atomic and molecular “self-assembly” projects, which have opened new possibilities for nano-manufacturing. 

Jim Crutchfield–a professor in the UC Davis Physics Department, and co-PI on D’Souza’s proposal–also received his own 2013 MURI Award for a project titled “Information Engines: Nanoscale Control, Computing and Communication Out of Equilibrium.” Institutions don’t often receive two MURI awards in a single funding cycle, and these two projects will bring roughly $12 million of research support to UC Davis. 

More information: 
Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative