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Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory | U of I

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Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory
208 North Wright Street Urbana, Illinois 61801


Office hours 8:30a - 5:00p


Phone: 217-333-3097
Fax: 217-244-6375


M Taher A. Saif

M Taher A. Saif

Ph.D. Theo. & Appl. Mech. Cornell University 1993

Research Statement:
Professor Saif's research focuses on the mechanics of nanoscale materials and living cells. He uses both theory and experiment to explore (1) the effect of size on the mechanics of materials, and (2) the role of mechanical force in determining the functionality of cells and cell clusters.

Professor Saif demonstrated experimentally, for the first time, that plastic deformation in nanocrystalline metal films can be reversible. After plastic deformation, metals with grain sizes between 50 and 100 nanometers recover most of their plastic strain under macroscopically stress-free condition. This recovery is time dependent and thermally activated. Saif showed that the recovery originates from the small size and heterogeniety of microstructure of the metal specimens. The research, which was reported in Science, raises the possibility of manufacturing metal components that can heal themselves after being deformed or dented.

In the area of cellular mechanics, Professor Saif's projects involve neurons, cancer and cardiac cells, and interactions between cells in clusters. He seeks to address questions such as: What is the role of tension in neurons on memory and learning? Does mechanical microenvironment influence the onset of metastasis during cancer development? Can clusters of cells be guided so that they evolve into biological machines? He, together with Professor Akira Chiba of the the University of Maimi, showed that neurons are under mechanical tension, and that such tension might be essential for memory and learning.
Research Interests:
  • Mechanics of Micro-Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS)
  • Deformation mechanisms of nanoscale materials
  • Cellular mechanics and mechanotransduction, cancer metastasis, neuronal mechanics
For more information:
Research Website
MEMS/Micromechanics Lab

Honors, Recognition, and Outstanding Achievements for Teaching:

  • College of Engineering Outstanding Advisors list, 2009
  • MechSE Alumni Effective Teaching Award, 2006
  • Listed in the Daily Illini “Incomplete List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students” for Spring 2003, Spring 2004, Fall 2006
  • GE Scholar, UIUC, 1998
  • Ralph Bolgiano, Sr. Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, Cornell University, UIUC, 1991

Honors, Recognition, and Outstanding Achievements for Research:

  • Visiting Professor, Faculty of Physics, University of Vienna, May 23 - June 22, 2011
  • Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2011
  • Member of UIUC panel evaluating the academic engineering program of Jubail Industrial & University Colleges of the Royal Commission, Jubail, Saudi Arabia, 2011
  • Member, Scientific Advisory Board, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Center, Infectious Disease Inter-disciplinary Research Group, 2010-date
  • Gutgsell Professor, UIUC, 2010-date
  • Associate, Center for Advanced Study, UIUC, 2004-2005
  • NSF Invited Member, U.S.-Japan Young Researchers’ Exchange Program for Nanotechnology, Sponsored by U.S. National Science Foundation and Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Sept. 25-Oct. 2, 2003 in U.S., and Nov. 5-13, 2003 in Japan.
  • Willett Faculty Scholar Award, College of Engineering, UIUC, 2003-2000, 2003-2009
  • Xerox Award for Faculty Research, College of Engineering, UIUC, 2003, 2006
  • Who’s Who in Engineering Education, 2002
  • Strathmore’s Who’s Who, 2002-2005
  • GE Scholar, 1998
  • NSF Faculty Early Development (CAREER) Award, 1998