Principal Investigator

Andy Sarles, PhD

James Conklin Fellow
Associate Professor | Mechanical Engineering

My research interests are functional material systems that utilize biologically derived molecules, such as phospholipids and proteins from plant, animal, or bacterial cells, and synthetic materials in ways that mimic the architecture, connectivity, hierarchy, reconfigurability and stimuli-responsive functions of living systems. A key focus in his work to date is the assembly and characterization of 5nm-thick membrane structures known as lipid bilayers that mimic the structure and transport properties of cellular membranes—ubiquitous structures that regulate the transport of energy and information in all living cells. Using an assembly technique that features lipid- or copolymer-coated water droplets immersed in oil, Sarles’ group engineers synthetic membranes for use in both understanding basic biophysical properties of membranes and developing novel sensing and computation platforms based on membranes. Other research interests include biomembrane-nanomaterial interactions, reconfigurable materials for neuromorphic computation, and materials that learn.

Google Scholar Profile
NCBI Bibliography
Curriculum Vita


  • Mechanics of Materials (ME 321)
  • System Dynamics (ME 363/BME363)
  • Biomedical Engineering Laboratory (BME 449)
  • Biotransport Processes (BME 511)
  • Mechanical Vibrations (ME 534)
  • Smart Materials and Structures (ME 567)

Professional Affiliations

  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  • Materials Research Society (MRS)
  • American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE)

Honors and Awards

  • Dept. of Mech. Aero. & Biomed. Engr. Outstanding Tenure Track Faculty Award – 2018
  • Tickle College of Engineering Professional Promise in Research Award – 2018
  • NSF CAREER Award – 2018
  • Gary Anderson Early Achievement Award, Adaptive Structures and Material Systems Branch of ASME – 2017
  • 3M NonTenured Faculty Grant – 2015
  • Dept. of Mech. Aero. & Biomed. Engr. Outstanding Tenure Track Faculty Award – 2013
  • Best Student Paper Award, Nonlinear Dynamics and Passive/Active Controls Symposium, ASME SMASIS Conference – 2008
  • Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) Graduate Fellow – 2006 – 2009
  • NSF Macromolecular Science and Infrastructure Engineering Integrative Graduate
    Education and Research Traineeship (MS & IE IGERT) Fellow – 2005
  • Top Collegiate Scholar Award, 2004 Chancellor’s Honors Banquet,
    University of Tennessee, Knoxville – 2004
  • Top Mechanical Engineering Graduate, College of Engineering,
    University of Tennessee, Knoxville – 2004

Synergistic Activities

  • General Chair, 2021 ASME SMASIS Conference – September 2021
  • Technical Chair, 2020 ASME SMASIS Conference – September 2020
  • Technical Co-Chair, 2019 ASME SMASIS Conference – September 2019
  • Co-Chair, Emerging Technologies Symposium, ASME SMASIS Conference – 2018
  • Chair, Bioinspired Smart Materials Symposium, ASME SMASIS Conference – 2015
  • Co-Chair, Bioinspired Smart Materials Symposium, ASME SMASIS Conference – 2013-2014
  • Member of ASME-ASMS Technical Committee Branch – 2012-present
  • Session Chair, Bioinspired Smart Materials Symposium, ASME SMASIS Conference – 2011-2012
  • Student Best Paper Competition Judge, ASME SMASIS Conference – 2010
  • Member of NanoVT Student Organization, Virginia Tech – 2009 – 2011
  • Biologically Inspired Materials Summer Workshop, Materials Science and Engineering (MSE),
    Virginia Tech and EXPERTISSUES, Villa Maderni, Riva San Vitale, Switzerland – 2008