Virginia Tech’s Romesh Batra honored as University Distinguished Professor

April 3, 2019

Picture of Romesh Batra
Romesh Batra

When it comes to reputation, Romesh Batra’s can only be described as legendary.

Since arriving at Virginia Tech in 1994, Batra has built a teaching and research program that is nationally and internationally recognized at the highest levels. His expertise in computational modeling and solid mechanics, particularly in the area of material failure under extreme loadings, has influenced nearly every subdiscipline in mechanics – so much so that his work has become required reading in many course textbooks.

Now Batra can welcome another honor to his legacy: University Distinguished Professor, a rank conferred by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors at its April 2019 meeting.    

“Dr. Batra has achieved international distinction for the extraordinary productivity and quality of his scholarship,” said Cyril Clarke, executive vice president and provost for Virginia Tech. “As an international leader in applied mechanics, his research on material failure is recognized by his peers to be pioneering.”

Batra is the Clifton C. Garvin Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics within the College of Engineering. His analytical and computational research on combat and space materials has been continuously funded by the United States Department of Defense since 1983.

Much of Batra’s work focuses on when and how certain materials and structures will fail if subjected to extreme forces, such as explosions or high-velocity impacts. Through virtual design and algorithmic modeling, his team predicts material properties that strongly influence structural failure and how materials could be modified to either enhance or delay that failure.

Through validation and refinement, these findings help material scientists and engineers improve upon the design of structures like combat helmets, tank walls, and bulletproof vests in safe and economical ways.  

Batra also studies functionally graded materials, a type of composite material characterized by a makeup and structure that varies gradually over volume, which results in corresponding changes to the properties of the material. These materials can improve structures designed for specific applications, such as pressure vessels and tiles for space shuttles, and are in high demand throughout the aircraft and aerospace industry.

“We could not be more pleased that the university has chosen to recognize Romesh with this prestigious honor,” said Julia M. Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering. “He is not only a gifted scholar with innumerable contributions to the field of solid mechanics, but he’s also a dedicated teacher and mentor. His students continually describe him as patient, respectful, and challenging – but always with the goal of student success.”

Batra’s prodigious research efforts have resulted in more than 400 peer-reviewed journal articles and a textbook on continuum mechanics that has become the standard in many engineering education courses.

He has also advised more than 100 combined graduate students and postdoctoral researchers throughout his career, creating a rich academic genealogy that spans several decades.

“I feel very privileged and honored to receive this recognition,” said Batra. “My work would not be possible without a very supportive administration here at Virginia Tech, and of course, my students have done an amazing job. I feel very lucky to be able to teach the next generation of researchers. Without students, I don’t think anyone in my position could make it.”

Among his numerous accolades, Batra has been recognized as a fellow of the American Society of Engineering Education, American Academy of Mechanics, Society of Engineering Science, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the United States Association of Computational Mechanics. Additionally, he has received the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Robert Henry Thurston Lecture Award, the Engineering Science Medal, and the Alexander von Humboldt Award for senior scientists, and he has been recognized as an honorary member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Batra also earned the 2016 Virginia Tech Alumni Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Advising, which complemented his 2010 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Outstanding Faculty and 2011 Virginia Outstanding Scientist Awards.

Batra earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology (previously known as Thapar University) in India and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He completed his doctoral degree in mechanics and materials at the Johns Hopkins University. From 1976 to 1994, Batra was a faculty member at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (previously known as the University of Missouri–Rolla).