Originally from the small mining town of Absarokee, Montana, assistant professor Jacob Hochhalter is our newest faculty member. He joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering by way of NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) in Virginia. Here at the U he directs the Materials Prognosis from Integrated Modeling & Experiment (M’) Lab.

The M’ Lab researches emergent structural and material prognosis issues that involve the multiscale and stochastic nature of plasticity and fatigue cracking in structural materials. The research objective of the group is to leverage the ever-increasing capabilities in experimental observation and data analysis tools to provide new capabilities for prognosing reliability of advanced engineered structures and materials.

“It is an exciting time to be here and entering mechanical engineering.” said Hochhalter, “The department’s impact on emerging technologies, like additive manufacturing and next-generation aerospace transportation−among other projects−have my attention. I am especially excited to be part of this dynamic group of faculty dedicated to the requisite research that will enable those emerging technologies.”

Hochhalter received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2010. His thesis topic focused on methods for simulating the stages of microstructurally-small fatigue crack growth in Aluminum alloys. As a recipient of the Graduate Student Research Fellowship he joined NASA LaRC in 2007, later becoming a civil servant in 2009.

At LaRC, Hochhalter was a materials research engineer and group lead in the Durability and Damage Tolerance Branch. During his time at NASA, Hochhalter worked on projects ranging from micromechanical modeling of engineering materials to development of the Digital Twin concept for aerospace vehicles. It is noteworthy that he was awarded the coveted NASA Early Career Achievement Medal.

Since then, Hochhalter has worked on several projects related to physics-based modeling and high-performance computing simulations of fatigue cracks that cannot be addressed using NASA’s current certification or design practices. Recently, he has been working closely with experimentalists to develop a close-coupled system for making high-resolution measurements of micromechanical material behavior and using high-performance computing to help test hypothesized physics-based models.

On a more personal note Hochhalter adds, “Having been raised in Montana, I am extremely happy to be returning to the mountain west to raise my family with my wife Stephanie. Immediate orders of business are to explore as many of the mountain biking, hiking, and skiing trails as possible. Outside work, I’m an avid DIYer. On a typical weekend, you’ll find me roasting coffee, home brewing, making soap, and/or tending to our garden and chickens.”