Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
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Richard D. James
Distinguished McKnight University Professor

Contact information
Office: 119A Akerman Hall
Phone: 612-625-0706
E-mail: james (at)

UMN Experts Page
Research Page
List of research topics
Current research projects

Richard James' main area of research is phase transformations in materials - especially shape memory and multiferrroic materials - at large and small scales. This involves the development of mathematical methods for the analysis of materials at atomic and continuum scales, especially the development of multiscale methods for understanding the relation between the behavior of materials on different scales. It also involves advanced methods of bulk synthesis and characterization of new materials in his laboratory, guided by theory. He is currently applying these ideas to the search for interesting materials in several areas:

  1. The search for new materials that combine two of the three properties - ferromagnetism, ferroelectricity, shape-memory - particularly by using a highly reversible phase transformation, or, in short, multiferroic materials by phase transformation.
  2. The search for new transforming materials with exceptionally low hysteresis and a high degree of reversibility, especially oxide materials with these properties (Oxides are brittle, and there is currently no reversible shape memory oxide.)
  3. The use of these multiferroic, phase-change materials in new kinds of energy conversion devices. In particular, members of his group recently discovered a new way to use these materials to convert heat to electricity.
  4. The prediction of properties of transforming materials and structures at very small scales. Part of this research involves the study of a remarkable phase transformation that occurs in the tail sheath of bacteriophage T4, a virus that attacks bacteria.
  5. The search for new nanostructures based on the concept of "objective structures". These are molecular structures composed of identical molecules such that corresponding molecules "see" the same environment up to orthogonal transformation. These structures have an intriguing relation to the common structures, whether crystalline of not, of most elements in the periodic table, and they are occur often also in biology, especially in viruses. They are also the natural structures to exhibit unusual properties like ferromagnetism, ferroelectricity, and other collective properties, and are especially amenable to methods of synthesis by the process of self-assembly.

Several other current projects extend these ideas to new areas of science and engineering:
1.  Objective structures motivate the study of new group invariant solutions of Maxwell’s equations. With researchers from TU Munich we have recently found certain “twisted wave” solutions of Maxwell’s equations that interact with helical atomic structures with constructive/destructive interference and potentially could be used as a method of Xray analysis of the structure of helical materials.
2.  We are developing methods to design morphing origami structures based on the use of ideas from the analysis of phase transformations.
3.  Our work on hysteresis in phase transformations suggests new ways to understand the origins of magnetic hysteresis in soft magnetic materials.  We are using these ideas to design new soft magnetic alloys.
4. We are also using ideas from the concept of objective structures to understand the dynamics of nanostructures and gases.  In particular we are developing the method of “objective molecular dynamics”, an exact simulation method for special classes of solutions of molecular dynamics.  Besides providing efficient simulations,  the method links to the Boltzmann equation and offers new insight into non-equilibrium statistical mechanics.


Sc.B., Engineering, Brown University, 1974
Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, 1979


1998 - Present: Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics, University of Minnesota
1991 - Present: Professor, Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics, University of Minnesota
2001 - 2011: Russell J. Penrose Professor, Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics, University of Minnesota
1985 - 1991: Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics, University of Minnesota
1981 - 1985: Assistant Professor, Division of Engineering, Brown University
1979-1980: Research Fellow in Mechanics and Thermodynamics, University of Minnesota

Five Recent Publications

  • Gu, H., Bumke, L., Chluba, C., Quandt, E. & James, R. D., 2017, Phase engineering and supercompatibility of shape memory alloys, Materials Today, (Journal Article) More Details
  • Yaniv Ganor, Traian Dumitrica, Fan Feng and Richard D. James, 2016, Zig-zag twins and helical phase transformations, "Trends and Challenges in the Mechanics of Complex Materials", Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. Lond.A, Volume 374, 20150208, (Journal Article) More Details
  • Yintao Song, Xian Chen and Richard D. James, 2016, Irregular interfaces in martensitic crystals, submitted to Advanced Functional Materials, (Journal Article) More Details
  • Xian Chen, Yintao Song, Nobumichi Tamura and R. D. James, 2016, Determination of the stretch tensor for structural transformations, accepted, J. Mechanics and Physics of Solids, Ortiz Anniversary Volume, (eds. Anna Pandolfi and Kirsten Weinberg), Volume 93, pp. 34-43, (Journal Article) More Details
  • Dominik Justel, Gero Friesecke, and R. D. James, 2016, Bragg-Von Laue diffraction generalized to twisted X-rays, Acta Crystallographica, Volume A72, (Journal Article) More Details

See more publications

Honors and Fellowships

Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship, 2019
Tedori-Callinan Distinguished Lecture, 2019
Brown Engineering Alumni Medal, Brown University, 2009
William Prager Medal, Society of Engineering Science, 2008
Warner T. Koiter Medal, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), 2008
Co-advisor (with P. H. Leo) to Liping Liu, winner of the Best Dissertation Award in the Physical Sciences and Engineering (2008) at the University of Minnesota, 2008
Honorary Consultant Professorship, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China, 2007
Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Award, 2006
John von Neumann Professorship, TU Munich
Mary Shepard B. Upson Visiting Chair, Cornell University College of Engineering, 2002
Rothschild Visiting Professor, 1999
Cambridge University Best Paper award, ASME/SPIE Smart Materials
Distinguished McKnight University Professor, 1998
Fellow, American Academy of Mechanics, 1997
Featured Review (in Mathematical Reviews)
Member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, Term I, 1993
George Taylor Distinguished Research Award, Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota, 1991
IBM Fellow, the Johns Hopkins University, 1976 - 1978

Editorial Positions

1999 - Present: Chief Editor with J.M. Ball,
Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis
1998 - Present: Editorial board,
Interfaces and Free Boundaries
1997 - Present: Editorial Advisor,
Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
1996 - Present: Editorial Board,
Journal of Elasticity
1991 - 1998: Editorial Board,
Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis
1989 - Present: Editorial board,
Journal of Intelligent Materials and Structures,
Technomic Publishing (begun January 1989, relaunched January 1993)
1988 - Present: Editorial Board,
Continuum Mechanics and Thermodynamics,Springer-Verlag

Subjects and Courses Taught

AEM 2012 -- Dynamics
AEM 2021 -- Statics and Dynamics
AEM 4581 -- Mechanics of Solids
AEM 4602W -- Aeromechanics Laboratory
AEM 5503 -- Theory of Elasticity
AEM 5581 -- Mechanics of Solids
AEM 8500 -- Research Seminar in Mechanics of Materials
AEM 8511 -- Advanced Topics in Continuum Mechanics
AEM 8541 -- Mechanics of Crystalline Solids
AEM 8551 -- Multiscale Methods for Bridging Length and Time Scales
AEM 8595 -- Selected Topics in Mechanics and Materials

Last Modified: 2019-06-12 at 11:40:34 -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation