Mica Grujicic remembered as passionate researcher, hard worker
Mica Grujicic, the Wilfred P. and Helen S. Tiencken Professor of Mechanical Engineering, died on Oct. 21, 2016 after a 3-year–2-month battle with stage 4 cancer.
Grujicic received his Master of Science in 1978 from Belgrade University in the former Yugoslavia and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1983. He studied under the guidance of Walter S. Owen and his advisor, Gregory Olson.
As acknowledged by Olson, Grujicic’s doctoral research still stands today as the definitive treatment of the mobility of martensitic interfaces, central to the highly reversible behaviors of shape memory alloys.
As a postdoc and research scientist at MIT, he made pioneering contributions to the computational thermodynamics-based approach to materials design, now known globally as the “Materials Genome” technology, using the example of high-performance martensitic steels.
He came to Clemson in 1988, joining what was then the Materials Science and Engineering program within the Department of Mechanical Engineering. During his 28 years at Clemson, he continued the research on steels that he began at MIT, then gradually expanded his research to other alloys and eventually other materials, including polymers, glasses and ceramics. His research even branched out to bioengineering and chemistry.
Grujicic’s record includes more than 350 published papers and more than 8,300 citations.
His research was appreciated outside Clemson. M. K. Ramasubramanian recalled a Department of Defense scientist saying that Grujicic’s research saved soldiers’ lives in Iraq. His study of the effects of different constituents in soil on impulse transfer during an explosive event helped in understanding the effects of blasts on the human body.
His research was initially funded mainly by the National Science Foundation and NASA, and later by the Department of Defense, for whom he studied materials for protective structures, including armor plates for Humvees, bulletproof glass for windshields, body armor, and coatings for combat helmets.
In a combined bioengineering, materials and mechanical engineering study, he modeled the response of the brain to an explosion, theorizing that the real hazard to the soldier is from multiple reflections of waves within the skull, with the resulting vibrations within the brain damaging it.His research also involved molecular-level studies on the structure and function of polyurea and carbon nanotubes.
His research accomplishments were recognized with the McQueen Quattlebaum Award in 2007 and the Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research in 2011, and he earned high praise from his peers and students.
Chian-Fong Yen of the Army Research Laboratory wrote, “His ability to quickly break a complicated problem down to the essential physics of the materials and clearly explain the importance and implications of each facet of the problem is, in my opinion, exceptional and extremely valuable.”
A former graduate students recalled, “He was very tough and sometimes hard to work with, but he had a big pure heart, always trying to help people.”
Another former graduate student added: “He inspired a way of thinking and problem solving that becomes a way of life for his students.”
As a teacher, Grujicic was known for emphasizing concepts over calculations and for unorthodox thinking. Who else would prescribe a technical report to the Department of Energy as the material for a senior-level course?
But his students appreciated the lessons in parsing long sentences. In addition, Grujicic collaborated with Rajendra Singh of the Holcombe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and then Associate Dean Larry Dooley on developing a curriculum for a planned school, which became the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
Years later, Grujicic led the curriculum development for the automotive engineering program, a separate department since 2010, at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research with Imtiaz Haque’s imprimatur.
As he recalled to a research associate, he began with the question: If I wanted to design cars, what would I need to learn about them?
As in his research, Grujicic led methodically with high expectations for his team. The result was that a well-structured program was ready in three months and has been successful since. In a later collaborative effort with BMW and CU-ICAR, Grujicic helped optimize automotive load-bearing structural components.
He will be remembered for his passion for research, remarkable adaptability, hard work and emphasis on “understanding things at a simple physical level.”
He is survived by his wife Wen-qi and daughter Angela, both of Clemson.