The U.S. Department of Defense recently announced that Stanford faculty members Charbel Farhat and Michael Fischbach are among the 10 scientists and engineers selected as the 2023 Class of Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellows.

This fellowship focuses on fundamental research within universities and specifically supports “new, out-of-the-box ideas where researcher creativity intersects with the unknown.” Each fellow will receive up to $3 million over five years.

“I am pleased to welcome these exceptional scholars to the DOD family,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu in the DoD announcement. “Their selections for the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship will allow them to truly change the course of science in their fields, and I know they will set the Department up for breakthroughs in our future capabilities.”

Charbel Farhat flying with the Blue Angels. (Image credit: Courtesy Charbel Farhat)

Charbel Farhat is the Vivian Church Hoff Professor of Aircraft Structures in the School of Engineering and the inaugural James and Anna Marie Spilker Chair of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He is also a professor in Stanford’s Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering, and director of the Stanford-King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology Center of Excellence for Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Charbel Farhat and his research group develop mathematical models, advanced computational algorithms, and high-performance software for the design and analysis of complex systems in aerospace, marine, mechanical, and naval engineering. They contribute major advances to Simulation-Based Engineering Science, through both engineering research, and theoretical and computational work.

Current areas of study in the group include supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerators for Mars landing; reliable automated carrier landing; design and analysis of aircraft and spacecraft systems including in the hypersonic flow regime; and many forms of physics-based machine learning for time-critical applications such as design, active control, and digital twinning.

The Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship will support Farhat’s work on physics-based machine learning modeling for platform design, testing, operation, acquisition, and maintenance.

Michael Fischbach in his lab. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Michael Fischbach is an associate professor of bioengineering in the Schools of Engineering and Medicine and of microbiology and immunology in the School of Medicine. He is also an institute scholar of Stanford ChEM-H and the director of the Stanford Microbiome Therapies Initiative.

His laboratory uses a combination of genomics and chemistry to identify and characterize small molecules from microbes, with an emphasis on the human microbiome. The researchers study the mechanisms of microbiome-host interactions, focusing on a complex gut community that serves as a biologically relevant system for experimentation as well as new genetic systems for common species from the microbiome. They investigate mechanisms at the community level and the strain level. For community-level mechanisms, one focus of their research is the way groups of organisms work together to influence immune function with the goal of designing communities that solve therapeutic problems. Regarding strain-level mechanisms, one question they are investigating regards immune modulation, such as how skin colonists induce high levels of Staphylococcus-specific antibodies.

The lab is also developing methods that enable cell-type-specific delivery of genome editing payloads, focusing on delivery vehicles that are customizable and easy to manufacture.

The fellowship will support Fischbach’s work in programming functions within microbial consortia.