James Allison

James Allison
James Allison
  • Associate Professor
(217) 244-4319
313 Transportation Building

For More Information


  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan, 2008
  • MSE, Industrial and Operations Engineering, University of Michigan, 2005
  • MSE, Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan, 2004
  • BS, Mechanical Engineering, University of Utah, 2003
  • AAS, Automotive Technology, Weber State University, 1998


James T. Allison is the director of the Engineering System Design Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Professor Allison's research interests include design methods for active dynamic systems (control co-design), system architecture and topology optimization, multidisciplinary design optimization, design-driven model development, indirect design representations, and knowledge extraction from design optimization data. Application interests include sustainable energy systems (wind and wave energy), electric and hybrid electric powertrains, suspension and vibration control systems, electro-thermal systems, intelligent structures, robotics, spacecraft design, structural and material system design, fluid systems, and advanced design of scientific instruments. Selected current research projects include strain-actuated solar arrays for precision space telescope pointing (including upcoming CubeSat mission, NASA SBIR award, and NSF CAREER award), control co-design of floating offshore wind turbines (including two ARPA-E ATLANTIS awards), combined packing and routing optimization for electro-thermal systems, vibration isolation, and design for fracture mechanics with additively-manufactured materials.

Academic Positions

  • Jerry S. Dobrovolny Faculty Scholar, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2019 - Present
  • Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Aerospace Engineering, 2018 - Present
  • Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, 2018 - Present
  • Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, 2011 - 2018
  • Lecturer, Tufts University, Mechanical Engineering, 2010-2011
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Michigan, Mechanical Engineering, 2008

Other Professional Employment

  • Senior Engineer, MathWorks, Inc., Natick MA, 2008-2011
  • Consulting Engineer, Ford Motor Company, Dearborn MI, 2008

Professional Highlights

  • Prof. Allison is an internationally-recognized leader behind the impactful new era of control co-design (CCD), which has made possible completely new levels of integration and performance enhancement for design of actively controlled engineering systems. Prof. Allison's work in CCD has led to >$100M in government funding centered on CCD, including transformational advancements in offshore wind, hydrokinetic renewable energy systems, and carbon capture and use.
  • PI of multiple projects focused on revolutionizing how interconnected physical engineering systems are designed, including a UIUC Strategic Research Initiative award to support creation of a new center a current DARPA award, and multiple industry-funded projects.
  • PI of several related projects focused on a new technology for precision spacecraft attitude control that has resulted in multiple patents and a spinoff company (Samara Aerospace), including a NASA USIP CubeSat mission for LEO test, a NASA SBIR award, NSF grant funding, UIUC OTM proof of concept award (for increasing technology readiness), and multiple collaborative funding awards from JPL.
  • Prof. Allison was named the Jerry S. Dobrovolny Faculty Scholar in 2019.
  • Prof. Allison received the NSF CAREER award "Integrated Design of Intelligent Structures with Tailored Distributed Damping" in 2017.
  • One of the founding faculty members of the NSF Engineering Research Center "Power Optimization of Electro-thermal Systems" (POETS), an $18M research center (start date: August 2015).
  • Selected as the 2013 ASME Design Automation Young Investigator Award Winner.

Resident Instruction

  • SE 498: Control Co-Design
  • SE 598: Analysis of Engineering Science
  • SE 413: Engineering Design Optimization
  • SE 410: Component Design

Graduate Research Opportunities

For information on current graduate student research opportunities, required background, and other information pertinent to joining the ESDL, please refer to this document.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Several undergraduate students are involved in research projects at the Engineering System Design Lab, and we are often looking for bright and ambitious students to join our group. Please read through this document for information on opportunities and steps you can take to get involved with ESDL research.

Research Interests

  • Intelligent Structure Design and Vibration Control
  • Automotive Design (Vehicle Electrification, Hybrid Powertrains, Active Suspension Systems)
  • Electro-Thermal System Design Optimization
  • Robotics and Automation
  • Spacecraft Design and Control
  • Topology Optimization: Structural, fluid, and thermal systems
  • Topological design: system architecture, graph theory, efficient enumeration methods, machine learning
  • Sustainable Energy Systems (Wind, Wave, and Hydrokinetic Turbine Energy Systems)
  • Multidisciplinary Design Optimization
  • Engineering Design Optimization
  • Engineering System Design
  • SPI2: Spatial Packaging of Interconnected Systems with Physics Interactions
  • Control Co-Design (CCD): Integrated physical and control system design optimization methods

Research Areas

  • Decision and Control Systems
  • Design and Manufacturing

Selected Articles in Journals

Articles in Conference Proceedings

Other Publications

  • Daniel R. Herber, James T. Allison. "CONTROL CO-DESIGN: ACHIEVING NEW FUNCTIONALITY AND PERFORMANCE VIA INTEGRATED PHYSICAL AND CONTROL SYSTEM DESIGN." In the Proceedings of the ASME 2020 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences, DETC2020-19184, St. Louis, MO, USA, Aug 2020. Technical Presentation.
  • Yong Hoon Lee, R. E. Corman, Randy H. Ewoldt, James T. Allison. "Continuous Relaxation Spectra and Its Reduced-Dimensionality Descriptions for Engineering Design With Linear Viscoelasticity." ASME 2019 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, IMECE2019-13370, technical presentation, Nov 8-14, 2019.
  • James T Allison, Daniel R Herber. "Control Co-Design: Achieving New Functionality and Performance Via Integrated Physical and Control System Design." ASME 2019 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, IMECE2019-13707, technical presentation, Nov 8-14, 2019.
  • James T Allison, Deborah Thurston, Madhav Arora, Siyao Luan. "Toward a Method for Achieving Synergy between Heuristic Rules of Thumb and Quantitative Methods in Engineering Design." 2017 NSF Design Workshop
  • Jonathon K Schuh, Yong Hoon Lee, James T Allison, Randy H Ewoldt. 'A Validated Computational Model for the Design of Surface Textures in Full-Film Lubricated Sliding.' Presentation, The 69th Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society – Division of Fluid Dynamics, Portland, OR, USA, Nov 2016.
  • Yong Hoon Lee, Jonathon K Schuh, Randy H Ewoldt, James T Allison. 'Generalization of Surface Texture Shape Reduces Friction and Increases Load Capacity Simultaneously in Sliding Contact with Full-Film Lubrication.' Presentation, CCEFP Fluid Power Innovation & Research Conference 2016, Minneapolis, MN, USA, Oct 2016.
  • Jonathon K Schuh, Yong Hoon Lee, James T Allison, Randy H Ewoldt. 'Design Appropriate Modeling for Determining Optimal Friction Reduction with Surface Textures.' Presentation, CCEFP Fluid Power Innovation & Research Conference 2016, Minneapolis, MN, USA, Oct 2016.
  • Jonathon K Schuh, Yong Hoon Lee, James T Allison, Randy H Ewoldt. '1G.3 Rheological Design for Efficient Fluid Power.' Presentation, CCEFP Webinar Series 2016, Feb 2016.
  • James T. Allison "Generating Design Knowledge Through Systematic Investigation of Interacting Physical Phenomena." Poster presentation, 2015 NSF Design Circles Workshop.
  • Jonathon K Schuh, Yong Hoon Lee, James T Allison, Randy H Ewoldt. 'Surface Textures and Non-Newtonian Fluids for Decreasing Friction in Lubricated Sliding Contact.' Presentation, CCEFP Fluid Power Innovation & Research Conference 2015, Minneapolis, MN, USA, Oct 2015.
  • Anand Deshmukh, Marlon Mitchell, James T. Allison. "Advancing Undergraduate Design Learning Through Extensive Use of Hands-On Model-Based Design Projects." Poster presentation, UIUC College of Engineering Celebration of Teaching, April 24, 2015.
  • Anand Deshmukh, James T. Allison. “Integrated Physical and Control System Design Methods for Wind Turbines.” Poster presentation, 3rd NREL Wind Energy Systems Engineering Workshop, January 14th, 2015, Boulder, CO.
  • Jason McDonald, Oscar Alvarez-Salazar, James Allison. “Strain Actuation & Sensing of SC Structures for Payload Jitter Suppression and Momentum Dumping.” Poster presentation, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Research and Development poster session, November 12, 2014, Pasadena, CA.
  • James T. Allison. "Design Principles for Autonomous Engineering Systems." Poster presentation, WSRI AHEAD Conference, December 2013, Dayton OH.


  • “Precision-Pointing Control Architecture based on Strain Actuated Solar Arrays” CIT File No.: CIT-7668-P, Filed: 12/21/2016. SBIR awarded (with CU Aerospace, June - Nov 2017) based on this technology.
  • "Multifunctional Structures for Attitude Control" International Provisional Patent Application. PCT Appl. No.: PCT/US2020/016108.


Journal Editorships

  • Lead Guest Editor, ASME Journal of Mechanical Design, Special Issue on Artificial Intelligence and Engineering Design, 2020-2022.
  • Associate Editor, ASME Journal of Mechanical Design, 2018-2021.

Conferences Organized or Chaired

  • NSF Workshop on Integrated Design of Active Dynamic Systems (Control Co-Design). Held online March 26, 2020, in-person workshop to be held May 4-6, 2023.
  • SPACES 2022 Workshop: Spatial Packaging Automation Consortium for Engineering Systems. Held in-person at UIUC November 16-17, 2022.
  • Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee and special session organizer (Multidisciplinary Design Optimization of Dynamic Systems), World Congress on Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization (2012-Present).
  • Member of the Scientific Committee, International Conference on Engineering Design (2012-Present).
  • ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Symposium Organizer and Chair (2008-Present). Topics: Multidisciplinary Design Optimization; Active System Design; Control Co-Design; Design for Energy Efficiency; Design and Optimization of Sustainable Energy Systems; Design of Complex Systems; Risk, Uncertainty, and Robustness.

Other Outside Service

  • Thrust Area 1 Deputy Director, NSF POETS ERC (Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems Engineering Research Center) (2022 - present)
  • Lead guest editor, ASME Journal of Mechanical Design special issue 'Artificial Intelligence and Engineering Design'. (2020-2022)


  • Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising (April 2012)
  • Engineering Council Outstanding Advising Award (April 2016)
  • Engineering Council Outstanding Advising Award (April 2020)
  • Engineering Council Outstanding Advising Award (April 2022)

Teaching Honors

  • Nominated for the Illinois Student Senate Teaching Excellence Award (Official Voice of the Student Body) (February 2012)
  • Recognized on the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent, UIUC (Fall 2013) (March 2014)

Research Honors

  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (April 2004)
  • 2013 ASME Design Automation Young Investigator Award (August 2013)
  • 2014 JPL Research Poster Conference Award. (May 2015)
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award (May 2017)

Public Service Honors

  • 2020 ASME Journal of Mechanical Design Associate Editor Award (January 2021)

Other Honors

  • Member Phi Kappa Phi, Collegiate Honor Society (1999)
  • Member Pi Tau Sigma, Mechanical Engineering Honor Society (2001)
  • Member Tau Beta Pi, Engineering Honor Society (2002)
  • Lincoln Arc Welding Foundation Gold Award (advisor), student design competition (2014)
  • MathWorks File Exchange Pick of the Week (2016)

Recent Courses Taught

  • AE 599 JA - Thesis Research
  • SE 410 - Component Design
  • SE 413 - Engrg Design Optimization
  • SE 498 CD1 (SE 498 CD2) - Control Co-Design
  • SE 598 - Analysis of Engrg Research