New researcher Huy Tran brings resilient engineered systems expertise to AE


Huy Tran
Huy Tran
New Research Assistant Prof. Huy Tran is an expert in methods for designing and analyzing complex systems and system-of-systems.

Having joined the Aerospace Engineering at Illinois faculty in January, Tran will use his knowledge to advance aircraft and spacecraft transportation systems. Near-term projects will be understanding, modeling and improving upon commercial airline networks, as well as examining autonomous systems such as swarm robotics.

Tran has discussed projects with collaborators at the University of Illinois Applied Research Institute. He also looks forward to working with AE’s strong space systems group, including young faculty members Koki Ho, and Zach Putnam, as well as with AE Assistant Prof. Kai James on incorporating optimization.

“I think Illinois’ push for systems engineering in AE was a big reason for my deciding to come here,” said Tran. “I welcome the opportunity to help them define how to incorporate systems engineering into the curriculum, introduce it to students, and further develop research in the area.”

This semester Tran has introduced a new course, AE 498 Computational Methods for Systems Engineering, for upper level undergraduates and beginning graduate students. “It’s the idea of analyzing tradeoffs between designs. The simplest tradeoff is cost versus performance; you want to optimize for both of those objectives simultaneously,” he said.

He also found Illinois’ collaborative nature attractive. “There are a lot of interdisciplinary research centers and groups here, and a lot of my work is interdisciplinary."

Going forward, Tran would like to tie network analysis into a data-driven approach that employs machine learning. The National Center for Supercomputing Applications’ Blue Waters facility provides an excellent avenue for pursuing this work.

Tran earned his PhD in aerospace engineering in December 2015 from Georgia Institute of Technology. He worked on designing resilient complex networks, with application to a communications network among aircraft used in the military. “Systems are becoming so complex and connected that there is likely to be a failure,” he said. “You need to be able to account for the failure and continue the overall mission.”

Most recently he worked for MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that operates research and development centers sponsored by the federal government. Among projects there, Tran examined cascading failures in the interdependent systems of the power grid and energy market.