Suyi Li, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is the recipient of the 2022 CD Mote, Jr., Early Career Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Li joined Virginia Tech in 2022, coming from Clemson University where he served as an assistant professor and established a research program on origami-inspired meta-structures and robotics. He has secured nearly $2 million in research funding, including the prestigious NSF CAREER award in 2018.

His research bridges engineering with the arts, engaging the folding art of origami to create intricate shapes with unique structural properties. He has expanded the use of origami from paper to other materials, using perforated sheets of metal and polymeric materials to engineer three-dimensional support systems that are both strong and lightweight.

Li has also explored the properties of materials, conducting research which to optimize both the folded angles and the materials that are best to use for a balance between strength and durability. These have included biological materials and composites, as well as metals.

The folded shapes also have unique behaviors when subjected to motion and vibrations, and this has been another area of Li’s research. The crisscrossing angles are particularly adept at controlling sound waves, and Li forsees future applications for his work in the area of highway noise reduction.

"With this award, I hope my research can change people’s perceptions of origami — Folding is not just a static process, it is also a motion," said Li.  "We can exploit the folding motion for many engineering innovations."

The CD Mote Jr., Early Career Award is presented annually by the ASME to an early-career recipient who demonstrates research excellence in the field of vibration and acoustics. At the time of awarding, candidates must have been a member of ASME for at least 3 years, be under the age of 40 years, and be within 10 years of their terminal degree.

Li was recognized on August 16, 2022, at the ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference , where he delivered a keynote speech and also received a plaque for the award.