Founded in 1876, the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Bolder) is a public research university in Boulder, CO. The College of Engineering and Applied Science at CU Boulder was founded in 1893. With an increased focus on research excellence, its interdisciplinary research programs are advancing knowledge in the areas of autonomous systems, multi-functional materials, hypersonic vehicles, engineering education and AI-augmented Learning, resilient and sustainable infrastructure, and quantum engineering.

CU Bolder's College of Engineering and Applied Science's key departments include Ann and H.J. Smead Aerospace Engineering, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.

Multidisciplinary Research

Boulder's College of Engineering and Applied Science students focus on research topics ranging from biotechnology to space systems at one of the school's 15 interdisciplinary research centers. Each research institute supports faculty from multiple academic departments, allowing institutes to conduct multidisciplinary research.

The ATLAS Institute is a center for interdisciplinary research, where engineering, computer science, and robotics are blended with design-oriented topics. The institute offers academic programs at the undergraduate, master's and doctoral levels, and administers research labs, hacker and makerspaces, and a black box experimental performance studio.

The college is leading a new multidisciplinary Simulation Center funded by the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration's Advanced Simulation and Computing program. It will significantly expand activities in computational science and engineering for particulate materials along with multiscale data-driven modeling, machine learning, and uncertainty quantification capabilities.

CU Boulder is also leading a new multi-university, industry-focused research Center on Pervasive Personalized Intelligence through the National Science Foundation that's working toward strengthening America's strong position in computing and the Internet of Things.

The Quantum Engineering Initiative is expanding internal efforts in quantum research while also strengthening connections to local and regional partners. Created in 2021, the initiative is a strategic investment into translational quantum engineering research.

At Smead Aerospace, public institutions and private companies partner with CU Bolder to enhance their work and break new ground in aeronautics and astronautics. The College of Engineering and Applied Science recently launched a new research initiative focusing on hypersonic vehicles. The research draws on partnerships with NASA, the Department of Defense, and the aerospace industry.

Technology Breakthroughs

The Marshall Fire, which spread throughout much of Boulder County including the towns of Superior and Louisville, became the most destructive fire in Colorado's history. In coordination with local officials, Brad Wham, Assistant Professor of Geotechnical Engineering and his colleagues from Oregon State and Purdue universities have been surveying the damage since first-responders extinguished the flames.

The team hopes to better understand the disaster from a uniquely engineering perspective. They have utilized laser sensors to create 3D models of homes and retaining structures burned in the fire. The engineers have also deployed flying vehicles like the quadcopter drones — on loan from the NSF-funded RAPID facility at the University of Washington.

A team of CU Boulder engineers is designing next-generation uncrewed aircraft systems to fly into the heart of supercell thunderstorms that can spawn tornadoes. The goal of the research is to develop a drone that can fly as close to a storm as possible and then deploy a series of helium balloon probes carrying sensor packages that will be sucked into the center of the storms at altitude and report back data on the conditions inside. These systems will eventually be deployed in the field during storm-chasing campaigns.

Professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences Eric Frew and colleagues at CU Boulder have made numerous multi-week excursions across the Great Plains following supercell storms and flying UAVs to gather data that can be analyzed by scientists to improve weather predictions and early warning systems for tornadoes.

Members of the GEER team watch a drone take off from the Spanish Hills neighborhood. (Photo: Casey Cass/CU Boulder)

Nisar Ahmed is developing collaborative human and autonomous robot vehicle systems and machine learning and artificial intelligence for aerospace applications. An assistant professor in Ann and H.J. Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU Boulder, Ahmed's work is advancing how people and robots interact and work with each other.

Jorge Poveda is finding ways to improve how autonomous systems overcome problems they encounter on the job. By combining concepts from artificial intelligence and machine learning with well-known control theories, Poveda and his team have begun applying these algorithms and techniques to engineering problems in a variety of contexts, including autonomous multi-vehicle systems, smart power grids, and traffic light systems able to autonomously adjust their behavior in real time to minimize congestion.

Smead Scholar Alex Hirst, a graduate researcher, helps get a drone ready for launch. (Photo: CU Boulder)

New research led by the University of Colorado Boulder has uncovered the engineering secrets behind what makes fish fins so strong yet flexible. The team's insights could one day lead to new designs for robotic surgical tools or even airplane wings that change their shape with the push of a button. In their latest research, Francois Barthelat, senior author of the study and his colleagues drew on a range of approaches, including computer simulations and 3D-printed materials, to dive deep into the biomechanics of these agile structures.

Assistant Professor Orit Peleg's research within the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the BioFrontiers Institute works to understand the behavior of disordered living systems by merging tools from physics, biology, engineering, and computer science. The work could have lasting implications for many fields, including the design and use of autonomous systems for everyday life.

Engineers at CU Boulder have uncovered a distinct behavior in colonies of fire ants cooperating in flood situations. PhD candidates Robert Wagner, Kristen Such, Ethan Hobbs, and Professor Franck Vernerey studied how the ants spontaneously form tether-like protrusions that help them navigate and escape flooded environments. The researchers hope their work will inspire future studies by providing swarm roboticists and engineers with ant-inspired rules that could help achieve complex functional tasks.

The U.S. Navy has an ongoing interest in studying decompression sickness, which is often referred to as “the bends.” Assistant Professor C. Wyatt Shields and his group seek to understand how immune cells in human lungs respond to extreme diving conditions to learn more about the origins of this affliction. The lab group is currently developing a “lung-on-a-chip” device as a model system that replicates the physiological conditions of human lungs experiencing high pressure loads.

PhD student Caleb Escobedo adjusts the robotic arm for testing. (Photo: CU Boulder)

Assistant Professor Alessandro Roncone and his team is creating skins for robots to maximize their local sensing capabilities, improving operational safety and human-robot interaction along the way. The goal is to create a soft multi-functional layer that can be placed on robots, containing sensors that measure pressure and proximity along with a host of other features inspired by the properties in human skin. The idea would be to fabricate and deploy these artificial skins quickly for different situations, such as advanced manufacturing, where robots are increasingly teaming with humans to get the job done.

Technology Transfer

As the commercialization arm of CU Boulder, Venture Partners prepares campus innovators to bring technologies and ideas to market. For more information, contact Bryn Rees at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 303-735-4474.