Researcher Profile: Shaoping Xiao

Researcher Profile: Shaoping Xiao

As a science fiction fan from a very young age, Dr. Shaoping Xiao was fascinated with T-1000, a liquid metal, shape-shifting robot in the movie Terminator 2. He says this early interest inspired his multidisciplinary studies in the college classroom and the research laboratory.

After graduating from the University of Science and Technology of China and earning a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, Dr. Xiao joined the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and the Center for Computer-Aided Design at the University of Iowa in 2003 and started his nano-science and technology research team.

Since then, his research has focused mainly on numerical modeling and simulation of materials and devices with an emphasis on nanotechnology. He developed the bridging domain multiscale method in which nanoscale simulation is coupled with macroscale simulation. As one of the pioneering multiscale methods, this work has been cited in more than 700 journal articles.

Dr. Xiao’s other unique achievements include developing a temperature-related homogenization technique to pass messages from the nanoscale to the macroscale, studying the mechanical behaviors of carbon-nanotube-based composites, designing a nanoelectromechanical device as a memory cell, and investigating structural responses to explosives.

Dr. Xiao’s research group also recently completed a National Science Foundation renewable energy project in which they studied the failure mechanism of the gearbox in a wind turbine using multiscale modeling and simulation. This research provides a guideline for fatigue life prediction of the geartooth and bearings, key components that initiate gearbox failure, so that repairs can be conducted before severe failure occurs. 

A self-described autodidact, Dr. Xiao keeps up with the state of the art in many other areas of science and technology, including soft tissues, robotics, machine learning, quantum computing, and digital manufacturing and design, and looks for ways to collaborate with other researchers. For example, his research team is currently working with the BioMechanics of Soft Tissues Laboratory at CCAD to do research on predicting aneurysm rupture risk to improve the clinical management of patients and ultimately save lives.

Besides being affiliated with CCAD, Dr. Xiao is a member of the Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Institute and the Iowa Informatics Initiative (UI3) and is an adjunct professor in the Applied Mathematical and Computational Sciences program. Dr. Xiao has a passion for course instruction, both inside and outside the classroom. He is always available to help students with their education and future careers and has been recognized by graduating classes for many years as making a positive difference in their lives. 

Dr. Xiao is also committed to serving the University community and promoting diversity. He currently serves as the chair of the College of Engineering Curriculum Committee and as a member of the University Graduate Council. As a faculty member in the Sloan Center for Exemplary Mentoring, he is committed to minority outreach and education. He participates in the Building University of Iowa Leadership for Diversity (BUILD) program, and his office is a safe zone for LGBTQ people in the University community. Dr. Xiao is also a co-advisor of the UI chapter of Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM), a national LGBTQ STEM organization.

In addition to devoting himself to research, teaching, and service, Dr. Xiao spends time cooking and staying active. He served as the vice president of an Iowa City swimming club and has been a certified swimming referee for many years. He holds his personal trainer certificate and loves to write workout sets and nutrition plans from a scientist’s point of view.

Dr. Xiao says that as a child he had many dreams for his career—scientist, doctor, physical education teacher, cook.  Through his personal and professional activities, he is living out all those dreams in one way or another.

For more information on Dr. Xiao, his research, and the organizations mentioned in this article, please see the following links:

Shaoping Xiao:

Center for Computer-Aided Design (CCAD):

The Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Institute:   

Iowa Informatics Initiative (UI3):

Sloan Center for Exemplary Mentoring:

Building University of Iowa Leadership for Diversity (BUILD):

Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM):