Prof. Horacio D. Espinosa

Group Leader
847-461-5989 / Technological Institute A221


Professor Espinosa received his BS in Civil Engineering from Northeastern University, Argentina. Before beginning graduate studies, he designed structures and foundations of multistory buildings. In 1987 he received his MSc in Structural Engineering, from the Milan Polytechnic, and his MSc in Applied Mathematics in 1990 and PhD in Solid Mechanics in 1992, both from Brown University. He then started his academic career as Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, at Purdue University, where he was promoted to Associated Professor with tenure in 1998. Since 2000 he has been on the faculty of Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University, has held the James and Nancy Farley Professorship since 2009, has served as Director of the Theoretical and Applied Mechanics program since 2007, served as Faculty Director of the Nano/Microfabrication core facility (NUFAB), from 2013-2016, and Director of the Institute for Cellular Engineering Technologies. Espinosa also holds courtesy appointments in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University.

Espinosa has made significant contributions in the areas of deformation and failure of materials, from mesoscale dynamic failure of ceramics and composites to the mechanisms responsible for the hardness and toughness of biomaterials to size scale effects in elasticity and plasticity of thin films and low dimensional materials. He also designed and created microsystems for in situ atomic characterization of materials that enabled direct comparison to atomistic models. He created robust nanoelectromechanical switches, capable of millions of cycles, and demonstrated their ability to perform electromechanical logical operations. More recently, he invented microfluidic devices for single and multicell manipulation (e.g., gene editing) and analysis. He has published over 350 technical papers in these topics. His work received broad attention in the media including United Press International, NSF Discoveries, Frost and Sullivan, Science Daily, EurekAlert, Small Times, PhysOrg, Nanotechwire, Bio-Medicine, NanoVIP, Nanowerk, Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, Medical News Today, Materials Today, Next Big Future, Beyond Breast Cancer, AZoNano, Spektrumdirekt, MEMSNet.

Espinosa received numerous awards and honors including election to the National Academy of Engineering in 2020, the 2019 Prager Medal from the Society of Engineering Science, the 2013 Sia Nemat Nasser Medal and the 2016 Murray Medal from the Society for Experimental Mechanics (SEM), the ASME 2015 Thurston lecture award, the Hetenyi award (2005 and 2022) and the Lazan award (2008), both from SEM. He received the NSF-Career, ONR-YIP, and the American Academy of Mechanics (AAM) and Society of Engineering Science (SES) Junior Medals. Espinosa is a foreign member of Academia Europaea, the European Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Russian Academy of Engineering, and Fellow of AAAS, AAM, ASME, and SEM. He held visiting positions at Harvard University (1998-1999) and was the Timoshenko visiting Professor at Stanford University in 2011. Espinosa was the President of the Society of Engineering Science, in 2012, and serves in two committees of the National Academies, the U.S. National Committee on Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (current chair) and the Panel on Materials Science and Engineering, which advises the Army Research Lab. He is also a member of the IUTAM General Assembly and a past member of the IUTAM Congress Committee.

As Director of the NU Theoretical and Applied Mechanics program, Espinosa fostered an interdisciplinary program with a focus on materials education and research (see He mentored more than 80 graduate students, post-docs, visiting faculty and visiting scholars of whom 28 hold professor positions at major domestic and international research universities. In the classroom, Espinosa taught many mechanics courses including new courses with an impact in materials and nanoengineering education. He also co-organized international events to promote mechanics of materials education and research such as the NSF Pan-American Advanced Studies Institute Program (PASI) on Nano and Biotechnology in Bariloche, Argentina, Nov. 13-22, 2006, and the US-South America Workshop on Mechanics and Advanced Materials Research and Education in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 2-6, 2004. Espinosa served as Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental Mechanics, Associate Editor of the Journal of Applied Mechanics, and Principal Founding Editor of MRS Communications. Currently, he is a co-editor of the Wiley Book Series in Micro and Nanotechnologies and serves in the editorial board of several journals.