Current and present staff and students in Soft Solids


Head of Soft Solids/ Professor of the Mechanics of Materials

Professor Maria Charalambides is a Professor of the Mechanics of Materials in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Prior to her appointment at Imperial College London as a Lecturer in 1997, she was a Research Associate in the same Department and a Maria CharalambidesSenior Scientist at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, Middlesex. Maria has a First Class BEng (Hons) degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College London. She also holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, from Imperial College London, on the Delamination of fibre reinforced composites.

Her research interests includes, mechanical characterisation and processing of soft solid foods, visco-elastic material modelling for soft solids, micromechanics models, indentation techniques, inverse identification analyses, mechanical properties of coatings, composite materials: fibre and particle reinforcements, interfaces in foods (including bubbles) and other soft materials, pressure sensitive adhesives for medical applications and modelling of interfaces in precious works of art for conservation purposes.

She has published over thirty peer reviewed journal publications and thirty conference papers in these research areas. She has supervised thirteen PhD students, seven Postdoctoral Researchers and numerous MSc and undergraduate research projects. She has received funding from ICI, AWE, DuPont, General Mills, Nestlé, Mars, EPSRC and the Royal Academy of Engineering. In the last four years she has received a total funding of £1261K. Maria has also won the IMechE Food Engineer of the Year award twice, in 2007 and 2011. She is the membership secretary of the British Society of Rheology and a committee member the Food and Drink Engineering Forum of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Senior Research Investigator

Professor J. Gordon WilliamsProf. J. Gordon Williams is the previous head of the group when it was called Food Technology. Since then, the group has diversified and been renamed to include other soft materials. Prof. Williams is also part of the Deformation and Fracture of Polymers and Composite group and has published over 200 journal papers, written 2 books and 7 book chapters. Prof. Williams graduated from Imperial College London in 1961 with an Unwin Scholarship. He has been awarded the IMechE Food Engineer of the Year award twice and the ESIS Griffith Medal in 2014.

Research Associate

Mr Ruoyu ZhangMicrostructure-property relationships in composite materials

Ruoyu studied at the Materials Department of Beijing University of Chemical Techno logy where he was an “Excellent Freshman” and recipient of 4 scholarships. He was chosen to join the LCMP (Loughborough-China Materials Partnership) to finish his las t year of undergraduate studies at Loughborough University where he then stayed to complete an MSc program foc usin g on the mechanical properties of nano-particle filled polymer ic composites. In 2013, he joined the Soft Solids group at Imperial College to pursue a PhD research project which investigated the microstructure-property relationships in composite materials. Ruoyu is currently a Research Associate in the Soft Solids group.

PhD Student


iqbalIqbal obtained his bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Engineering and Technology Lahore in 2004. After completing his bachelor degree, he joint Pakistan National Space program and worked on Geostationary Communication Satellite (PakSat-1R) development for approximately 4 years. Iqbal obtained his first master degree in Engineering Management in 2006 from University of Engineering and Technology Lahore. He obtained his 2nd master degree in Engineering Design from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow in 2008.
He worked for space, aerospace and defence engineering sectors for approximately 13 years before joining PhD at Imperial college London in 2016. He has extensive experience in finite element analysis and analysis results validity through testing. The key projects he has worked during his professional career are A350-900 aeroplane, Boeing 777 generator, Inmarsat Satellite, Cryogenic sterling engine for future Mars mission, Paksat-1R & ExactEarth. His PhD is on “Interface failure in plastic bonded explosives”.

PhD Student


dimitrisDimitris completed his diploma degree in Mechanical Engineering from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. His specialisation was in Structural Integrity and his diploma thesis involved fatigue design of parabolic leaf springs on heavy duty vehicles.

His current research project focuses on oral processing of aerated chocolates. As part of his PhD project he will study the effect of aeration on rheological, thermal and lubrication processes and develop an experimental model describing the structural breakdown of chocolates during mastication.

PhD Student


georgeGeorge's research interests are biotribology, mouth feel, food tribology.

Previous group members

Research Associate

idrisIdris graduated from Imperial College London with a MEng degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2007. He then joined the Soft Solids group to pursue a PhD titled “The Mechanical Characterisation of Confectionery Wafers” for which he was awarded the Margaret Fishenden Centenary Memorial Prize. The aim of the project was to predict and simulate the material deformation of confectionery wafers. This was done experimentally, analytically and numerically at both the macroscopic and microscopic level. The published work was the 2013 March finalist for the Robert W. Cahn prize in the Journal of Materials Science.

After obtaining his PhD in 2011, he continued to be a part the Soft Solids group as a Research Associate. The PostDoc research was to design and develop a drug loaded patch for the treatment of fungal infections. Pressure sensitive adhesives were characterised and the material model was implemented into a cohesive zone finite element peeling simulation which calculated the force required for safe removal. Idris was awarded the ‘Best Poster Prize’ at the International Conference on Adhesion 2013 for this work.

Dr Hari AroraHari joined the Soft Solids group as a Research Associate in 2011 after completing his PhD in this department. His Postdoc research was aimed at developing micromechanical finite element models to predict the fracture behaviour of binary composite materials. He was appointed as a Research Fellow in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London in 2013. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Zienkiewicz Centre at Swansea University.

Research Associate

joeJoe completed his undergraduate MEng (Hons) degree in Aeronautical Engineering at Loughborough University. Taking a particular interest in the computational side of the course, his final year project involved numerically modelling the buckling behaviour of the skin on an aircraft’s wing. Joe obtained a fully funded PhD studentship from Loughborough University in 2014 where he developed analytical theories to model interfacial fracture. Completing within 3 years, he also successfully published 5 peer reviewed journal publications, as well as dedicating his time to fundraise for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and running 3 of the world's marathon majors.

His current research project focuses on cyclic environmentally induced fatigue and how this contributes to the cracking and delamination of the paint and the underlying preparation layers on wooden cultural heritage. Using analytical fracture mechanics models and computational (FEA) methods, the aim of the project is to develop a model of the fatigue cycling and therefore predict lifetime as a function of the environmental storage conditions for realistic laboratory samples as well as for real works of art.

Joe is one of the PostDoc reps for the Mechanical Engineering department and was nominated for the PFDC Rep Award in 2018.

Research Associate

shirleyShirley studied her undergraduate BEng (Hons) degree in Chemical and Process Engineering at London Southbank University. This was completed in 2009, after which she was awarded a PhD EPSRC-CASE Scholarship (co-sponsored by TATA Steel) at Swansea University. She then successfully graduated with her doctoral degree in computational and rheological modelling of industrial reverse roller coating processes in 2013. Being a British-Nigerian born in 1988, she became the youngest ever PhD holder in eastern Nigeria and one of the top 5 Nigeria’s youngest PhD holders.

As a Postdoctoral researcher, in the Computational Rheology Group, College of Engineering at Swansea University, she has focused on providing new research outputs in High Performance Computing, a fresh field for her, generating service and support for MetUM Users on HPC Wales infrastructure.

Her current research project is focused on the characterisation of viscoelastic behaviour of selected dough samples and simulation of sheeting process using a combination of experimental, analytical and computational (FEA) methods.

Research Associate

Dr Joanna Y.S. Li-MayerMicromechanical Modelling of Polymer Bonded Explosive Materials

Joanna was an Arup sponsored student and an IMechE undergraduate scholar in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London. She spent her final year of undergraduate studies investigating biphasic and triphasic material models for modelling articular cartilage mechanical behaviour.

She subsequently went on to complete a PhD with the Arthritis Research UK Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre at Cardiff University developing patient specific full joint contact finite element knee models for assessing surgery effectiveness and was awarded the Worshipful Company of Engineers Mercia Award in 2011. During her PhD, Joanna spent three months working with the life science team at SIMULIA, Dassault Systemes, USA, developing their software for biomedical applications.

Her current research project focuses on the prediction of high volume fraction particulate composite behaviour and the characterisation of the pure binder using a combination of experimental, analytical and computational methods.

Research Associate

Mr Christos SkamniotisModelling Fracture in Pet Foods

Christos graduated in Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Greece at the Department of Mechanical Engineering with specialisation in Structural Integrity. His PhD research was focused on edible dog chews which provide daily oral care. The material was characterised as a bio-composite consisting of organic fibres and starch as a polymeric matrix. The aim was to model how the product deformed during mastication and establish suitable failure criterions to enable texture optimisation and improve cleaning efficiency. Christos was awarded the Unwin prize in 2017 for the best PhD thesis (Characterising and Modelling Fracture in Functional Pet Foods) in the Mechanical Engineering department. 

PhD student

Mr Jie ZhouCharacterising and Modelling Deformation and Fracture in Aircraft Windows

Jie obtained his MEng degree at the Mechanical Engineering Department of Imperial College London. His PhD research is jointly supported by the Beijing Institute for Aeronautical Materials in AVIC Centre and the Mechanics of Materials division at Imperial College London. The project aims at characterising and modelling the deformation and fracture behaviour of aircraft windows under bird strike loading. Impact experiments will be performed on gelatine to simulate bird material and a constitutive model will be developed that is accurate at the very high strain rates involved during bird strikes.

PhD student

Miss Saba ButtGeometric and Material Effects on Sensory properties of Confectionery wafers and similar extruded products

Saba completed her undergraduate degree in Medical Engineering (BEng) from Queen Mary, University of London. She then went on to complete her Masters in Biochemical Engineering at University College London.

Her current PhD research consists of determining the geometrical and material effects on sensory properties of confectionery wafer products. The mechanical response of products are being investigated in order to make comparisons between two production methods, namely baking and extrusion, in order to understand the important parameters involved in the resulting texture.

Saba won the 2015 IMechE Speak Out For Engineering competition for her presentation "To Bake or Not to Bake: Do baked wafers and extruded products have the same properties?"

Dr Edmund TarletonEd was a Research Associate focused on the finite element modelling of the fracture of composite materials. In 2011, he was awarded the IMechE Food Engineer of the Year Award. He is now a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Materials, University of Oxford.

PhD Student

Aeration of confectionery products via nozzle-based injection.

Dr Mohd Afandi P MohammedFendi was a PhD student in the Soft Solids group and submitted his thesis entitled “Mechanical Characterisation, Processing and Microstructure of Wheat Flour Dough”. He was awarded the 2011 IMechE Food Engineer of the Year Award. His paper was in the ScienceDirect top 25 list of most downloaded atricles in 2012. He is currently employed at Putra University, Malaysia in the Department of Process and Food Engineering.

Soratos first joined the Soft Solids group as a Masters student and then stayed to pursue his PhD which was entitled “Investigation of fracture in polymeric coatings”. He is now a Nuclear Engineer at the Office of Atoms for Peace in Thailand.

Eric’s PhD work, “The viscoelastic properties of latex artist paints”, in the Soft Solids group was collaborative with the Courtland Institute of Art. He has joined the Canadian Conservation Institute where he works as a conservation scientist.

Stiffness and fracture properties of alumina trihydrate filled poly (methyl methacrylate) composites.

Leonard completed a PhD with the Soft Solids group on the Mechanical characterisation and ram extrusion of wheat flour dough. He is now a senior application consultant at Asia Pacific Dynamic Systems Inc.

Wenfeng’s PhD thesis was entitled “An experimental and numerical study of the rolling process of wheat flour dough”. His paper 'Sheeting of wheat flour dough' was selected as the winner of the 2007 IMechE Food Engineer of the year.

Dr Chaiwut Gamonpilas [2000-2008]Chai worked as a Research Associate on characterising the large deformation and fracture of starch gels using indentation and wire cutting. He returned to Thailand in 2008 where is currently a researcher at the National Metal and Materials Technology Center in Bangkok.

Aaron was the first PhD student in the Soft Solids group and earned a PhD entitled “An engineering approach to food texture studies” which was awarded the 2002 Unwin prize for best thesis. In 2002, he was awarded the 1851 Exhibition Research Fellowship which he conducted on “The Mechanics of Food Texture” in the Soft Solids group. Aaron is currently an Associate Professor at the Singapore Institute of Technology.