Texas Tech University

Researcher Using Fulbright to Teach in Spain

George Watson

July 19, 2017

James Yang

James Yang will impart his knowledge of biomechanics and vehicle ergonomics to sailors in the Spanish naval academy.

James Yang
James Yang

In his 10 years at Texas Tech University, James Yang has become one of the top researchers in the country with regards to biomechanics and digital human modeling. His research has had applications in areas such as injury prevention and vehicle ergonomics, or the study of human efficiency in its working environment.

The work of Yang, an associate professor, associate chair and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has been recognized worldwide, and in 2016 he was named a fellow to the Society of Automotive Engineers. Earlier this spring, Yang was chosen as a Fulbright Scholar.

As one of four Texas Tech faculty members named a Fulbright Scholar for the 2017-18 academic year, Yang will spend the fall semester teaching at the Escuela Naval Militar, a co-educational naval academy for officers commissioning primarily into the Spanish Navy or Marines, while visiting several universities in Europe delivering seminars and hoping to build collaborative relationships.

What does your project entail?

"Actually, when I originally applied I was in a different place. When I originally applied, I was in Budapest, Hungary. But what happened is the naval academy of Spain asked me to go to Spain. I am going to Spain to teach two different topics. One topic is about elasticity and advanced strengths of materials. Another topic is about automobiles."

What is the goal of your project?

"The need for the teaching comes from the naval academy of Spain, which is a part of NATO. They are trying to have English-speaking instructors and researchers come in to teach their higher-level naval classes so they have a better way of communicating with other NATO members. So the goal for myself is, using the methods that we use to teach here in the U.S., to apply those there. I had some experience before. I taught in Germany and Spain. The U.S. and Europe systems are quite different in terms of teaching. In Europe, each semester has just one final exam. They don't have interim exams where here, we normally have three or four different exams. They are at a different pace. Also, the requirements are different there, and so are the expectations.


"Another goal with the Fulbright is, it is a way to represent the U.S. and view our relationships with other countries. In the meantime, I will be travelling to different universities, giving seminars and building relationships, and hopefully we will have some collaboration with them in the future."

How will the Fulbright help you?

"It will be a really great experience and opportunity for me. I came into Texas Tech almost 10 years ago and have never taken a sabbatical. For me this is a really great opportunity to reach out, and I'm going to be teaching a special group of students in Spain. I browsed their websites and looked at the uniforms and saw I will be teaching naval students. So that will be interesting.

"Also, what I'm going to do is visit a few places like Cambridge and Oxford. In the past when I was looking for Fulbright opportunities, all these places were interesting to me. I think it is great, and I'm also going to visit three different schools in Spain, one in Madrid and two in Barcelona. I have already reached out and contacted them to arrange some visits and give the background of my research so that we can try to build some common interests, that way later on, we can build some collaborations."

How long will your project last?

"It actually starts at the end of August, Aug. 23, and lasts one semester. I will come back at the end of December."

What reaction have you received from the people you'll work with?

"It's great. I really love it here at Texas Tech, and for me, here it is a harmonious environment in general. I really enjoy working in Mechanical Engineering at Texas Tech, it's really great, and the College of Engineering has really advanced research in a way to be able to do something like this, certainly. Also, every semester I get to recruit new research students who come in, and we get to train them. Some of them stay with us to get their master's or doctorate degrees. So that's really great, to be able to work with them. It's a really nice life."

What do you hope to contribute on a larger scale through your research?

"Not only is it our mission to teach, but another aspect is the research. My research area really focuses on human beings, how to model human beings' behavior and incorporate those aspects into engineering. For example, something like injury prevention, that is a big part of my research. Besides that, I'm also working on computational mechanics and working on another project for the U.S. Department of Energy and Pantex dealing with explosive material machining simulations. We span different areas, but my major focus is in three areas: 1. Biomechanics. 2. Health care engineering. 3. General mechanical engineering aspects. Those are my three thrusts. I feel so far I have really enjoyed working here and have really nice students. I also have really great colleagues here. The leadership, the department chairs and the dean are all really supportive."

Why are you so passionate about this?

"I feel this way: we want to make a difference. Basically in terms of research, we are trying to change lives. We're not trying to change the whole world, but we want to change the quality of life for people. We do human modeling trying to help disabled people, such as stroke survivors, and give them the training to improve their lives. In general, we are trying to improve the quality of life. That is the big goal."

Is there anything else you'd like to say?

"This is great. I really appreciate Texas Tech and its support for us in general and research overall. I'm really honored to work here and work with this administration. This is why we are all here, working hard to get Texas Tech to Tier 1, right?"

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