• Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, Washington State University-Pullman, 2014
  • B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Dhanbad, 2009

Prof. Sindhu Preetham Burugupally (B. S. Preetham) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Wichita State University. 

Between his PhD and current position, he performed a cumulative of two years of postdoctoral appointment in the Dept. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at The Ohio State University and the University of Notre Dame, and worked as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering at the University of Kansas.

His research interests lie in the fundamental physics of micro- and meso-scale devices for energy and biological applications. For energy applications, he investigates vibration and heat energy harvesting mechanisms using compliant architectures (e.g. compliant beams and cavities). For the biological applications, he investigates the design of novel microsystems to understand cell mechanics and study cell-cell interactions using a microfluidics platform. Dr. Burugupally received the Walther Cancer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for two consecutive years at the University of Notre Dame and three Teaching Awards at Washington State University.


Academic Interests and Expertise


Our research group focuses on investigating the fundamental physics of micro- (1-1000 microns size) and meso-scale (1-100 mm size) devices. Our approach is holistic where we couple explanative models to predict device behavior with complete experimental validations. Our principle applications are (1) Soft Robotics, (2) bioMEMS (microdevices for biomedicine), and (3) Energy conversion. Our key expertise lies in transducer design through models and experiments.

Disclaimer: Some of our on-going research projects have publications in progress and we unfortunately have to describe the research in vague terms on this public venue. If you are interested in learing more about our latest developments, please set up a meeting with Prof. Burugupally and the members working on the project.

Current Projects:

1. Trapping and Assisted Pairing (TAP) Microfluidic Chip Meant to Study Plant Cell-Microbe Interactions in a Microenvironment at the Single-Cell Level 

Trapping and Assisted Pairing (TAP) simulation.The research goal of this project is to design and validate a scaled-down version of the Trapping and Assisted Pairing (TAP) chip, a microfluidics tool for conducting plant cell-microbe interaction studies at the single-cell level —meant to advance microbiome research. This goal stems from the big picture idea of smart and sustainable agricultural practices to meet the future global crop production demands in the era of ecosystem degradation and climate change. The TAP will be capable of screening up to 10,000 cell-microbe pairs for symbiotic/parasitic relationships, help plant biologists devise approaches to maximize the symbiotic functions/minimize the parasitic functions, and engineer stress-tolerant plants. The TAP leverages droplet microfluidics to efficiently trap 10,000 pairs of droplets —one set of droplets containing individual plant cells and another set of droplets containing individual microbes —and merge the droplet pairs, initiating 10,000 cell-microbe interactions. For maximizing the cell-microbe pairs, it is critical to understand the droplet trapping and merging physics. The project objective is to describe droplet trapping and merging physics in the traps, and demonstrate the droplet trapping and merging capabilities of TAP.


2. Mechanics of electrostatic actuators in viscous dielectric media

Understanding the dynamics of a parallel plate electrostatic actuator in viscous dielectric media will help optimize the actuator performance for manipulating microparticles suspended in aqueous media. In this project, we analyze the response of the actuator in a clamped-clamped configuration immersed in viscous dielectric media. actuator

We model the actuator as a continuous system by deriving a reduced-order model, and solving it by employing the Galerkin method and linear undamped mode shapes for a clamped-clamped beam. Our model incorporates the inertial loading effect and squeeze film damping by the media, nonlinear mid-plane stretching forces in the beam electrode of the actuator, and nonlinear contact force during the physical contact of the beam electrode with the stationary electrode. The model will be utilized to study the actuator dynamics over a broad range, three orders of magnitude of viscosity and two orders of magnitude of relative permittivity of the media.


3. MICE: A High Power Density Internal Combustion Engine

MICE: A High Power Density Internal Combustion EngineThere is a growing interest in the design of high energy density conversion systems for exploration and human habitation on Mars. A promising option is the implementation of an efficient, 3-D printable internal combustion engine (ICE) with an integrated linear alternator that runs on a methane/oxygen (CH4/O2) mixture to generate electricity. This device enables continuous power generation, unlike traditional solar cell and wind turbine technologies that might have limited usability on Mars. This is a new technology. This project involves the generation of scientific knowledge through mathematical formulation. 





Kansas Board of Regents logo. nsf logo. wsu logo




Past Projects:

3. High throughput mechanotyping of a large populations of cells:

Researchers have shown that a cell's pathology can be obtained by measuring cell mechanical properties such as Young's modulus. However, current mechanical phenotyping or ‘mechanotype' tools are slow and/or cannot process cell measurement data in real-time. To address this engineering challenge, we are designing a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) based tool the Mechanically Activated Phenotyping and Sorting (MAPS) device to quantify the Young's modulus of single cells and sort them on that basis at a high-throughput goal of ~100 cells/s. High-throughput is achieved by quickly moving cells in a microfluidic channel past a high-speed electromechanical force probe comprising of an electrostatic actuator and sensor. The sorting component of the device is downstream of the sensor to sort cells based on mechanotype. Currently, we are in the transducer design phase, investigating the interesting nonlinear dynamics of transducers specifically designed for the underwater environment. Once fully realized, the MAPS device will be used to test our hypothesis that the individual cells in a cancer cell population have a heterogeneous distribution of mechanical properties and that this heterogeneity is an indication of cancer invasiveness.

Key team members: Prof. Burugupally, Mindy Lake, and Prof. Hoelzle (Ohio State University; PI).

2. Investigations of a new free piston expander (FPE) engine cycle:

This work examines the design and operation of a new, small-scale Free Piston Expander (FPE) engine that operates using low temperature waste heat sources to produce useful power output. The FPE is based on a sliding-piston architecture that eliminates challenges associated with MEMS-based rotating systems. The overarching goal of the project is to develop a micro-FPE engine that harvests solar energy using a microboiler for micropower generation.

Key team members: Prof. Burugupally and Prof. Weiss (Louisiana Tech University; PI).

1. Development of a small scale resonant engine for micro and mesoscale applications:

The study was an amalgamation of two heat engine projects at different length scales: micro and meso. The study investigated the scaling of a MEMS engine, and feasibility of a compliant engine at mesoscale using experiment and mathematical models. The project objective is to develop an efficient micro power generating devices using alternative approaches such as micro engines. The micro engine study included identifying physical and operating parameters to obtain conditions for optimal performance, and scaling the engine to right physical size and predicting its performance.

Key team members: Prof. Burugupally and Prof. Richards (Washington State University; PI).

Areas of Teaching Interest

To be a successful and confident professional requires skills of information processing, problem solving, and interpersonal relationships; I firmly believe that college offers the best opportunity to develop these abilities. My main objective as an engineering educator is to provide students with these necessary skills so they may carry out complex engineering tasks. My strategy to achieve these objectives is as follows:

  1. Develop and consolidate engineering concepts by providing opportunities to apply the knowledge on a range of tasks
  2. Incorporate the basic elements of a cognitive apprenticeship (modeling, scaffolding, and fading) into in-class activities

My academic background and teaching experience have prepared me to deliver a broad set of courses in the areas of MEMS, system dynamics, thermofluids, combustion engines, and introductory courses in engineering.

Course Taught (sophomore to senior courses):

  • At Wichita State University

ME335 Dynamics for Mechanical Engineers, 3 credits

ME533 Mechanical Measurements Lab, 3 credits

ME633 Mechanical Engineering Systems Lab, 3 credits

ME 650W/ME 850AT: Introduction to MEMS Engineering/MEMS Engineering, 3 credits

  • Outside of Wichita State University

ME320/CE201/301 Statics and Dynamics, 3 credits (University of Kansas)
ME303 Fluid Mechanics, 3 credits (Washington State University)
ME431 Internal Combustion Engines, 3 credits (Washington State University)
ME305 Thermal and Fluids Lab, 2 credits (Washington State University)



[5] Sindhu Preetham Burugupally* and W Roshantha Perera*,$, "Dynamics of a parallel plate electrostatic actuator in viscous dielectric media," Sensors and Actuators A: Physical, (2019); [*equal contribution] https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sna.2019.06.005

[4] Sindhu Preetham Burugupally, "Mechanics of a curved electrode actuator operating in viscous dielectric media: simulation and experiment,"  J Micro-Bio Robot(2019); https://doi.org/10.1007/s12213-019-00114-2

[3] Sindhu Preetham Burugupally and David Hoelzle, "Experimental investigation of curved electrode actuator dynamics in viscous dielectric media,"  Appl. Phys. Lett. 113, 074102 (2018); https://doi.org/10.1063/1.5042456

[2] B. S. Preetham (Burugupally Sindhu Preetham) and J. A. Mangels$,"Performance evaluation of a curved electrode actuator fabricated without gold/chromium conductive layers," Microsyst Technol (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00542-018-3751-3

[1] B.S. Preetham (Sindhu Preetham Burugupally), M.A. Lake$, D.J. Hoelzle, “A curved electrode electrostatic actuator designed for large displacement and force in an underwater environment,” Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, vol. 27, pp. 095009, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1088/1361-6439/aa7a47


Energy Conversion

[8] B.S. Preetham (Sindhu Preetham Burugupally), L. Weiss, and C. Depcik, "The Effect of Working Fluid Properties on the Performance of a Miniature Free Piston Expander for Waste Heat Harvesting,'' Applied Thermal Engineering, Volume 151, 25 March 2019, Pages 431-438. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applthermaleng.2019.02.035 

[7] B.S. Preetham (Sindhu Preetham Burugupally) and L. Weiss, "Design and Performance of a Miniature Free Piston Expander," Energy, Volume 170, 1 March 2019, Pages 611-618; https://doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2018.12.158 

[6] S. P. Burugupally (B. S. Preetham) and L. Weiss, "Power Generation via Small Length Scale Thermo-Mechanical Systems: Current Status and Challenges, a Review'', Energies 2018, 11, 2253; https://doi.org/10.3390/en11092253 

[5] B.S. Preetham (Sindhu Preetham Burugupally) and L. Weiss, Investigations of a new free piston expander engine cycle, Energy, Volume 106, 1 July 2016, Pages 535-545, ISSN 0360-5442. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2016.03.082 

[4] B.S. Preetham (Sindhu Preetham Burugupally), M. Anderson, and C. Richards, “Mathematical modeling and analysis of a four stroke resonant engine for micro and mesoscale applications”, J. Appl. Phys. 116, 214904 (2014). https://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4903217

[3] B.S. Preetham (Sindhu Preetham Burugupally), M. Anderson, and C. Richards, “Estimation of parasitic losses in a proposed mesoscale resonant engine: Experiment and model”, J. Appl. Phys. 115, 054904 (2014). https://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4864418

[2] B.S. Preetham (Sindhu Preetham Burugupally), M. Anderson, C. Richards, “Modeling of a resonant heat engine”, J. Appl. Phys. 112, 124903 (2012). https://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4769447 

[1] H. Bardaweel, B.S. Preetham (Sindhu Preetham Burugupally), R. Richards, C. Richards, M. Anderson, “MEMS-based resonant heat engine: Scaling analysis”, Microsystem Technologies, Vol. 17, No. 8, pp. 1251-1261, 2011. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00542-011-1306-y

Professional Experience

Conference Proceedings, Talks, and Presentations (*Presenter)

It is worthmentioning that the conference Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems Workshop (Hilton Head) is one of the most highly-regarded conference publication in the area of Microsystems and MEMS. The acceptance rate is typically 10-15%.


[4] Melinda Lake*,$B.S. Preetham, David J. Hoelzle, “Electrostatic actuator to bias cell flow at a microfluidic channel bifurcation”, 2018 Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems Workshop (Hilton Head 2018), Hilton Head, USA, Jun. 3 – 7, 2018

[3] B.S. Preetham*, Melinda Lake$, David J. Hoelzle, “Evaluation of curved electrode electrostatic actuator dynamics in viscous dielectric media for bioMEMS applications”, Napa Microsystems Workshop 2017, Napa, CA, USA Aug. 21 – 23, 2017

[2] B.S. Preetham*, Melinda Lake$, David J. Hoelzle, “A Preliminary Study of an Electrostatic Curved Beam Actuator for a Bio-MEMS Force Sensor”, 2016 Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems Workshop (Hilton Head 2016), Hilton Head, USA, Jun. 5 – 9, 2016

[1] B.S. Preetham*, Melinda Lake$, Siyuan Zhang, and David J. Hoelzle “Preliminary Studies on Development of a Label-free Cell Mechanotyping Method to Assess Cell Heterogeneity and Tumor Invasiveness” 5th Annual Harper Cancer Research Institute Research Day, University of Notre Dame, USA, Apr. 5, 2016

Engineering Education

[3] Caroline Bennett*, B.S Preetham, “Creating Sustained Institutional Change: Transforming a Traditional R1 Engineering Program to an Active-Learning, Evidence-Based Teaching Model”, The 12th annual conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Melbourne, Australia, Oct. 30, 2015 Abstract here

[2] B.S Preetham*, Andrea Greenhoot*, “Putting Teaching & Tools in Context”, 2015 Engineering Teaching Workshop, University of Kansas, Lawrence, USA, Jan. 13, 2015

[1] B.S Preetham*, “Active learning methodologies to improve student learning”, University of Kansas, Lawrence, USA, Apr. 08, 2014

Energy Conversion

[3] B.S Preetham*, “Challenges and Realization of the Full Potential of Microengines”, University of Notre Dame, USA, Apr. 28, 2015

[2] Bardaweel, H, Brubaker$, M, Preetham, B.S., Richards*, R, Anderson, M, Richards, C, “Scaling Analysis of A MEMS-Based Resonant Micro Heat Engine,” PowerMEMS 2010, The 10th International Workshop on Micro and Nanotechnology for Power Generation and Energy Conversion Applications, Lueven, Belgium, Nov. 30 – Dec. 2, 2010

[1] Preetham B.S.*, Bardaweel, H Anderson M, Richards R, and Richards C, “Development of scaling model for a MEMS-based micro heat engine”, Proc. ASME Int'l Mech. Eng, Congress and Expo, BC, Canada, Nov. 12-18, 2010

superscript $  denotes student researcher

Patents and other Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property

[1] Sindhu Preetham Burugupally, Siyuan Zhang, David Hoelzle, and Bhavana Palakurthi, “A novel droplet micro fluidic platform for trapping and assisted pairing (TAP) of single-cells”, filed US provisional patent (Application # 62429776).