New Faculty: Kam K. Leang, Associate Professor

August 7, 2014

Kam K. Leang, Ph.D.

The University of Utah Department of Mechanical Engineering is pleased to announce the arrival of Dr. Kam K. Leang in July 2014. Leang has a fascination with controlling things that move, and finding ways to make things move in a precise manner. Because of this, his research focuses on precision control systems, mechatronics, and robotics.

“I was attracted to the University of Utah because the College of Engineering has an excellent reputation for research and teaching, and it’s recognized nationally and internationally,” he said. “Also, coming to Utah felt natural because I grew up in Tremonton, Utah, studied at the University, and have family in Salt Lake City. And I like to ski!”

Leang received his B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Utah in 1997 and 1999, respectively, and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington in December 2004. During his studies, he was a National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellow (in engineering and applied mathematics) from 2001 to 2004.

Before coming to Utah, he was at the University of Nevada, Reno’s mechanical engineering department. During his time at the University of Nevada, Reno, Leang was awarded the 2013 Faculty Excellence Award from the College of Engineering and the 2014 Nevada Board of Regents’ Rising Researcher Award.

“One of my main interests is modeling and precision control of electroactive (smart) material actuators, such as piezoelectric ceramic and electroactive polymer actuators. The application of these actuators includes nanopositioning and scanning probe microscopy systems and soft bio-inspired underwater robotic systems,” he explains. In fact, one of Leang’s current research projects focuses on developing high-speed, high-precision nanopositioning systems using piezoactuators for atomic force microscopes (AFM). He emphasizes that the AFM tool enables scientists and engineers to study, interrogate, and visualize matter and objects at the nanometer scale, leading to important discoveries.

“More recently I became very interested in the design and control of autonomous systems, such as aerial robots” Leang adds. “One of my new projects focuses on exploiting unmanned autonomous systems (ground and aerial robots) to enhance situational awareness for disaster remediation.”

In addition to research, Leang says he enjoys working with his young students because of their energy, enthusiasm, and thirst for knowledge. “I enjoy being a professor because of the impact I can make, not only in research but in teaching. I especially like seeing light bulbs turned on when students learn something they didn’t know before!”

Leang’s work is supported by the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, NASA, and private industry. He currently serves as a technical editor for the IEEE/ASME (Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineering/American Society of Mechanical Engineers) Transactions on Mechatronics and an associate editor for IEEE Control Systems Magazine.

When he is not busy doing research, working with his students, or teaching, Leang enjoys spending time with his family and venturing into the backcountry on his homemade skis. He adds that, “My wife calls my need to ski an illness. I have to admit that I have a skiing streak: skiing at least once a month, year round, since October 2003! I’ve traveled far and near to keep my streak alive and Utah is a great place for my illness.”

Learn more about Professor Leang, his research and his students by visiting the DARC (Design, Automation, Robotics, and Control) Lab.


The Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah is committed to providing students with broad-based, rigorous and progressive education. By combining state-of-the-art facilities with renowned faculty, the department provides an education that gives students the necessary skills to become the next generation of innovators.

Dr. Kam K. Leang in the Chugach Mountains, Alaska. "I have to admit that I have a skiing streak: skiing at least once a month, year round, since October 2003! I’ve traveled far and near to keep my streak alive and Utah is a great place for my illness.”

Dr. Kam K. Leang in the Chugach Mountains, Alaska. “I have to admit that I have a skiing streak: skiing at least once a month, year round, since October 2003! I’ve traveled far and near to keep my streak alive and Utah is a great place for my illness.”