Northwestern University Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science

Advanced Manufacturing Processes Laboratory

Jian Cao


Jian Cao

Cardiss Collins Professor

Director, Northwestern Initiative for Manufacturing Science and Innovation (NIMSI)

Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Materials Processing Technology

Phone: 847-467-1032

Professor Cao’s major research interests include innovative manufacturing processes and systems, particularly in the areas of deformation-based processes and laser processes.

Prof. Cao's work has made fundamental contributions to the characterization of the effects of material structure on forming behavior of metals and woven composites. Her research has integrated analytical and numerical simulation methods, control and sensors, design methodologies to advance manufacturing processes. Her research group has designed unique manufacturing equipment for microforming, dieless sheet forming, and additive manufacturing. Current research has direct impacts on energy-efficient manufacturing, surface engineering, and distributed manufacturing.

Prof. Cao has published over 300 technical articles, including about 200 journal articles, 10 book chapters, and 20 patents. She has given more than 150 invited talks.

Prof. Cao has been active on national and international stages. She served as the Program Director of Materials Processing and Manufacturing (MPM) program at NSF from 2003 to 2005. During that short two-year period, she conducted the WTEC Study on Micro-manufacturing co-sponsored by four government agencies and more than ten NSF programs.  She increased funding for her program by over 20% through collaboration with other NSF programs and federal agencies. 

Prof. Cao has served as President of North American Manufacturing Research Institute of SME and Chair of ASME Manufacturing Engineering Division. She is the Chair of the Scientific and Technical Committee on Forming and the Vice-Chair of the Working Group on Additive Manufacturing of CIRP. Prof. Cao is a Board member of mHUB, the Chicago-based incubator for physical-based startups.

As an Associate Vice President for Research at Northwestern University, Prof. Cao oversaw the unit that administers the university's core facilities. Working with faculty, staff and leadership at schools and the university, she successfully launched new funding models for key scientific instruments and software, and led initiatives for strengthening major supporting units, such as machine shop, electronics shop and clean rooms. Several University Research Centers reported to her, primarily in the physical sciences and engineering. Prof. Cao helped with collaboration between the physical sciences and engineering, as well as with other disciplines across and beyond NU.

She is the founding director of the Northwestern Initiative for Manufacturing Science and Innovation, aiming to undertake multi-disciplinary research and education initiatives associated with the broad spectrum of manufacturing related both to computational design and manufacturing and to emerging hyper-customized and personalized manufacturing. Cao is a member of the Technical Advisory Board of the National Manufacturing Institute’s Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII).