The Ni group pursues the pathways to enable real-time human-materials interaction by creating advanced digital-physical interfaces that connect humans with materials. To interface with humans, the key challenge is to monitor human signals comfortably and accurately. We develop epidermal electronics to capture multitudes of mechanical and acoustic processes of human body, ranging from broad classes of physiological information to precision kinematics of the body. To interface with materials, we combine micro/nanomechanics and flexible electronics for digital access to the structure, process, and properties – the area of research at the intersection of complex microstructures, active metamaterials, and non-destructive testing offers new capabilities for developing programmable matter with intelligent structures. The two platform technologies will support a rich range of applications in smart materials design, autonomous medical devices, predictive analytics, and connected care, paving the way for future digital, pervasive healthcare systems in general.

Our research will combine advanced fabrication, characterization, and computation techniques to study the associated fundamental and applied problems, including:

  • Flexible electronics for conformal mechano-acoustic sensing
  • Advanced signal processing and machine learning techniques for precision measurement of human-body mechanics
  • Deformation mechanics and physics of random media
  • Programmable mechanical metamaterials, robotic materials, smart and active structures
  • Non-destructive mechanical characterization methods


We are currently looking for highly motivated students and postdocs to join our team at Duke University beginning in November 2020. We welcome researchers from all backgrounds.

  • Ph.D. and M.S. students are encouraged to contact us with a CV with a brief description of research interests relevant to our work. Students who have already been accepted to Duke University can send Prof. Ni a request to set up a meeting to discuss research opportunities.
  • Postdocs are encouraged to contact us with a CV, and a statement of research and career goals.
  • Undergraduate students interested in our research topics are encouraged to join our group and participate in research activities.
  • Visiting students and scholars are welcome to contact us to discuss potential opportunities.