A Professor so Innovative They Made a New Award

The ISE faculty has always pushed the boundaries of traditional industrial engineering fields, and recently one of its younger members has been rewarded for that innovation. Assistant professor Xu Xu received one of the very first Goodnight Early Career Innovator Awards from the University for his cutting-edge work in biomechanics, as well as his academic achievements and teaching excellence.

Xu’s research has focused on collecting and analyzing human motion data and theoretical modeling of human biomechanics to improve workplace injury prevention and promote safety. “The goal of my research is to advance the safety and effectiveness of human-in-the-loop systems, and eventually to improve working and living conditions for everyone,” Xu explained. His work isn’t just theoretical, he applies it to the real world. “I have developed a software tool that helps safety practitioners in the field to identify the jobs associated with low-back injury risks,” he shared. More recently, Xu has published an open-access dataset to help prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorder. While his passion for his research is moving, his drive to publish is remarkable.

Since graduating from NC State with his Ph.D. in 2008, Xu has authored an astonishing 50 peer-reviewed articles in human factors and ergonomics, with 26 as the first author. More importantly, these articles were published in the top journals of his field: Human Factors, Journal of Biomechanics, Applied Ergonomics, and IEEE Transactions on Human-Machine Systems. Additionally, other academics have cited him over 900 times, with 700 of those since 2016 – the year he rejoined the department as an assistant professor. This passion and drive have extended into the classroom.

Xu excels in the classroom as much as he does in the lab. He is active in advising and mentoring students at all levels, including five Ph.D. students (chairing one) and eight master students. He mentors students from
under-represented groups in engineering, including two undergraduate research students, two master’s students, and one Ph.D. student. His commitment to continuously revamping his courses based on student feedback has earned him the 2021 C.A. Anderson Outstanding Faculty Award, an award voted upon by students.

Xu’s impressive skills, ability to create a real-world impact and devotion to students’ education reinforces his passion for promoting STEM and embodies the purpose of the Goodnight Early Career Innovator Award. “This award allows me to keep building my lab and running more fun studies in occupational biomechanics,” Xu reflected. “It is great to be an industrial engineer.”