After a BS/MS Civil Engineering studies at UPC, Irene Arias was granted a BSCH/Fulbright fellowship to pursue a doctoral degree with Prof. Achenbach at Northwestern University (USA) focusing on mathematical and computational modelling of nondestructive evaluation techniques. Right after graduation, she expanded her background in computational mechanics and materials modelling as a postdoctoral scholar in the group of Prof. Ortiz at Caltech. After joining the UPC faculty in 2004, she established a research program in modelling and simulation of active materials, funded by a Marie Curie International Reincorporation Grant and the Spanish Government. In 2015, she obtained a Starting Grant from the European Research Council devoted to enabling flexoelectric engineering through modelling and simulation.
Her goal is to develop mathematical models and advanced simulation techniques to enable the conception and design of new materials and devices for electromechanical transduction. Recently, she became intrigued by a fairly unknown mechanism of electromechanical transduction at the nanoscale, namely flexoelectricity. This mechanism, quite different from piezoelectricity and far less understood, is responsible for the generation of electric fields in any dielectric upon bending. Contrary to piezoelectricity, it is not restricted to a particular class of materials. Thus it broadens the class of materials used for electro-mechanical transduction, which could enable affordable, biocompatible and self-powered small-scale electromechanical transducers. However, there are fundamental open questions in the field of flexoelectricity, some of which she is trying to address through modelling and simulation.