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Steve Waiching Sun


614 S.W. Mudd
Mail Code 4709

Tel(212) 851-4371
Fax(212) 854-6267

Steve WaiChing Sun’s research interests are in the mechanics and physics of geological and porous materials such as soil, rocks, concrete, and salt. His work mainly focuses on computational poromechanics and geomechanics for a wide spectrum of applications ranging from field scale applications such as geological storage of carbon dioxide, hydraulic fracture, geological disposal of nuclear waste, and vehicle-soil-water interaction to micro-scale simulations of the 3D printing processes and fragmentation and fracture of a single crystal grain.

Research Interests

Computational mechanics, multi-scale modeling, geomechanics, poromechanics, data-driven mechanics, fluid-driven fracture mechanics, higher-order continuum theory, discrete mechanics, discrete element method, computational plasticity and inverse problems, , application of graph theory, data mining and machine learning techniques for computational mechanics.

Sun’s research group specializes in the creation, derivation, implementation, verification, and validation of theoretical and computational models for engineering applications. His research group acts as a bridge among mathematical science, theoretical mechanics, and engineering industry. The research group’s representative works include, but are not limited to the development of solution techniques for predicting brittle-ductile transition of porous media, coupled deformation-diffusion in non-isothermal saturated and unsaturated porous media, formulations of stabilized mixed-field finite element model for large deformation multiphysics problems, modeling and homogenization of mechanical and hydraulic properties of porous media from CT images, digital rock and granular physics, modeling freezing and thawing of geological materials under the changing climate, and interdisciplinary innovation in mathematics concepts and ideas, such as graph theory, Lie algebra, and a data-driven and machine learning approach for computational mechanics and geophysics problems.

Sun obtained his BS from UC Davis (2005); MS in civil engineering (geomechanics) from Stanford (2007); MA degree from Princeton (2008); and PhD in theoretical and applied mechanics from Northwestern (2011). Prior to joining Columbia, he was a senior member of technical staff in the mechanics of materials department at Sandia National Laboratories (Livermore, CA). He is the recipient of the US Air Force Young Investigator Program Award in 2017, the Dresden Fellowship in 2016, US Army Young Investigator Program Award in 2015, and the Caterpillar Best Paper Prize in 2013, among others.


  • Postdoctoral Appointee, Sandia National Laboratories, 2011-2013
  • Visiting Scholar, California Institute of Technology, 2010-2011


  • Assistant Professor, Columbia University, 2014 –
  • Senior Member of Technical Staff, Sandia National Laboratories, 2013-2014


  • Engineering Mechanics Institute
  • American Society of Civil Engineers
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers
  • International Society of Porous Media
  • Gesellschaft für Angewandte Mathematik und Mechanik
  • American Geophysical Union
  • Sigma Xi the scientific research society
  • California Lambda Chapter, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society
  • Golden Key International Honor Society


  • Invited lecture, Henry L. Pierce Laboratory Seminar Series, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2017
  • AFOSR Young Investigator Program Award, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, 2017 
  • Invited lecture, Applied Mechanics Colloquia, Harvard University, 2016
  • Dresden Fellowship, Technische Universität Dresden, 2016
  • ARO Young Investigator Program Award, Army Research Office, 2015
  • DURIP Award, Army Research Office and Department of Defense, 2015
  • Claude R. Hocott Lectureship in Petroleum Engineering, the University of Texas at Austin, 2015
  • Provost Diversity Award, Columbia University, 2015
  • Caterpillar Best Paper Prize, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2014
  • John W. and Ernest L. Heinrich Scholarship, University of California Davis, 2004
  • American Public Works Associate Scholarship, American Public Works Association, 2004 
  • PEER Scholarship, Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, 2003


  • W.C. Sun, J.E. Andrade, J.W. Rudnicki, P. Eichhubl, Connecting microstructural attributes and permeability from 3-D tomographic images of in situ compaction bands using multi-scale computation, Geophysical Research Letter, 38(10), L1032, doi:10.1029/2011GL047683, 2011 (featured in EARTH magazine September 2011 issue).
  • W.C. Sun, J.T. Ostien, A.G. Salinger, A stabilized assumed deformation gradient finite element formulation for strongly coupled poromechanical simulations at finite strain, International Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics, 37(16):2755-2788, doi:10.1002/nag.2161, 2013. [PDF]
  • W.C. Sun, M.R. Kuhn and J.W.Rudnicki, A multiscale DEM-LBM analysis on permeability evolutions inside a dilatant shear band, Acta Geotechnica, 8(5):465-480, doi:10.1007/s11440-013-0210-2, 2013. (The authors received the Caterpillar Best paper prize in the year of 2013) [PDF]
  • W.C. Sun, A stabilized finite element formulation for monolithic thermo-hydro-mechanical simulations at finite strain, International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering, 103(11):798-839, doi:10.1002/nme.4910, 2015. [PDF]  (This paper is one of the 5 most cited papers from 2015 to 2016 in IJNME [URL].)
  • Y. Liu, W.C. Sun, Z-F. Yuan, J. Fish, A nonlocal multiscale discrete-continuum model for predicting mechanical behavior of granular materials,  International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering, 106(2):129-160, doi: 10.1002/nme.5139, 2016. [PDF] (PhD Student Yang Liu won 2015 best poster competition at USNCCM San Diego).
  • S. Na, W.C. Sun, Wave propagation and strain localization in a fully saturated softening porous medium under the non-isothermal conditions, International Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics, 40(10):1485-1510,  doi:10.1002/nag.2505, 2016.
  • K. Wang, W.C. Sun, A semi-implicit discrete-continuum coupling method for porous media based on the effective stress principle at finite strain, Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering, 304(1):546-583, doi:10.1016/j.cma.2016.02.020, 2016.
  • K. Wang, W.C. Sun, A unified variational eigen-erosion framework for interacting fractures and compaction bands in brittle porous media, Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering, 318:1-32  doi:10.1016/j.cma.2017.01.017, 2017.
  • S. Na, W.C. Sun, Computational thermo-hydro-mechanics for multiphase freezing and thawing porous media in the finite deformation range, Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering, 318:667-700doi:10.1016/j.cma.2017.01.028, 2017. (PhD Student SeonHong Na selected as runner-up for the 2017 best paper competition at EMI Nashville) [PDF]
  • W.C. Sun, Z. Cai, J. Choo, Mixed Arlequin method for multiscale poromechanics problems, International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering, ​doi:10.1002/nme.5476, 2017. [PDF]