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 B.S. from UC Davis (2005); M.S. in civil engineering (geomechanics) from Stanford (2007); M.A. degree from Princeton (2008); and Ph.D. 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 John Argyris Award (2020), NSF CAREER Faculty Development Award in 2019, ASCE EMI Leonardo da Vinci Award in 2018, the Zienkiewicz Numerical Methods in Engineering Prize in 2017, 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. Undergraduate researchers, PhD and MS alumni and former postdoctoral associates of his research group have been in high demand in various sectors, including industry (e.g. structural engineers at Boeing), government laboratories (postdoc associates at Los Alamos National Laboratory) and academia (e.g. postdoc at MIT, tenure-track positions at Northeastern University, McMaster University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the University of Hong Kong).

Sun's research group has been sponsored by National Nuclear Security Administration, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, Army Research Office, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, Sandia National Laboratories, and Columbia University.


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


  • Associate Professor, Columbia University 2020- current
  • Assistant Professor, Columbia University, 2014 – 2020
  • 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


  • John Argyris Award, International Association for Computational Mechanics, 2020.
  • NSF CAREER award, National Science Foundation, 2019.
  • ASCE EMI da Vinci Award, Engineering Mechanics Institute, American Society of Civil Engineers, 2018.
  • Zienkiewicz Numerical Methods in Engineering Prize, Institution of Civil Engineers, 2017.
  • AFOSR Young Investigator Program Award, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, 2016.
  • ARO Young Investigator Program Award, Army Research Office, 2015.
  • Caterpillar Best Paper Prize, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2014.


  • K. WangW.C. Sun, Meta-modeling game for deriving theory-consistent, microstructure-based traction-separation laws via deep reinforcement learning, Comput Methods Appl Mech Eng, 346:216-241, 2019.
  • K. WangW.C. Sun, A multiscale multi-permeability poroplasticity model linked by recursive homogenizations and deep learning​, Comput Methods Appl Mech Eng, 334(1):337-380, ​2018.
  • S. NaW.C. Sun, Computational thermomechanics of crystalline rock. Part I: a combined multi-phase-field/crystal plasticity approach for single crystal simulations, Comput Methods Appl Mech Eng, 338:657-691, 2018.
  • S. NaW.C. Sun, Computational thermo-hydro-mechanics for multiphase freezing and thawing porous media in the finite deformation range, Comput Methods Appl Mech Eng, 318:667-700, 2017.
  • W.C. Sun, A stabilized finite element formulation for monolithic thermo-hydro-mechanical simulations at finite strain, Int J Numer Methods Eng, 103(11):798-839, 2015.