Kaitlin Spak
Kaitlin Spak, Ph.D., P.E.
Senior Engineer
Mechanical Engineering
  • Menlo Park

Dr. Spak specializes in the mechanical engineering of systems and structures, with an emphasis on vibration characterization and dynamic analysis of materials and machines. As a certified vibration analyst, she is capable of instrumenting and conducting dynamic tests and analyzing vibration and operational data. Dr. Spak uses both experimentation and theoretical approaches to solve engineering problems. Her prior work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) included modeling and testing of cables for spaceflight structures, and her work since joining Exponent includes evaluation, analysis, and testing of industrial machinery, heavy equipment, engines, drilling operations, pipelines, and consumer products and appliances.

Dr. Spak performed the majority of her graduate work at JPL, investigating the dynamic response of spaceflight cables and developing analytical models to predict the effect of adding cables to space structures. During this research, Dr. Spak developed methods for cable testing and cabled structure models that include the effects of bakeout, variable bending stiffness, and hysteretic damping. While at JPL, she also assisted with the work of the Advanced Deployable Structures group, set up testing for modal analysis of space and rover assemblies, and served as a resident cable expert for design teams. Prior to conducting research at JPL, Dr. Spak worked at the Center for Intelligent Materials and Smart Structures at Virginia Tech, working with piezoelectric actuators and developing an active clearance control mechanism for jet engines. Additional graduate work included courses in finite element analysis, instrumentation, fluid dynamics, active materials and smart structures, fuel cell systems, rotor dynamics, and mathematical methods.

Dr. Spak's past work experience includes design of electronic housing, button panels, and backplane cards for broadcasting routers, troubleshooting of customer product issues, and product prototype development and design. Dr. Spak also has coursework and competitive experience in communications and public speaking. She has years of shop experience in design and fabrication of metal art and furniture, and is familiar with a variety of machining and manufacturing methods. Since joining Exponent, Dr. Spak has applied her engineering skills to projects involving pipeline joint failures, drilling and mining operations, large machinery, heavy equipment, engine failures, bearing analysis, operational data analysis, and consumer electronics. She has been involved in both proactive design work and reactive failure analysis and litigation work, including preparation of expert reports, intellectual property and patent claims, and root cause analysis.

CREDENTIALS & PROFESSIONAL HONORS

  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), 2014
  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering, California Polytechnic State University, 2010, magna cum laude and with honors
  • NASA Space Technology Research Fellow, 2011–2014

    ASME Bruce J. Heim Foundation Scholarship, 2013

    AIAA San Gabriel Valley Section Student Scholarship, 2013

    Virginia Space Grant Consortium Fellow, 2011–2013

    Pratt Fellow, 2010

    Raytheon University Design Competition, First Place, 2010, Outstanding Senior for Contributions to the Objectives and Public Image of the University, Cal Poly, 2008

    Tau Beta Pi Dodson Scholar, 2008

    Tau Beta Pi National Committee Chair, 2008

LICENSES & CERTIFICATIONS

Licensed Professional Mechanical Engineer, California, #M37973

Vibration Analyst, Vibration Institute Category I Certified

Publications

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Modeling vibration response and damping of cables and cabled structures. Journal of Sound and Vibration 2015; 336:240-256. DOI:10.1016/j.jsv.2014.10.009

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Bakeout effects on dynamic response of spaceflight cables. Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets 2014; 51(5):1721–1734. DOI: 10.2514/1.A32780

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Parameters for modeling stranded cables as structural beams. Experimental Mechanics 2014; 54(9):1613–1626. DOI: 10.1007/s11340-014-9941-8

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Modeling vibration response and damping of cables and cabled structures. Journal of Sound and Vibration 2014; in press. DOI: TBD.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman, DJ. Cable modeling and internal damping developments. Applied Mechanics Reviews 2013; 65(1): 1-18. DOI:10.1115/1.4023489.

Conference Proceedings and Presentations

Spak KS. Analysis of nonlinear behavior in machine monitoring diagnostic plots. 34th SEM International Modal Analysis Conference, #219, Orlando, FL, 2016.

Spak KS. From client to conclusion: translating the language of vibration. 34th SEM International Modal Analysis Conference, #9, Orlando, FL, 2016.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Experimental and theoretical analysis of cabled beams. Proceedings, AIAA SciTech 56th AIAA/ASMEASCE/AHS/SC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, AIAA-2015-0690, Kissimmee, FL, 2015.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Cable parameters for homogenous cable-beam models for space structures. Proceedings, 32nd IMAC, A Conference on Structural Dynamics, SEM International Modal Analysis Conference, #17, Orlando, FL, 2014.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, and Inman DJ. Inclusion of shear effects, tension, and damping in a DTF beam model for cable modeling. Proceedings, AIAA SciTech 55th AIAA/ASMEASCE/AHS/SC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, AIAA-2014-0491, National Harbor, MD, 2014.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Comparison of damping models for space flight cables. Proceedings, 31st IMAC, A Conference on Structural Dynamics, Volume 4, Chapter 21, SEM International Modal Analysis Conference, # 77, Garden Grove, CA, 2013.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Toward modeling of cable harnessed structures: Cable damping experiments. Proceedings, AIAA 54th AIAA/ASMEASCE/AHS/SC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, AIAA-2013-1889, Boston, MA, 2013.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Effect of bakeout on space flight cable stiffness. SEM International Student Paper Competition and Annual Conference, #535, Lombard, IL, 2013.

Spak KS, Inman DJ. Space flight cable model development. Virginia Space Grant Consortium Student Research Conference, Norfolk, VA, 2013.

Spak KS, Inman DJ. Model development for cable harnessed beams. Virginia Space Grant Consortium Student Research Conference, Williamsburg, VA, 2012.

Professional Affiliations

Vibration Institute (Member since 2015)

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (member since 2012)

Society for Experimental Mechanics (member since 2012)

American Society of Mechanical Engineers (member since 2005)

  • AIAA Structural Dynamics Technical Committee Member (2016)

Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society (member since 2006)

Additional Information

Peer Reviewer

Engineering Structures

International Journal of Mechanical Sciences

Journal of Civil Engineering and Management

Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets

Meccanica

CREDENTIALS & PROFESSIONAL HONORS

  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), 2014
  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering, California Polytechnic State University, 2010, magna cum laude and with honors
  • NASA Space Technology Research Fellow, 2011–2014

    ASME Bruce J. Heim Foundation Scholarship, 2013

    AIAA San Gabriel Valley Section Student Scholarship, 2013

    Virginia Space Grant Consortium Fellow, 2011–2013

    Pratt Fellow, 2010

    Raytheon University Design Competition, First Place, 2010, Outstanding Senior for Contributions to the Objectives and Public Image of the University, Cal Poly, 2008

    Tau Beta Pi Dodson Scholar, 2008

    Tau Beta Pi National Committee Chair, 2008

LICENSES & CERTIFICATIONS

Licensed Professional Mechanical Engineer, California, #M37973

Vibration Analyst, Vibration Institute Category I Certified