Nicola Bowler, Professor


Materials Science and Engineering

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Center for Nondestructive Evaluation


Research Group

  • Electromagnetic Materials Design and Characterization Group

Current Research Interests

  • Electromagnetic properties of nano-composite materials: Engineering new properties by analysis and design.
  • Electromagnetic non-destructive evaluation (NDE) of dielectrics and structural polymer-matrix composites: Inventing new NDE techniques and improving accuracy in capacitive, inductive and microwave NDE.
  • Broadband dielectric spectroscopy.

Motivational Statement

I aspire to have my research group recognized nationally and internationally for research that reveals and accounts for the fundamental behaviors and interactions of the electromagnetic field with low-conductivity materials, and exploits these for (i) design of novel polymer-matrix composite materials and (ii) development of accurate methods for nondestructive characterization of materials. By means of theoretical analysis and experimentation, we point the way towards novel materials and sensing techniques that may be commercialized and have technological impact.

Mentoring Approach

My goal for all PhD candidates is to equip them, during their course of study, with the tools and skills necessary to be able to conduct independent research of publishable quality. MS candidates typically co-author one peer-reviewed journal article during their course of study whereas PhD candidates will typically lead-author at least four peer-reviewed journal articles. Our research has been supported, at various times, by the US Department of Energy, the US Department of Agriculture, NASA, the US Air Force, Schneider Electric, The Boeing Company, Honeywell, and the Missile Defense Agency. Students are also commonly awarded fellowships to support their research. These have included NASA’s Space Technology Research Fellowship, The American Society of Nondestructive Evaluation’s Fellowship Award, and the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society Research Award. I typically involve one or two undergraduate research assistants in the activities of my group, at any one time. I encourage all research students to pursue external internship opportunities according to their interests.

Publications, Editing and Review Activities

Nicola has authored over 115 publications, many of which are available for FREE DOWNLOAD at Iowa State University’s digital repository. She serves on the Editorial Board of the journal Measurement Science and Technology published by the Institute of Physics, and as reviewer for around 20 scientific journals.

Professional Societies

  • Institute of Physics (Fellow 2012)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (Senior Member 2002)
  • American Society for Nondestructive Testing (Member)


  • Fall 2013: EMDC group meetings Topics in Electrical Properties of Materials
  • Spring 2008, Fall 2011: MSE/EE 590 Dielectric Properties of Polymers and Polymer-Based Composites
  • Fall 2007, 2008: MatE/EE 488, MSE/EE 588 Eddy Current Nondestructive Evaluation
  • Spring 2007-2014: MatE/EM 362 Principles of Nondestructive Testing
  • Fall 2006: MSE/EE 519 Magnetism and Magnetic Materials
  • Spring 2001: EE 213 Electromagnetics Applications in Computer Systems

Selected Honors and Awards

  • Recipient of the Akinc Excellence in Research Award, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, April 2012.
  • Recipient of the Akinc Excellence in Teaching Award, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, April 2011.
  • Outstanding Mentor – US Department of Energy, Office of Science Undergraduate Research Programs, February 2006.
  • 2005 Measurement Science and Technology Outstanding Paper Award in the Sensors and Sensing Systems category: N. Bowler and Y. Huang, Electrical Conductivity Measurement of Metal Plates using Broadband Eddy-Current and Four-Point Methods, Meas. Sci. Technol., 16, 2193-2200, 2005.

Professional Experience

Nicola joined the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Iowa State University in 2006. She was granted tenure and promotion to the rank of Professor in 2012. Prior to that she joined Iowa State University’s Center for Nondestructive Evaluation in November 1999 and was appointed adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2001. Before moving to ISU she carried out postdoctoral research at the University of Surrey, UK and worked as a senior scientist at the Defence Evaluation Research Agency (DERA), Farnborough, UK.


Nicola received a BSc (Hons) in Physics (first class) from the University of Nottingham, UK in 1990. She obtained her PhD from the University of Surrey, UK in 1994, entitled ‘Analytical Methods in Eddy-Current Non-Destructive Evaluation’ (NDE). In her thesis she solved canonical problems of eddy-current NDE analytically using perturbation theory, the Wiener-Hopf method and an adapted form of the geometrical theory of diffraction. The latter piece of work was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.