Interview with Dr. Ivan Tomac, MSCA Fellow


The researcher Dr. Ivan Tomac, Associate Professor at the University of Split – FESB, is currently working at the University of Ljubljana at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering.

He is a mechanical engineer, a distinguished MSCA scholar and works on the EU funded project NOSTRADAMUS: Non-contrast STRucturAI DAMage for fUture Safety and lightweight. His supervisor on the project is Professor Dr. Janko Slavič.


The essence of mechanical engineering is classical mechanics, where motion and the interactions between bodies and forces are studied. As Dr. Tomac explains: “The problem with mechanics is that you cannot learn it from the books. It has to be felt. It’s kind of abstract, so a student has to think about it, in order to understand what we are writing and solve the problem.”


You also need a solid knowledge about mathematics, he adds. There are not so many big theories behind mechanics, but the problems are quite tricky and computationally intensive.


For all these reasons, he chose the University of Ljubljana for his project: “It’s compatible with my research work, this was the primary thing. There was also great support from the University of Ljubljana to prepare this project proposal, but this is just not enough, because – in order to win this project – reviewers from the European Commission have to be convinced that you will be able to achieve these goals and that this is the right institution.” The third reason, then, was that the researchers at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Ljubljana are well integrated into the European Research Area.


“With this project, we are pushing the limits for the experimental modal analysis, using highspeed cameras,” Dr. Tomac says about his research into the dynamic characteristics of structures.


When we hit a glass with an object, the response produced can be described with modal parameters. “Some of them we can hear and some we cannot hear. These parameters are what we are trying to measure and these parameters are normally measured with classical instruments, but we are trying to do that with highspeed cameras,” says Dr. Tomac, who brings his field of research to the public by comparing it to playing a guitar.


As he says, when you play a guitar, you perform a kind of dynamic excitation. “Every string produces a tone and after a while, the tone starts to change. Then, the musician tweaks the instrument and then it plays again.”


When a structure is dynamically excited, for example by wind, a bumpy road, or air turbulence, dynamic excitations occur. We can compare this to the structure of a guitar, but we cannot hear it. “We have certain methods to detect certain modal parameters and see if they are changing. If they are changing, this means that the structure is changing. And then some action needs to be performed,” Dr. Tomac explains.


Because the experiments are non-contact and use high-speed cameras, these new technologies are contributing to a greener world. They also pave the way to new knowledge and open up possibilities for creating lightweight structures.


The NOSTRADAMUS project will run until September 30, 2023, when Dr. Tomac will return to the University of Split, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture. He will have fond memories of Ljubljana when he leaves: “Ljubljana and Split are kind of similar, both cities are not so big. Everything is close. I very quickly got used to living here.”


Sretno! Good luck!