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NSF CAREER and Presidential Early Career Awards announced

Three College of Engineering faculty recently received prestigious awards in two National Science Foundation programs.

Nicola J. Ferrier

Nicola J. Ferrier (large image)

Chemical and Biological Engineering Assistant Professor Paul F. Nealey and Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Nicola J. Ferrier have received Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Awards. NSF established the awards to help scientists and engineers develop simultaneously their contributions to research and education early in their careers. CAREER funds are awarded by the federal agency to junior-level faculty at colleges and universities.

Ferrier's $500,000 five-year grant will explore sensor management in intelligent motion-control systems, with the main objective of describing and evaluating a mathematical model of what it means to pay attention to a sensor. The control methodology will be applied to robotic applications. A hands-on undergraduate robotics course using problem-based learning, and a graduate course in intelligent systems, will also be developed as part of the grant.

Paul F. Nealey

Paul F. Nealey (large image)

Nealey's $200,000 four-year grant will investigate and apply surface and interfacial phenomena and the principles of self-assembly towards the development of micro- and nanofabrication techniques. For applications in microelectronic processing, patterning of substrates with polymeric resists on the scale of 50 to 100 nanometers will be investigated using self-assembled monolayers (SAMs), extreme UV and x-ray lithography, and the ordering of thin films of block copolymers at chemically heterogeneous interfaces. For the fabrication of flat panel displays or communications lasers, integration of dissimilar materials (Si and glass, GaAs and Si) into microscopic assemblies will be investigated using SAMs and fluidic self-assembly. A polymer laboratory course for seniors and graduate students, and a short course for scientists, will also be developed within the project.

Juan J. de Pablo

Juan J. de Pablo (large image)

Chemical and Biological Engineering Professor Juan J. de Pablo received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The PECASE awards, according to the president's Office of Science and Technology Policy, represent the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on young professionals whose talents and potential are so great that they are expected to emerge as leaders on the frontiers of science and engineering during the next century. The awards embody the government's high priority of maintaining U.S. leadership in science by producing a prominent cadre of scientists and engineers and encouraging their continued development.

The two-year $200,000 grant will be used to further develop De Pablo's work in molecular simulations and novel simulation methods for the study of macromolecules. The methods will be used to investigate equilibrium, structural and thermodynamic properties of complex macromolecules in confined geometrics, as in porous media, surfaces, or model biological membranes. The work is expected to have an impact not only on preserving living systems, but also on pharmaceutical products. One goal of the work is to design room-temperature glasses for long-term storage of proteins and enzymes. This would make it possible, for example, to store vaccines at room temperature for extended periods, thereby facilitating use and distribution in underdeveloped areas where refrigeration is a problem.