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RET Faculty Mentors and Research Offerings

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Nanotechnology is the rapidly advancing study of manipulating and utilizing matter at molecular scales of 1-100 nanometers and has applications in nearly every career sector, including biomedical, energy, environmental, communications, and industrial. It is innately multidisciplinary, requiring experts in mathematics, physics, chemistry, life sciences, medicine, and engineering. This multidisciplinary nature allows RETAIN to impact teachers across STEM disciplines. In turn, available faculty mentors reside in different departments throughout campus, and while research topics vary, they share the common goal of advancing nanomaterials research. Selected research projects focus on the design, synthesis, theory, and/or characterization of nanomaterials for applications that span biological applications, nanoparticle theory, and renewable energy. Available faculty mentors for Summer 2017 include:


1. Mangilal Agarwal (Mechanical Engineering and Electrical &Computer Engineering)

  • Research Area and Interests: The aim of Dr. Mangilal Agarwal’s group is to develop integrated nanosystems for energy, biomedical, and other applications. Nanosystems harness the new functionalities and properties of materials and devices at dimensions in the nanometer scale length (1-100 nm). Dr. Agarwal’s work includes paper-based lithium-ion batteries and sensor arrays for the detection of disease from human breath. Paper based batteries utilize conductive papers as current collectors. These conductive papers are fabricated from wood micro-fibers coated with carbon nanotube coated through layer-by-layer nano-assembly process. Sensor array integrates cross-reactive nanosensors to analyze volatile organic compounds in breath correlated with diseases conditions.
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Fabrication and Testing of Paper-Based Lithium Ion Batteries” or "Sensor Arrays for the Detection of Disease from Human Breath"

2. Lauren Christopher (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

  • Research Area and Interests:  Dr. Lauren Christopher’s research involves the application of VLSI circuits to 3D imaging algorithms to improve throughput and real-time analysis of 3D image data.  The next frontier in image technology is the extension to 3D in displays, image processing and in image capture.  These technologies are seeing growth in medical imaging (3D CT, Ultrasound, MRI) and other applications.   Dr. Christopher’s algorithmic research in 3D statistical Image segmentation uses an iterative Bayesian analysis with the Expectation-Maximization algorithm to achieve results in highly noisy images (such as Ultrasound).  This type of algorithm poses challenges to real-time clinical needs, due to lengthy convergence speeds on traditional hardware.  New challenges in data access and dedicated processing for these types of applications dictate the need for VLSI solutions.
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Miniaturizing 3D Image Capture for Biomedical Applications.”

3. Hazim El-Mounayri (Mechanical Engineering)

  • Research Area and Interests: Dr. El-Mounayri’s work is concentrated on advanced manufacturing, nanomanufacturing, and intelligent machining. This includes the development of virtual manufacturing (for training and education applications),  machining process modeling and simulation (for process optimization and the development of new fabrication approaches), solid modeling techniques and applications, and design of renewable energy/biomedical systems. Key research interests include: (i) integrated CAD/CAE/CAM based product development; (ii) enhancement of CAD/CAM Technology; (iii) automation of CNC production; and (iv) design of renewable energy and biomedical systems.
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Computer-Aided Simulation & Molecular Dynamics Modeling of Nanofabrication Processes.”

4. Yongzhu Fu (Mechanical Engineering)

  • Research Area and Interests: Dr. Yongzhu Fu’s research interests include new materials with unique structure, property, and performance for next-generation electrochemical energy conversion and storage devices. Dr. Fu’s research encompasses design and synthesis of new materials including electrolyte and electrode materials, advanced materials characterization, and a fundamental understanding of the structure-property-performance relationships of these materials.
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Nanostructured Sulfur Composite Cathodes for High Energy Rechargeable Lithium-Sulfur Batteries”

5. Yogesh Joglekar (Physics)

  • Research Area and Interests: Dr. Yogesh Joglekar’s research has three broad focus areas that include: (i) graphene, where interested concentrated on electrical transport and light-emission signatures of excitonic condensation in uniform and crystalline states in graphene, and other two-dimensional materials; (ii) systems with balanced sources and sinks, described by so-called PT-symmetric Hamiltonians, of particular interest are PT-symmetric lattice models and tunable optical waveguides, and the implications of PT-symmetry breaking; and (iii) memristrive systems. While theoretical physics is often viewed as a topic beyond the scope and capabilities of high school students, new computing software help put these topics into an accessible level and Dr. Joglekar’s group routinely consists of high school students.
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Time Evolution, Intensity & Energy Transfer of Non-Linearity in PT-Symmetric Lattices.”

6. Christoph Naumann (Chemistry and Chemical Biology)

  • Research Area and Interests:  The main objective of Dr. Christoph Naumann’s research is the design and characterization of biomembrane-mimicking supramolecular architectures and their utilization in selected research projects of biophysical and biomedical significance. Around this central theme, Dr. Naumann’s has developed three complementary research directions: (i) Structure, dynamics, and mechanical properties of polymer-tethered lipid membranes; (ii) Biophysical mechanisms of protein sequestration in well-defined lipid heterogeneities; and (iii) Design of biomimetic cell substrates. Dr. Naumann’s research is highly interdisciplinary and encompasses the design of complex assemblies of biologically important molecules and the application of single molecule-sensitive imaging methods, such as wide-field single molecule fluorescence microscopy, confocal fluorescence intensity analysis, and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy.
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Design of Artificial Biomembrane-Mimicking Systems for Cell Substrate Applications.”

7. Horia Petrache (Physics)

  • Research Area and Interests:  Dr. Horia Petrache’s  research is focused on measurements of molecular structures and forces by physical methods including X-ray and light scattering, NMR and UV spectroscopy, and biological ion channel measurements. Key research interests include: (i) ionic interactions in solution, forces between membranes: hydration, van der Waals, electrostatics; (ii) polyunsaturated (dietary) lipids; (iii) membrane structure from X-ray scattering (SAXS), NMR, and MD; and (iv) membrane elasticity (spontaneous curvature and bending fluctuations).
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Determining Molecular Structures & Forces through Scattering & Spectroscopy.”

8. Maher Rizkalla (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

  • Research Area and Interests: Dr. Maher Rizkalla’s research focuses on solid state devices, including nanotechnology devices, semiconducting devices, and superconducting devices. The research covers computer simulation and modeling for low power system-on-chip (SOC) and high level of integration. Specific research interests include VLSI design as applied to digital signal processing and electronic manufacturing. Integrating electromagnetics and SOC materials and devices have been emphasized in recent years for medical applications. 
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Design and Manufacturing of VLSI Signal Processing and Electronics for sensor systems.”

9. Rajesh Sardar (Chemistry and Chemical Biology)

  • Research Area and Interests: Dr. Rajesh Sardar’s group is principally focused on analytical chemistry and materials science of metallic and semiconductor nanoparticles. Due to the continuous growth in energy storage demands for both consumer products as well as global infrastructure, their goal is to develop materials for efficient energy conversion, charge storage devices, and fabrication of advanced nanosensor substrates. In all applications, understanding the fundamental physics and chemistry of the material is essential to properly tailor material properties for eventual device design. A broad range of techniques is utilized for particle development including analytical chemistry and nanoscale materials science. Of particular interest is the development of semiconductor nanoparticles, commonly known as quantum dots (QDs). Here we are principally focused on controlling particle composition thru novel synthetic techniques and verification with a variety of analytical methods.
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Synthesis & Optimization of Semiconductor Nanoclusters for Photovoltaic Devices.”

10. Jian Xie (Mechanical Engineering)

  • Research Area and Interests:  Dr. Jian Xie’s group is working on meeting the energy needs and solving environmental issues. Energy is critical to our society and we are facing the challenge of running out the fossil fuel. Moreover, the use of fossil fuel results in serious environmental issues. In order to meeting growing energy needs, Dr. Xie’s research focuses on the technology of clean energy, such as fuel cells, advanced batteries, and super capacitors. Dr. Xie takes a bottom up approach to this work by: clearly defining the need for clean energy from materials perspectives, designing nano-structural materials, developing the designed materials, characterizing the developed materials, and using these materials in energy conversion devices (i.e. fuel cells, batteries, super-capacitors, etc.).
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Advancing Lithium Ion Battery Technology Using Nanomaterials.”

11. Hiroki Yokota (Biomedical Engineering)

  • Research Area and Interests: Dr. Hiroki Yokota conducts basic and translational research using multidisciplinary approaches, including mathematical and computational modeling, molecular and cellular characterization, and pre-clinical evaluation using animal models. Dr. Yokota’s group investigates regulatory mechanisms and develops effective treatment for bone and joint disorders such as osteoporosis, osteogenesis imperfecta, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as for breast cancer and bone metastasis.
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Mechanical Loading & Bone.”

12. Jing Zhang (Mechanical Engineering)

  • Research Area and Interests: Dr. Jing Zhang’s research focuses on structure-property correlations of ceramic, high-temperature alloy, and microelectronic materials, and modeling and simulations of multi-scale and mulch-physics coupled phenomena. These activities guide the development on new nanomaterials for applications that span renewable energy to biomedicine. Key research interests include: (i) renewable energy (hydrogen transport membrane, solid oxide fuel cell, electric vehicle conversion); (ii) multi-scale modeling (finite element method, discrete element method, atomistic simulation); (iii) coupled phenomena (thermal and electrical properties, mass transport), and their applications to processing (powder metallurgy, compaction and sintering, metal forming); and (iv) ceramic materials for biomedical and power generation applications.
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Functionally Graded Thermal Nanomaterial Coatings.”

13. Likun Zhu (Mechanical Engineering)

  • Research Area and Interests: The research in Dr. Likun Zhu’s group spans a range of microscale and nanoscale technologies including modeling and characterization of lithium ion batteries based on micro and nano computed tomography technologies, new fabrication technologies for hierarchical micro/nano structures, self-pumping and self-regulating microfluidic gas generation systems, and microfluidic devices for circulating tumor cell isolation. Dr. Zhu’s research group seeks to address fundamental scientific questions and strive to develop new technologies for problems important to modern societal needs, including: (i) renewable energy; (ii) advanced battery and fuel cells; and (iii) micro and nanofluidic systems.
  • Research Project for Teachers: “Microfluidic Platform for Isolation of Circulating Tumor Cells.”