ASU top recipient of prestigious Air Force Young Investigator awards

January 25, 2016

Arizona State University’s innovation winning streak has continued among its next generation of talented faculty. Three ASU researchers — more than any other university in the nation — have been awarded part of $20.6 million in total grants funded through the U.S. Air Force’s Young Investigator Research Program (YIP).

ASU assistant professors Ximin He, Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Yu Yao will use the three-year YIP awards to pursue groundbreaking discoveries and develop new building blocks and high-performance devices for nanotechnology applications.

“Our faculty’s innovative approaches to grand challenges have placed them among the top tier of researchers nationally,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “The technologies and techniques they create could spark entirely new solutions in biomedicine and energy.”

Ximin He and Nick Stephanopoulos are new faculty under ASU Biodesign Institute’s Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, directed by Hao Yan, a past Air Force YIP recipient and recognized leader in bio-nanotechnology. Yan uses DNA and other basic building blocks to build novel nanotechnology structures at a scale 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

“The goal of the Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics is to use nature’s design rules as an inspiration in advancing biomedical, energy and electronics innovation through self-assembling molecules to create intelligent materials for better component control and for synthesis into higher-order systems, said Yan, who also holds the Milton Glick Chair in Chemistry and Biochemistry. “The AFOSR (Air Force Office of Scientific Research) YIP award will facilitate both Ximin and Nick’s research agenda in this direction, and is a significant recognition of their creativity and track record at the early stage of their careers.” Head-and-shoulders photos of two women and a man. (From left) ASU assistant professors Ximin He, Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Yu Yao have been awarded grants through the U.S. Air Force’s Young Investigator Research Program to advance their research. Download Full Image

Yu Yao is a new faculty member in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, and also a member of the Center for Photonics Innovation. Her current research focuses on developing nanoscale devices with unprecedented performance and unique properties based in part on semiconductor technology and emerging materials.   

“Yu is very innovative and has many outstanding ideas,” said Yong-Hang Zhang, director of the Center for Photonics Innovation and the associate dean of research at the Fulton Schools of Engineering. “We are so pleased that we were able to recruit her to ASU. Should her proposed research in this particular program be successful, new infrared lasers will be available for chemical sensing, environmental monitoring and even medical applications.”

During her doctoral studies at Princeton, she developed novel designs for chemical sensing in the environment, a technology called mid-infrared quantum cascade lasers. More recently, she successfully demonstrated high-speed infrared detectors and modulators based on optical nano-antennas and graphene during her postdoctoral work at Harvard.

The individual project awards are:

  • Ximin He, Biodesign Institute’s Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, assistant professor of Materials Science and Engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, “Bioinspired Artificial Homeostatic Multifunctional Material Microsystems (AHM3) based on Self-sustaining Autonomic Adaptive Structures.”
  • Nicholas Stephanopoulos, Biodesign Institute’s Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, assistant professor, School of Molecular Sciences, “Peptide-DNA Tiles as Building Blocks for Complex Nanostructures.”
  • Yu Yao, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, “Mid-Infrared Laser Frequency Comb Generation Based on Ultrafast All-Optical Graphene-metasurface Modulators.”

The Air Force’s YIP program is open to scientists and engineers at research institutions across the United States who received PhD or equivalent degrees in the past five years and who show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research.

The YIP program fosters creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and the related challenges in science and engineering.

ASU received three awards out of 56 scientists and engineers from 41 research institutions and small businesses. AFOSR received more than 265 proposals in response to the AFOSR YIP broad agency announcement solicitation in Engineering and Information Science and Physical and Biological Science research areas. These vital areas of research include: Engineering and Complex Systems, Information and Networks, Physical Sciences and Biological and Chemical Sciences.

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences), Media Relations & Strategic Communications


Emerging Artists III features dance explorations of social stigma and transformation

January 25, 2016

Emerging Artists is a series of dance performances featuring choreography from the graduating MFA in Dance students in the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre. These thesis projects are the accumulation of several years of study, exploring a variety of issues through movement, interactive media and performance.

This year’s iteration of Emerging Artists III will feature Ricardo Alvarez and Jenny Gerena. Emerging Artists III Photo by Tim Trumble courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Alvarez’s work, “It’s My Party,” is an immersive multi-media production that focuses on understanding the social and personal issues surrounding HIV stigma. Drawing from a series of round table conversations with newly diagnosed HIV+ young adults, Alvarez seeks to illuminate how HIV+ individuals find empowerment and personal acceptance.

“My hope is to show others that although it may be difficult for someone to accept their HIV+ diagnosis, that it doesn’t have to change who they are,” Alvarez said. “They are not a statistic; they are not a bad person; they do not deserve to feel ashamed.”

Gerena’s production, “Flesh Narratives,” is series of 5 distinct pieces that explores the power of personal narrative and storytelling as told through the language of the body. The interplay of creation and destruction, the transformation of seasons and the transformative power of water are examples of themes explored in each work.

“I aim to create pieces that allow the dancers as well as the audience to feel a sense of nostalgia, perhaps taking them back into their personal memory bank to assign meaning to what they are experiencing,” Gerena said. “In short I make choreography to communicate, share and provoke emotions or thoughts that extend beyond our physical understandings of our reality.”

Emerging Artists III, featuring Ricardo Alvarez’s “It’s My Party” and Jenny Gerena’s “Flesh Narratives,” is playing at the Dance Lab in the Nelson Fine Arts Center room 122 on ASU’s Tempe campus at these times: 

6:30 p.m. Jan. 29
7:30 p.m. Jan. 30
2 p.m. Jan. 31

Tickets are $16 for general admission; $12 for ASU faculty, staff and alumni; $12 for senior citizens; and $8 for student. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 480-965-6447.

Communications Program Coordinator, ASU Art Museum