March 30, 2020

$9.5M in funding for research spanning robotics to locusts to augmented reality

Arizona State University has to date earned 15 National Science Foundation early faculty career awards for 2020. The awards total $9.5 million in funding for ASU researchers over five years.

The NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program identifies the nation’s most promising young faculty members and provides them with funding to pursue outstanding research, excellence in teaching and the integration of education and research. Often, these awards spur the creativity of the faculty member and helps set them on an innovative career path.

“The number of NSF CAREER Program awardees at ASU this year speaks to the excellence and creative aptitude of our junior faculty, from a range of academic disciplines,” said Mark Searle, university provost and executive vice president. “Each was selected for their innovative research and potential for leadership in their field. They are outstanding scholars, and their dedication and commitment to their research is rightly rewarded with these prestigious awards.”

This year’s ASU NSF CAREER award recipients to date:

Daniel Aukes, assistant professor, Polytechnic School, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

This grant will make it possible to develop cost-effective, “specialist” robots that can be quickly prototyped by a non-expert. The goal is to make robots more ubiquitous; accessible and tunable for newcomers to robotics; and for applications in industry, education and academic research. The results will impact fields in which specialization is desirable, such as assistive robotics for the elderly, custom agricultural applications and trash pickup in smart cities. Access to robotics will also benefit education and provide higher access to robots and robotic technology.

Bruno Azeredo, assistant professor, Polytechnic School, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

This grant investigates methods of scaling the production of three-dimensional structures in electronic-grade inorganic semiconductors. Patterning beyond two-dimensional structures is critical to enable the design of novel metamaterial-based infrared optical devices.

Samantha Brunhaver, assistant professor, Polytechnic School, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

This project develops the means to characterize, measure and promote adaptability as a key meta-competency for engineering graduates. Fostering adaptable engineers strengthens the economic competitiveness of the U.S. technical workforce and improves recruitment and retention for engineering, particularly among underrepresented groups.

Arianne Cease, assistant professor, School of Sustainability

This project will combine local and international educational opportunities, as well as lab and field research to test how nutrition, population density and historical habitat variability interact to affect migration, immune function and reproduction of locusts. The results will be used to develop sustainable management and policy recommendations and will be given to global partners to improve livelihoods and human and environmental health.

Richard Kirian, assistant professor, Department of Physics, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

This award focuses on the development of new biomolecular imaging techniques that exploit the unique capabilities of ultrabright X-ray sources. The research aims to enable broadly applicable methods of visualizing dynamic motions of proteins and other biomolecules in solution at physiological temperature. The research targets the general need for measurement techniques that can reveal detailed three-dimensional structures and functional dynamics of biomolecules such as proteins.

Jennifer Kitchen, assistant professor, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

This project will employ a novel paradigm for automating the design of analog systems, in particular, integrated power electronics. The automation of these closed-loop systems will be achieved through novel analytical and statistical modeling of architectures and circuits, development of analog circuit component libraries, integrated built-in self-test to collect in-field data and update models, and development of a computationally efficient and accurate optimization approach.

Robert LiKamWa, assistant professor, School of Arts, Media and Engineering, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts 

An augmented reality (AR) system allows for virtual objects to be overlaid visually in physical spaces through the use of AR glasses or through the camera/screen of a mobile device. However, current AR systems suffer from high energy consumption and limited performance due to the high data rates associated with visual computing with high image frame resolutions and high frame rates. The proposed project aims to reduce the sensing data rate of visual computing, enabling more compact augmented reality devices with smaller battery sizes and higher precision placement of virtual objects in physical spaces.

Ariane Middel, assistant professor, School of Arts Media and Engineering, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

The goal of this grant is to advance understanding of how the built environment impacts heat and human thermal exposure in cities. The project will use MaRTy (a mobile weather station) and novel modeling approaches (deep learning) to assess how people experience heat in the summer. The work will reframe how heat is assessed in urban areas by using radiation-based metrics and indices. New academic-practitioner partnerships with cities will yield research that translates into best practices for infrastructure management and human-centric heat hazard mitigation.

Brent Nannenga, assistant professor, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

One of the most well-studied proteins that controls the growth of inorganic materials is ferritin, a protein responsible for controlling the growth of iron oxide nanoparticles and maintaining proper levels of free iron in the cell. This project will make significant contributions to both the understanding of how the ferritin protein functions and the general molecular interactions of biomolecules with nanomaterials.

Yulia Peet, assistant professor, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

The goal of this project is to develop new theories that help explain how the interaction between flexible surfaces and near-wall turbulence will change the structure of flow. Surfaces that deform under the influence of fluid forces occur in practical situations, such as those involving vibrations of aircraft wings, human blood vessels and compliant coatings.

Christian Rabeling, assistant professor, School of Life Sciences, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

This research will unravel the evolutionary history of a complex parasite-host system; specifically, ant species that are parasites of the colonies of other ant species. This parasite-host system has evolved many times across ant species, but it is unknown how this convergently evolved behavior has affected speciation patterns in the social parasites.

Abhishek Singharoy, assistant professor, School of Molecular Sciences, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

His research seeks to understand the chemistry of the molecular motor, and how it translates into cell function.

Barbara Smith, assistant professor, School of Biological and Health Systems, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

The aim of this research is to develop and apply a new technology that integrates photoacoustics (sound generated by light) and fluorescence to precisely target neurocircuits activated by addiction.

Xuan Wang, assistant professor, School of Life Sciences, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Product export is an important but elusive research area for renewable biochemicals production. Characterization and optimization of product-export systems will help increase the production metrics of microbial processes and eventually enhance economic viability for microbial production of renewable chemicals. The goal of this project is to provide a systematic understanding of export and efflux systems in Escherichia coli for renewable chemicals, including short-chain mono- and dicarboxylic acids, as well as small aromatics.

Wenlong Zhang, assistant professor, Polytechnic School, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

This project addresses the challenges of physical human-robot interaction. The application is that of a powered knee exoskeleton used for gait rehabilitation. The goal of the project is to develop novel algorithms for the robot to estimate the user’s intent and signal its own strategy when physically interacting with the user. A key to this project is the creation of a framework that leverages models of human cognitive and motor dynamics such that an intelligent robot can dynamically adjust its behavior to simultaneously facilitate human learning and provide physical assistance when needed.

Top photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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