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Iowa State’s College of Engineering produces record number of NSF CAREER award winners in 2018

By Paula Van Brocklin, Office of the Vice President for Research

As a Research 1 university and member of the Association of American Universities, Iowa State University has long been considered a pre-eminent research institution, setting high standards both regionally and nationally for scientific and scholarly breakthroughs. And based on Iowa State’s substantial number of recent National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Program recipients, the foundation seems to be recognizing and financially rewarding those efforts.

Since 2016, NSF has awarded 16 CAREER grants to Iowa State’s early-career researchers, totaling nearly $5.1 million. The awards cover an array of research projects from the colleges of Engineering, Human Sciences and Liberal Arts and Sciences. So far in 2018, seven faculty in the College of Engineering have received CAREER grants of almost $2.5 million, a record number of awards for the college. And the accolades for Iowa State’s early-career researchers may keep coming as NSF names additional CAREER award winners prior to the end of its fiscal year in September.

“It’s truly remarkable that the National Science Foundation has recognized the outstanding research of so many early-career faculty in the College of Engineering this year,” said Sarah Nusser, vice president for research. “This year’s awards further demonstrate the excellence of Iowa State’s early-career faculty all over campus through our continued success in landing CAREER awards in NSF and other agencies.”

Prestigious program

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is considered NSF’s most prestigious. The awards support early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education, and to lead advances in the missions of their departments or organizations.

Following are Iowa State’s NSF CAREER award recipients from 2016 through 2018. Learn about their grant-winning research projects by clicking on the appropriate links or reading the project summaries.

2016 NSF CAREER recipients

2017 NSF CAREER recipients

2018 NSF CAREER recipients

  • Alice Alipour, assistant professor, civil, construction and environmental engineering: “Transforming Resiliency of Electric Power Network with Multi-Threat, Risk-informed Design and Assessment Strategies”

Alipour will use a systems approach to create new design methodologies for electric power networks that will increase power grid resiliency in hurricanes, blizzards and other severe storms. She will also develop interactive educational opportunities for high school students, curricula focused on interdisciplinary research, industry partnerships, and a mentoring program to interest and educate the next generation of natural hazard engineers.

  • Neil Gong, assistant professor, electrical and computer engineering:Graph-based Security Analytics: New Algorithms, Robustness Under Adversarial Settings, and Robustness Enhancements”

Gong is developing graph-inference algorithms that quickly and reliably detect and combat cyberattacks. He will also integrate his findings into a graduate course on data-driven security and contribute to K-12 cybersecurity outreach and competitions.

  • Chinmay Hegde, assistant professor, electrical and computer engineering:Advances in Graph Learning and Inference”

Hegde is developing faster and more accurate graph learning and inference algorithms that will improve decision-making in transportation networks, social networks and personalized learning systems. He will also create data science curriculum, outreach and workforce development designed to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in computational sciences.

  • Shan Hu, assistant professor, mechanical engineering:Acoustic-mediated Emulsion (AME) for Manufacturing of Hierarchical Nanostructures”

Hu will design techniques for self-assembly “nanomanufacturing” that will make the process more easily scalable, cheaper and faster to create 3D nanostructures for next-generation, clean-energy technologies. She also is creating multidisciplinary research opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and community college students from underrepresented minorities.

  • Adarsh Krishnamurthy, assistant professor, mechanical engineering: “GPU-accelerated Framework for Integrated Modeling and Biomechanics Simulations of Cardiac Systems”

Krishnamurthy will integrate patient data with cardiovascular modeling to create simulation, analysis and visualization tools that enable personalized treatment of heart diseases. He also is developing educational and virtual reality tools that illustrate heart health concepts to both K-12 students and adults.

  • Juan Ren, assistant professor, mechanical engineering:Dynamics and Control-based Approaches to Cellular Mechanotransduction Manipulation”

Ren is creating dynamics models and control algorithms for how cells change structure in response to external force, providing cell biologists with a new tool to control biochemical and mechanical cell changes. She will also develop a new undergraduate course in nanobiomechanics and an outreach program on using biomechnical methods in agriculture.

  • Zengyi Shao, assistant professor, chemical and biological engineering: “Exploring Nucleosome-depleted Sequences for Novel Applications in Synthetic Biology”

Shao will study the influence of a subgroup of DNA that was thought to be of little use previously but recently discovered to be important to cell metabolism, opening a door to new biotechnology and improvements in human health. She also is developing unique undergraduate research programs, mentoring next-generation STEM teachers and promoting the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM.

More information

Visit the FAQ page on the NSF website for more information about the CAREER Program, including upcoming deadlines, eligibility requirements and proposal preparation guidelines.