research

Three IMS Faculty Members Receive NSF CAREER Award

Dr. Alix Deymier, Dr. Jasna Jankovic, Dr. Ying Li
l-r Dr. Alix Deymier, Dr. Jasna Jankovic, Dr. Ying Li

Three IMS faculty members were among eight recently announced recipients of the NSF CAREER Award.

Dr. Alix Deymier (Biomedical Engineering) will work to elucidate the relationship between skeletal composition, structure, and physiological pH in terms of how it releases ions to regulate the body’s pH.

Dr. Ying Li (Mechanical Engineering) will develop a machine learning model to better understand the properties of a promising sustainable material.

Dr. Jasna Jankovic (Materials Science and Engineering) is working to increase the durability of electrodes in zero-emission energy systems. These systems include fuel cells, electrolyzers, batteries, and supercapacitors.  Read the full UConn Today story

American Institute of Chemical Engineers Honors Dr. Cato T. Laurencin

Dr. Cato Laurencin
Dr. Cato Laurencin

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) has chosen Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, University Professor and Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, to receive the 2021 Hoover Medal.

The prize celebrates the civic and humanitarian achievements of an engineer whose professional and personal endeavors have advanced the well-being of humankind, and recognizes Laurencin as an extraordinary engineer who outside his role as an engineer and physician has dedicated his life to the promotion of racial and ethnic social justice and equity. He has been a mentor to generations of individuals who continue to pass on his lessons.

Laurencin, a fellow and director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, will receive the Hoover Medal honor and deliver a related lecture during the 2021 AIChE Annual Meeting, to be held Nov. 7–11 in Boston, and online Nov. 15–19.

Read the full UConn Today story

Dr. Heidi Dierssen is Conducting Research to Improve Remote Sensing of Microplastics on the Ocean’s Surface

Heidi M. DierssenProfessor of marine sciences and geography, Heidi Dierssen, has received a nearly $577,000 grant from NASA to study better methods for remote sensing of surface microplastics using satellites. The project will involve a collaboration with a visual artist to advance community understanding of this problem.

Dierssen’s lab, Coastal Ocean Lab for Optics and Remote Sensing (COLORS), conducted previous research on the optical properties of microplastics, providing the necessary background information to determine the best approaches for remote detection. Understanding the optical properties of microplastics is the first step in determining whether satellites can detect and quantify floating microplastics from space.

Dierssen has assembled a diverse scientific team of experts from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Colombia University, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Terra Research Inc.

Read the full story from UConn Today

Professor Avinash Dongare Discusses Developments as part of ‘CREDDS’ and the UTC Professorship

Dr. Avinash Dongare
Dr. Avinash Dongare

Professor Avinash Dongare joined the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at the University of Connecticut in 2012, almost a decade ago. Over these years, he has transitioned from an Assistant to an Associate Professor, been appointed to prestigious positions, expanded his research group, and collaborated with various institutions and organizations. Dongare has witnessed many changes in this past decade as part of the growth of the MSE Department. “MSE was a program in a joint department when I joined in 2012. Within a few months, the MSE department formed and has been accelerating ever since. Unfortunately, so did my receding hairline,” reflects Avinash.

Notably, the department has grown in the number of faculty, adding to the research diversity in materials at UConn. Dongare mentions that the MSE Department is “a young and dynamic department that provides creative and novel research platforms to many researchers, students and collaborators across the country. This growth reflects the excellent leadership and guidance of Professor Pamir Alpay, previous Department Head; Professor Bryan Huey, the current Department Head; Professor Steven Suib, the Director of the Institute of Materials Science; and Dean Kazem Kazerounian of the School of Engineering. Of course, the contributions of the staff and the students of the department form the foundations of the success.”

Over the years, Dongare’s innovative research has received recognition nationwide. He has expanded his research portfolio, increased the number of members of this research team, and taken new leadership roles. After receiving his tenure and being promoted to Associate Professor in 2018, Dongare’s recent success story includes the Center for Research Excellence on Dynamically Deformed Solids (CREDDS) funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA). CREDDS is one of four new Centers of Excellence at universities across the nation and received 12.5 million dollars over five years. Dongare serves as one of the four principal investigators as UConn partners with Texas A & M University (lead), University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Read the full Materials Science and Engineering story

MSE PhD Student Reflects on Industry Internship Across the World

Kondo-Suzuki-Moran
(Left to right) Hiroyuki Kondo, Keigo Suzuki, and Thomas Moran. Kondo worked with Moran on the vacuum AFM system while Suzuki was Moran’s host

During his graduate research, Materials Science and Engineering PhD student Thomas Moran stepped out of his comfort zone and into the eastern hemisphere when he decided to pursue professional industry experience in Japan. With the help of his advisor, Department Head Bryan Huey, Moran was able to join the Japanese electronics manufacturer Murata as a Research and Development Intern.

Moran received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Union College in 2016. He realized his interest in materials science during this time. “I got involved in undergraduate research that dealt with materials, and by the time the research was ramping up, I took a Junior-level materials science course and from there I was hooked,” he says. He ended up pursuing a self-designed interdisciplinary minor which enabled him to focus his research on solar cell materials using atomic force microscopy (AFM).

Moran enjoyed his studies related to materials science so much that he decided graduate school was the next step. “I was pretty sure I wanted to pursue MSE, but while I had some research experience, I didn’t have a whole lot of coursework past the basics,” Moran says.

In 2016, he chose to officially continue his education at UConn. “I liked the industry connections, and the focus I saw being put on the MSE program,” he says. “I met Bryan on my accepted students’ visit, and with the combination of shared research interests and my experience with AFM as an undergrad, joining his group was a natural next step,” Moran said.

Read the full Materials Science and Engineering Story

UConn Course Focuses on the Chemistry of Wine

Dr. Thomas Seery
Dr. Thomas Seery

It’s a big world out there when it comes to wine, the libation made from fruit of the vine.

Enter Dr. Thomas Seery, IMS faculty member and Associate Professor of Chemistry, who teaches a class on “Understand-ing Wine Chemis-try.”

Seery lands in the right place at the right time when he makes his connections. He’s been teaching this class in Shanghai in the summers. Through a series of fortunate events, including passport control, meeting wives of professors and a group of scholars coming to UConn, Seery brings his interests in wine to the college community and beyond.

Throughout my Zoom interview, I heard words like tannins, retronasal, terpene and umami. Umami is a category of taste in food. I thought there were only four basic tastes, but there are more. It’s related to the flavor of glutamates.

Read the full story at The Chronicle

UConn Researcher Invents Nanoparticle for Overcoming Leukemia Treatment Resistance

Dr. Xiuling Lu (left) and Dr. Rajeswari Kasi
Dr. Xiuling Lu (left) and Dr. Rajeswari Kasi

UConn associate professor of pharmaceutics Xiuling Lu, along with professor of chemistry Rajeswari M. Kasi, was part of a team that recently published a paper in Nature Cell Biology finding a commonly used chemotherapy drug may be repurposed as a treatment for resurgent or chemotherapy-resistant leukemia.

One of the largest problems with cancer treatment is the development of resistance to anticancer therapies. Few FDA-approved products directly target leukemia stem cells, which cause treatment-resistant relapses. The only known method to combat their presence is stem cell transplantation.

Leukemia presents unique treatment challenges due to the nature of this form of cancer. The disease affects bone marrow, which produces blood cells. Leukemia is a cancer of the early blood-forming cells, or stem cells. Most often, leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells. The first step of treatment is to use chemotherapy to kill the cancerous white blood cells, but if the leukemia stem cells in the bone marrow persist, the cancer may relapse in a therapy-resistant form.

Fifteen to 20% of child and up to two thirds of adult leukemia patients experience relapse. Adults who relapse face a less-than 30% five-year survival rate. For children the five-year survival rate after relapse is around two thirds. When relapse occurs, chemotherapy does not improve the prognosis for these patients. There is a critical need for scientists to develop a therapy that can more effectively target chemotherapy-resistant cells.  Read the full UConn Today story.

UConn, Army Research Lab Collaborate on New Portable, Renewable Energy Technology

scanning electron microscope image of the nanostructured Iridium oxide
A scanning electron microscope image of the nanostructured Iridium oxide, colored to represent the catalytic combustion studied by UConn and the Army researchers. (Courtesy of the Army Research Lab)

UConn’s Associate Dean for Research and Industrial Partnerships, S. Pamir Alpay, and Yomery Espinal ’18 Ph.D. (ENGR) have published a paper on a novel portable pyroelectric technology in Cell Reports Physical Science with support from the Army Research Laboratory.

Pyroelectric energy research is focused on how to generate energy from heat that would otherwise be wasted in a catalytic chemical reaction.

When pyroelectric materials are heated, their polarization changes, leading to an electron flow that generates energy. These materials are commonly used in household devices like motion sensor lights, which detect body heat to determine when someone is near.

nytime there is a catalytic reaction, heat is generated. These devices harness that heat and use it as energy. For example, a combustion engine in a car produces heat that, with this kind of technology, could be used to power the electrical functions of the car that otherwise rely on battery power.

The Army Research Lab (ARL) is particularly interested in this technology because it can provide more power with less weight, which is important for soldiers carrying heavy bags.

While scientists have been experimenting with pyroelectric power for decades, the technology proposed in this paper is completely novel.

“Something like that doesn’t exist,” Alpay says. “It would give you the opportunity to recover some things that just go to waste.”

Read the full UConn Today Story

IMS Welcomes Dennis Ndaya as Manager of Thermal Analysis Lab

Dr. Dennis Ndaya
Dr. Dennis Ndaya

On June 5, Dr. Dennis Ndaya became the new manager of the Thermal Analysis Laboratory, replacing Dr. Laura Pinatti who retired in May.

Dr. Ndaya earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from UConn in December 2019 under the advisemnt of Dr. Rajeswari Kasi. He received his M.Sc. in environmental chemistry from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

His research has been published in such journals as International Journal of Pharmaceutics and Polymer Chemistry. Additionally, he has presented his research at the American Chemical Society where he received the Distinguished Poster Award in August 2015.

Dr. Ndaya’s research interests include synthetic methods, structural characterization, and thermal-mechanical analysis and microscopy. He has served on the IMS Safety Committee, and has served as a student mentor to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students on a variety of research projects, as well as serving as Head of the Department of Physical and Biological Sciences for the Pumwani Girls High School in Kenya.

IMS is proud to welcome Dr. Ndaya.

Dr. Challa V. Kumar Presents Research in Australia

Dr. Challa V. Kumar with Australian Education Minister Dan Tehan
Dr. Challa V. Kumar with Australian Education Minister Dan Tehan

Dr. Challa V. Kumar presented an invited Institute Lecture at the Australian Institute of Innovative Materials, University of Wollongong, Australia.

Dr. Kumar was selected for a Fulbright US-Australia Research Excellence Award in 2019 and has been conducting and presenting his research focused on 3D printing of enzymes to make progress toward the realization of Biobatteries. These batteries are intended to use sugar to power personal electronics.