19 ASU faculty receive NSF CAREER awards

June 27, 2022

Prizes total $12 million in grants for researchers

Arizona State University researchers have won 19 National Science Foundation Early Career Awards since June 2021. The new awards total $12 million in funding for ASU researchers in grants that will be used over the next five years.

The work covers topics that explore a wide variety of science and technology, from advancing AI-based data processing to measuring the cosmological signatures of stars and galaxies, to understanding the development of infant curiosity and improving the accuracy of 3D printing.

NSF’s Early Career Development (CAREER) Program identifies the nation’s most promising young faculty and provides them with funding to pursue outstanding research, teaching excellence, and integration of education and research. Often, these awards stimulate the faculty member’s creativity and help guide them towards an innovative career path. To date, more than 200 ASU faculty members have won NSF CAREER awards.

“The 19 ASU NSF CAREER Award winners exemplify the best of our ASU faculty,” said Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and provost of the university. “Each Fellow engages in research that improves our world, while demonstrating equal dedication to teaching, guiding and mentoring students to reach their full potential.

“I am proud that these honorees come from a range of academic disciplines at ASU, including engineering, psychology, and science. On behalf of the Academic Enterprise, I congratulate you on this well-deserved award.

Here is an overview of the current recipients of the ASU NSF CAREER Award:

Abhinav Acharya, Assistant Professor, School of Material, Transport and Energy Engineering

Acharya works at the interface of the immune system and engineering. His efforts include the isolation and identification of disease biomarkers and natural therapies, as well as the synthesis of biomaterials and the development of translational technologies. The results of his research at the NSF could lead to the development of vaccines to treat diseases such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Read more

Kumar Ankit, Assistant Professor, School of Material, Transport and Energy Engineering

Ankit is leading the first integration of computational, experimental and characterization techniques to better understand how processing methods affect steel microstructures and their properties, such as strength and hardness. This project will add new knowledge to the field and help optimize the future of steelmaking. Read more

Christina Birkel, Assistant Professor, School of Molecular Sciences

Birkel works to create new materials that can be used for renewable energy, catalysts and permanent magnets. Materials are all around us and are driving innovative new solid-state technologies centered around batteries, sensors and magnets. Birkel’s projects focus on solid compounds that contain different metals and carbon, nitrogen or both, called carbides, nitrides or carbonitrides respectively. Read more

Katelyn Cooper Assistant Professor, School of Life Sciences

Cooper is a biology education researcher whose work aims to understand the relationship between biology learning environments and the mental health of undergraduate and graduate students. Her research aims to identify factors in students’ research experiences that positively and negatively impact mental health, and to develop tools and resources to support students throughout their research experiences. Read more

Deliang Fan, Assistant Professor, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering

Fan conducts electrical and computer engineering research to validate the performance of a new hybrid in-memory computing system. The concept behind his work is to exploit the properties of memory devices and circuits in ways that advance areas of AI-based big data processing such as computer vision, autonomous driving, and robotics. Read more

Emma Frow, Assistant Professor, School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering and School for the Future of Innovation in Society

Frow studies the role of care in responsible innovation for bioengineering. His work will document the growth and development of a new type of high-throughput design and genetic engineering facility called “biofoundries.” His research aims to design interventions or tools that can help align practitioners with care and accountability policies, and shape the governance of these foundries. Read more

Gillian Gile, Associate Professor, School of Life Sciences

Gile studies the diversity and evolution of microbial eukaryotes, otherwise known as protists. Despite their microscopic size, protists are more closely related to plants and animals than to bacteria, and they play important roles in ecosystems such as soil and marine plankton. His research examines protists that live in termite hindguts and digest wood to understand the origin and evolutionary dynamics of the termite microbiome.

Christian Hoover, Assistant Professor, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment

Hoover’s research focuses on better understanding the synergistic effects of composition, porosity, and structural stiffness on the mechanics of vitreous metal-organic frameworks. These porous materials have the ability to be used for several applications, including the capture, separation and storage of carbon dioxide. Read more

Daniel Jacobs, Assistant Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration

Jacobs is an interdisciplinary scientist in the fields of astrophysics, cosmology, experimental physics, and aerospace engineering. His main research objective is to measure the cosmological signatures of the first stars and galaxies of the early universe with personalized radio networks. The prize will be used for observation with existing radio networks, to improve radio networks and to develop new technologies to support future experiments. Read more

Kelsey Lucca, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Lucca’s research focuses on cognitive development during infancy and early childhood, with an emphasis on the development of curiosity, social cognition, communication, and problem solving. The prize will help her explore the psychological processes involved in curiosity from early childhood.

Yuval Mazor, Assistant Professor, School of Molecular Sciences

Mazor’s research axis is the structural biology of membrane complexes involved in oxygenated photosynthesis. His research explores new approaches in cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) that are revolutionizing the ability to understand the role of structure for different functions provided by essential protein supercomplexes. Read more

Troy McDaniel, Assistant Professor, École Polytechnique

McDaniel explores how smart wearable technology can empower seniors with memory issues to live independently. Using visual recognition, this new hardware, strategically placed on the wrist, deciphers hand movements and identifies objects in the environment through a camera lens, providing insight into a user’s behaviors to help decline cognitive. Read more

Anamitra Pal, Assistant Professor, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering

Pal conducts fundamental and applied research in the field of electrical and energy systems. His project uses robust statistics and machine learning for real-time data for better monitoring and control of our national power infrastructure, helping to ensure the reliable and resilient operation of the power grid. Read more

Kenan Song, Assistant Professor, École Polytechnique

Song is developing a new additive manufacturing method called Multiphase Direct Ink Writing to improve the accuracy of 3D printing ordered patterns at the nanoscale. This method can be used for rapid sensor prototyping and for applications in supercapacitors, batteries and regenerative medicine. Read more

Beckett Sterner, Assistant Professor, School of Life Sciences

Sterner examines questions of the philosophy of biology and medicine. His research investigates how and why pluralism – the advancement of multiple approaches to a problem – makes a difference in current and historical practices in computer science. He applies this knowledge to develop new collaborative approaches to make data and models relevant to global societal challenges such as biodiversity.

Xiaojun Tian, ​​Assistant Professor, School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering

Tian uses quantitative experiments and mathematical modeling to broaden understanding of fundamental problems in systems and synthetic biology. His exploration of molecular and cellular mechanisms could allow the synthesis of new therapeutics, the expansion of sustainable agriculture and the production of renewable resources. Read more

Arul Mozhy Varman, Assistant Professor, School of Matter, Transport and Energy Engineering

Varman develops advanced computational tools and metabolic engineering strategies to harness the capabilities of microbial cell factories for the sustainable production of chemicals, fuels and pharmaceuticals. His work to optimize genetic and metabolic processes can impact the production of bulk chemicals, fuels and pharmaceuticals. Read more

Ruoyu “Fish” Wang, Assistant Professor, School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence

Wang works on research aimed at mitigating the effects of malware and computer viruses by making software vulnerabilities easily understandable. His research can enable analysts and researchers to discover source code in a way that identifies vulnerabilities to protect against malware. Read more

Jia Zou, Assistant Professor, School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence

Zou designs a new database that seamlessly supports and optimizes the deployment, storage, and service of traditional machine learning models and deep neural network models. This work dramatically reduces latency in databases that rely on real-time results, such as credit card fraud detection and emergency services response. Read more

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