NSF Career Grants

Current NU Career Grants and Broader Impact Components

Below are someĀ  recently funded projects and the description and broader impact efforts. All detailed abstracts can be seen at NSF’s website which is linked for each project.

Award Abstract #1846962
EMBRACE STEM (Endothelial MechanoBiology Research And multiCultural Education in STEM)
Eno Ebong (Principal Investigator) | e.ebong@northeastern.edu
Fluid (blood) and solid (blood vessel wall) forces are both part of the natural mechanical environment of blood vessels and determine blood vessel function. Changes in the properties of blood vessels — often due to age or disease – can influence the activity of the cells that line the blood vessels (endothelial cells), which can subsequently respond and further affect the properties of the vessel. This Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) research project will test a two-tier hypothesis to further understand this interaction. First, it is hypothesized that the fluid and solid forces work together to regulate behavior of the endothelial cells that line the blood vessel wall. These cells detect these forces, and, in response, guide blood vessel function to maintain health. Second, it is hypothesized that the biological response to force by the endothelial cells (a process called mechanobiology) occurs via the glycocalyx, which is a sugar layer that is anchored to and coats endothelial cells. This CAREER research project will address a critical gap in knowledge about how these vascular lining cells respond to their mechanical environment, a knowledge gap which has limited the success of vascular disease prevention and treatment. New knowledge will make it possible to engineer innovative approaches to control endothelial cell mechanobiology and transform how we repair or regenerate endothelial cell function in blood vessels. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and outreach activities will be integrated with the research in a manner that will positively impact both mechanobiology research and the STEM workforce. General and underrepresented minority populations of K -12, undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students will be engaged and trained through experiential learning activities — ranging from hands on challenges for K-3 students to science fair projects to dissertations — which will be catalyzed by the CAREER research project. The principal investigator will serve as an underrepresented minority coach, and opportunities will also be provided for older students to mentor younger students. This goal of the educational portion of this project is to, in the near future, expand STEM education at all levels and, in the long-term future, expand the diversity of the STEM workforce to enhance innovation

Award Abstract #1454414
CAREER: Building Chemical Synthesis Networks for Life Cycle Hazard Modeling
Matthew Eckelman (Principal Investigator) | m.eckelman@northeastern.edu
The proposed research will create a science-based, spatial, and dynamic modeling platform to enable next-generation sustainability assessment of chemicals. High-quality inventory data for hundreds of chemicals and validated estimation tools for thousands more will constitute an open toolkit for the global modeling community. Mechanistic process models will offer unprecedented accuracy in modeling chemical unit processes for LCA while still maintaining a conserved, network structure of energy and material flows upstream to resource extraction. New algorithms and metrics will integrate the inherent hazard approach of green chemistry with the systems approach of LCA. Research activities will leverage existing computational and modeling facilities at Northeastern and Sandia National Laboratory. The research tasks are anticipated to advance modeling and assessment capabilities in evaluating chemical technologies for public and private decision-making. Data, models, and results will be disseminated widely and structured to enable interoperability with existing modeling platforms. The integrated research and education plan will directly engage local students, teachers, and the public, potentially affecting thousands of students and citizens. The project will broaden participation in science and engineering by recruiting and mentoring student researchers from under-represented groups for high school (Young Scholars, Step-Up Programs), college (REU), and science teachers (RET). Design, delivery, and assessment of education and outreach activities will leverage existing capabilities and expertise from Northeastern’s highly successful Center for STEM Education, the Graduate School of Engineering, and the Center for Teaching and Learning through Research and will build on the PI’s experience in K-12 science instruction, teacher training, and online education

Award Abstract #1750539
CAREER: Leveraging Sparsity in Massively Distributed Optimization
Stratis Ioannidis (Principal Investigator) | ioannidis@ece.neu.edu
This project develops novel parallel optimization techniques based on the Frank-Wolfe algorithm, enablinmailto:IOANNIDIS@ECE.NEU.EDUg the massive parallelization, at an unprecedented scale, of several problems of key significance to computer science, engineering, and operations research. Massively parallelizing such problems can have a significant practical impact on both academia and industry. Using Apache Spark as a development platform, algorithms developed by the project can be implemented, deployed and evaluated over hundreds of machines and thousands of CPUs. The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) as well as cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services and the Google Cloud Platform, are leveraged for this deployment, demonstrating both the scalability of developed algorithms as well as their applicability to commercial cluster environments. Educational activities are closely integrated with this research agenda, including a course developed by the principal investigator using MGHPCC as a computing platform, and outreach activities developed jointly with Northeastern University’s Center for STEM Education

Award Abstract #1653671
CAREER: 4D mm-Wave Compressive Sensing and Imaging at One Thousand Volumetric Frames per Second
Jose Martinez-Lorenzo (Principal Investigator) | j.martinez-lorenzo@northeastern.edu
Millimeter-wave sensing and imaging systems are used ubiquitously for a wide range of applications, such as atmospheric sounding of the earth to forecast the weather, security monitoring to detect potential threats at airport checkpoints, and biological imaging of superficial tissues for wound diagnosis and healing. These systems typically operate well when the scene dynamics do not change rapidly. Unfortunately this is not the case in emerging societally-important applications like swarms of drones in rescue missions, smart self-driving cars on roadways, or cyber-physical systems searching for suicide bombers when they are on the move. This project will benefit our society with the development of the first four-dimensional (4D) millimeter-wave imaging system operating in fast changing scenarios, in which safety-critical decisions must be made quickly. One of the new applications of this system will be finding security threats, concealed under clothing or inside backpacks, in open areas like shopping malls, sport venues, and office buildings. Specifically, the system will have the capability to scan multiple people moving within a volumetric region of 26 cubic meters, producing 1000 image frames per second in three dimensions, thus outperforming existing millimeter-wave sensing and imaging systems that are currently used at airport checkpoints. In addition to the societal impact, the Principal Investigator (PI) will build a strong educational program through which diverse audiences can understand the principles and limitations of wave-based imaging systems. The integration of research and education will be accomplished through the development of new curricula and research training methods for students, as well as through the elaboration of a roadmap for transitioning students into industry, in collaboration with Northeastern University (NEU) Cooperative Education Program. The outreach plan includes enabling research experiences for K-12, undergraduate, and underrepresented students in collaboration with the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) centers at NEU, as well as education through online materials and public venues

Award Abstract #1451213
CAREER: Low-Power Transceiver Design Methods for Wireless Medical Monitoring
Marvin Onabajo (Principal Investigator) | monabajo@ece.neu.edu
Wireless communication chips with lower power consumption are needed to enable more widespread wireless connectivity for numerous battery-powered portable and implantable biosignal measurement devices. However, reduced power consumptions lead to degraded performance and reliability, which inhibits the adoption of low-power circuit design approaches. Innovative integrated circuit design techniques are required to alleviate this tradeoff in medical applications, wireless sensor networks and chips with energy harvesting features. The primary research objective of this project is to create design methodologies for performance and reliability enhancements of tunable low-power analog circuits through the incorporation of efficient digital circuits. A key educational goal is to pioneer a unified approach through which students collaboratively learn to combine low-power analog integrated circuit design and digitally assisted performance tuning methods with a primary focus on cutting-edge medical applications. New course materials will establish a long-lasting research and education program aimed at creating reliable wireless capabilities for various miniaturized devices. Undergraduates and high school interns will be directly involved in research tasks. The project team will collaborate with Northeastern University’s Center for STEM Education to organize on-campus activities with K-12 students and teachers as well as outreach visits to connect with underrepresented groups in local schools

Award Abstract #1749530
CAREER: Developing a Spatial-Temporal Predictive Framework for the Drinking Water Microbiome
Ameet Pinto (Principal Investigator) | a.pinto@northeastern.edu
Every gallon of drinking water contains millions of microbes that are referred to as the drinking water microbiome. Water utilities perform extensive monitoring in the water distribution system to ensure that the drinking water microbiome remains safe as it travels from the water treatment plant to the household tap. Although these monitoring practices are designed for early detection of microbial contamination, any attempt to fix a problem identified by monitoring will be inherently reactionary. This project seeks to revolutionize the current United States drinking water monitoring system of “detect and mitigate” towards a proactive one of “predict and correct”. This project aims to develop a computer model that will allow water utilities to predict future microbial contamination events across the water distribution system, thus providing an opportunity to prevent contamination events before they occur. Integrated with the research activities will be an education program that includes training of K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students in state-of-the-art microbiome characterization and interpretation to attract them to STEM careers. The goal of this education program will be to prepare future water scientists and engineers with expertise in microbiome research and practice.

Award Abstract #1350114
CAREER: Nano Electro Mechanical Resonant Sensing Platform for Chip Scale, High Resolution and Ultra-Fast Terahertz Spectroscopy and Imaging
Matteo Rinaldi (Principal Investigator) | rinaldi@ece.neu.edu
Broader Impact: This long-range integrated research and educational program will lead to a transformative NEMS THz detector technology that will enable the use of THz technologies in a wide variety of applications that could significantly impact the quality of life in different aspects, such as health, security and sustainability. Simultaneously, the proposed program will educate a cadre of experts needed for a full exploitation of these new THz technologies. The following goals will be targeted through outreach, education and technology transfer: (1) Bringing awareness to K-12 and undergraduate students, in collaboration with The Center for STEM Education at Northeastern University, with the integration of “NanoTech Units” into existing summer programs in which students will interact closely with the Principle Investigator (PI) and his graduate research assistants. (2) Hands-on demonstrations at large public venues. (3) Results dissemination through strategic use of online resources. (4) Education and training of graduate and undergraduate students in collaboration with industrial partners on the “Northeastern University Cooperative Education” basis in order to help the students developing the knowledge, awareness, perspective, and confidence necessary to bridge academic research and market needs. (5) Graduate and undergraduate courses development, including topics relevant to the proposed research

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