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Research Accolades

Selected honors earned by Rensselaer’s faculty members:

Donna Bedard, research professor of biology, has received a Fulbright Lecturing Grant in Biological Sciences. She will use the grant to travel to Prague, Czech Republic, to teach and conduct research at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT). Bedard, an international expert in environmental bacteria and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) biodegradation, has led many studies of diverse and unusual bacteria and has contributed to a better scientific understanding of the PCB dechlorination process. As part of the Fulbright Grant, Bedard will conduct research on PCB contaminants in river and lake sediments in the Czech Republic and investigate the potential of microbial PCB remediation in sediments from the Czech sites. Bedard also will teach two graduate-level courses, Microbial Diversity and Environmental Biochemistry, to students studying environmental science and microbiology at the ICT. Bedard also has been invited to participate in an international summer school in Genoa, Italy, focused on microbrial biodegradation of contaminants in sediments.

Arthur Bergles, the Clark and Crossan Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, has been elected fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He received this distinction for his work in improving process heat exchangers and for his service to the Institute, most recently as a director of the Transport and Energy Processes Division.

Jonathan Dordick, the Howard P. Isermann ’42 Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, has been selected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dordick is leading a multi-university research team in a drug-discovery project that was recently awarded a $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dordick’s research includes using enzyme technology to produce unique chemical structures that accelerate the drug-discovery process. He is co-director of an NIH-funded biomolecular training program for doctoral students.

Glenn Eisman, director of Rensselaer’s Center for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research, has been selected by the National Academy of Engineering to join a group of industry and academic experts to evaluate the U.S. FreedomCAR Initiative. The FreedomCAR (Cooperative Automotive Research) and Fuel Partnership is a U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) program focused on collaborative research to develop technologies necessary to provide a full range of affordable cars and light trucks, and the fuel infrastructure to support them. The FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership program operates in collaboration with the U.S. Council for Automotive Research (USCAR). According to USCAR, the goal of the partnership is to free the nation's personal transportation system from petroleum dependence and from harmful vehicle emissions, without sacrificing freedom of mobility and freedom of vehicle choice.

Michael Hanna, associate professor of biology, and George Plopper, assistant professor of biology, have been named Education Fellows in the Life Sciences by the National Academies. The designation was given to 39 educators around the country who successfully completed a summer institute program aimed at fostering innovative approaches to teaching undergraduate biology. Admission was highly competitive and only 20 research universities nationwide were chosen to participate. Four organizations comprise the Academies: the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council.

Koushik Kar, assistant professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering, has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Kar will use the projected five-year, $409,939 grant to research methods to improve the flow of information through large-scale wireless sensor networks. Kar will work on developing energy and bandwidth management algorithms that operate only on the basis of locally available information, yet maximize the performance of the entire network. The CAREER is the most prestigious honor the NSF presents to junior faculty.

Earl Lee, research associate in decision sciences and engineering systems, was recently named a PERISHIP Fellow in Hazards, Risk, and Disasters. The fellowship program is supported with funding from the National Science Foundation and managed by the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI) and the Natural Hazards Center. Lee will receive a grant of up to $10,000 to support his work assessing vulnerability and managing disruptions to interdependent infrastructures.

Aleksandar Ostrogorsky, professor of mechanical, aeronautical, and nuclear engineering and professor of materials science and engineering at Rensselaer, has been named a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Designation as a fellow, the highest grade of membership within ASME, recognizes significant contributions to the engineering profession. Ostrogorsky conducts basic research on the production of more perfect semiconductor crystals, which could lead to improved computer technology, communications, and infrared detectors. He was the principal investigator of the first scientific experiments conducted in the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) facility aboard the International Space Station. This NASA-sponsored project, called Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules (SUBSA), examined the process of semiconductor crystal growth under microgravity conditions in outer space.

Chang Ryu, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rensselaer, has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Ryu will use the projected five-year, $445,000 grant to explore new and improved techniques for separating and analyzing polymers, which are widely used as plastics. Ryu works with polymers in nano-sized pores to better understand the chemistry of these materials in the nanoscale environment. Ryu's research has a variety of potential technological applications, including the purification of complex polymers to create new materials and the discovery of new ways to separate macromolecules such as protein and DNA.

Michael Shur, the Patricia W. and C. Sheldon Roberts '48 Chaired Professor in Solid State Electronics at Rensselaer, is part of a team of researchers awarded a $15.8 million, multiyear Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract to develop high-power wideband amplifiers in gallium nitride. The DARPA grant was awarded to TriQuint Semiconductor, a supplier of microwave and millimeter wave products for the defense industry. Gallium nitride high-electron mobility transistor (HEMT) devices provide the higher power density and efficiency required for high-power phased array radar, electronic warfare, missile seeker and communications systems, according to the TriQuint announcement. Shur will be responsible for modeling, simulation, characterization, and parameter extraction of GaN-based transistors.

Ron Sun, professor of cognitive science, has been invited to be a member of the International Program Committee for the IASTED International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Soft Computing (AISC2005), in Benidorm, Spain, Sept. 12-14, 2005. In addition, Sun has been invited to be a keynote speaker at the 2005 IJCAI Workshop on Neural-Symbolic Learning and Reasoning in Edinburgh, Scotland, in July. Sun also has been elected to the board of governors by the members of International Neural Networks Society, for a three-year term from 2005 through 2007. He was invited to be a member of the International Advisory Board, the Fifth International Conference on Human System Learning, Marrakech, Morocco. He has been invited to be a member of the program committee of the Second International Symposium on Neural Networks (ISNN 2005), Chongqing, China.

Carlos Varela, assistant professor of computer science at Rensselaer, has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Varela will use the projected five-year, $400,000 grant to design and implement computer programming technology for use in solving complex scientific problems through high-performance grid computing. He is collaborating with researchers in varied scientific disciplines on computational grids and associated software to address the growing research need for increased computational power. Varela’s research will be incorporated into the classroom at Rensselaer through a combination of Internet computing course materials, hands-on experiences in computing technologies and open source software, and educational outreach.

Chunyu Wang, assistant professor of biology at Rensselaer, has received one of 10 New York State Office of Science, Technology, and Academic Research (NYSTAR) James D. Watson Investigator Program Awards. Professor Wang's research focuses on the application of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to study Alzheimer's disease and other significant problems in neuroscience and aging. NMR spectroscopy provides a powerful modern analytic technique for understanding the structure and function of biological molecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids. The $200,000 in support from the NYSTAR J.D. Watson Investigator Program will allow Wang’s laboratory to investigate a key protein-protein interaction in the development of Alzheimer’s using state-of-art NMR equipment at Rensselaer. Wang is seeking a better understanding of the disease's structural mechanisms, and his research may lead to the development of new treatments for Alzheimer's, which is the most common form of dementia in elderly people. Wang is a medical doctor who also holds a doctoral degree in biochemistry and molecular genetics.

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