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Six Engineering Professors Receive National Science Foundation CAREER Awards

In all, eight faculty members from The University of Texas at Austin have been selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to receive Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Awards totaling more than $2 million. The awards are the most prestigious offered by the NSF’s CAREER Program.

Six faculty members from the Cockrell School of Engineering and two faculty members from the College of Natural Sciences will receive funding for innovative projects on topics ranging from solar cells to autonomous systems.

The awards provide up to five years of funding to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of their organizations’ missions.

The six Texas Engineering faculty members who received awards are:

Vaibhav Bahadur, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, was awarded for his project “Influence of electric fields on liquid-to-solid phase change associated with clathrate hydrate formation.” The goal of Bahadur’s work is to improve the understanding of hydrates, ice-like materials that form under cold, high-pressure conditions, and enable the development of new disruptive technologies in energy and water.

Milos Gligoric, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, was awarded for “Advancing Regression Testing: Theory and Practice.” Software projects constantly evolve due to endless requirement changes despite the risk of introducing new bugs. Gilgoric’s research has the potential to substantially reduce the cost of software testing, which will reduce financial losses and casualties due to software bugs.

Jenny Jiang, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, was awarded for her project “Systems Immunology Approach to Memory T Cell Immune Engineering.” Jiang and her team aim to combine several recently developed technologies in T cell profiling to systematically study the role of the microRNA regulatory network in engineering memory T cells, which could provide new tools for immunotherapy.

Lea Hildebrandt Ruiz, assistant professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, was awarded for her project “Air-Quality Effects of Atmospheric Chlorine Chemistry.” Her project includes laboratory experiments, ambient measurements and modeling studies to investigate the role of chlorine chemistry in the formation of particulate matter and ozone in ambient air. Results from this project can be used in air quality models to make more informed decisions about environmental policies.

David Soloveichik, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, was awarded for his project “Robust Molecular Computation: Error-Correcting Reaction Network and Leakless DNA Circuits.” Programmable chemical reactions could be useful for a range of applications in manufacturing, chemical sensing and medicine. For example, "smart drugs" that target drug activity to disease cells and activate in response to specific molecular clues would have minimal side effects and improve therapeutic outcomes.

Ufuk Topcu, assistant professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, was awarded for his project “Provably Correct Shared Control for Human-Embedded Autonomous Systems.” Establishing provable trust is one of the most pressing bottlenecks in deploying autonomous systems at scale. Topcu’s project will help develop autonomous systems in which the human operator and autonomy protocols are equally essential components of the same system and reduce the so-called “automation surprises.”