Research Wire: September 2019

While politicians continue to argue whether outsiders affected the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a computer scientist at the McKelvey School of Engineering plans to develop a computational model that would determine how a malicious party could impact election outcomes by influencing which issues are most often in the public discussion.

“Malicious parties can use various kinds of tricks to make people think about certain issues and not others,” said Yevgeniy Vorobeychik, associate professor of computer science and engineering. He recently received a three-year, $368,178 grant from the National Science Foundation for the work. Read more on the engineering website.

Using massive amounts of data and a novel computing approach, Jr-Shin Li and Shen Zeng at the McKelvey School of Engineering are applying new control methodologies to biological systems. They recently received a $488,811 grant from the National Science Foundation for their work. Read more about their research.

Ray Arvidson, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences, received $273,894 from Johns Hopkins University/NASA to support the fifth extended mission of the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM). Separately, Arvidson received $135,00 from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA to support his role as interdisciplinary scientist for the Mars Odyssey eighth extended mission.

Chao Zhou, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, plans to use optical coherence tomography, a type of imaging technology that has been used for two decades to take images of the retina. With a three-year, $855,305 grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), he is working to develop an improved version of the method to penetrate 3D tumor models and determine drugs’ effect on tumors’ growth.

Read more on the engineering website.

Meredith Jackrel, assistant professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, received a $300,000 grant from the ALS Association to support a project titled “Countering the aggregation of TDP-43, FUS, DPRS, and Matrin 3 with engineered protein disaggregases.”

Michael Slade, MD, a resident in internal medicine at the School of Medicine, received a 2019 Hematology Opportunities for the Next Generation of Research Scientists (HONORS) Award from the American Society of Hematology. The award supports talented medical students and residents who are interested in hematology but have not yet entered a hematology-related training program. His research has investigated genetic methods to identify leukemia patients who are likely to relapse after initial treatment. Slade will receive $5,000 to support a hematology research project plus a stipend to attend the society’s annual meeting.

Ryan Bogdan, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, received a two-year, $264,938 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the effects of alcohol on the maturing brain.

The study will look at genome-wide association studies to longitudinal neuroimaging studies of adolescents and young adults in order to disentangle the contributions of predisposing factors to certain patterns of brain maturation from the consequences of alcohol. Read more about the project on the NIH website.

Shantanu Chakrabartty, the Clifford Murphy Professor in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, recently received a $380,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to address a persistent problem when it comes to recreating the brain’s neuronal networks in silicon: energy efficiency. This is known as the “neuron-to-network energy gap.” His research also will address the fact that biological brains are general purpose while computers are specialty machines, doing one thing at a time.

Deanna Barch, chair of the psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences and the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine, received a $554,195 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for computational psychiatry research.

Computational psychiatry allows researchers to isolate specific mechanisms that determine behavior, bridging the gap between pathophysiology and psychopathology. However, there are several hurdles in transitioning the tools from the lab to the clinic.

Barch’s research will test the idea that computational metrics have enhanced validity and sensitivity relative to standard performance metrics in key psychiatric and nonpsychiatric populations. It also will establish and optimize the psychometrics of the computational metrics so they can be used to develop treatments and in longitudinal and genetic studies.

Patricia Weisensee, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the McKelvey School of Engineering, has received a $330,221 grant from the National Science Foundation to study dropwise condensation and its effects on heat transfer.

Lubricant-infused surfaces (LIS), which consist of a microporous surface infused with a thin oil layer, promote dropwise condensation, which leads to smaller and more efficient energy and water harvesting than film condensation. However, the widespread implementation of LIS in commercial applications is limited due to an incomplete understanding of droplet-lubricant interactions, droplet nucleation and growth, and lubricant drainage.

Weisensee’s project aims to elucidate these dynamics and study their influence on condensation heat transfer rates. Furthermore, the project will foster interest in science and help overcome barriers for women and underrepresented minorities interested in engineering via outreach programs at a local all-girls middle school and summer research internships for talented high school students.

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Jian Wang, professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, more than $685,000 to study aerosols (also known as particulates) in the marine boundary layer over the eastern North Atlantic Ocean.

Results from the research will be used to evaluate and improve the capability of the Department of Energy’s Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM), an Earth modeling, simulation and prediction project.

The grant from the Department of Energy’s Biological and Environmental Research program also will help develop a predictive understanding of key aerosol processes and the influences of those processes on the cloud condensation nuclei (also called cloud seeds) in the marine boundary layer, the part of the atmosphere that is in direct contact with the ocean.

Researchers from the McKelvey School of Engineering want to know if they can use nanotechnology to control neurons and parse the relationship between neural activity and behavior and disease. Srikanth Singamaneni and Barani Raman will combine their expertise in the research, for which they have received a four-year, $678,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Read more from the engineering site.

Thorold Theunissen, assistant professor of developmental biology, Kristen Kroll, associate professor of developmental biology, and Lilianna Solnica-Krezel, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor and head of developmental biology, all at the School of Medicine, have received a three-year, $1.04 million grant from the Children’s Discovery Institute for their project titled “Establishing novel stem cell platforms to model developmental disorders in children.”

Simon Yue-Cheong Tang, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the School of Medicine and of biomedical and mechanical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, received a five-year, $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research titled “The role of physiologic and pathologic AGEs on RAGE signaling in IVD degeneration.” The findings could help advance the mechanistic link between diabetes and low back pain. Read more on the NIH website.

Brendan Juba, a researcher at the McKelvey School of Engineering, is working to improve the way autonomous vehicles make decisions and the way they relay that information. The work is funded by a three-year, $419,877 National Science Foundation grant. Juba is collaborating with Roni Stern at Ben-Gurion University. Read more here.

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