College of Engineering establishes internal grant program, announces recipients

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's College of Engineering has awarded six grants through its new Innovation Grant Program (IGP).

The IGP was created by the college to support integrative research that involves two or more engineering faculty members.

Amr Elnashai, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering, said the innovation grants will provide an immediate resource allocation to new research initiatives. "This program will help get them off the ground, when traditional funding sources might be too slow to respond, and the outcome of their process is quite uncertain."

He added that providing funds specifically for cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research will encourage the college's faculty to work on emerging topics and diversify their research portfolios.

Last spring, faculty were invited to submit proposals for funding for short duration, high impact research projects. To be eligible, projects were required to meet one or more of the following criteria: bring to maturity a new, high-risk or underdeveloped idea; take fundamental research to the next stage of development; establish faculty in new collaborations or in new areas of research; and turn an existing idea into a product that meets pressing needs.

Forty-six proposals, involving 90 engineering faculty members and 17 faculty members and researchers from the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL), the Materials Research Institute, the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and academic departments outside the college, were submitted.

Anthony Atchley, senior associate dean in the College of Engineering, noted, "Faculty members took strong interest in the program, indicating a great need for these types of funds."

The initial grants have been awarded to the following projects:

-- "Opto-electro-delivery (OED) device to enable brain structure-function study at mesoscale." Siyang Zheng, assistant professor of bioengineering; Zhiwen Liu, professor of electrical engineering; and Nanyin Zhang, associate professor of bioengineering.

-- "Characterization and treatment of flowback water from Marcellus shale gas processing using membrane systems." Andrew Zydney, Walter L. Robb Chair and professor of chemical engineering, and Manish Kumar, assistant professor of chemical engineering.

-- "Application of the Penn State High Performance Computing "Cyber Wind Facility" to design atmosphere-informed controls of wind turbines within wind plants to lower levelized cost of energy." James Brasseur, professor of mechanical engineering, and Sven Schmitz, assistant professor of aerospace engineering.

-- "Combined atomic-scale simulation and experimental studies on interface formation and growth of high-k dielectrics on Ge surfaces using atomic layer deposition," Adri van Duin, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Suman Datta, professor of electrical engineering; and Roman Engel-Herbert, assistant professor of materials science and engineering.

-- "'Waste disposal' in the brain: Fluid exchange mechanics in the glymphatic system." Francesco Costanzo, professor of engineering science and mechanics; Bruce Gluckman and Corina Drapaca, associate professors of engineering science and mechanics; Patrick Drew, assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics; and Scott Miller, research associate in ARL.

-- "Synthesis and optimization of high energy absorbing materials." Alexandra Radlinska and Tong Qiu, assistant professors of civil engineering.

Each of the six research teams received up to $50,000 for one year.

Elnashai said program participants will be better positioned to secure grants outside the University. "By supporting the college's faculty in exploring how to breach frontiers, we also protect their intellectual capital because the reviews are internal to the college. Once their innovative ideas have been tested, research results obtained and papers have been published, Penn State engineering professors will be at an advantage in submitting proposals to external funding sources."

According to Atchley, the college's administration intends to sustain the IGP. "We believe that it will pay dividends in developing our faculty and the intellectual outcomes of our research."

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