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$1.8 million in grants help OU faculty pursue science-related research
Friday, October 8, 2010
$1.8 million in grants help OU faculty pursue science-related research
By Dan Bodene, contributing writer

Faculty at Oakland University are taking advantage of nearly $1.8 million in recently approved grants to support science-related projects in explosives detection, microwave signal processing and development of summer research programs.

Xiangqun Zeng, Ph.D., associate professor of analytical chemistry, received a $1,054,638 grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research to develop sensors to detect explosives from a safe distance.

“Threats due to improvised explosive devices in the war front and threats to our civilian population and civil infrastructure have pushed the technology to its limits,” said Dr. Zang. “Up to now, no one technique appears to solve the problems in explosives detection.”

The sensor Dr. Zeng is developing will be highly sensitive and selective, able to be used in a noisy environment, for example. It also will be small, stable, low-cost and low-power. This type of sensor allows autonomous and self-reporting explosive detection from a distance.

Dr. Zeng’s lab will investigate sensors using ionic liquids, a relatively new class of compounds, to identify ultra-low trace quantities of nitro-containing and organic peroxides, commonly used to create explosives.

In related research, LianXiang Yang, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering, will use a $219,980 grant from the National Center for Physical Acoustics at the University of Mississippi to develop a new and sensitive optical laser inspection system that uses vibration analysis.

“The significance of this research will open new optical possibilities for whole-field vibration measurement and nondestructive testing, such as for land mine detection,” said Dr. Yang.

Andrei Slavin, Ph.D, professor and chair of the Department of Physics, received a $91,065 installment from an ongoing grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop new microwave signal processing devices.

Dr. Slavin’s research is aimed at developing new nano-sized signal processing devices based on spin-torque nano-oscillators, which will significantly improve microwave signal processing. This research is also being funded and used by the U.S. Army and TACOM.

"My research group is working on the development of the theoretical basis of new-generation spintronic microwave signal processing devices,” said Dr. Slavin. “These devices use the ‘spin’ degree of freedom of an electron, are nano-sized and radiation-hard, and can completely revolutionize the microwave signal processing technology. My research involves intensive collaboration with the leading experimental research groups in the USA – University of California, Irvine and the University of West Virginia – and also in France, Germany, Ukraine, and Spain.”

Two of the science-related grants involve creating summer research programs for students.

Laila Guessous, Ph.D., and Qian Zou, Ph.D., both associate professors of mechanical engineering, received $114,075 as part of a three-year grant from the NSF and the Department of Defense to address the nationwide issue of attracting and retaining students – particularly women – in the field of mechanical engineering.

The Automotive and Energy Research and Industrial Mentorship (AERIM) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program was set up in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at OU to each year provide meaningful, hands-on, paid 10-week summer research experiences to 10 talented and motivated undergraduate engineering students from across the United States.

“The goal of this program is to engage participants in rewarding research experiences that excite and motivate them to pursue careers in scientific and engineering research,” Dr. Guessous said.

Student participants work in teams on automotive and energy-related research projects in mechanical engineering and also take part in other activities such as industrial research lab and facilities tours, meetings with working engineers, conferences and seminars. A total of 37 students from 30 different universities have so far taken part in the program since its inception in 2006.

Another summer research program has been developed by Osamah Rawashdeh, Ph.D., assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, with a $299,995 NSF grant.

The Interdisciplinary Research Experience in Electrical and Computer Engineering (IREECE) is a three-year program where undergraduates from around the country work full-time for 10 weeks with ECE faculty and staff on cutting-edge research projects. One of the main goals of IREECE is to increase interest in advanced research and academic careers, especially among women and minorities.

Six female and six male students from OU and other schools including the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins, Mississippi State and Rochester Institute of Technology spent May through July on the OU campus working on several projects. These included the development of “smart” antennas for inter-vehicle communication applications, the implementation of a 3-D first-person vision system for remotely operated vehicles, design of a novel micro-electromechanical accelerometer chip, and the study of sleep apnea detection techniques.

Applications for IREECE 2011 will be accepted in December. More information is available at the IREECE website.

This year, OU faculty and staff submitted a record number of proposals to various funding agencies and secured a total of nearly $19 million in external funding – an all-time high for Oakland.


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