Four faculty members at Stony Brook University were selected to receive the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program award. The award, which includes a substantial grant to support research over a five-year period, is given to promising young faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of both education and research.
The faculty members and their awards are Radu Laza, Department of Mathematics, $414,000; Alexander Orlov, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, $504,668; Jonathan Rudick, Department of Chemistry, $500,000; and Emre Salman, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, $453,809.
“I congratulate Radu, Alex, Jon and Emre on winning one of the highest honors that can be attained by a junior faculty member,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD. “Stony Brook is deeply committed to the STEM disciplines and these four scholars exemplify the depth and breadth of the amazing research, education and innovation taking place here.”
“These four rising stars are well-deserving of the prestigious NSF CAREER award, which will enable them to further facilitate important local, national and international collaborations and interdisciplinary research,” said Provost Dennis N. Assanis. “This award will also allow these faculty members more opportunities to advance our Stony Brook mission of mentoring our undergraduate and graduate students through the integration of education and research activities.”
Radu Laza, PhD, an assistant professor of mathematics, received his award for Advances in Hodge Theory and Moduli. His research area is algebraic geometry, which is concerned with the study of geometric objects defined by polynomial equations, specifically moduli spaces. He noted that a simple example to consider is that of the plane curves defined as the solutions of a cubic polynomial in two variables. Such elliptic curves have the shape of a two-dimensional torus or, in lay terms, a round doughnut. The goal of moduli theory is to classify these shapes up to a certain equivalence relation. In this particular case, the moduli (or parameter) for a shape is a single number, which is essentially the ratio between the diameter of the torus and its thickness.
“While algebraic geometry is one of the most abstract subjects in mathematics, there are numerous applications of it in mathematics and other science, for example to cryptography, physics, and more recently, human genetics,” Laza said. “In particular, the Calabi-Yau threefolds and their moduli are of central importance in the attempt of giving a grand unified theory of the universe via String Theory. From this perspective, I am very fortunate to be at Stony Brook, which is home to the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, a leading institute in the world in this subject. There is a close collaboration between the Math Department, the Simons Center, and the Physics Department, which is quite beneficial and inspiring for me.
“This award is a great honor for me and recognition of my research. It allows me to focus on my research and will help facilitate various national and international collaborations,” said Laza. “At the same time, an important aspect of the CAREER award that sets it apart from other grants and awards is a focus on the educational activities. While I am already involved in a number of such of activities — mentoring graduate and undergraduate students, co-organizing conferences, etc. — the grant will allow me to expand these activities and take them to a new level. In particular, I plan to lead some focused research activities for undergraduates during the summer. I find interacting with students extremely rewarding and at the same time stimulating for my research.”
Alexander Orlov, PhD, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, was selected for his work on Developing Novel Biomimetic Heterostructured Ceramics for Water Splitting. The idea of his research is inspired by photosynthesis, the process occurring in nature where plants transform light into chemical energy. The focus of this project is the potential of making the process much more efficient by using a new generation of ceramics.
“We will attempt to combine several types of ceramics to replicate the processes found in biological systems,” Orlov said. “There are still many challenges to overcome, and this project will be addressing those challenges in both a fundamental and applied way. This is an enormously exciting direction in our research and this award will allow us to explore new directions in sustainable energy generation. It will also allow us to collaborate with several established groups both at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory, bringing interdisciplinary dimension to our research.”
Orlov also serves as a faculty member of the Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Research (CIDER) at Stony Brook.
Jonathan Rudick, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, received the award for his work in Hierarchical Assembly and Organization of Dendronized Helix Bundles. His group’s research is in the area of soft biomaterials and the project covered by the CAREER award aims to develop a new class of materials that can be processed like conventional synthetic polymers, yet retain the high-structural order found in proteins. The CAREER Award will allow Rudick’s group to understand relationships between chemical composition of the materials and ordered structures that are critical for applications in nanoscience and nanotechnology.
“These studies will set the stage for designing new biomaterials that address challenges in sustainable energy, high performance electronics and environmental remediation,” Rudick said.
“Receiving the NSF CAREER Award is a tremendous honor because the award recognizes individual investigators for accomplishments in both research and education at the earliest stage of their independent career,” he added. “It’s a vote of confidence that I have set out a plan for innovative biomaterials research that integrates meaningful curriculum development as well as educational outreach beyond the University. That plan still needs to be executed, and the award provides my lab with funding to move well beyond the proof-of-principle experiments that we’ve done up to now.”
Emre Salman, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Nanoscale Circuits and Systems (NanoCAS) Laboratory at Stony Brook University, received the award for his research on Leveraging Three-Dimensional Integration Technology for Highly Heterogeneous Systems-on-Chip. The CAREER award will support his research efforts on energy-efficient as well as high-performance integrated circuits with application to future processors and embedded computing.
“This is a highly encouraging acknowledgement of our research at the NanoCAS Laboratory,” said Salman. “It will enable us not only to pursue our innovative research ideas, but also to integrate these activities with educational initiatives at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”
At the NanoCAS Lab, the primary emphasis will be on three-dimensional (3D) integration, an emerging technology to vertically stack multiple wafers and significantly expand the capabilities of conventional 2D chips.
“Many researchers in the integrated circuit world are now discussing the limits of miniaturization, beyond which the fast-paced progress in the electronics industry will slow down,” said Salman. “It is therefore imperative to exploit the vertical dimension, but this expansion comes with a variety of difficulties.”
Salman noted that it is highly challenging to ensure that the diverse layers of a 3D chip work in harmony as a single entity. “Our fundamental objective is to develop a reliable 3D analysis and design platform that will host future electronic systems that are increasingly more portable, can interact with the environment through embedded sensors and actuators, consume low power, yet still offer significant computing capability.”