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Four CEAS Faculty Earn NSF Early CAREER Awards

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Four faculty from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) were recently awarded Early CAREER grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Xinwei Mao, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering; Shanshan Yao, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering; along with Shubham Jain and Shuai Mu, assistant professors in the Department of Computer Science, have received a combined $2.1 million in grants for their research.

The NSF Early CAREER awards are bestowed upon early-career faculty who show promise as both researchers and educators, and are distinguished as up-and-coming professionals poised to advance the mission of their academic departments.

“The NSF CAREER Award is among the most prestigious awards an early-career faculty member can achieve, and recognizes the extraordinary cutting-edge research taking place here in CEAS and at Stony Brook every day,” said Jon Longtin, interim dean, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “We are incredibly proud of our faculty achieving this distinction and are grateful for their contributions to the research enterprise within CEAS and their ongoing commitment to our students.”

Xinwei mao
Xinewei Mao

Mao is a member of the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology, leading the Center’s Phosphorus research initiatives. Her CAREER research, “Next generation onsite wastewater treatment system for nitrogen management,” is to explore the development and validation of the next generation of biofiltration systems for nitrogen removal from onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS).

With this $559K grant, Mao will explore the development of novel soil biofilters for nitrogen removal based on a hybrid physical/chemical and biological treatment process that integrates biochar sorbents with anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) microbiomes. The proposed research builds upon the results of previous investigations that have established that anammox microbiomes play a critical role in the conversion of nitrogen compounds to dinitrogen (N2) gas in soils, wetlands, and marine/freshwater sediments.

“By receiving the prestigious CAREER Award, the NSF is recognizing the importance of water pollution from onsite wastewater disposal systems and that Dr. Mao has proposed an innovative approach to investigate cost-effective and energy efficient solutions,” said Rigoberto Burgueño, chair of the Department of Civil Engineering.

Read more about Mao’s research on the Civil Engineering website.

Shanshan yao
Shanshan Yao

Yao was awarded $500K from the NSF and the Division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS) for her proposal, “Closing the Loop of Human-Machine Interactions via Skin-Like Multimodal Haptic Interfaces,” to conduct research aimed to develop haptic interfaces that can produce cues that skin would be capable of sensing. This exploration of the design of haptic interfaces will aid in discovering what feedback sensations are most efficiently experienced through the skin.

The information gleaned from this project will create a foundation for closed-loop human-machine interfaces and interactive user-and-machine applications. In addition, the project possesses the potential to enhance robotics, prosthetics, teleoperation, smart manufacturing, entertainment, medical/military training, and virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR) machinery. When enough research has been conducted about this subject, students will be able to enter more diverse fields of haptic devices and nanotechnology.

Yao’s research is primarily in the areas of functional materials, smart structures, advanced manufacturing, and soft electronics. Professor Yao’s research aims to provide new solutions and/or explore new applications in personal healthcare, fitness tracking, rehabilitation, soft robotics, and entertainment through combined innovations in materials engineering, mechanical design, and multi-scale manufacturing and integration.

“Dr. Yao’s award to support research in the development of skin-like sensors would be a major step towards human-machine symbiosis and at the current edge of robotics and virtual reality research,” said Jeff Ge, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “We are incredibly proud of her well-deserved recognition, and excited to see her continue to grow as a leader in research and education.”

Shubham jain
Shubham Jain

Jain will receive $550K over the next five years for the project, “Closed-loop Health Behavior Interventions in Multi-Device Environments.” Motivated by the disruption of face-to-face medical care, rising caregiver burden, and challenges in remote health behavior monitoring, Jain’s research focuses on developing assistive interventions in response to dynamically changing health behaviors. Wearable devices have become common among the general population and this research is an opportunity to navigate this complex ecosystem.

“My CAREER research has the potential to transform human health outcomes by capturing and responding to fine-grained behavioral information continuously, inexpensively, and unobtrusively,” Jain said.

Jain leads the PiCASSo (Pervasive Computing and Smart Sensing) Lab. Her research interests lie in cyber-physical systems, mobile health, and data analytics in smart environments. Her work on pedestrian safety has been featured in several media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal.

“Shubham is an early-career faculty in our department engaged in a number of research, educational, and outreach initiatives. This award will advance her research in developing cyber-physical systems to solve foundational real-world problems,” said Samir Das, chair of the Department of Computer Science.

Read more about Jain’s award on the Computer Science website.

Shuai mu
Shuai Mu

Mu will receive $500K in funding to support his project, “Rethinking Replication in Highly Available and Reliable Data Stores.” Replicated data stores are a type of database system which create and maintain multiple copies of the same data across different servers. Storage of this data has to be fast, reliable, and efficient to ensure consistency and limit errors.

To tolerate failures, data stores need to replicate data across different geographical locations, i.e., geo-replication. Through this research, Mu aims to improve system performance by examining and rethinking current replication schemas for geographically distributed data stores. He points out that “despite it being a challenging task, with the new replication designs, the system can avoid failures, thus achieving better system throughput.”

Mu’s CAREER research will directly impact students at Stony Brook University who will have the option to be part of new multidisciplinary courses in the area of cloud computing and distributed systems.

“Shuai is an integral part of our department’s systems faculty. His work on fault tolerance for distributed systems already got significant attention,” Das said. “This CAREER project is important not only for his development as a researcher, but also for the department.”

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

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