ONR Announces Young Investigator Program Awards

The Office of Naval Research today announced the award of 26 grants totaling $8.4 million as a result of the Fiscal Year 2002 ONR Young Investigator Program competition. A total of 260 proposals were submitted in response to this year's program announcement.

The Young Investigator Program supports basic research by exceptional faculty at U.S. universities who received a Ph.D. or equivalent degree within the preceding five years. Grants to their institutions provide up to $100,000 per year for three years; additional funds may be made available to purchase equipment related to the investigator's research. The funds may be applied to a variety of research costs, including salary, graduate student support, laboratory supplies, and operating costs.

The Young Investigator Program is not a "research initiation" opportunity with standards that are less demanding than ONR's regular research grant program. ONR's Young Investigator awards are intended to confer honor upon awardees beyond the research funding being provided. Young Investigators are selected on the basis of prior professional achievement, the submission of a meritorious research proposal, and evidence of strong support by their respective universities. ONR's Young Investigator awards recognize exceptional young scientists and engineers. The program supports outstanding research in a wide range of science and engineering fields that are critical to the evolution of a first-rate Navy and Marine Corps.

The Fiscal Year 2002 Young Investigator Program Awardees are:

Dr. Matthew H. Alford, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington will investigate the long-range propagation of internal waves in the ocean by means of data-mining. The research will lead to better ocean circulation models that describe the global distribution of oceanic mixing.

Dr. Alexander A. Balandin, Electrical Engineering, University of California, Riverside will conduct an experimental and theoretical investigation of heat conduction in Galium Nitride and Aluminum Galium Nitride heterostructures on Silicon Carbide substrate to optimize heat removal. The development of such solutions is crucial to the implementation of Galium Nitride devices in high power radar applications.

Dr. Kwabena Adu Boahen, Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania will develop a silicon hippocampus based on the method of transforming the brain's cellular biophysics, synaptic organization, and functional architecture into hybrid analog-digital microelectronic chips. The silicon hippocampus will exhibit associative memory, episodic memory, and spatial maps that emulate the information carrying capacities of the real hippocampus and will have the potential for intellectual prostheses implant of the hippocampus.

Dr. Peter J. Burke, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of California, Irvine will explore dynamical processes in nanostructure electronic devices at terahertz frequencies, particularly the noise properties. The research will lead to terahertz nanoelectronic devices that are the basis of future quantum information technology. The research will also lead to device concepts for ultra-wideband and ultra-low-noise amplifiers in radar systems.

Dr. Katrina J. Edwards, Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will investigate the role of surface topography in microbial adhesion and biofilm formation to understand at the nanoscale how living cells interface with surfaces. The research will lead to new approaches to anti-fouling coatings for Naval applications.

Dr. Yuguang Fang, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Florida will investigate three important issues in mobile wireless networks: security, reliability, and power consumption. The goal is to develop a general framework for the design of network protocols that will be widely usable in the mobile cell phone networks as well as tactical military communication networks.

Dr. Xiaosheng Gao, Mechanical Engineering, University of Akron will develop tools for the quantitative characterization of damage tolerance in structures using mechanism-based methods. The research will develop a probabilistic model that incorporates macroscopic behavior with microscopic failure mechanisms and a continuum damage model that captures the details of ductile failure. The research is critically important in understanding damage mechanisms and design techniques in structures such as buildings and ships.

Dr. James A. Hansen, Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology will investigate the use of multi-model ensemble methods and their application to weather and climate predictions. The research will lead to more accurate weather predictions with enormous savings in computer time.

Dr. Paul E. Hasler, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology will develop semiconductor device-level models based on biological models of dendrites in order to examine the learning behavior in practical dendrites and synapses. The research will lead to the development of single chip model of a system with hundreds of cortical neurons and will lead to important technologies in neuromorphic engineering.

Dr. Matthew J. M. Krane, Materials Engineering, Purdue University will investigate segregation defects in nickel superalloys by developing physical models of the transport phenomena and solidification behavior during processing. The research will lead to improved yield and to reduction of defects and thus will lead to lower cost for gas turbine engine propulsion systems.

Dr. Yuri Lvov, Mathematical Sciences, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institution will apply weak turbulence theory to the evolution of the spectral energy density of surface waves, as well as internal waves, in the ocean and then will identify, isolate, and elucidate any discrepancies between numerical experiments and observations. The research will lead to better understanding of the nonlinear wave interactions in deep and shallow ocean environment and will lead to better weather forecasting.

Dr. Hari C. Manoharan, Physics, Stanford University will apply atomic and molecular manipulation to develop new concepts for nanoscale electronic devices. The research will lead to an understanding of the charge and spin information stored in the electron wave functions and will lead to the design of nanoelectronic transistors and logic devices.

Dr. James C. Newman, III, Aerospace Engineering, Mississippi State University will investigate complex variable approaches to evaluating sensitivity derivatives for optimization in the development of computational fluid dynamics codes. The goal is to develop more accurate and efficient computer codes for fluid dynamics in hydrodynamic applications.

Dr. Dianne K. Newman, Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology will systematically examine the interspecies communication and subsequent effects of two bacterial species on each other in a biofilm. The research will monitor corrosion potential in biofilm as a function of species ratios, presence of mutants, and chemical effects. The research will enhance our understanding of biofilm and will have potential for introducing new methodology to the study of environmental organisms.

Dr. David J. Perreault, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology will investigate new design techniques for electrical filters and components and will explore the design of new components having greatly improved characteristics. The research will lead to reduced filter size, weight, and cost for future electric distribution systems.

Dr. Massimo Ruzzene, Mechanical Engineering, The Catholic University of America will investigate methods for the control of acoustic noise, vibration, and buckling stability in high speed supercavitating underwater vehicles. The research will lead to significant reduction in self-noise of a supercavitating vehicle.

Dr. Charles A. Sackett, Physics, University of Virginia will investigate the dynamics of Bose-Einstein Condensates, a state of matter when its temperature is near zero degree Kelvin. The research will lead to the development of ultra-sensitive gyroscopes based on the Bose-Einstein Condensates.

Dr. Venkatesh R. Saligrama, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Boston University will develop collaborative communication and signal processing strategies for providing real-time information within a distributed network of autonomous sensor platforms. The research is critically important in the design and control of a network of autonomous vehicles.

Dr. Rahul Sarpeshkar, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology will investigate biologically-inspired electronics in order to create building blocks for future hybrid analog-digital computing. The research will extend the work on silicon cochlea to include nonlinear dynamics and feedback, extend the visual motion sensors to wide-dynamic range, and develop spike based hybrid computers that combine analog dynamical systems with digital spike-triggered finite state machines. The research will provide neuroscientists with important new insights into the nature of neural computation.

Dr. David P. Schmidt, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst will investigate first-principle models of the primary atomization and the characteristics of dense spray for the combustion of high-energy fuels. The research will lead to the long sought-after understanding of the dense spray core and to better models to be used in engine design.

Dr. Sudipta Seal, Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering, University of Central Florida will develop bulk nanocomposite structures of metal/ceramic materials by means of laser direct densification technology to deposit nanosized metal/ceramic particles and to form bulk materials. This technology will lead to manufacturing of composite materials with tailored properties for military and civilian applications.

Dr. Steven M. Seitz, Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington will develop theory and computer algorithms for the reconstruction of scenes and object motion within the scene based on multiple images taken from many focal points. This research will enable the design of a network of imaging sensors and cameras for surveillance, such as the tracking of human activities in homeland defense.

Dr. Scott D. Stoller, Computer Science, SUNY at Stony Brook will be investigating methods for the testing and verification of computer software in distributed heterogeneous open systems. The research will focus on different aspects of fault tolerant computing and will improve the quality of software by providing new approaches to static analysis.

Dr. Craig A. Woolsey, Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University will investigate two types of internal actuator for controlling autonomous underwater vehicle attitude at low velocity: a servo-actuated moving mass and an internal rotor assembly. The research will expand the performance capability of autonomous underwater vehicles at low speed without degrading the performance at higher speeds.

Dr. Yuwen Zhang, Mechanical Engineering, New Mexico State University will investigate the effects of laser processing on metal powders with particular focus on selective laser sintering and laser powder re-melting as well as the effects on post-processing of sintered parts by infiltration. The development of parameterized models will lead to the ability to predict mechanical properties of parts made by solid freeform fabrication and thus will lead to improving the quality of manufactured products.

Dr. Xiaowei Zhuang, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University will apply single molecule, fluorescence resonant energy transfer techniques to the study of ribonucleic acids (RNA) and of the regulatory function of proteins that bind specifically to ribozymes to form ribonucleoproteins. The research will provide unique proof of concept for stochastic enzyme catalysis as a novel classifier in chemical and biochemical sensors.

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