Research & Innovation

Eight Stevens Faculty Receive Young Investigator Awards

From biomedical, chemical, and mechanical engineering to materials science and mathematics, our youngest researchers are working to solve our world’s most challenging problems

Arial view of Stevens campus overlooking Manhattan

At Stevens Institute of Technology, faculty members at all levels and throughout all disciplines are all committed to advancing our goal of being a premier technological research university. This year, our young investigators notably brought that vision to life as they received eight distinguished national research awards — a record for Stevens among this younger population of faculty.

“We are proud that, over the past decade, we have recruited another generation of talented faculty to continue to fuel our ambitious mission,” said Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science Dean Jean Zu. “This record reflects the growing success of our faculty in the federal young investigator awards space. For a facility of our size to receive eight such grants in one year speaks to our university-wide commitment to contributing to the solution of the most challenging problems of our time.”

Following is more information on each of the research awards granted to some of the youngest faculty members at Stevens this past year.

Breathing new life into the study of damaged lungs: 
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Jinho Kim, National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award,Biomechanics of Tension-Induced Lung Tissue Fracture and Subsequent Pulmonary Air Leak," $576,065

Jinho Kim
Jinho Kim

Mechanical ventilation can save lives, but it can also damage patients’ lungs, reduce their quality of life and lifespan, and render their lungs unsuitable for future life-saving organ donation. Jinho Kim is studying the biomechanics of how lung tissue can be damaged while on a ventilator and how the ventilation-induced lung injury can be prevented and treated to save lives.

Kathrin Smetana
Kathrin Smetana

Designing numerical methods for multiscale problems:Mathematics Professor Kathrin Smetana, NSF CAREER award,Randomized Multiscale Methods for Heterogeneous Nonlinear Partial Differential Equations," $461,998

Kathrin Smetana is exploring data science techniques for the design of multiscale methods to detect hidden structures in simulated data, and also to detect functions relevant for approximating the solution of the partial differential equations necessary for solving the problems. Her results could address challenges such as assessing the structural health of wind turbines to support the generation of clean, renewable energy. Smetana is also designing and leading courses at the Stevens Art Harper Saturday Academy, which immerses high school students from under-represented communities in the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Annie Zhang
Annie Zhang
Abhishek Sharma
Abhishek Sharma

Taking a new twist on thermal transport:
 Assistant Mechanical Engineering Professor Annie Xian Zhang, NSF CAREER award,Investigation of Thermal Transport in Moiré Pattern Structured Materials to Push the Extremes of Thermal Modulation," $500,000

In her Nano Research Laboratory, Annie Xian Zhang is investigating how twisting two sheets of graphene can alter the thermal properties of two-dimensional materials and push the limits of thermal modulation. By investigating twist angles, Zhang is helping create a straight path to developing wearable health monitoring technology and supporting other applications in beyond-silicon electronics and sensors and superconducting thermal switches. Zhang is also building programs including mentorship for women graduate students; peer-to-peer undergraduate mentorship; workshops for Stevens students; STEM outreach at The Center for All Abilities in New York City; and K-12 workshops connecting art, STEM and her own research.

Developing a crystal-clear understanding of non-crystalline materials:
 Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Professor Jae Chul Kim, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Early Career Research Program (ECP) award,Designing Chemical Disorder in Solid-State Superionic Conductors," $750.001

Jae Chul Kim, one of the 83 recipients of the DOE’s 2022 Early Career Research Program, is developing fundamental understandings about how non-crystalline materials form, transform and function. His work is intended to help rationalize the discovery of non-crystalline solid electrolyte materials for solid-state battery applications.

Creating novel approaches and tools to accelerate the discovery of potentially life-saving therapies:Chemistry and Chemical Biology Professor Abhishek Sharma, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Maximizing Investigators' Research Award (MIRA), "Novel Acylborons and Alpha-hydroxy Borons to Enable Modular, Regio- and Stereocontrolled Synthesis of Bioactive Molecules and Protein Conjugates," $1.55 million

Abhishek Sharma is pursuing a brand-new way to develop fundamentally novel types of organoborons — chemical compounds of boron and carbon – and demonstrate their applications to prepare medicinally important molecules that would be difficult to construct using other available methods. Describing these molecules as “chemical Legos,” Sharma noted that their unique chemical structure positions them well for use as modules to construct previously inaccessible three-dimensional drug-like molecules that can address human disease.

Advancing the study of developmental biology:
 Biomedical Engineering Professor Shang Wang, NIH MIRA, "Multi-contrast Dynamic Optical Imaging to Advance Live Developmental Biology," $1.91 million

Based on optical coherence tomography (OCT) studies in his Biophotonics Lab, Shang Wang is developing methods for multi-contrast imaging, allowing researchers to capture multiple views and data from a single sample. The platform is intended to enable structural contrast to reveal tissue architecture, functional contrast to show things such as blood supply, molecular contrast to visualize proteins and other specific molecules, and biomechanical contrast to highlight tissue differences like elasticity. With a significantly higher resolution than traditional ultrasound imaging, OCT could help researchers unlock the answers to understanding – and treating – developmental biology issues related to congenital disorders, aging, cancer and other vital concerns.

In addition, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Yanghyo (Rod) Kim, assistant professor of electrical and chemical engineering, a $999,699 grant for his research on "Energy-Efficient and MIMO Approaches on Millimeter-Wave Dielectric Fibers and Wireless Inconnects for Space Missions," and Ying Wang, associate professor in the School of Systems and Enterprises, a $854,844 grant for her study of “5G Causality, Formal Reasoning and Resilience.”