Research & Innovation

Two Stevens Faculty Honored with Prominent NSF Award

Ramana Vinjamuri and Stephanie Lee
Ramana Vinjamuri and Stephanie Lee win NSF CAREER Awards.

The faculty at Stevens Institute of Technology are a phenomenal group of professionals who take seriously the school’s mission of contributing to the solution of the most challenging problems of our time. This year the National Science Foundation (NSF) has recognized that too, awarding two Stevens professors one of the Foundation’s most prestigious honors.

Assistant professors Stephanie Lee and Ramana Vinjamuri have both been named as 2019 winners of the NSF’s CAREER Award as a result of their rigorous and innovative work.

These two awardees join a robust group of Stevens’ faculty who have received this honor in the past: computer science professor Samantha Kleinberg, electrical and computer engineering professor Negar Tavassolian, and mechanical engineering professors Frank Fisher, Brendan Englot and Robert Chang.

The CAREER Award recognizes early-career faculty who stand out as leaders and role models in education and research. Winners are provided $500,000 over five years to pursue their research and develop their boundary-pushing ideas.

Assistant professor Stephanie Lee’s efforts to make power sources portable, affordable and easy-to-manufacture caught the NSF’s attention. The award funds will support her efforts to use alternative materials and crystal engineering to develop flexible solar panels with superior energy conversion rates that can be installed anywhere.

Lee and students in Stevens’ Crystal Engineering Lab are using carbon-based molecules to transform the sun’s energy into electricity via a thin and flexible plastic film that can be rolled up and easily installed on any surface, including roofs and windows. This new option is far cheaper, more user-friendly and efficient than traditional solar panels made from silicone. Additionally, Lee’s innovation allows panels to be manufactured more quickly and at a lower cost than traditional solar panels.

Assistant professor Ramana Vinjamuri is recognized for his work developing robotic exoskeletons that can mimic the movements of a human hand. He is looking at how the brain controls the hands’ complex motions to enable the creation of robots that can assist those living with paralysis.

Vinjamuri and his team are studying biomimetic control mechanisms called synergies to figure out how hands move in multi-dimensional ways. Each synergy controls a simple movement, and combining them creates more complex movements. Looking into how the brain controls these synergies will allow Vinjamuri to discern methods to recreate the natural abilities of the human hand in robotic form. His research will be able to advance the sophistication of human-machine interfaces, which are poised to substantially influence prosthetics development and rehabilitation in the coming years.

It’s this type of path-breaking research that makes Stevens into a leader in engineering education and innovation.

“It is such an honor have two CAREER award winners in a single year,” says Jean Zu, dean of the Schaefer School of Engineering & Science. “These awards highlight how fortunate we are at Stevens to have such high-quality faculty who are pushing their fields in exciting new directions and involving students in their research.”

The entire Stevens community congratulates Dr. Lee and Dr. Vinjamuri on being recognized by the NSF. The university shares the Foundation’s enthusiasm for supporting academic leaders who are driving research forward while inspiring students to get involved in pioneering work.