Four Tufts University Faculty Receive National Awards for Science and Engineering

April 4, 2017

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Kalimah Redd Knight

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE (April 4, 2017) – Tufts University announced today that four faculty members have earned 2017 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NSF awards are the 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 build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

The Tufts faculty who received NSF CAREER awards are in the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering.

  • Timothy Atherton, associate professor of physics and astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences, received a five-year $484,584 award to investigate how jamming – a transition to rigidity that occurs in soft materials – is altered when it occurs in a system that is changing shape, such as on a fluid droplet or an elastic body. The project aims to expand knowledge of this phenomenon, which is relevant to applications that exploit shape, including soft robotics, drug delivery systems, actuators, and artificial muscles. In addition to the scientific component, the project closely integrates an education and outreach plan that is built around the theme of computation, including summer programs for underrepresented Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) students and a jamming video game for high school students and the general public.   
  • Xiaocheng Jiang, assistant professor of biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering, received a five-year $500,000 award to explore and investigate bio-derived conductive protein nanowires as a new category of nanoelectronic probes for minimally invasive cellular interfacing and signal transduction. The project seeks to establish a nanoscale biomaterials platform that is mechanically compliant, electrically active, and biologically relevant, closing the gap between living systems and artificial electronics. This work could enable new possibilities for biomedical applications in prostheses, cardiac repair and regeneration, and brain-machine interfaces. As part of this research, Jiang seeks to improve Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) learning and broaden STEM participation.
  • Robert C. Viesca, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the School of Engineering, received a five-year $475,000 award for his proposal to compare theoretical models for slow, stable fault slip to observations from recent field borehole experiments monitoring fluid injection and aseismic fault displacement. The work will advance understanding in areas under consideration for fault operation during the seismic cycle and earthquake hazard assessment, including injection-induced fault slip. In addition, he will work with undergraduate students participating in Tufts’ STEM Ambassadors program to develop a series of experimental demonstrations to encourage STEM interest in middle and high school students.
  • Iryna Zenyuk, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the School of Engineering, received a five-year $500,587 award to study sustainable energy technology through the mechanisms of ion transport in ionomer-free electrodes. Her project aims to determine specific factors which limit the performance of polymer electrolyte fuel cells using thin-film electrodes, allowing work to progress on overcoming these hurdles. The gained knowledge could have a transformative effect on the field of electrochemical energy conversion and storage. Zenyuk plans to integrate research findings into teaching and develop a broad range of educational and outreach activities to foster K-12 students’ excitement about renewable energy and STEM careers.

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About Tufts University

Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university is widely encouraged