We are pleased to announce that three MME faculty members (Dr. Lai, Dr. Mardanpour, and Dr. Dickerson) have been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support their research and engage undergraduate and graduate students in their work. The NSF receives approximately 40,000 proposals each year for research, education and training projects, of which approximately 11,000 are funded.

Dr. Cheng-Yu Lai has been awarded an NSF grant to support his research titled “Biomolecular Mechanisms of Interaction between 2D Chalcogenide Materials and Environmentally-Relevant Biosystems”.
Two representative materials in the family of two-dimensional (2D) chalcogenides, which are readily applicable in electronics, especially the Internet-of-Things and photoacoustics, were selected for investigation. This work focuses on materials in their pristine form (non-functionalized), which will facilitate assessment of the primary type of human exposure expected during processing and handling of materials, in an attempt to establish best safety practices in the workplace.
This project will investigate the behavior of two-dimensional nanomaterials interacting with mammalian cells, focusing on three distinct aspects: the mechanism of cellular entry, the potential structural transformations of the nanomaterial in the mammalian cells, and the reactivity in the cellular environment to understand any potential inflammatory effects.

Dr. Pezhman Mardanpour, director of the Fluid Structure Interaction (FSI) lab, has been awarded an NSF grant through the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET) pathway to support his research stemming from the Constructal Law of Nature. Professor Mardanpour’s proposal is titled “Constructal Theory for Evolutionary Design of Twisted Paths in Heat Transfer Network”. NSF Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) funding is used to support exploratory work in its early stages on untested, but potentially transformative, research ideas or approaches.
Through his research, Professor Mardanpour seeks to answer one of the most fundamental questions in nature: Why do trees, rivers, nerves, etc. have curved and twisted branches? The ultimate goal of Prof. Mardanpour’s research is to explore and envision this phenomenon “predictively.” His work offers a rigorous strategy for meeting the challenge to scale up (i.e., add complexity to) designs that work in simple systems so they can persist over time amid technological evolution.
From aerospace to biomedical systems, this work has the potential to revolutionize everyday lives by incorporating the acceleration of heat transfer technology. It hopes to impact the cost of various energy systems through the reduction of thermal resistance, pumping energy requirements, and conductive material consumption.

Dr. Darryl Dickerson has been awarded an NSF grant for his work titled “An Exploratory Investigation of Tissue Engineering Professional Formation” in conjunction with CELL-MET (Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Directed Multiscale Assembly of Cellular Metamaterials with Nanoscale Precision). CELL-MET, an NSF Engineering Research Center, is designed to advance nano-bio-manufacturing methods that could lead to large-scale fabrication of functional heart tissue to replace diseased or damaged muscle after a heart attack. One of the core goals of CELL-MET is to stimulate translation of research to practice by facilitating worldwide corporate, clinical, and institutional partnerships. Aligned with these goals, Dr. Dickerson’s work focuses on integrating fundamental scientific breakthroughs in nanopatterning, nanomechanics, biomicroscopy, and advanced tissue engineering into the undergraduate curriculum. This work will also develop a continuum of experiences to create a diverse workforce through K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral programs that sustain interest, create a sense of belonging, build curiosity, and increase the preparedness to enter this emerging job market.
We are grateful for the NSF’s commitment to funding innovative work and are looking forward to the revolutionary research to be done on these projects over the years. Congratulations to Dr. Lai, Dr. Mardanpour, and Dr. Dickerson!