John Walz, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Engineering, has announced the winners of the inaugural Dean’s Awards for Excellence in Research and Service. The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research recognizes and rewards outstanding research accomplishments of lasting impact on engineering and computer science and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service recognizes and rewards those individuals who excel in carrying out the service mission of the college. The seven winners will be honored along with this year’s Henry Mason Lutes Award for Excellence in Engineering Education winner at the Faculty Awards Reception April 22 at the Hilary J. Boone Center.
This year’s Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research winners are:
J. Todd Hastings: Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
J. Todd Hastings’ diverse research areas, which span from nano‐fabrication techniques to medical sensor technologies, have made him an outstanding faculty member who demonstrates excellence in his research.
Hastings is the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award as well as a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award. He has secured over $4.2 million dollars in funded projects as principal investigator. Hastings has led 13 awards as principal investigator and collaborated on many others. His recent Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant on Development of an Electron‐Beam based Instrument to Study Nanoscale Processes in Liquids has the goal to construct and validate an entirely new instrument that enables imaging and fabrication of nanostructures using electron‐beams in liquids. This $1.2 million research project will permit new investigations into nano-fabrication with new materials that could not be used in previous methods, and the new technique aims for lower cost, more stable and less toxic reactants. The technique has the opportunity to create new devices that will impact energy, communication, computing and medicine.
Hastings’ research also reaches into the medical arena. His research into intraocular pressure sensors for glaucoma patients has developed a simple sensor that can be implanted into the eye, which can be read externally to provide accurate pressure readings. This result of this research will help patients monitor and control their glaucoma, a disease that is the number one cause of irreversible blindness.
J. Zach Hilt: Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
Since arriving at the University of Kentucky in 2004, Zach Hilt, William T. Bryan Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, has established a thriving and highly-active research program oriented towards the rational design and development of innovative biomaterials and nanocomposites with applications for remote actuation, drug delivery and as biosensors. A highly valued and energetic collaborator, Hilt has forged substantive interactions with faculty in biomedical engineering, chemistry, medicine and pharmaceutical sciences, and has played a leading role in a number of multi-investigator interdisciplinary research efforts, including the National Science Foundation supported Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) and Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs.
The focus of Hilt’s research is the intelligent design and novel application of biomaterials and nanocomposites based on hydrogel systems. He has completed an extensive series of studies focused on the formulation of hydrogel nanocomposites tailored for remote actuation via inclusion of magnetic nanoparticles. These materials can be activated via application of an external magnetic field, leading to controlled outcomes specific to drug delivery, enzymatic activity and microfluidic valve and sensor actuation. Hilt has supported his activities through a diverse base of external funding, including a recent commercialization grant from Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation.
While making important contributions to graduate research at UK, Hilt has also been a leading advocate in the college for undergraduate research. Since joining the UK faculty, he has served as research advisor to 58 undergraduate students on formal research projects.
Ruigang Yang: Department of Computer Science
In just under 10 years since arriving at the University of Kentucky, Ruigang Yang has amassed a sterling record of research productivity and impact and become one of the top young leaders in the field of 3D modeling and sensing.
Professor Yang’s research is concentrated on the acquisition and visualization of real-world objects and events, namely graphics and vision. His recent contributions include a method to separate bounced light and remove inter-reflections in photometric setups, an image-based reconstruction framework to derive models of water streams from real scenes captured by stereoscopic video and a new method for real-time formatting (identification and separation of foreground/background as in the “green screen” used by weather forecasters). Professor Yang’s most recent NSF grant is based on a framework his group developed to estimate body pose configurations from a single depth map, which achieves significantly higher accuracy than previous state-of-the-art methods. He is considered a key contributor to the success of the Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments (Vis Center) and, according to Google Scholar, his work has been cited more than 3,000 times.
In the past three years, Professor Yang has been awarded three new NSF grants as the Primary Investigator for a total of $2.3 million, one of which was a highly competitive Major Research Infrastructure grant of $1 million. He is also a Co-PI on three other grants that total $2.5 million. In the nearly 10 years he has been at UK, Professor Yang has averaged approximately $470,000/year in new funding as PI.
Dibakar Bhattacharyya: Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
For nearly half a century, Dibakar “DB” Bhattacharyya, University Alumni Professor of Chemical Engineering, has produced outstanding research achievements in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering. As a result, he is internationally known as a chemical engineering educator and researcher as well as a recognized leader in the field of membrane science.
In his recent work, DB has extended his fundamental membrane research to develop new functionalized membranes and nanostructured materials for enzyme catalysis, ultra-high capacity metal capture and other environmental and bio-based applications. He has focused on the integration of knowledge from the life sciences to create novel membranes with stimuli-responsive properties, and has exploited nanosynthesis approaches for the generation of unique layer-by-layer assemblies for enzyme immobilization in membrane structures. In addition, DB has been a pioneer in the application of green synthesis techniques for membrane functionalization, leading to new membrane supports for a range of water remediation applications. During his fall 2012 sabbatical DB was in residence at Sepro Membranes, Inc. in Oceanside, Calif., leading translational efforts to incorporate his recent discoveries into membrane modules for industrial water treatment.
DB´s high research productivity is evident in a number of core metrics. He has procured approximately $2 million in direct research funding over the last five years, and has been an integral member of a number of important multi-disciplinary efforts. Without question, Dibakar Bhattacharyya has sustained excellence in research that has and will continue to have lasting impact on the field of membrane science.
David Puleo: Center for Biomedical Engineering
David Puleo, director of the University of Kentucky Center for Biomedical Engineering, is an internationally recognized authority in biomedical engineering. He is a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and has served as assistant and associate editor as well as on the editorial boards of several international journals.
Puleo’s research endeavors have made contributions in cutting-edge areas of cell-biomaterial interactions, biomaterials engineering and cellular/molecular engineering. Much of his work involves novel chemical and topographical modification of biomaterial surfaces and controlled release of chemical compounds to induce cell functions pertinent to new tissue formation. Applications of his research include promoting bone formation around orthopedic and dental implants, healing of large, infected bone defects, augmentation of alveolar bone and regeneration of growth plate.
In addition to serving as principal investigator of numerous grants, Puleo has exhibited a high capacity for bringing researchers from a variety of disciplines to win grant awards from funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Whitaker Foundation, Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation and industry partners. He has supervised and co-supervised more than 40 Ph.D. and master’s graduate students, five medical students, five orthopedic surgery residents during their research rotations and more than 30 undergraduate students. In 2010 and 2013 Puleo received the Faculty Teaching Award from the Center for Biomedical Engineering.
Colleagues and collaborators endorse Puleo’s research as of the highest caliber, characterized by innovative approaches, meticulous execution and an ability to recognize key questions and problems, redirect his work and explore new challenging research areas.
This year’s Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service winners are:
Donald Colliver: Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering
Donald Colliver has dedicated the majority of his career to service roles within the engineering profession as well as within the University of Kentucky College of Engineering.
Colliver currently serves as associate director of the Kentucky Industrial Assessment Center (KIAC) as well as associate director of UK’s Power and Energy Institute of Kentucky (PEIK). Colliver has been instrumental in arranging and performing industrial energy assessments for KIAC and passes his knowledge on to students working with him. With PEIK, Colliver was solely responsible for developing the Engineering Experiences course in which PEIK interns were exposed to power and energy industries through weekly tours.
Colliver has been a member of the National Engineers Week Steering Committee since 2002 and also contributes service to the Commonwealth as a member of the Technical Working Group for the Kentucky Climate Action Plan Council. Since 2009, he has served as a board member of the Kentucky Center for Renewable Energy Research and Environmental Stewardship, to which he was appointed by Governor Steve Beshear as the representative from higher education.
One of Colliver’s most significant service activities occurred in 2008-2010 when he served as faculty advisor for the UK team entry in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. His responsibilities included spearheading the team, writing the application, raising funds, forming the team and overseeing construction. The team’s effort was rewarded with a top 10 finish in the 2009 competition. He has reprised his role as faculty advisor for the 2013 UK Solar Decathlon Team.
David Silverstein: Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
David Silverstein joined the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering as an assistant professor at the Paducah Campus in 1999. During his time at Paducah, Silverstein has been a leader in university and professional service; this service, along with his numerous scholarly accomplishments, has been a key factor in establishing the national profile of the Paducah program. In 2012, he was named director of the Paducah Campus.
Upon his arrival, Silverstein was tasked with building an independent student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) for the Paducah Campus. From the beginning, Silverstein established a tradition of professional dedication and outreach among the Paducah students that has led to the chapter receiving an Outstanding Student Chapter Award 11 years in a row—every year since its inception. In recognition of his outstanding achievements as chapter advisor, Silverstein received the national AIChE Outstanding Student Chapter Advisor Award in 2009.
Silverstein’s professional service record encompasses sustained and important contributions to the educational programming activities of the AIChE and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). In AIChE, he has occupied a number of leadership roles that ultimately led to the establishment of the AIChE Education Division in 2009. Starting in 2003, Silverstein served as vice chair and chair of the Undergraduate Education Committee, vice chair and chair of the Education Group, and finally as founding chair of the Education Division (2009-2011). In 2011, he was the recipient of the national Herb Epstein Award for outstanding service in technical programming.