University of Rochester

Five Scientists Win Prestigious Science Foundation CAREER Awards

April 29, 2005

The National Science Foundation has offered five of its prestigious CAREER awards to faculty members at the University of Rochester. The CAREER award is given to promising scientists early in their careers and is selected on the basis of creative proposals that effectively integrate research and education. Each grant provides $520,000 over a five-year period to help the awardees develop their research.

Wendi Heinzelman, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, won her CAREER award for her work on “Cross-layer Design for Sensor Management in Wireless Sensor Networks.” Her research focuses on designing ways for wireless networks to work seamlessly and unattended for years. Instead of simply looking at new wireless protocols, Heinzelman is looking to optimizing entire wireless networks by making individual sensors route other sensors’ data, fusing data from multiple sources, and controlling other sensors remotely. Her aim is to create a wireless network that is more flexible, user-friendly, and robust than those that are currently in use.

“Wendi is one of the young leaders in the up and coming field of wireless sensor networks,” says Mark Bocko, the chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Her work on self-assembling sensor networks has received a good deal of attention both in industry and academics. It’s also a critical part of our combined efforts in ECE on wireless telepresence.” Last year, Heinzelman led a group of ECE researchers in winning a four-year $1.2 million NSF-sponsored project.

Heinzelman also was awarded an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program grant for her research on “Balancing Resource Utilization in Wireless Sensor Networks.” Combined, the two programs will provide more than $700,000 in research funding for her programs over the next five years. Heinzelman joined the department in 2001 after earning her doctorate in electrical engineering from M.I.T. and her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University. In 2003, she received the G. Graydon ’58 and Jane W. Curtis Award for excellence in teaching by a nontenured member of the faculty.

Michael R. King, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, was given his award for his research on a realistic computer simulator for how certain kinds of cells adhere to surfaces. He is looking to expand into specific types of simulations, such as modeling pathological interactions between disease-causing cells and artery walls. With such a model, doctors will be more easily able to understand how arterial blockages occur and how they may be treated by dealing directing with the adhesive properties of the cells causing the blockage. Specifically, the CAREER award will be used to establish a mulit-processor computing cluster to model and explore cells’ adhesive qualities.

King earned his doctorate from the University of Notre Dame in 1999, and performed his postdoctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania before coming to the University of Rochester. He has won the 2003 Whitaker Investigator Award, as well as the 2004 James D. Watson Investigator Award.

Hong Yang, assistant professor of chemical engineering, will use the grant to research a new alloy-processing technique to produce ultra-hard magnetic materials from nanoparticles that may be the core of new, efficient electric motors for automobiles, airplanes, and even space vehicles. Yang also is looking to discover if these same materials might be used as catalysts for hydrogen and methanol fuel cells to power these same motors. Such devices hold considerable promise for clean energy generation and as new long-lasting power sources for portable microelectronic devices. The grant also will support Yang’s undergraduate research and education activities, as well as outreach programs to local high school students through the American Chemical Society Project SEED, and Pittsford Summer Internship programs.

“Hong has been a model researcher since his arrival in the summer of 2001,” says Shaw Chen, chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering. “We are all excited about his recognition by a highly competitive award at an early stage of his career.”

Yang holds a secondary appointment at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester. He received his doctorate from the University of Toronto in 1998, and has been with the University of Rochester since 2001. His research programs are sponsored by the National Science Foundation, American Chemical Society, Environmental Protection Agency, NIEHS Center for Excellence, and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

Kai Shen, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, is working on making large-scale datasets, such as interactive web sites or the large spreadsheets of large corporations, work better when many users are accessing, and possibly changing, the stored information. He will be using his CAREER award to explore two parts of the problem: making the exchange of information in and out of the system as efficient as possible, and making the system itself able to reallocated resources to work proficiently even when the information is distributed across several different types of computing systems.

Shen received his doctorate in computer science from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2002, and joined the computer science department at the University of Rochester in 2002.

Miguel A. Alonso, assistant professor in the Institute of Optics, is developing a method to describe the propagation of complex waves with unprecedented accuracy. Waves are central to physics and engineering, but modeling how waves—be they sound waves or quantum mechanical waves—can be exceptionally difficult if the medium in which the waves travel is complicated. Alonso is working to refine conventional models so they can incorporate measures of their own accuracy as they generate results.

Alonso obtained his doctorate from the University’s Institute of Optics in 1996, where he worked on the development of new methods for modeling wave propagation. After graduating, he worked at Macquari University in Sydney, Australia, and at the National Autonomous University of Mexico before returning to the University of Rochester in 2003.