Faculty Members Receive $2.1 Million in NSF CAREER Awards

Six faculty members from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have been selected to receive Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Awards totaling $2.1 million from the National Science Foundation.

The awards are the most prestigious offered by the foundation’s CAREER Program, providing up to five years of funding to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of their organizations’ missions.

The six Cockrell School faculty members who received awards are:

berberoglu nsf career

Halil Berberoglu, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was awarded for his project “Algal Biofilm Cultivation for Sustainable Biofuel Production.” This project focuses on making algae biofuel a more efficient, economical and environmentally feasible fuel source. Berberoglu is developing methods for cultivating concentrations of algae cells using less energy and water. One such promising method cultivates algae in the form of a biofilm for which the net energy return on investment could be as high as six fold.

boyles nsf career

Stephen D. Boyles, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, was awarded for his work on “Integrated Multiresolution Transportation Network Modeling.” The goal of Boyles’ research is to investigate the relationship between transportation networks of different scales and sizes. His research focuses on three areas: freight models where a multistate or national scale is considered in addition to a local scale; allocation of transportation funds; and transportation networks that change readily with time. If successful, this work will support improved transportation planning and will contribute a knowledge base to other multiscale network models.

contreras nsf career

Lydia M. Contreras, an assistant professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, was awarded for her work on “Mapping Regulatory Networks in Extremophiles.” Contreras is working to map and characterize regulatory networks in extremophiles, which are organisms with the ability to survive in extreme conditions. Mapping the regulatory networks in these organisms will offer insights into how their cellular processes adapt in response to environmental changes.

el mohtar nsf career

Chadi El Mohtar, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, was awarded for his work on “Balancing Rheology and Filtration: An Experimental and Probabilistic Approach for Suspension Flow and Sustainability in Heterogeneous Granular Media.” His work focuses on engineering groups upgrading existing geotechnical infrastructure systems and in-situ soil improvement using permeation grouting. Permeation grouting can be a very cost-effective method for addressing significant infrastructure challenges and ground improvement challenges, but the science behind grout propagation through the soil is not yet well understood. This work is expected to have implications for environmental, geotechnical, agricultural and petroleum engineering fields.

prodanovic nsf career

Maša Prodanović, an assistant professor in the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, was awarded for her project “Advanced Interface Methods in Heterogeneous Porous Materials: A Multi-Disciplinary and Multi-Scale Framework.” Prodanović’s work looks at how different phases of fluids (such as water, oil and air) flow through porous materials with a complex variety of pore openings, such as carbonate rocks found in the Edwards Aquifer in Texas. The research findings will be applicable to various situations, including carbon dioxide sequestration in depleted oil reservoirs, and in remediation and enhanced oil recovery efforts.

sun nsf career

Nan Sun, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was awarded for his project “Combining Nuclear Magnetic Resonance with Integrated Circuit Technology.” Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) allows the observation of specific quantum mechanical magnetic properties of the atomic nucleus. NMR has broad applications in chemistry, biology, physics, medicine and material science, but existing NMR systems are bulky, heavy and expensive, which limits their capability and accessibility. Sun’s goal is to systematically introduce integrated circuit technology to the NMR field and create miniature NMR systems that are lighter in bulk and have an improved performance.