Pitt | Swanson Engineering
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Nov

Nov
23
2020

MEMS Student Wins NASA Award

MEMS, Student Profiles

Seth Strayer, a second year mechanical engineering PhD student, received a prestigious NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities (NSTGRO) award. According to the NASA website, the goal of the award is to sponsor U.S. citizen and permanent resident graduate students who show significant potential to contribute to NASA’s goal of creating innovative new space technologies for our Nation’s science, exploration and economic future. The award will be made in the form of a grant to the University of Pittsburgh on behalf of Strayer, with his faculty advisor, Professor Albert To, serving as the principal investigator. Additionally, Strayer will be matched with a technically relevant and community-engaged NASA Subject Matter Expert, who will serve as the conduit into the larger technical community corresponding to Strayer’s space technology research area. He will also have the opportunity to perform his research at a NASA center, giving him the chance to work collaboratively with leading engineers and scientists in his field of study. The proposal that won Strayer the award is titled “Development of an Integrated Part-Scale Process-Structure-Fatigue Simulation Framework for Certification of Laser Powder Bed Additive Manufactured Components.”

Nov
23
2020

Engineering Science in the Swanson School

MEMS, Student Profiles

With more than one hundred undergraduate majors, choosing a field of study at the University of Pittsburgh can be a difficult decision. Some incoming students may enjoy exploring the physical and natural world through scientific experimentation but also want to practically apply that knowledge through engineering. Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering offers a program that allows students to realize that goal. The Engineering Science Program, which is affiliated with the University Honors College, provides students with a personally optimized scientific and engineering training experience, allowing them to reach beyond and across traditional disciplines and boundaries. The program is directed by Paul Ohodnicki, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, a 2005 alumnus of  the original Engineering Physics program, now incorporated as one of the concentration options within the broader Engineering Science program. “My time in the Engineering Physics program provided me with a broad perspective across scientific and engineering disciplines combined with a depth of understanding within the fields of my specialization that set me apart from colleagues -- even those who had graduated from top-ranked undergraduate programs,” he said. “I am thrilled at the opportunity to give back to the program and to Pitt as the Engineering Science Program Director and am committed to seeing the program realize its full potential in terms of both impact and stature moving into the future.” Concentrations include Engineering Physics Engineering Mechanics Nanotechnology : Materials / Physics Nanotechnology : Chemistry / Bioengineering Engineering Science offers four interdisciplinary areas of concentration and ultimately aims to prepare students to think analytically across disciplines to tackle future technical challenges. “The students that graduate from the program are positioned to be competitive for top graduate programs across the country,” Ohodnicki added. “They are also well prepared for industrial or national laboratory engineering and research management positions and even non-traditional careers in policy, law, medicine, or business that interface directly with the engineering and scientific fields. “Students who graduate from the program possess a unique combination of a top-tier rigorous technical education and an ability to tackle interdisciplinary challenges that distinguishes them from their peers,” he continued. When Two Paths Collide When searching for an undergraduate program, sophomore Anna Strauss wanted to find a way to marry her passion for physics and her love of engineering. “I initially wanted to be a physics major; however, when looking into career options I pictured myself in an engineering job,” she said. “Engineering Physics enabled me to combine my two interests into a degree that has numerous career opportunities and allows me to still pursue a focus in physics.” She hopes to one day work for the U.S. Department of Defense in the Navy’s development and application of defensive technologies, and the Engineering Science Program is helping to provide real-world experience in preparation for this journey. Strauss is currently working in the Talaat lab at the Swanson School, where she is researching the laser heating of amorphous and nanocrystalline alloys. “My advisor from the program was able to help me transition into a research position, even amidst a pandemic,” she said. “I don’t think you would find the same level of individual opportunities in another major.” Knowledge is Power Joseph Kozak, a PhD candidate at Virginia Tech, graduated from the Engineering Physics program in 2014 before completing a master’s in electrical engineering at Pitt in 2016. He believes that the program significantly prepared him for his current role and for graduate school. “Joining an interdisciplinary major helped broaden my perspective and enhanced my ability to analyze and solve complex problems,” he said. “Taking courses in related but different fields, I learned to extract and merge information from one discipline into another, which has progressed my technical skills and provided unique professional opportunities.” The experiential learning component of the program helped Kozak develop and hone skills that he currently uses as a researcher in power electronics. During his junior year, he participated in a co-op position at GE Power Conversion, which inspired him to continue his studies in electrical engineering. “This experience exposed me to both power converters and power semiconductor devices, as well as the research being conducted in these technical areas,” he said. “I continued my studies into the field of power electronics because of this experience and am now pursuing a PhD where I research both power semiconductor devices and converter circuits.” Kozak credits the Engineering Science curriculum and his experiences at Pitt in preparing him for his career and life as a global citizen. To learn more about the program and its offerings, visit: engineering.pitt.edu/engineeringscience.

Nov
19
2020

University of Pittsburgh Joins New DOE Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute

Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Nuclear

SAN ANTONIO, TX (November 19, 2020) ... The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) today formally launched the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CyManII), a $111 million public-private partnership. Led by UTSA, the university will enter into a five-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to lead a consortium of 59 proposed member institutions in introducing a cybersecure energy-ROI that drives American manufacturers and supply chains to further adopt secure, energy-efficient approaches, ultimately securing and sustaining the nation’s leadership in global manufacturing competitiveness.U.S. manufacturers are one of the top targets for cyber criminals and nation-state adversaries, impacting the production of energy technologies such as electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines. Integration across the supply chain network and an increased use of automation applied in manufacturing processes can make industrial infrastructures vulnerable to cyber-attacks. To protect American manufacturing jobs and workers, CyManII will transform U.S. advanced manufacturing and make manufacturers more energy efficient, resilient and globally competitive against our nation’s adversaries.“The University of Pittsburgh is proud to be among the inaugural member institutions of this national effort to develop cyber security and energy research to benefit U.S. manufacturing expertise,” noted Rob A. Rutenbar,Senior Vice Chancellor for Research at Pitt. “Both our Swanson School of Engineering and School of Computing and Information at the forefront of innovations in advanced manufacturing, cyber infrastructure and security, sustainable energy, materials science and supply chain management. Our faculty are looking forward to participating in this groundbreaking institute.”“The exploitation of advanced materials and computing can provide us with a more holistic approach to secure the nation’s manufacturing infrastructure, from communication networks and assembly lines to intricate computer code and distribution systems,” added Daniel Cole, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and co-director of the Swanson School’s Hacking for Defense program. “Just as our personal computers and cell phones are vulnerable to cyber-attacks, so too is our complex manufacturing industry. But thanks to this national effort through CyManII, we will not only be able to develop defenses but also create more sustainable and energy efficient technologies for industry.”“I am excited for the potential collaborations between our faculty and the innovations they will develop,” said David Vorp, Associate Dean for Research at the Swanson School. “We already have a healthy collaboration with faculty in the School of Computing and Information, and sustainability informs our research, academics, and operations. CyManII presents a new opportunity for us to engage in transformative, trans-disciplinary research.”As part of its national strategy, CyManII will focus on three high priority areas where collaborative research and development can help U.S. manufacturers: securing automation, securing the supply chain network, and building a national program for education and workforce development. “As U.S. manufacturers increasingly deploy automation tools in their daily work, those technologies must be embedded with powerful cybersecurity protections,” said Howard Grimes, CyManII Chief Executive Officer and UTSA Associate Vice President and Associate Vice Provost for Institutional Initiatives. “UTSA has assembled a team of best-in-class national laboratories, industry, nonprofit and academic organizations to cybersecure the U.S. manufacturing enterprise. Together, we will share the mission to protect the nation’s supply chain, preserve its critical infrastructure and boost its economy.”CyManII’s research objectives will focus on understanding the evolving cybersecurity threats to greater energy efficiency in manufacturing industries, developing new cybersecurity technologies and methods, and sharing information and knowledge with the broader community of U.S. manufacturers.CyManII aims to revolutionize cybersecurity in manufacturing by designing and building a secure manufacturing architecture that is pervasive, unobtrusive and enables energy efficiency. Grimes says this industry-driven approach is essential, allowing manufacturers of all sizes to invest in cybersecurity and achieve an energy ROI rather than continually spending money on cyber patches.These efforts will result in a suite of methods, standards and tools rooted in the concept that everything in the manufacturing supply chain has a unique authentic identity. These solutions will address the comprehensive landscape of complex vulnerabilities and be economically implemented in a wide array of machines and environments.“CyManII leverages the unique research capabilities of the Idaho, Oak Ridge and Sandia National Laboratories as well as critical expertise across our partner cyber manufacturing ecosystem,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “UTSA is proud and honored to partner with the DOE to advance cybersecurity in energy-efficient manufacturing for the nation.”CyManII has 59 proposed members including three Department of Energy National Laboratories (Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories), four Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, 24 powerhouse universities, 18 industry leaders, and 10 nonprofits. This national network of members will drive impact across the nation and solve the biggest challenges facing cybersecurity in the U.S manufacturing industry.CyManII is funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) and co-managed with the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). ------ Learn more about the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute.
Author: EmilyGuajardo, CyManII Communications Manager
Nov
18
2020

Wei Xiong Faculty Fellow Award

MEMS

Wei Xiong, assistant professor of materials science, is one of two recipients of the 2021 Early Career Faculty Fellow Award given by The Minerals, Metals, & Materials Society (TMS). This award recognizes assistant professors for their accomplishments that have advanced the academic institution where employed, and for abilities to broaden the technological profile of TMS. Xiong will receive free travel and registration to two TMS annual meetings and will be given technical support and guidance in developing new programming for TMS symposiums. Department Chair, Professor Brian Gleeson notes, “Dr. Xiong is a tireless and dedicated educator and researcher. Moreover, he is remarkably good at the essential skills required for academic success. His considerable professional service is equally impressive. His outstanding communication skills coupled with his sound understanding of the fundamental aspects of his research make him a standout in any academic or research arena. He is truly exceptional.” Since joining the MEMS Department in 2016, Xiong became Director of the Physical Metallurgy and Materials Design Laboratory. His current research focuses on advancing the fundamental aspects of alloy design using both computational and experimental approaches. In collaboration with fellow MEMS professor Albert To, he established the MOST-AM (Modeling and Optimization Simulation Tools for Additive Manufacturing) consortium which has seen much success since its inception with 25 industry members and 7 government agency members. He has received funding from several prestigious sources such as NASA, ONR, NSF and DOE. Xiong says of the award, “TMS provides a phenomenal platform for junior metallurgists to collaborate with and learn from other researchers and engineers in our community. I am immensely honored to receive this prestigious award and will continue to support various activities organized by the TMS.”
Meagan Lenze
Nov
11
2020

NSF Award Granted to Two MEMS Faculty

MEMS

Mechanical engineering professors Hessam Babaee and Peyman Givi recently received an award from the National Science Foundation(NSF) for a three-year project titled “Real-Time and Adaptive Chemical Kinetic Model Reduction Coupled with Turbulence.” The chemistry of combustion involves understanding how a large number of species behave and evolve in a given operating condition.  The tractability of this technically important problem becomes increasingly difficult when the operation involves turbulent mixing. The interaction between chemical reaction and turbulence has been studied for over 80 years but has recently been made easier due to access to supercomputing resources. Still, the computational power available is much less than that needed for modeling engineering problems involving turbulent transport. The goal of this new project is to develop an on-the-fly reduction scheme that enables modeling and simulation of reactive turbulent flows involving a very large number of species. Extracting the correlated structures on the fly is fundamentally different than current practices and offers several advantages including a reduction in the computational cost and storage as compared to methods currently used. The advances from Babaee and Givi’s work will benefit the modeling of any processes involving chemical kinetics and unsteady dynamics, including: biology, atmospherics, climatology, and medicine. Their research also crosses several disciplines, such as turbulent combustion, data driven modeling, reduced order modeling, and high-performance computing.
Meagan Lenze

Oct

Oct
27
2020

Let’s (Not) Stick Together

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Oct. 27, 2020) — If you’ve ever had a cold, you know that too much mucus can be an annoyance, but mucus plays a very important role in the body. The respiratory system creates mucus as part of the immune system, meant to trap inhaled bacteria, viruses, and dirt so they can be removed before causing infection. However, for people with the genetic disorder cystic fibrosis (CF), the mucus that their bodies produce is thicker and stickier, leading to an increased risk from infection and decreased ability to breathe over time. New research led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering examines the properties of the mucus of CF patients and the role it plays in a pathogens’ ability to survive. The new information could have important implications for CF treatment. [Related: Learn how the new INHALE Lab will help CF patients avoid water-borne pathogens] The researchers examined nonmucoid (PANT) and mucoid (PASL) strains of P. aeruginosa, a common pathogen that infects the lungs. P. aeruginosa adapts to the host environment mutating from a non-mucoid phenotype (PANT) to a mucoid phenotype (PASL). This mutation in P. aeruginosa creates a protective film of mucus around the bacteria thereby forming a more hydrated and slimy biofilm in the mucus. “Think of the cells like grains of rice. PANT cells are like basmati rice, while PASL cells are like sushi rice: coated in such a way that they stick together when they’re compressed,” explained Tagbo Niepa, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, whose lab led the study. Niepa also has appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. “We can measure how investigational drugs can alter the sticky nature of the coating that pathogens such as P. aeruginosa create upon mutation.” This mutation gives the mucus unique properties that contribute to increased antibiotic resistance. It also shields them against phagocytic cells, which help the immune system clear out dead or harmful cells by ingesting them. In order to study these properties, the researchers used pendant drop elastometry to compress and expand the biofilm that the cells formed. They also assessed the transcriptional profile of the cells to correlate the film's mechanics to cell physiology. “This is the first time that the pendant drop elastometry technique has been used to study the mechanics of these cells. We demonstrate that these techniques can be used to investigate the efficacy of mucolytic drugs—drugs that are used to break down the film of mucus that the cells are making,” noted Niepa. “This technique could be powerful for investigating those agents, to see if they have the anticipated effect.” The paper, “Material properties of interfacial films of mucoid and nonmucoid Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates,” (DOI: 10.1016/j.actbio.2020.10.010) was published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia. It was authored by Sricharani Rao Balmuri, Nicholas G. Waters, and Tagbo H.R. Niepa from Pitt, and Jonas Hegemann and Jan Kierfeld from the Universität Dortmund in Dortmund, Germany.
Maggie Pavlick
Oct
26
2020

Inaugural Spirit of Pitt Award Recipients - Both Engineering Students - Honored at Virtual Homecoming

All SSoE News, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

This story originally appeared in Pittwire. Reposted with permission. On Saturday, Oct. 24, the Pitt Alumni Association began a new chapter of the University’s Homecoming tradition: Alexis Zito and Jonathan Perlman, both mechanical engineering majors in the Swanson School of Engineering, were the first students to win the Spirit of Pitt award. The award, which comes in the place of the titles Homecoming king and queen, aims to creative a more inclusive tradition that emphasizes the diversity of and pride in the Pitt community. In conjunction with the Blue & Gold Society and the Student Alumni Association, the Pitt Alumni Association reimagined what it means to be a part of Pitt’s Homecoming Court—removing the award’s focus on royalty and the construct of a gender-binary and instead creating a tradition that more pointedly celebrates Pitt’s values of service, spirit and social justice. Although the coronavirus pandemic prevented the traditional on-field awards ceremony at Heinz Field, the history-making announcement, which featured blue and silver confetti poppers and a pregame special message Tweeted out by Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, was live-streamed via the Heinz Field Jumbotron as well as Pitt’s social media channels. And out of 10 finalists in the Homecoming Court, the two winners happened to be campaign partners. “We had mutual friends but had never really talked” before becoming Homecoming Court finalists, said Perlman of Zito. As the only two engineering students as finalists for the award, they saw an opportunity to work together. During his early years at Pitt, Perlman, a fifth-year student from Long Island, was quick to bleed blue and gold, showing his support for Panthers football in the front row of the student section of Heinz Field. But after the October 2018 shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Perlman’s involvement in the Pitt and Pittsburgh communities took on deeper meaning. As part of the executive board of Zeta Beta Tau, a Jewish fraternity, Perlman helped organize a fundraiser in response to the tragedy, helping to raising $10,000 for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. He is also on the board of Engineering Student Council and part of the leadership society Omicron Delta Kappa. “The campus has really refined me,” Perlman said of his time at Pitt and of how he has come to embody the Spirit of Pitt. “I really like the new meaning behind [the award]… I think it’s great.” Zito’s connection to Pitt began with her parents, who met as engineering students at Pitt. After Zito attended high school at Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy—located directly next to the Swanson School of Engineering’s Benedum Hall in Oakland—Pitt was already such a big part of her life that it felt like her perfect collegiate fit. As a mechanical engineering senior, Zito serves as vice president of Pitt’s Society of Women Engineers and an engineering ambassador for the Swanson School. She is also a member of the engineering sorority Phi Sigma Rho, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and a host of other Pitt clubs. Moving forward, Zito hopes to carry the “Spirit of Pitt” with her through graduation and beyond. “The award has given me…confidence,” she said “I can achieve anything if I work hard to make it happen, which is one of the ideals that I think really embodies the Spirit of Pitt. I plan to carry this message, and all of the positive messages of Pitt, with me in my life.” Other Spirit of Pitt finalists were Grace Antol, Cameron Clarke, Sydney DuBose, Beatrice Fadrigon, Brendan Gunde, Blya Krouba, Carl Smith and Jessica Taylor. ###
Author: Susan Wiedel, Office of University Communications & Marketing
Oct
21
2020

Pitt Engineering Alumnus Dedicates Major Gift Toward Undergraduate Tuition Support

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, Nuclear, Diversity, Investing Now

PITTSBURGH (October 21, 2020) …  An eight-figure donation from an anonymous graduate of the Swanson School of Engineering and spouse to the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering in their estate planning to provide financial aid to undergraduate students who are enrolled in the Pitt EXCEL Program. Announced today by Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and US Steel Dean of Engineering James R. Martin II, the donors' bequest will provide tuition support for underprivileged or underrepresented engineering students who are residents of the United States of America and in need of financial aid. “I am extremely grateful for this gift, which supports the University of Pittsburgh’s efforts to tackle one of society’s greatest challenges—the inequity of opportunity,” Gallagher said. “Put into action, this commitment will help students from underrepresented groups access a world-class Pitt education and—in doing so—help elevate the entire field of engineering.” “Our dedication as engineers is to create new knowledge that benefits the human condition, and that includes educating the next generation of engineers. Our students’ success informs our mission, and I am honored and humbled that our donors are vested in helping to expand the diversity of engineering students at Pitt,” Martin noted. “Often the most successful engineers are those who have the greatest need or who lack access, and support such as this is critical to expanding our outreach and strengthening the role of engineers in society.” A Gift to Prepare the Workforce of the Future Martin noted that the gift is timely because it was made shortly after Chancellor Gallagher’s call this past summer to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all, especially for the University’s future students. The gift – and the donors’ passion for the Swanson School – show that there is untapped potential as well as significant interest in addressing unmet need for students who represent a demographic shift in the American workforce.  “By 2050, when the U.S. will have a minority-majority population, two-thirds of the American workforce will require a post-secondary education,” Martin explained. “We are already reimagining how we deliver engineering education and research, and generosity such as this will lessen the financial burden that students will face to prepare for that future workforce.” A Half-Century of IMPACT on Engineering Equity In 1969 the late Dr. Karl Lewis (1/15/1936-3/5/2019) founded the IMPACT Program at the University of Pittsburgh to encourage minority and financially and culturally disadvantaged students to enter and graduate from the field of engineering. The six-week program prepared incoming first year students through exposure to university academic life, development of study skills, academic and career counseling, and coursework to reinforce strengths or remedy weaknesses. Many Pitt alumni today still note the role that Lewis and IMPACT had on their personal and professional lives.  Under Lewis’ leadership, IMPACT sparked the creation of two award-winning initiatives within the Swanson School’s Office of Diversity: INVESTING NOW, a college preparatory program created to stimulate, support, and recognize the high academic performance of pre-college students from groups that are historically underrepresented in STEM majors. Pitt EXCEL, a comprehensive undergraduate diversity program committed to the recruitment, retention, and graduation of academically excellent engineering undergraduates, particularly individuals from groups historically underrepresented in the field. “Dr. Lewis, like so many of his generation, started a movement that grew beyond one person’s idea,” said Yvette Wisher, Director of Pitt EXCEL. “Anyone who talks to today’s EXCEL students can hear the passion of Dr. Lewis and see how exceptional these young people will be as engineers and individuals. They and the hundreds of students who preceded them are the reason why Pitt EXCEL is game-changer for so many.”  Since its inception, Pitt EXCEL has helped more than 1,500 students earn their engineering degrees and become leaders and change agents in their communities. Ms. Wisher says the most important concept she teaches students who are enrolled in the program is to give back however they can once they graduate—through mentorship, volunteerism, philanthropy, or advocacy.  Supporting the Change Agents of Tomorrow “Pitt EXCEL is a home - but more importantly, a family. The strong familial bonds within Pitt EXCEL are what attracted me to Swanson as a graduating high school senior, what kept me going throughout my time in undergrad and what keeps me energized to this very day as a PhD student,” explained Isaiah M. Spencer Williams, BSCE ’19 and currently a pre-doctoral student in the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Pitt EXCEL is a family where iron sharpens iron and where we push each other to be the best that we can be every day. Beyond that, it is a space where you are not only holistically nurtured and supported but are also groomed to pave the way for and invest into those who are coming behind you.  “Pitt EXCEL, and by extension, Dr. Lewis' legacy and movement are the reasons why I am the leader and change agent that I am today. This generous gift will ensure a bright future for underrepresented engineering students in the Pitt EXCEL Program, and will help to continue the outstanding development of the change agents of tomorrow.”  Setting a Foundation for Community Support “Next year marks the 51st anniversary of IMPACT/EXCEL as well as the 175th year of engineering at Pitt and the 50th anniversary of Benedum Hall,” Dean Martin said. “The Swanson School of Engineering represents 28,000 alumni around the world, who in many ways are life-long students of engineering beyond the walls of Benedum, but who share pride in being Pitt Engineers. “The key to our future success is working together as a global community to find within ourselves how we can best support tomorrow’s students,” Martin concluded. “We should all celebrate this as a foundational cornerstone gift for greater engagement.” ###

Oct
13
2020

Designed to Make a Difference

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, MEMS, Student Profiles

A multidisciplinary team of students from the University of Pittsburgh continue to develop an Art of Making project designed to help hearing-impaired children experience music. Their work was featured the Fall 2020 Edition of Pitt Magazine. The current team continued the project through the "Classroom to Community: Designing and Inventing for Real-World Impact" program established by Joseph Samosky, assistant professor of bioengineering. The group includes Jocelyn Dunlap, a 2019 communication sciences and disorders alumna; Natalie Neal, a 2020 materials science and engineering alumna; Jesse Rosenfeld, a 2020 mechanical engineering alumnus; Caroline Westrick, a senior bioengineering student; Dr. Joseph Samosky; Issam Abushaban, a senior computer engineering and bioengineering student; and Thomas Driscoll, a senior computer engineering student. --- The little girl spins in a circle, bounces side to side, feet stomping and hands wiggling. She dances to the beat. A special dance partner—a smiling plush monkey with elastic arms and a purple belly—hugs her neck. All around, her preschool classmates are dancing, too, copying the teacher’s steps as music fills the room. But these children aren’t hearing the music; they’re feeling it. The students are from the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (WPSD). The stuffed animals they embrace contain transducers, which convert the songs playing over the classroom’s speakers (and transmitted to the monkeys via Bluetooth) into palpable vibrations, helping the hearing-impaired youth groove to Bach or Beyoncé. Click here to read the full PittMag story.
Maya Best, Pitt Magazine

Sep

Sep
28
2020

Four Pitt Engineering Researchers Receive NSF CAREER Awards in 2020 Funding Cycle

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (September 28, 2020) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering closed out the 2020 fiscal year with four faculty winning CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation. This brings the total to 15 CAREER awards received by Swanson School faculty since 2016. According to NSF, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is its most prestigious award 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. “I am incredibly proud of our young faculty for contributing to the Swanson School’s diverse research portfolio and achieving this important recognition in their early career,” said David Vorp, associate dean for research and the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering. “Over the past few years, we have improved faculty resources for developing and applying for federal funding, and the number of CAREER recipients is a great indicator of our success.” The 2020 recipients include: Takashi D-Y Kozai, assistant professor of bioengineeringUncovering the Impact of Traditional and Novel Chronic Stimulation Modalities on Neural Excitability and Native Neuronal Network Function Dr. Kozai received a $437,144 CAREER award to improve the integration of the brain and technology in order to study long-standing questions in neurobiology and improve clinical applications of brain-computer interfaces. One of the challenges remaining with this technology is achieving long-term and precise stimulation of a specific group of neurons. Kozai has designed a wireless, light-activated electrodethat enables precise neural circuit probing while minimizing tissue damage. The funding will enable him to further improve this technology. Sangyeop Lee, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science Machine Learning Enabled Study of Thermal Transport in Polycrystalline Materials from First Principles Dr. Lee’s $500,000 CAREER award will utilize machine learning to model thermal transport in polycrystalline materials. Developing materials with ultrahigh or ultralow thermal conductivity along a certain direction can enable new energy storage and conversion devices. However, grain boundaries - two-dimensional defects in crystal structures - exist in polycrystalline material and significantly affect thermal transport. Addressing the defects is currently not efficient - observing and experimenting with grain boundaries when creating materials can prove to be a lengthy and costly process. Machine learning may provide a more sustainable alternative. His research seeks to create a computer model that can predict the conductive properties of a material in real life, providing guidance to engineer defects for desired thermal properties. Jason Shoemaker, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering Enabling Immunomodulatory Treatment of Influenza Infection using Multiscale Modeling When a person contracts a respiratory viral infection like COVID-19 or influenza, the immune system responds in a myriad of ways to eliminate the virus. Respiratory viral infections are so dangerous, however, because excessive immune responses may cause extreme lung inflammation. However, Dr. Shoemaker’s new modeling research may help doctors better predict and treat patients who are most at risk to that extreme response. His $547,494 CAREER Award will fund creation of computational models of the immune response to seasonal, deadly (avian) influenza viruses, which can help identify the best way to suppress immune activity and reduce tissue inflammation. Since this work targets the immune system and not the specific virus, the models are expected to impact many respiratory infections, including COVID-19. Feng Xiong, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Scalable Ionic Gated 2D Synapse (IG-2DS) with Programmable Spatio-Temporal Dynamics for Spiking Neural Networks In science fiction stories from “I, Robot” to “Star Trek,” an android’s “positronic brain” enables it to function like a human, but with tremendously more processing power and speed. In reality, the opposite is true: a human brain - which today is still more proficient than CPUs at cognitive tasks like pattern recognition - needs only 20 watts of power to complete a task, while a supercomputer requires more than 50,000 times that amount of energy. Dr. Xiong’s $500,000 CAREER award will fund research in neuromorphic computer and artificial neural networks to replicate the spatio-temporal processes native to the brain, like short-term and long-term memory, in artificial spiking neural networks (SNN). This “dynamic synapse” that will dramatically improve energy efficiency, bandwidth and cognitive capabilities of SNNs. ###

Sep
10
2020

Innovative Biocontainment Unit Shows Promise

Covid-19, Bioengineering, MEMS

U.S. Department of Defense News Release. Reposted with permission. The Army partnered with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to create a biocontainment unit that could help healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients. Researchers from the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory and the university created an individual biocontainment unit that uses negative pressure to suction the air from around a patient to filter out viral particles. This prevents environmental contamination and limits exposure to SARS-CoV-2. ''Outside of the current pandemic, the IBU could be rapidly deployed to isolate patients with any respiratory illness.'' said study co-author Dr. David Turer, a plastic surgeon who recently completed his residency at UPMC. ''It's easy to see this technology used to contain influenza, MERS, or tuberculosis, particularly in places lacking advanced hospital infrastructure.'' The device and the results of safety testing are described in a study published today in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. This research was first reported by the Army in April during an effort to identify solutions to help combat the spread of COVID-19. At that time, initial approaches to minimize viral spread involved the use of plexiglass barriers, such as intubation boxes, to limit health care worker exposure when inserting a breathing tube down a patient's throat. While these barriers may mitigate exposure to larger droplets, the research team hypothesized that they do little to stop the spread of smaller, aerosolized viral particles. Army researcher and study co-author Dr. Cameron Good and Turer, along with a team of colleagues, developed prototype individual biocontainment units and tested them by performing simulated medical procedures. Using validated techniques adopted from the medical research laboratory community, they tested the IBU and a plexiglass intubation box for their ability to contain virus-sized particles from a simulated COVID-19 patient. ''Greater than 99.99% of the virus-sized aerosols were trapped by the IBU and prevented from escaping into the room,'' Good said.  ''When we tested the passive intubation box, we observed more than three times the aerosol concentration outside the box—where the health care provider is located—than inside the box. It is not safe to use these intubation boxes without actively filtering the air.'' The Food and Drug Administration recently revoked an emergency use authorization for passive plexiglass intubation barriers and mandated the use of negative pressure systems, such as the IBU, to prevent viral spread. The team is actively developing a portable vacuum and filter system that can run on a battery pack for use in austere environments where energy resources are limited, which is of particular interest for military and humanitarian applications. ''The ability to isolate COVID-19 patients at the bedside is key to stopping viral spread in medical facilities and onboard military ships and aircraft, particularly to limit transmission through close quarters or shared ventilation systems,'' Good said. The FDA is considering a recently submitted emergency use authorization. Once granted, hospitals and military units will be able to use IBUs immediately to protect health care workers caring for COVID-19 patients and to prepare for future surges. ''None of this would have been possible without the extremely dedicated clinicians and engineers who rapidly designed, built, tested and validated the equipment,'' Good said. ''I want to thank Dr. Robert Turer [the brother of Dr. David Turer] from Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Nick Karlowsky from Filtech, Inc.; Dr. Lucas Dvoracek, Dr. J. Peter Rubin and Dr. Jason Chang from UPMC; and Ben Schilling and Dr. Heng Ban from the University of Pittsburgh. It truly takes a team.'' ###
(Joyce Conant, Army Research Laboratory
Sep
4
2020

MEMS Staff Member Retires after 53 Years of Service

MEMS

Cole Van Ormer, mechanical engineering and materials science technical staff member worked his final day at the University of Pittsburgh last week, after an impressive 53 years of service. Van Ormer was first hired by the Pitt School of Engineering shortly after returning from his second Vietnam War combat tour, where he served as a gun fire control technician and an aviation ordinance man simultaneously while aboard the USS Intrepid. He was initially hired by Pitt as an electronics technician for a project testing naval air weapons equipment. Eventually, the Pitt Defense Department contract was canceled, but Van Ormer was asked to stay on to build electronic equipment from scratch as a part of the Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Department. He also assisted other School faculty with projects such as building medical diagnostic equipment. Former MSE Department Chair, Dr. Harold Brody, asked Van Ormer to learn metallography and photography which led to him assisting in teaching laboratory classes in those subjects and a new found love for photography. He purchased equipment for his new hobby and began photographing commercial catalog work on the side. His photography skills also led to helping graduate students in other departments with compute-generated animation. Additionally, Van Ormer was asked to photograph for former Studio Arts Department Chair, Virgil Cantini, whose sculptures and enamel murals are found all over campus. Throughout his career, Van Ormer never stopped learning and took continuing education courses in electron microprobe at JEOL and Lehigh University. He has a degree in Economics, plus postgraduate work in Computer Science and Engineering. He learned and then trained others in the Pitt MSE department in TEM, SEM and EM. After the Benedum Hall renovation, Van Ormer’s primary responsibility was working and training in the Materials Micro-Characterization Lab (MMCL) plus training undergraduates in optical microscopy, metallography and lab safety. Van Ormer was one of the founders of the Staff Advisory Board and Staff Association Council for which he served as President and also Chaired the Grievance Committee.  He also served on University Staff Grievance Mediation Boards and Campus Police Citation appeals hearings plus as Jury Foreman for the School of Law student mock trials. In the Naval Reserve, he was trained as a Damage Control Fire Fighting Scene Leader.  Together with the Chatham College Police Department, he received law-enforcement training in a class given by the Pitt Police Academy. In addition, he attended the Pittsburgh Police Citizens Police Academy, Pittsburgh Citizen Emergency Response Team training and the National Outdoor Leadership School for Wilderness Medicine First Aid. Van Ormer served as Benedum Hall’s Emergency Marshal for several years where he responded to several accidents and medical emergencies in the building.  He also represented the School of Engineering at the University-Wide Safety Committee. Van Ormer and his late wife, Susan, have a son who received an Engineering Physics degree in MEMS, and a daughter who received a Communications degree at the Pitt Greensburg campus.   He also has a grandson and a granddaughter. Van Ormer is no doubt an upstanding citizen to the country, the community, and the University of Pittsburgh. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher describes Van Ormer as, “…one of those rare, yet vital, people whose consistent dedication and commitment have enhanced the University – and the lives of the students who have come through the University - in a way that we can all see and appreciate.”  On behalf of the MEMS department and entire University of Pittsburgh, we thank Van Ormer for his service and congratulate him on his retirement!
Meagan Lenze
Sep
3
2020

Three Pitt Professors Selected as 2020-21 MCSI Leonard Peters Faculty Fellows

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Sept. 3, 2020) — The University of Pittsburgh’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) announced three new Leonard Peters Faculty Fellows in Sustainability. The Fellowships provide opportunities for Pitt faculty members focused on sustainability to contribute to strategic MCSI goals, including their mission of interdisciplinary excellence in sustainability research and education. The 2020-21 Leonard Peters Faculty Fellows are Michael Blackhurst, co-director of the Urban & Regional Analysis Program; Tony Kerzmann, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science; and Danielle Andrews-Brown, lecturer and coordinator of the Environmental Studies Program in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science. The Fellowship recognizes the late Leonard “Len” Peters (BSChE ’62, MSChE ’69, PhD ’71), a distinguished alumnus of Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and a founding and long-time member of MCSI’s external advisory board. Peters’ notable career included academic positions at the University of Kentucky and Virginia Tech, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and Cabinet Secretary for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. About Michael BlackhurstMichael Blackhurst is a research scientist and professional engineer at the Center for Social and Urban Research at Pitt. Co-director of the Urban & Regional Analysis Program, he oversees research in the energy, water and climate sectors. His current work involves energy and water efficiency, renewable energy, regional climate change mitigation and adaptation, regional water resource planning, and urban stormwater management. As part of his Fellowship, Blackhurst will be co-teaching the course “Current Issues in Sustainability” and will assist with the Sustainability Capstone Course project recruitment and mentoring. About Tony KerzmannTony Kerzmann is an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science. Kerzmann’s research focuses on the energy sector, leading projects relating to energy and sustainability, including solar energy. As part of his Fellowship, Kerzmann will help to co-teach the “Current Issues in Sustainability” and the “Sustainability Capstone Courses.” About Danielle Andrews-BrownDanielle Andrews-Brown is assistant dean of the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and the Environmental Studies program coordinator in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science. She has conducted lab and field scale research as it pertains to water and soil quality for over 14 years, focusing on carbon, nitrogen and emerging contaminants like estrogens and antibiotics. Her research interests also include formal and informal science education. As part of her Fellowship, Andrews-Brown will help to implement a focus on sustainability in the curriculum.

Sep
3
2020

PhD student Lee Maccarone wins 2020 Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Award

MEMS, Student Profiles, Nuclear

CANYON, TX (September 3, 2020) ... Lee Maccarone, a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, has been awarded a Second Place prize in the Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Technology R&D. Maccarone's award is in the Open Competition in the category of Energy Policy. His award-winning research paper, “Toward a Game-Theoretic Metric for Nuclear Power Plant Security,” was presented at the IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security in February 2020.In order to be successful and retain its leadership role in nuclear technologies, the United States must foster creativity and breakthrough achievements to develop tomorrow’s nuclear technologies. The Department of Energy has long recognized that university students are an important source of breakthrough solutions, and a key component in meeting its long-term goals. The Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards program was developed for this purpose. The Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards program is designed to: 1) award graduate and undergraduate students for innovative nuclear-technology-relevant research publications, 2) demonstrate the Department of Energy’s commitment to higher education in nuclear-technology-relevant disciplines, and 3) support communications among university students and Department of Energy representatives.The program awarded 24 prizes in 2020 for student publications relevant to innovative nuclear technology. In addition to cash awards, award-winning students will have a variety of other opportunities.For more information on the Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards program, visit www.nucleartechinnovations.org.

Sep
3
2020

Plexiglass Alone Can't Protect Against Aerosolized Virus

Covid-19, Bioengineering, MEMS, Student Profiles

Reposted from Pittwire. Click here to view the original story. In settings where personal protective equipment (PPE) is in short supply, inserting a breathing tube down a patient’s throat poses a major risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure for doctors and nurses as viral particles are released into the air. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, UPMC and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory created an individual biocontainment unit, or IBU, to keep front line health care workers safe while they provide life-saving care. The device is described in a study published Sept. 3 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Authors on the study include Benjamin Schilling, a pre-doctoral fellow in bioengineering at Pitt; Heng Ban, Richard K. Mellon professor of mechanical engineering and materials science in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering; Robert Turer of Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Nicholas Karlowsky of Filtech; and Lucas Dvoracek, Jason Chang and J. Peter Rubin of UPMC. Earlier attempts to minimize exposure to health care workers involved placing a plexiglass intubation box over a patient’s head and shoulders. Clinicians place their hands through two large holes in the box to intubate the patient inside. While such a device may contain the worst of the splatter, it can’t keep aerosols from leaking out. The IBU is designed to suck contaminated air out of the box with a vacuum and trap infectious particles in a filter before they seep into the room. Simulating a COVID-19 patient, the researchers placed a mannequin inside the IBU as well as in a commercially available intubation box. Near its mouth, they piped in an oil-based aerosol which formed tiny droplets in the air, similar in size to the SARS-CoV-2 particles in breath that spread COVID-19. The IBU trapped more than 99.99% of the simulated virus-sized aerosols and prevented them from escaping into the environment. In contrast, outside of the passive intubation box, maximum aerosol concentrations were observed to be more than three times higher than inside the box. “Having a form of protection that doesn’t work is more dangerous than not having anything, because it could create a false sense of security,” said Turer, the study’s co-lead author and a plastic surgeon who recently completed his residency at UPMC. Because of concerns about the potential of airborne viruses to leak from the plexiglass boxes, the Food and Drug Administration recently revoked their Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for these enclosures. Several months ago, Turer and colleagues submitted an EUA application for the IBU and are preparing to manufacture the devices for distribution. “It intentionally incorporates parts from outside the medical world,” said Turer. “So, unlike other forms of PPE, demand is unlikely to outstrip supply during COVID-19 surge periods.” Besides protecting providers during intubation, the IBU can also provide negative pressure isolation of awake COVID-19 patients, supplying an alternative to scarce negative pressure hospital isolation rooms, as well as helping isolate patients on military vessels. “The ability to isolate COVID-19 patients at the bedside is key to stopping viral spread in medical facilities and onboard military ships and aircraft,” said study co-lead author Cameron Good, a research scientist at the Army Research Laboratory. Devices similar to IBUs were first used in practice by military personnel in the Javits Center field hospital in New York City when local hospitals were overrun with COVID-19 patients during the first wave of the pandemic. Once the EUA is granted, hospitals and military units will be able to use the IBU to protect health care workers caring for COVID-19 patients. Additional authors on the study include Benjamin Schilling and Heng Ban of the University of Pittsburgh; Robert Turer of Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Nicholas Karlowsky of Filtech; and Lucas Dvoracek, Jason Chang and J. Peter Rubin of UPMC. This work is supported by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Medical Innovation.

Aug

Aug
19
2020

Naugle Fellowship Awardee Named

MEMS, Student Profiles

Sarah Wielgosz, mechanical engineering junior, has been awarded a Naugle Fellowship in Mechanical Engineering for 2020. The $7,500 fellowship will be used to offset tuition fee. Wielgosz was selected based on a glowing recommendation provided by Prof. Matt Barry. Wielgosz served as a teaching assistant for two of Dr. Barry’s classes this summer where, according to Barry, she went above and beyond to provide her peers with the best learning experience possible by not only grading papers, but by creating weekly TopHat worksheets and holding extensive office hours for the students. This is particularly noteworthy since all teaching was delivered online because of covid-19 restrictions. Through Wielgosz’s dedication, the students were provided an outstanding learning environment. The University’s goal is to assist students in obtaining the highest quality education possible.  Part of this assistance includes financial support in the form of fellowships such as this one.

Aug
5
2020

Katherine Hornbostel Selected as Fellow for RCSA’s Scialog: Negative Emissions Science

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Aug. 5, 2020) — The Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) has named Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, as a Fellow for Scialog: Negative Emissions Science. RCSA’s new initiative gathered more than 50 early-career scientists to tackle the issue of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere and oceans. Scialog: Negative Emissions Science will kick off with a virtual conference on Nov. 5-6, 2020. Hornbostel’s research focuses on carbon capture technology for both the air and the ocean. She recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Flexible Carbon Capture and Storage (FLECCS) program to design a natural gas/direct air capture hybrid plant that will ideally be carbon negative. Hornbostel also recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory’s (NETL’s) University Coalition for Fossil Energy Research (UCFER) program to investigate novel solid sorbents for direct air capture. She is also pursuing research on direct ocean capture, an alternative to direct air capture that hasn’t been explored much to date. Hornbostel will be part of an interdisciplinary team from chemistry, engineering, materials science, physics, and other related disciplines. Together, they will explore methods for removing and utilizing or sequestering greenhouse gases in a way that is globally scalable. “I’m honored to be a part of this cohort of early-career engineers and scientists, and I’m looking forward to getting together to brainstorm potential solutions for climate change with people whose interests resemble my own,” said Hornbostel. “I hope that we will come together and foster ideas that will help to end and reverse carbon emissions.” Scialog, short for “science + dialog,” is a multi-year initiative with fellows from across the U.S. and Canada. The Scialog: Negative Emissions Science is sponsored by RCSA and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Maggie Pavlick

Jul

Jul
29
2020

Engineering a Carbon-Negative Power Plant

Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (July 29, 2020) — As renewable power generation increases, conventional energy sources like natural gas, coal, and nuclear power will still be required to balance the nation’s energy portfolio. Traditional power plants will not, however, need to produce as much energy as they do now, leaving them to sit idle some of the time. Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, and her team received $800,283 in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Flexible Carbon Capture and Storage (FLECCS) program to design a natural gas/direct air capture hybrid plant that will take advantage of those idle periods. The proposed design will not only eliminate carbon emissions from the power plant when it is producing electricity for the grid but will also capture carbon from the atmosphere during idle periods, ideally making the plant carbon negative. “We still have a large fleet of natural gas and coal plants in our country. As we add renewables, which provide intermittent energy, we’ll still need those fossil power sources to make sure the grid is consistently powered,” explained Hornbostel. “The FLECCS funding call asks how we can make those fossil sources cleaner and even use them to improve air quality.” For the project, Hornbostel will partner with Glenn Lipscomb, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Toledo; Debangsu Bhattacharyya, professor of chemical engineering at West Virginia University; and Michael Matuszewski, founder of Aristosys LLC in Venetia, PA. The team has proposed a system design that integrates natural gas with two carbon capture technologies: a membrane system that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from the plant’s exhaust, and a sorbent system that will absorb leftover CO2 from the exhaust and CO2 from the air outside. During normal operations, the hybrid plant will capture about 99 percent of the CO2 it generates; during off-peak hours, the plant will use its power to run the carbon capture systems to remove CO2 from the air. “This is a very exciting and important project, and I’m pleased – but not surprised – to see this innovative research is being undertaken in Pittsburgh,” said Congressman Mike Doyle. “The world must achieve net-zero carbon emissions in a few short decades, or the impact on the environment and our society will be devastating. It’s essential that, as we make the transition to carbon-free energy, we also make efforts like this to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants that use fossil fuels – and explore technology that could reduce the carbon already in our atmosphere. ARPA-E is playing a critical role in promoting groundbreaking research on all aspects of energy production and consumption, and I strongly support its important work.” The highly competitive ARPA-E FLECCS Program awarded $11.5 million in Phase 1 funding to 12 projects that develop carbon capture and storage processes. Hornbostel will be the second in the Swanson School to receive an ARPA-E award, following Assistant Chair of Research and Professor of Chemical Engineering Robert Enick. “ARPA-E grants are very prestigious and are only awarded to the most innovative applications that propose high impact projects,” said David Vorp, associate dean for research and John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering. “Dr. Hornbostel and her team will use this FLECCS funding to address several important gaps in the field, and we could not be prouder of her for winning this award.”
Maggie Pavlick
Jul
29
2020

Uncovering the Nitty-Gritty Details of Surface Tension and Flow Behavior

Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (July 29, 2020) — Dry sand can be poured out of a bucket almost like a liquid; if you try to build a sandcastle with dry sand, you won’t have much luck. However, if you add just a little bit of water, everything about the sand’s behavior changes: It cannot be poured like a liquid and, instead, holds together well enough to build something. That difference is an example of how surface tension affects flow behavior, an element that is crucial in a variety of physical processes that involve mixing together liquid and solid particles. Sachin Velankar, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, received $291,968 from the National Science Foundation for his collaborative research that seeks to better understand these phenomena. Velankar holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. “Dry sand is really a mix of sand particles and air. The reason wet sand behaves so differently from dry sand is that water wants to wet the sand particles more than air does,” explained Velankar. “If you take the wet sand and look under microscope, you’ll see that between each pair of sand particles is a ring of water – a meniscus –sticking them together. That’s why the wet sand can’t be poured: the granules just won’t separate easily. We want to understand how such wet particles separate under flow.” Velankar will partner with Charles Schroeder, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, on the project. The two will not be looking at sand, however. Instead, they will use state-of-the-art technology to manipulate microscopic particles suspended in fluid to study their behavior, the conditions that bind them together and the force necessary to break them apart. “I’ve been working in this area for more than 10 years and thought about questions of micromechanics for a long time but didn’t know how to approach it,” said Velankar. “It’s hard to manipulate particles precisely at this scale. That’s where the collaboration comes in.” Schroeder’s method involves a small microfluidic device, called a Stokes trap, with strategically placed channels for incoming and outgoing liquid streams. The particles, suspended in the chamber, are manipulated as liquid flows through the different channels. The research will provide a fundamental understanding of the dynamics and rupture of particle clusters in well-defined flows. Understanding the micromechanics of this phenomenon will inform the way materials are mixed and separated in many industries that rely on the mixing of solids and liquids, from oil drilling to 3D printing to the food industry. The project, titled “Collaborative Research: Micromechanics of Meniscus-bound Particle Clusters,” received a total of $510,000 with $291,968 assigned to Pitt. It begins Sept. 1, 2020, and is expected to last 3 years.
Maggie Pavlick
Jul
20
2020

In Memoriam: John C. "Jack" Mascaro BSCE ’66 MSCE ’80, 1944-2020

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

From James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering: It is with great sadness to inform you that Jack Mascaro BSCE ’66 MSCE ’80, one of our outstanding alumni, volunteers, advocates, and benefactors, passed away this weekend after a hard-fought battle with illness. On behalf of our Swanson School community, I extend our deep condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.Jack was a creative, caring juggernaut of ideas and inspiration, and his passing leaves an emptiness in our hearts and minds. It was an incredible honor and privilege to work with him during my short tenure as dean thus far, but I know those of you who have a long history with Jack and his family experienced a deep connection and now share a tremendous loss. I hope your memories of his lighthearted spirit, curious intellect, and enthusiasm for our students and programs provide solace and smiles.As one of our Distinguished Alumni, Jack was lauded by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School for his contributions to Pitt, the region, and the profession, and was also honored by the University with the Chancellor’s Medallion. Thanks to his beneficence, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and our focus on sustainability will continue his legacy for generations. Most importantly, it was his passion for sustainability, and what he saw as its inexorable link to engineering, that will forever inform our mission to create new knowledge for the benefit of the human condition. He truly was an engineer’s engineer, and we can never thank him and his family enough for his generosity of mind and spirit. Please join me in expressing our sympathies to the Mascaro Family, and to thank them for Jack’s impact on our students, alumni, and entire Swanson School community. Visitation will be held this Thursday in McMurray and you may leave thoughts for the family at his obituary page. Sincerely,Jimmy Other Remembrances Some Random and Personal Observations. Jeffrey Burd, Tall Timber Group & Breaking Ground Magazine (7-21-20). Jack Mascaro, founder of one of Pittsburgh's largest construction firms, dies at 76. Tim Schooley, Pittsburgh Business Times (7-22-20). Pittsburgh builder and sustainability pioneer Jack Mascaro dies after long illness. Paul Guggenheimer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (7-23-20). John C. 'Jack' Mascaro / Builder of Heinz Field, science center embraced 'green' construction. Janice Crompton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (7-27-20). Founder of Mascaro Construction, Heinz Field builder, dies at age 75. Harry Funk, Washington Observer-Reporter (8-1-20).

Jul
7
2020

Two Pitt Researchers Receive Manufacturing Innovation Challenge Funding for COVID-19 Response

Covid-19, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (July 7, 2020) — COVID-19 has spurred research partnerships across sectors and industries. Two University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering faculty members, who are partnering with Pennsylvania companies, have recently each received $25,000 in funding from Pennsylvania’s Manufacturing PA Innovation Program COVID-19 Challenge to continue addressing the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic spread, the N95 masks—which include respirator filters that block out contaminants like the virus that causes COVID-19—were increasingly difficult to find. Xiayun Zhao and Markus Chmielus, assistant professors of mechanical engineering and materials science (MEMS) at Pitt, both received funding for their projects developing alternative, reusable filters for N95 masks. “The response by the MEMS Department in aiding to address needs during this COVID-19 pandemic has been impressive, and I particularly applaud the efforts of Professors Zhao and Chmielus who are applying their expertise in advanced manufacturing in this response," said Brian Gleeson, Harry S. Tack Chair Professor of MEMS. Zhao is partnering with Du-Co Ceramics Company on a project entitled “Rapid Manufacturing of Polymer-Derived Ceramic Films for Respirators.” This partnership will use polymer-derived ceramics (PDCs) to create ceramic filter films for N95 masks. The project will take advantage of photopolymerization-based additive manufacturing to rapidly create reusable and sterilizable ceramic filters. Chmielus is working with the ExOne Company on a reusable N95 filters that uses metal binder-jet 3D printing. ExOne’s binder jetting technology is a high-speed form of 3D printing that can produce metal parts with specific porosity levels that can effectively filter out contaminants while allowing airflow. The reusable copper and stainless-steel filters are being designed to fit into a respirator cartridge for sustainable, long-term protection. Zhao and Chmielus are part of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Advanced Manufacturing (UPCAM) Materials Engineering and Processing group, which “supports fundamental research addressing the interrelationship of materials processing, structure, properties and/or life-cycle performance for targeted applications,” according to the website.
Maggie Pavlick
Jul
2
2020

The Department of Energy Awards $1.9M to Swanson School Faculty and Students for Nuclear Energy Research

Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles, Nuclear

PITTSBURGH (July 2, 2020) … Humankind is consuming more energy than ever before, and with this growth in consumption, researchers must develop new power technologies that will address these needs. Nuclear power remains a fast-growing and reliable sector of clean, carbon-free energy, and four researchers at the University of Pittsburgh received awards to further their work in this area. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) invested more than $65 million to advance nuclear technology, announced June 16, 2020. Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering received a total of $1,868,500 in faculty and student awards from the DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP). According to the DOE, “NEUP seeks to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities.” “Historically, our region has been a leader in the nuclear energy industry, and we are trying to keep that tradition alive at the Swanson School by being at the forefront of this field,” said Heng Ban, Richard K. Mellon Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Swanson School’s Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program. “I’m thrilled that the Department of Energy has recognized the innovative work from our faculty, and I look forward to seeing the advancements that arise from this research.” The DOE supported three projects from the Swanson School. High Temperature Thermophysical Property of Nuclear Fuels and MaterialsPI: Heng Ban, Richard K. Mellon Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director of Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program$300,000 Ban, a leading expert in nuclear material thermal properties and reactor instrumentation and measurements, will use this award to enhance research at Pitt by filling an infrastructure gap.  He will purchase key equipment to strengthen core nuclear capability in the strategic thrust area of instrumentation and measurements. A laser flash analyzer and a thermal mechanical analyzer (thermal expansion) will be purchased as a tool suite for complete thermophysical property information. Fiber Sensor Fused Additive Manufacturing for Smart Component Fabrication for Nuclear Energy PI: Kevin Chen, Paul E. Lego Professor of Electrical and Computer EngineeringCo-PI: Albert To, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science$1,000,000 The Pitt research team will utilize unique technical capabilities developed in the SSoE to lead efforts in sensor-fused additive manufacturing for future nuclear energy systems. Through integrated research efforts in radiation-harden distributed fiber sensor fabrication, design and optimization algorithm developments, and additive manufacturing innovation, the team will deliver smart components to nuclear energy systems to harness high spatial resolution data. This will enable artificial intelligence based data analytics for operation optimization and condition-based maintenance for nuclear power systems. Multicomponent Thermochemistry of Complex Chloride Salts for Sustainable Fuel Cycle TechnologiesPI: Wei Xiong, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials scienceCo-PIs: Prof. Elizabeth Sooby Wood (University of Texas at San Antonio), Dr. Toni Karlsson (Idaho National Laboratory), and Dr. Guy Fredrickson (Idaho National Laboratory)$400,000 Nuclear reactors help bring clean water and reliable energy to communities across the world. Next-generation reactor design, especially small modular reactors, will be smaller, cheaper, and more powerful, but they will require high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) as fuel. As the demand for HALEU is expected to grow significantly, Xiong’s project seeks to improve the process of recovering uranium from spent nuclear fuels to produce HALEU ingots. Part of the process involves pyrochemical reprocessing based on molten salt electrolysis. Hence, developing a thermodynamic database using the CALPHAD (Calculation of Phase Diagrams) approach to estimate the solubilities of fission product chloride salts into the molten electrolyte is essential for improving the process efficiency. The results will help in estimating the properties that are essential for improving the HALEU production and further support the development of chloride molten salt reactors. Two Swanson School students also received awards from NEUP. Jerry Potts, a senior mechanical engineering student, received a $7,500 nuclear energy scholarship, one of 42 students in the nation. Iza Lantgios (BS ME ‘20), a matriculating mechanical engineering graduate student, was one of 34 students nationwide to be awarded a $161,000 fellowship. Swanson School students have secured 20 NEUP scholarships and fellowships since 2009. # # #

Jun

Jun
30
2020

Is Remote Work Helping to Keep Air Pollution at Bay?

Covid-19, MEMS

In March 2020, much of the country felt like it came to a standstill: People were not commuting to and from work or class, traveling to conferences, or going on vacations. All but the most essential businesses and manufacturers shut their doors, major events were canceled, and people stayed at home. There was one other big change: The air got better. Katherine Hornbostel (Credit: Ramon Cordero) In Pittsburgh, the Group Against Smog and Pollution reported particulate matter concentrations were 23 percent lower than expected since stay-at-home orders took effect. Nitrogen dioxide pollution over northern China, Western Europe and the U.S. decreased by as much as 60 percent in early 2020 compared to the previous year. Now, as businesses begin to reopen and life seeks a new normal, what will happen to those remarkable gains in air quality? And what can any of us do about it? Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, has a few suggestions. Her research focuses on carbon capture technology: novel ways to remove carbon dioxide, one of the biggest drivers of air pollution and climate change, from the air and water. “The fact that our air has improved since the shutdown makes perfect sense. Some of the biggest contributors to air pollution—flying and driving—have declined dramatically,” said Hornbostel. “Companies shutting down also improved air quality because they stopped emitting carbon dioxide and other pollutants.” Though research suggests the air quality gains the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it are likely to dissipate as business resumes and factories work overtime to make up for lost time, Hornbostel notes that the air quality improvement proved that we can make a difference relatively quickly. As the economy reopens, Hornbostel recommends three changes to help keep our air clean: 1. Remote Work Global Workplace Analytics estimated that 56 percent of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible with remote work. One of the most obvious ways to protect our air long-term, Hornbostel suggests, is for employers to allow their employees to continue working from home in the future. “Remote work is an obvious way to cut emissions because people won’t have to drive so much. If companies adopt more flexible policies about employees working from home full- or part-time, it could make a big difference for the environment,” she said. Since the stay-at-home order took effect in Allegheny County, for example, traffic on the Parkway East was reduced so much that air particulates were 13 percent below normal. “Moving forward, I would love to see companies adopt a more flexible stance towards remote work. Not only will this help the environment, it will also prevent employee burnout and instill a culture of work-life balance.” 2. Find Ways Around Business Travel People whose jobs rely on frequent travel have found new ways of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is a good thing, Hornbostel said. The less flying we do, the better, as air travel is responsible for 2.5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. “I think a lot of people are discovering that we don’t really need to travel as much as we do,” she said. “Virtual conferences and meetings are often perfectly adequate substitutes for traveling to a remote site. I’d love to see more conferences and workshops go virtual or at least offer a virtual option for participants who don’t wish to travel.” 3. Explore Your Own Backyard Cutting air travel’s large carbon footprint is a difficult task. However, this pandemic has proven that people are capable of getting by without getting on an airplane. Vacations to remote destinations used to be common for many Americans, but the pandemic forced us to make new plans and get creative with how we entertain ourselves and our children. Like many, Hornbostel found herself working from home while homeschooling small children. “I think we were all sort of living a frantic life before this pandemic hit, and after being forced to slow down, a lot of people are realizing how exhausting and unsustainable their previous lifestyle was,” she said. “As I’ve reflected on this change of pace and observed my children’s response to it, I’ve come to realize how much we all benefit from spending more time together at home. My kids don’t need to go to Disney World to be happy; they can still find joy by going to the park down the street. “Staying local can be fun. Staying home can be fun,” she said. “Do we really need to resume our frantic lives, or can we slow things down a bit?”
Maggie Pavlick
Jun
25
2020

Making a Sustainable Impact Throughout Pitt and Our Communities

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

"MCSI remains committed to addressing global sustainability issues, connecting our domestic and international pursuits to create synergies locally, nationally, and internationally. We hope you enjoy this summary of the past year’s impacts, and we'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about the report's contents and MCSI's programs."

Jun
23
2020

Five Pitt Researchers Receive PA Department of Community and Economic Development Grants

Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (June 23, 2020) — Five researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have received grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) through the Manufacturing PA initiative. The DCED has approved more than $2.8 million in grants to 43 projects that will “spur new technologies and processes in the manufacturing sector,” according to their press release. “As engineers, we are applied scientists, and our singular goal in performing research is to produce public impact,” said David Vorp, associate dean for research and John A. Swanson Professor of bioengineering. “I am proud that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania saw the potential of these projects by our Swanson School faculty and their industrial partners to have benefit to their citizens.” The five researchers to receive funding at the Swanson School are: Kevin Chen, Paul E. Lego Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering$67,991—Femtosecond Laser Manufacturing of 3D Photonics Components in Nonlinear Optical Substrates for Electro-Optic Applications Markus Chmielus, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science$70,000—Improving 3D Binder Jet Printed Tungsten-Carbide Parts via Strategies to Increase Green Density and Strength Jung-Kun Lee, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science$70,000—Smart Crucible: Monitoring Damage of Crucibles by Embedded Electric Resistance Sensor Albert To, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science$69,450—A Computational Tool for Simulating the Sintering Behavior in Binder Jet Additive Manufacturing Xiayun Zhao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science$70,000—Pushing the Boundaries of Ceramic Additive Manufacturing (CAM) with Visible light initiated Polymerization (ViP)
Maggie Pavlick
Jun
15
2020

A Raft That Won’t Save You

Covid-19, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (June 15, 2020) — A cell’s membrane acts as a natural shield, a fence around the cell that protects and contains it. It mediates processes that let nutrients through and let waste out, and it acts as a physical barrier to the entry of toxic substances and pathogens, like the viruses SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, the one that causes COVID-19. Such pathogens, however, employ clever strategies to trick and penetrate the cell, thereby replicating themselves and infecting the human body. The virus deceives the membrane by exposing specific anti-receptors to which suitable cell's receptors normally bind. The virus tricks the receptors into believing that what’s landing is something else, namely an affine ligand, something that is safe. Such a process activates and grows thickened zones along the cell membrane, or "lipid rafts,” which are more likely to permit the virus to alter the cell’s membrane, yielding its entry into the cell. New interdisciplinary research published in the Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids sheds light on how and why the cell membrane forms and grows lipid rafts triggered by ligand-receptor activity. The work could lead to new strategies and innovative approaches to prevent or fight the action of the virus through the integration of biomedical and engineering knowledge. “Although lipid rafts’ influence on a cell’s response to external agents has been deeply investigated, the physical components of what takes place during ligand-binding has not yet been fully understood,” said Luca Deseri, research professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering in the Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Department, full professor and head of the graduate school in Engineering at DICAM-University of Trento in Italy, and corresponding author on the paper. “Our team used an interdisciplinary approach to better understand why active receptors tend to cluster on lipid rafts. More importantly, we confirm and predict the formation of the complex ligand receptors.” Through the studies of how mechanical forces and biochemical interactions affect the cell membrane, this research sheds light on the way localized thickening across cell membranes is triggered by the formation of the ligand-receptor complex. The researchers concluded that the formation of ligand-receptor complexes could not take place in thinner zones of the cell membrane; the thickening of the cell membrane provides the necessary force relief to allow for configurational changes of the receptors, which then become more prone to ligand binding Understanding the way viruses use lipid rafts to alter the cell wall could lead to new approaches to treat and prevent viruses, like the one that causes COVID-19, from spreading in the body. The work is a joint effort between Deseri, Massimiliano Fraldi, full professor of solid and structural mechanics at the University of Naples-Federico II in Naples, Italy, and Nicola M. Pugno, full professor of solid and structural mechanics at DICAM-University of Trento. The research was also co-authored by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, from the University of Palermo, and from the University of Ferrara, where the experiments on the cells were performed. The paper, “Mechanobiology predicts raft formations triggered by ligand-receptor activity across the cell membrane,” (DOI: 10.1016/j.jmps.2020.103974) was published in the Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids. It was authored by Angelo R. Carotenuto, Laura Lunghi, Valentina Piccolo, Mahnoush Babaei, Kaushik Dayal, Nicola M. Pugno, Massimiliano Zingales, Luca Deseri and Massimiliano Fraldi. The researchers will submit related work to the Frontiers in Materials as part of a special issue, edited by Pugno, about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maggie Pavlick
Jun
11
2020

Open Position: Postdoctoral Researcher - In situ Nanomechanics

MEMS, Open Positions

There is an opening for a postdoctoral researcher in the research group of Prof. Tevis Jacobs in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Pittsburgh. The research will investigate atomic-scale processes governing the mechanics of materials and interfaces at the nanoscale. Mechanical testing of nanoparticles will be performed in a transmission electron microscope (TEM) using a cutting-edge in situ nanomanipulator apparatus. The work will also involve atomic-resolution imaging and analysis of materials, as well as post-processing using numerical routines (e.g., in Matlab) to extract quantitative measurements of material response. Candidates must have a PhD in materials science, mechanical engineering, or a closely related field. Demonstrated expertise with electron microscopy is required; direct experience with in situ TEM is preferred. Also desirable, though not required, is experience with mechanical testing as well as the topic of mechanical behavior of materials (theory and application). The successful candidate should be highly motivated and able to work independently. This position will also include mentorship of graduate and undergraduate students, presentations at international conferences, and the writing of publications for peer-reviewed scientific journals. To apply, please send an email to tjacobs@pitt.edu with the subject line: Application for Nanomechanics Postdoc. Attached to the email should be a single PDF file containing a CV, copies of two relevant publications, and the names and contact information for three references. Review of applications will begin on June 30th, 2020 and continue until the position is filled. The University of Pittsburgh is an Affirmative Action / Equal Opportunity Employer and values equality of opportunity, human dignity, and diversity. EEO/AA/M/F/Vets/Disabled.

Jun
1
2020

MEMS Students Receive Department of Energy Awards

MEMS, Student Profiles

Two outstanding MEMS students were recently awarded a scholarship and fellowship from the Department of Energy (DOE). The awards are a part of an annual program sponsored by the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP). The recipients: Jerry Potts, a mechanical engineering senior, won a $7,500 scholarship designated to help cover education costs for the upcoming year. This summer, Potts is interning with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) located in Golden, Colorado. Iza Lantgios Iza Lantgios, a second year mechanical engineering PhD student, won a $150,000 graduate fellowship for three years.  The fellowship also includes $5,000 to fund an internship at a U.S. national laboratory or other approved research facility. Lantgios is conducting research this summer while exploring topics for her thesis. Since 2009, the DOE has awarded over $44 million to students pursuing nuclear energy-related degrees.  This year, more than $5 million was awarded nationally to 42 undergraduates and 34 graduate students from 32 colleges and universities. This is the second consecutive year MEMS students were selected for these awards.

May

May
26
2020

MEMS Faculty Member is Lead Author on Quantum Computing Article Published by NASA

MEMS

Dr. Peyman Givi, mechanical engineering Distinguished Professor, is the lead author on a recently published National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Technical Memorandum (TM).  The TM explains how quantum computers can be utilized for computational modeling and simulations. It is theorized that quantum computers will be able to conduct calculations in seconds for problems that take the current (classical) world’s largest supercomputers months to compute.  The TM details the current state of progress in quantum computing technology and how NASA and the aerospace community could potentially use this technology to perform large scale computations. Givi said he is honored to be a co-author on such an important report, noting that his collaborators are among the world’s leading researchers in quantum physics and computational fluid dynamics. He is excited to continue research in this area, stating that “the potential power of quantum computers in near-future computations is mind blowing.” The authors have been asked to publish this report as a Invited Article in the AIAA Journal.
Meagan Lenze
May
14
2020

Start Your Engines! And Don’t Neglect Your Vehicle

Covid-19, MEMS, Student Profiles

The stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic have left many personal vehicles unattended in garages or parked along the side of the road. If you don’t want to be among the growing number of customers calling roadside assistance services, take heed of some advice from the Swanson School of Engineering’s Panther Racing student group. “Typically in vehicles, the first thing to fail during a period of unuse is the battery,” explained Bryce Merrill, a rising senior mechanical engineering student and executive director of Panther Racing (Pitt FSAE). “Batteries will lose charge over time regardless, but any small electrical draw on the battery will cause this to happen faster.” He recommends periodically driving your car to charge the battery or installing a trickle charger to top off the battery when it gets too low. “Starting your car occasionally and driving around the block or so is good for a few other reasons as well,” said Merrill. “It gives all the moving components a chance to get lubricated, gets the fluids flowing, and will remove corrosion from your brake rotors.” Word to the wise for folks in areas, like Pittsburgh, where the temperature can fluctuate more than twenty degrees in one day: check your tire pressure, too. “It is also important to check your tire pressure occasionally as they will slowly leak air and can develop flat spots if they sit in the same spot and the pressure drops too much,” said Merrill. These failures, however, aren't what sidelined their student-designed-and-built formula race car. Rather, it was the campus closure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, Panther Racing has been forced to put the completion of PR-032, this year's race car, on hold due to restrictions on group gatherings and the closing of the University. “This year's FSAE in-person competitions have been migrated to a virtual competition that will occur in early June,” said Merrill. “The team has stayed busy preparing for this virtual competition, planning for next year's car, and has taken this time to focus on education and knowledge transfer.” The group, like many others, has stayed connected through Zoom. A Panther Racing alumnus has held seminars about engine tuning, and they plan to hold additional seminars with other team alumni. “It is extremely disappointing to all of us to not have the opportunity to finish what we have worked so hard for all year, but we are taking this as a learning opportunity to design and manufacture a better car next year,” he said. “We will soon begin the design process for PR-033 remotely, to stay on schedule to complete it by this time next year. We also hope to finish PR-032 in time to compete at our annual Pittsburgh Shootout on August 1st at Pittsburgh International Raceway.” # # #

May
11
2020

Working Through Crisis

All SSoE News, Covid-19, MEMS, Student Profiles

COVID-19 has left the University and world at large in an unprecedented situation. This situation introduced many new challenges for all, including how to adapt classes such as Senior Design, which is largely based on teamwork, to a remote setting. In addition to the normal challenges and problem solving nature of a given course, the stay-at-home order created an added challenge for this semester’s Senior Design teams; how to reclaim a project in the middle of the semester when you are no longer able to come to campus. One team was able to engineer a creative solution.  The team’s sponsor is Abram’s Nation. They produce hospital bed equipment, and due to their essential status, they are still open for business during this time.  Abram’s Nation is a long-time partner and friend of the University of Pittsburgh, particularly the Swanson School of Engineering. Abram's Nation makes medical-grade safety beds that provide those with special needs or dementia a safe and fully enclosed sleeping space. Their current product line under The Safety Sleeper® brand is designed to keep the occupant safe from night wandering and reduce risks from uncontrolled movement, falls, and self-harming behavior such as headbanging. The current model of The Safety Sleeper is effective for regular mattresses and has a rigid frame. This frame imposes limitations on where the current design can be used. In 2019, Abram’s Nation completed an internal design and process overhaul of their main product lines. It was here the company realized there was a need to create a device compatible with an articulating base bed. Craig Van Korlaar, Director of Operations at Abram’s Nation was the design team’s point of contact.  He said, “We hope to bring an articulating model to market in late 2020/early 2021, but also knew that we did not have the skills or capacity to accomplish the frame design on our own. By once again partnering with Pitt on the frame, we have been able to stay on track with this timeline.” 3D model of the team’s design. The senior design team’s original goal was to expand on the current model of The Safety Sleeper to create a product capable of interfacing with hospital and facility beds. The results were planned to be a full-scale prototype, fitting the dimensions of the bed and to be able to handle the articulation of the bed without sacrificing the integrity of The Safety Sleeper enclosure. Early into the project, the team ran into its first challenge. Due to legal issues, the team was unable to see a hospital bed and acquire the necessary measurements until five weeks into the semester. So instead, the team worked from an articulating bed frame supplied by Abram’s Nation located at the company’s manufacturing facility. Team coordinator and ME major, Matthew Warner explains, “This bed-frame is meant for households, so it has very little resemblance to a hospital bed. It does, however, possess a level of articulation similar to that of a hospital bed, so our design will serve as a basis for the final product meant to integrate with a hospital bed.” Pre-shutdown, Van Korlaar and his colleagues at Abram’s Nation were very pleased with the design team’s progress. They were at the stage of testing their initial prototype. While this frame prototype worked as intended, it became clear there were issues with the enclosure's ability to adapt to the different positions that placed excess forces on the frame. While these weak points had been anticipated and were planned to be addressed in the revised model, there was enough concern to warrant a complete redesign. This led the team to pivot to an alternative design using a fixed frame surrounding an independently articulating platform.  Van Korlaar said, “This pivot is a better solution in the long run as it addresses all of the enclosure issues we encountered and allows the articulating platform to hold all the occupant's weight instead of some of it transferring to the frame itself.” The team and Craig Von Korlaar discussing their project over Zoom. Then, over spring break, the team faced its second major challenge when the announcement came from the University that facilities were shutting down and students were advised not to return to campus. Warner said his team’s in-person meetings transitioned to online Zoom meetings, which was sufficient for some aspects of the project, but became an issue when brainstorming ideas for the new design. Warner made a rough 3D model of the intended design using Paint 3D. Through screen sharing, the team then used the annotation tools on Zoom to draw on the model to better convey ideas. Prior to spring break, the design team was using the Swanson Center for Product Innovation (SCPI) to fabricate custom parts for their design and had access to Abram’s Nation production facility. Since Abram’s Nation manufactures their current products internally, they would cut the sections of aluminum tubing the team needed in-house using schematics the team provided the company with. Matt Warner creating parts for the new Safety Sleeper design at home. Luckily, Warner’s father has a machine shop at home with a 3D printer. So, Warner began producing custom parts for the new design at home and shipping them to Abram’s Nation, who are currently operating with a skeleton crew. The team at Abram’s Nation is, “...able to cut the sections of tubing that we require, as well as assemble and test the new physical prototype themselves with instructions from our group” says Warner. As a side note, Abram’s Nation has textile equipment and material that they use to make the fabric and mesh enclosures on their current product, so with some retooling they have been producing face masks for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) during the pandemic. The design team is disappointed there will not be a Senior Design Expo this year to present their work.  However, learning to overcome the various challenges they faced proved to be a valuable experience. Warner says, “One of the biggest learning points from this experience for me was that it really showed just how valuable in-person communication can be while brainstorming ideas. While it is very much possible to convey these ideas through an online, digital medium, nothing beats a pen and paper or a marker and a whiteboard.” Dr. David Schmidt, the Senior Design course instructor, notes, “The team’s effort and initiative exemplifies the spirit of ownership students develop during their capstone experience.” Warner and Van Korlaar remained in daily contact with one another throughout the project, with updates on design and fabrication processes and discussing key decisions for the project. Despite some initial skepticism about the ability to complete the project, the team remained dedicated to their goals. The team is grateful to Abram’s Nation for remaining a professional partner despite the ongoing changes within their company, and for maintaining contact and providing helpful input and feedback when needed. Likewise, Van Korlaar speaks very highly of Warner and the rest of the team, noting the initiative and work ethic of the group despite the challenges they have faced. He says, “I was blown away with the final delivery package, which was of higher quality and thoroughness than what I've seen from some established engineering firms.” Van Korlaar is already looking forward to partnering with another group of Pitt students this fall to tackle their next project.
Meagan Lenze
May
8
2020

MEMS Faculty Member Elected to Canadian Academy of Engineering Fellows

MEMS

Scott Mao, the John A. Swanson Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, was recently elected Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE). Mao is one of 50 highly accomplished individuals selected from a competitive nomination and selection process this year and was chosen in recognition of his outstanding contributions in fracture and mechanical behavior of materials, leading to significant progress and breakthroughs in the damage evaluation of engineering structures. He was nominated by Dr. David S. Wilkinson, Distinguished University Professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. An induction dinner for new fellows is typically held at the AGM Technical Symposium in June. This will be a virtual event this year with plans to postpone the in-person event to 2021.
Meagan Lenze

Apr

Apr
27
2020

ExOne and Pitt Collaborate to Produce Promising Reusable Respirators with 3D Printed Metal Filters

Covid-19, MEMS, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

News release originally published by ExOne. Reposted with permission. PITTSBURGH (April 27, 2020) ... The ExOne Company and the University of Pittsburgh have partnered to develop reusable metal filters that fit into a specially designed respirator cartridge for sustainable, long-term protection against contaminants, such as COVID-19. ExOne’s binder jetting technology is a high-speed form of 3D printing that can produce metal parts with specific porosity levels that can effectively filter out contaminants while allowing airflow. ExOne has 3D printed respirator filters in two metals — copper and 316L stainless steel — and a range of porosity levels for use inside a unique cartridge designed by the Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science department in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Initial testing for airflow and filtration efficiency is currently underway, and the filters are being optimized with the goal of adhering to an N95 respirator standard. “Our team has been working urgently to expedite this promising and reusable solution for medical personnel on the frontlines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” said John Hartner, ExOne CEO. “Our customers routinely print porous metal filters for a variety of purposes, and we are confident that we’ll have a solution soon that can enable medical personnel to sterilize metal filters for repeated reuse, eliminating waste. Once approved, we can print these filters in a variety of sizes for respirators, ventilators, anesthesia masks or other equipment.” “The advantage of binder jet 3D printing over other additive manufacturing methods for this filter application is the ability to utilize the porosity of the printed part and then fine tune it during the high temperature densification or sintering process to achieve optimum filtering and airflow performance,” said Markus Chmielus, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at the Swanson School. 3D Printed Metal Filter Project Details ExOne’s binder jetting technology uses an industrial printhead to selectively deposit a liquid binder onto a thin layer of powdered material, layer by layer, until a final object is formed. After 3D printing powdered metals, the object is then sintered in a furnace to dial in a specific level of porosity. While binder jetted metal is typically sintered to full density, some applications require a specific level of porosity, such as filters. To test filters in different metals and porosities, Dr. Chmielus’ research group is using CT scanners to analyze the microstructure and porosity of the filters. Ansys, the global leader in engineering simulation, also based near Pittsburgh, is providing additional computer simulation support to analyze and optimize the performance of the filters. While copper and stainless steel filters are currently being tested, copper has been known to have antibacterial properties since ancient times. The first recorded use of copper to kill germs was in the Edwin Smith Papyrus, the oldest known medical document in history, according to the Smithsonian. Many studies have proven copper’s disinfectant powers. One landmark 2015 study, funded by the Department of Defense, revealed that copper alloys contributed to a 58% reduction in infections. COVID-19 research also suggests the virus dies faster on copper than on other surfaces. ###
Author: Sarah Webster, ExOne Global Marketing Director
Apr
20
2020

Twelve Pitt Students Awarded 2020 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (April 20, 2020) … Twelve University of Pittsburgh students were awarded a 2020 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. This is the highest number of students to receive this competitive award since 2015 when the University had a total of 13 recipients. An additional sixteen Pitt students also earned an honorable mention. For the past two years, the University’s Honors College has been working with the Office of the Provost to host informational workshops and boost participation in the fellowship program. Patrick Loughlin, professor of bioengineering, also holds workshops in the Swanson School of Engineering to encourage graduate students to apply to external fellowships. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is designed to ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States. GRFP supports the graduate study of U.S. citizens, nationals and permanent residents attaining research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education at institutions located in the United States. Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 as well as a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees. Four Swanson School students and three alumni are among this year’s cohort. Three current students and three alumni received honorable mentions. Award Recipients Janet Canady, a bioengineering undergraduate, works in Dr. George Stetten’s lab where she helps design and test FingerSight, a device for the visually impaired. Zachary Fritts, a bioengineering undergraduate, works in Dr. Tamer Ibrahim’s lab where he helps design and build multi-channel transmit arrays for ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Brian Gentry, a mechanical engineering undergraduate, works in Dr. John Keith’s lab where he investigates local solvent effects on density functional theory energy calculations applied to a class of organic compounds called chelating agents. Evan Miu, a chemical engineering graduate student, works with Drs. James R. McKone and Giannis Mpourmpakis. His research explores combined thermo- and electro-catalytic processes through experimental electrochemistry and density functional theory. Honorable Mentions Evan Becker, an electrical and computer engineering undergraduate, works in Dr. Natasa Miskov-Zivanov’s lab where he has designed representation schemes for modeling and simulating dynamic behavior in systems such as intracellular networks and geopolitical systems. Dr. Miskov-Zivanov’s lab uses discrete logic techniques, allowing him to rapidly assemble these models from scientific literature. Alexander Maldonado, a chemical engineering graduate student, works in Dr. John Keith’s lab to develop novel ways to accurately and quickly predict how complicated chemical reactions occur in solvents using state-of-the-art quantum chemistry and machine learning. Jordyn Ting, a bioengineering graduate student, works in the Rehab Neural Engineering Labs with Dr. Douglas Weber where her work focuses on investigating the spared connection between the motor cortex and muscles. Swanson School alumni Kiara Lee (BioE, Brown University), Harrison Douglas (ChemE, Michigan State University) and Katarina Klett (BioE, Stanford University) also received awards. The alumni to receive honorable mentions include Katreena Thomas (IE, Arizona State University), Richard Hollenbach (MEMS, Duke University) and Arjun Acharya (BioE, University of Utah). # # #

Apr
15
2020

Peering Into Undergraduate Research at Pitt: Swanson School of Engineering Publishes Sixth Edition of Ingenium

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 15, 2020) … Demonstrating the diverse and exceptional undergraduate research in the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, Associate Dean for Research David A. Vorp recently released the sixth edition of Ingenium. This edition features a collection of 26 articles that highlight work performed throughout the 2019-20 academic year and during the school’s 2019 summer research program. Ingenium mirrors the peer-review process of scientific journals by inviting undergraduate researchers to submit manuscripts to a board of graduate students. The review board provides feedback to which the undergraduates are required to respond before their work is accepted. The co-editors-in-chief for this edition were Monica Liu, a bioengineering graduate student, and Jianan Jian, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student. “I think Ingenium is a great experience for undergraduates,” said Liu. “They have been diligently working on research all year, and Ingenium is a great way for them to present it to a larger audience and get experience writing a scientific paper.” While the publication is designed to help prepare undergraduates, members of the graduate review board also benefit from a different point of view in the academic writing process. “Graduate students spend so much time writing about their research and incorporating feedback,” said Liu. “Ingenium is a great way to experience the other side of things -- taking the time to review others' work gives us a broader perspective when we review our own work.” Ingenium features research from each department in the Swanson School and is divided into five categories: experimental research, computational research, device design, methods, and review. The publication is sponsored by the school’s Office of Research. “With each year and with each edition of Ingenium, we continue to see notable and impressive academic and professional growth and development in our undergraduate students when given opportunities to engage in scientific research,” said Vorp. “We witness students taking the knowledge, skills, and information that they learn in their coursework and apply it in a meaningful and intentional manner outside of the classroom. These thriving students are our future -- of both our highly accredited institution and our world.” ###

Apr
7
2020

Pitt Makerspace Creates Open Source Face Shield to Fill Local PPE Need

Covid-19, Bioengineering, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 7, 2020) — The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) caused by the spread of the coronavirus has inspired a fleet of makers in the community to pitch in and make items like masks and face shields to be used in hospitals. The Pitt Makerspace at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering is no exception—a team there has partnered with a local printing company and the UPMC 3D Print Lab to create a single material plastic shield, and they have made the details free for anyone to use. The project was led by Brandon Barber, the design, innovation and outreach coordinator in the Department of Bioengineering at Pitt, and Dan Yates (BSME ’19), innovation project coordinator for the Pitt Makerspace. The Pitt team worked closely with Ken Mattheis and Steve Reed from the Pittsburgh-based printers Reed & Witting to develop the design, and they utilized input from medical professions to ensure the shields would meet their needs. Single material face shield on a mannequin head. The shields are made of a single piece of material and are then folded into place to form the shield; because of this, can be made with any thin, clear plastic and do not require any other materials, like foam or elastic. They were designed with high-volume die-cutting in mind, and many commercial print shops already have the equipment and materials to make thousands of these shields in a short period of time, according to Barber. Reed & Witting is set to make as many as 5,000 shields a day. “We were inspired to act when we saw the shortage of PPE in our community and realized how impactful something like this could be,” said Barber. “The Makerspace is all about finding innovative designs that positively influence the world around us, and we hope that’s what we have been able to do with this project.” You can find the open source face shield here. ### The Pitt Face Shield has not been medically certified for use as PPE. The creators make no warranties of any kind (express or implied) relating to accuracy, usefulness, usability, marketability, performance, or otherwise of the content release.

Mar

Mar
31
2020

Undergraduate Spotlight: Clement Ekaputra

MEMS, Student Profiles

When materials science senior Clement Ekaputra was a youth, he wanted to help rockets fly in space. In high school, he always enjoyed his science and math classes. For him, pursuing a degree in engineering seemed like a natural choice. “Coming into Pitt, I thought that developing materials that are lighter, stronger, and last longer would be the best way to get into aerospace” he said, “Materials science seemed like an interesting field.” So, in the fall of 2015, Ekaputra entered the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He is now set to graduate this Spring with a bachelor’s degree in materials science in engineering and minors in math and French language. Ekaputra recalls one of the first classes he took his first semester at Pitt, honors calculus. He mentioned how challenging it was for him at first, but the passion and excitement from his professor, Dr. Chris Lennard, helped him to succeed.  He credits this success for giving him the confidence to believe he could succeed in all his future classes as well. However, it was a MEMS class, Mechanics of Materials with Professor Tevis Jacobs, which Ekaputra named his favorite.  He commented on Dr. Jacob’s ability to make the course engaging and interesting. Though he was already interested in solid mechanics previously, this course inspired him to pursue the field even further by choosing to study it in graduate school. Classes aren’t the only thing Ekaputra enjoys about Pitt, he is also involved in the Pitt table tennis team and handbell ensemble.  But most notably, Ekaputra is a pianist.  He started playing when he was 3 years old.  His parents saw his potential and enrolled him in lessons.  At first, Ekaputra admits that he did not enjoy his formal lessons and he hated practicing.  He says over time though, he grew to enjoy it more and has participated in quite a few performances and competitions. Ekaputra playing with the University of Pittsburgh Orchestra Now, playing the piano is mostly for relaxation. He says, “I find it incredibly fulfilling to learn how to play difficult pieces, in the same way that completing an engineering project or running a marathon is fulfilling.” Ekaputra takes lessons from Dr. Tina Faigen in Pitt’s Music Department. He says Dr. Faigen has greatly helped him to improve his skills and he has a great experience playing at Pitt (see link).  He also recently performed a concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. While he no longer competes and does not intend to be a famous concert pianist, he does plan to continue playing the piano and would be interested in playing in church or with a choir someday. In addition to classes, clubs and hobbies, Ekaputra has gotten an ample amount of research experience during his time at Pitt too. He said he always knew that research was something he wanted to get involved with.  The summer after his freshman year, he worked for Dr. Albert To in a summer research program where he studied finite element modeling and topology optimization related to additive manufacturing. The following summer he took a position developing inexpensive sediment microbial fuel cells in his hometown near Philadelphia. This experience gave him the opportunity to travel to Indonesia to work on developing sustainable products using local agricultural waste. He was then given the opportunity to present his work at a conference. By his junior year, Ekaputra knew his area of interest lied in structural materials, so he began working in Dr. Isaac Garcia’s lab and completed his senior research project with him on iron alloys for jet turbine applications.  This past summer, he did a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Ekaputra notes that internships and co-op experiences are two of the most defining parts of his experience at Pitt.  He did a co-op at Mine Safety Appliances (MSA) this past summer.  His projects there pertained to material selection, operations support, and failure analysis for the design and manufacturing of safety products. He says, “Although ultimately, I decided that I preferred research over industry, working at MSA really taught me a lot about professional development and how research and industry are connected.”  He notes that it wasn’t until he began having research and industry experiences that he really learned that engineering was right for him. “Figuring out how to connect different pieces of information that I learned in school, and using it to develop something new, is what I really enjoy.” After graduation, Ekaputra plans to pursue his PhD in materials science, specializing in materials for aerospace application. He is currently in the process of deciding which school he will attend.  Wherever he ends up, he knows he would like to work to send humans to space, maybe even at NASA, though he believes he will enjoy doing research anywhere. He says, “The best part of Pitt engineering, in my opinion, is the variety of opportunities afforded to students, like co-op, study abroad, and the vast variety of clubs and organizations that students can join. These are all things I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue, and which have defined my undergraduate studies.” We wish Ekaputra the best of luck in all his future endeavors!
Meagan Lenze
Mar
30
2020

A Donation in Flight

MEMS

A generous gift donation was recently made to the MEMS Department in honor of Marion Alice Nye “Buzz” Barry. Marion was a licensed commercial pilot, certified flight and ground school instructor, a member of the Ninety-Nine Women Pilots Association, and one of the first women in the aviation industry. In the spirit of her valiance and technical accomplishments, an annual academic scholarship will be awarded to a student with interest and involvement in aerospace engineering and aviation. The scholarship can be used for tuition or sponsored academic research related to aerospace engineering. The donation was facilitated by MEMS professor, Dr. Matt Barry, who is the grandson of Marion.

Mar
10
2020

Learn more about Pitt's planning and response to COVID-19

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Diversity, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

Please visit and bookmark the University of Pittsburgh COVID-19 site for the most up-to-date information and a full list of resources. From the University Times: As the coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, Pitt is remaining diligent with addressing related issues as the pop up. For an overall look at updates from Pitt, go to emergency.pitt.edu. On Saturday, Provost Ann Cudd issued a statement about how to support faculty and staff who have committed to attending professional conferences this semester and choose not to attend due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The University will grant an exception for travel booked through May 31 and reimburse any out-of-pocket expenses incurred by those who decide to cancel travel. The administration will reassess this deadline date as COVID-19 evolves and may extend the deadline as conditions evolve. For more updates from the provost, go to provost.pitt.edu. The provost and the University Center for Teaching and Learning is encouraging faculty to be prepared if remote learning situations become required. The center has set up a page detailing the basics of providing instructional continuity. The page will be updated regularly. Find information about remote learning and more at teaching.pitt.edu/instructional-continuity. All business units and responsibilities centers also are being asked to work on how to handle mass absenteeism and/or the need for as many people as possible to work at home.

Feb

Feb
14
2020

Rumcik Scholarship Dinner Held

MEMS

A celebration dinner was recently held to honor the 2019 recipients of The Robert E. Rumcik ’68 Scholarship in Mechanical and Materials Engineering. From left, those present were; Dr. Brendan Connolly (Operations Engineer, Ellwood Quality Steels and former Rumcik Scholar), Jonah De Cortie (MSE junior, scholar recipient), Mike Morgus (President, Ellwood Quality Steels), Alexandra Beebout (MSE senior, scholar recipient), Bob Rumcik (retired President of Ellwood Quality Steels), and Dr. Brian Gleeson (MEMS Department Chair). Beebout has accepted a position at Ellwood and will begin working full-time upon graduating this spring.

Jan

Jan
30
2020

Stellar Student Researchers

Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Jan. 30, 2020) — Most researchers can take certain things, like gravity, for granted. That is not the case for the two groups of students from the University of Pittsburgh who will be sending their experiments to fly aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Thanks to a Pitt SEED Grant, two groups of students from the Swanson School of Engineering and the School of Pharmacy have the opportunity to send experiments into space to study the effects of microgravity on their subjects through Pitt’s participation in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). “This is an incredible opportunity for our students to participate in one of humankind’s most impressive ventures: spaceflight,” says David Vorp, PhD, associate dean for research, John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, and co-principle investigator of the SSEP at Pitt. “We’re impressed that our interdisciplinary student teams designed not one, but two experiments accepted to this highly selective program.” Vorp is joined as co-principle investigator by Ravi Patel, PharmD, and Kerry Empey, PharmD, PhD, from the School of Pharmacy. John Donehoo, RPh, clinical pharmacist at UPMC, joins the project as a select collaborator. The SSEP student teams are given a 10-inch silicone tube in which to perform their experiments, which they can segment with clamps to keep elements of the experiment separate until they reach the ISS. Scientists aboard the ISS can only be given simple instructions, like removing the clamps and shaking the tube, making experiment design complicated. Finding a Silver Lining One interdisciplinary group of students is studying how silver nanoparticles effect the immune response of Daphnia Magna, a species of water flea that can show an immune response. Researchers Samantha Bailey, PharmD candidate; Jordan Butko, sophomore studying mechanical engineering; Amanda Carbone, junior studying chemical engineering; and Prerna Dodeja, MS student in the School of Pharmacy, will look at genetic markers in the organism that indicate its immune response once it returns to earth. “Researchers have previously tested immune response in Daphnia Magna, but no one has looked at it with regard to nanoparticles yet,” says Carbone. “We’re excited that we get to build on the work that others have done and explore new territory.” Silver nanoparticles are also sometimes found in antibacterial products and have been associated with significant toxicity in the liver and brain. While these nanoparticles aren’t so problematic on Earth, where gravity keeps them down, they could be more harmful in microgravity, where they can be accidentally inhaled or ingested. The study will investigate the effect of these silver nanoparticles on Daphnia Magna’s immune system in microgravity, comparing it to Daphnia Magna’s response on Earth, to shed light on if and how astronauts’ immune systems function differently in space. Aerospace Aluminum Marissa Defallo, a junior studying mechanical engineering, and Nikolas Vostal, a junior studying materials science, make up the second group of student researchers. They will send a sample of 3D-printed aluminum with unique topography, combined with an oxidizer like a saltwater solution, to the ISS to study corrosion in microgravity. Aluminum is frequently used in the aerospace industry, including on the ISS, and the experiment will provide insights into how the material corrodes in space, information that could inform future corrosion-resistant materials. “At my co-op with American Airlines, we had to do corrosion training, and that evolved into the idea for this project. When satellites are in orbit, they are still in Earth’s atmosphere, and there’s oxygen present to cause corrosion,” says Defallo.  “I’ve always had a passion for space and want to work for a company like SpaceX someday, so this kind of experience is an invaluable opportunity to have.” Though the launch date is not yet officially scheduled, the SSEP teams say they may be able to send the experiments into space in June 2020.
Maggie Pavlick
Jan
16
2020

The Difference the Right Tools Can Make

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Jan. 16, 2019) —  Sometimes, in order to understand the big picture, you need to start by assessing the smallest of details. It’s a truth that engineers know well — selecting the right materials can mean the success or failure of a given application. As technology advances, researchers have assessed engineering materials at the microscopic level for applications ranging from nanomachines to semiconductors, specialized coatings to robotics. For researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, looking closely enough to engineer materials for cutting-edge applications would not have been possible without the generous $1 million gift that Thomas F. Dudash provided in 2018. Mr. Dudash, an alumnus of the University of Pittsburgh who received his bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering in 1960, never imagined that he’d have a million dollars to donate for advanced research. After a lifelong career with Allegheny Ludlum, he wanted to share his success with the next generation of materials engineers. The gift was designated for the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS), the successor to the metallurgical engineering program. The gift enabled the Department to purchase nano-manipulators, specialized sample holders that allow researchers to make in situ observations of materials behavior at the nano-scale using transmission electron microscopy. In-situ atomistic observation of a gold nano-crystal from Mao's research. Those observations have led to foundational discoveries that are crucial for materials development. Scott X. Mao, MEMS professor, uses a specially designed sample holder to study how metals elongate and deform at the atomic level. Microelectronic mechanical systems rely on components made from microscopic structures of these metals, but metals behave differently at such a reduced length scale. Understanding the mechanical behavior of nanostructured metallic materials will enable the further development of strong and reliable components for advanced nanomechanical devices. Without such holder, it’s impossible to carry out an atomic scaled mechanical and electrical experiments under the most advanced high resolution electron microscope to achieve the understanding. Electron microscopy is used to observe and test individual nanoparticles on flat surface in Jacobs' research. Tevis Jacobs, assistant professor in MEMS, was able to acquire a specialized holder, which enables research advancing the understanding of micro- and nano-surfaces and engineering more stable nanoparticles. Nanoparticles play an important role in advanced industries and technologies, from electronics and pharmaceuticals to catalysts and sensors. Because they can be as small as 10 atoms in diameter, they are susceptible to coarsening with continued use, reducing their functionality and degrading performance. Jacobs received a $500,000 National Science Foundation CAREER Award for this work that will utilize the specialized holder to directly study and measure adhesion properties of nanoparticles and their supporting substrates. Thanks to Mr. Dudash’s gift, Jacobs and his team were able to procure the only commercially-available tool that can manipulate the materials as precisely as is necessary to perform their impactful research. Polymer with embedded copper molecules. The gift also enabled Assistant Professor Markus Chmielus’s research analyzing 3D-printed denture frames. His group has used a SkyScan 1272 micro-computed tomography (microCT) scanner – purchased and maintained using gift funds - to export an accurate model of an existing denture, then used binder jet 3D-printing to reproduce the model. The scanner can analyze samples prior to 3D-printing as well to look for porosity and how that porosity changes when heat treatment is added, helping researchers develop a processing step to eliminate porosity. So far, the group has used the microCT to evaluate densities of green and sintered binder jet 3D-printed metals, including nickel-based superalloys , functional magnetic materials, and a commonly used titanium alloy, Ti-6Al-4V. Image from Roberts' paper in ATVB, "Calcification in Human Intracranial Aneurysms Is Highly Prevalent and Displays Both Atherosclerotic and Nonatherosclerotic Types." Anne Robertson, MEMS and BioE professor, and her team use the micro-CT in their NIH-supported work studying the causes for rupture of intracranial aneurysms (IAs). Robertson and her team used the specialized micro-CT equipment to analyze aneurysm tissue from patients and found that calcification is substantially more prevalent than previously thought. The micro-CT was able to identify microcalcifications as small as 3 micrometers. The team discovered differences in the types of calcification in ruptured versus unruptured aneurysms, made possible using the micro-CT system. The work was published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology (ATVB (doi:10.1161/ATVBAHA.119.312922). This improved understanding could lead to new therapeutic targets and, ultimately, improved outcomes for patients with aneurysms. Great innovations require the right tools. Thanks to Mr. Dudash’s gift, the MEMS Department has the tools to innovate, discover and create—tools that have produced an important base of knowledge that manufacturers will be building on for years to come. “It is generous gifts from donors like Mr. Dudash that enable advanced research and, ultimately, discovery,” said Brian Gleeson, Tack Chaired Professor and MEMS Department Chairman. “Moreover, the funds provided by Mr. Dudash are being used strategically to create specialized capabilities that greatly help to procure further funding from agencies and, hence, further bolster research activities.”
Maggie Pavlick
Jan
6
2020

MEMS Welcomes Two New Faculty Members

MEMS

Qihan Liu Qihan Liu Dr. Liu received his BS from the University of Science and Technology of China (Special Class for Gifted Young) in 2010 and his PhD from Harvard University in Materials Sciences and Mechanical Engineering in 2016. Since completing his PhD, Dr. Liu has worked at Harvard as a postdoctoral fellow in the Bioengineering Department studying the manufacturing of 3D nanofibrous scaffold for regenerative heart valves. Trained as a theorist during his PhD studies, Dr. Liu has developed a strong background in the mechanics and physics of soft materials, with expertise spanning elastic instability, fracture, rheology, interfacial phenomena, and multi-physics constitutive models. Paul Ohodnicki Paul Ohodnicki Dr. Ohodnicki received bachelor degrees in both Economics and Engineering Physics from the University of Pittsburgh. He earned his MS and Ph.D. degrees in Materials Science from Carnegie Mellon University in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Dr. Ohodnicki’s most recent position was Materials Scientist and Technical Portfolio Lead of the Functional Materials Team at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Pittsburgh. While at NETL, Dr. Ohodnicki received a Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (2016) and was a finalist for the Service to America Promising Innovations Medal (2017). His research experience has spanned academia, industry, and the federal government. The main focus of Dr. Ohodnicki’s research is the synthesis, characterization, and integration of functional materials down to the nano-scale, together with component-level performance improvements through advanced materials engineering strategies. He has exploited advanced processing methods for both thin film and bulk nano-structured materials and nano-composites. These methods include additive manufacturing, thin film deposition, nanofabrication, and far-from equilibrium processing such as rapid solidification in addition to anisotropic processing in the presence of applied strain and magnetic fields. His research has been particularly impactful in the areas of soft magnetic materials and sensors for harsh service environments.

Jan
6
2020

NSF Grant Awarded

MEMS

Sung-Kwon Cho Microfluidics have had a tremendous impact on biotechnology, biosensors, health care, and more.  Conventional microfluidics are based on a micro channel network for continuous flow streams. In contrast, digital microfluidics use droplets as the operational element, which serve as carriers and reaction chambers eliminating the need for confining physical structures. The current method most commonly used to drive these droplets is through electrowetting on dielectric (EWOD). However, EWOD often suffers from limitations such as high voltage requirement and biofouling, hampering many real applications. Dr. Sung Kwon Cho, mechanical engineering professor, was awarded a $310,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to seek a straightforward pathway to a new digital microfluidic platform without the limitations of EWOD. The project is entitled, “Collaborative Research: Magnetically Actuated Black Silicon Ratchet Surfaces for Digital Microfluidics," and is in collaboration with Professor Seok Kim of the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign. The proposed platform exploits a purely mechanical means to drive discrete liquid droplets in a rapid, flexible, programmable, and reconfigurable manner. The key mechanism is dynamically tuning surface morphology using magnetically-actuated anti-biofouling ratchet surfaces.  As a result, droplets are essentially driven mechanically, not electrically. This three-year collaborative research project will combine the expertise of Profs. Cho and Kim in mechanics, materials, manufacturing and microfluidics in order to achieve understanding and knowledge in the proposed system, and finally open up a new interdisciplinary research area across smart composite materials and digital microfluidics.