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FIG Awards 2011

PI and CO

PI Department

Title

Berger, B. (Asst. Prof.)
McIntosh, S.(Asst. Prof.)

Chemical/Bio-engineering
Chemical Engineering

Biosynthesis of mixed inorganic nanoparticles from S. maltophilia: An environmentally benign route to nanostructured materials for energy applications

Curtis, F. (Asst. Prof.)

Industrial Systems Engineering

Infeasibility detection in Optimization Algorithms

Dierolf, V. (Prof.)

Physics

Strain-Mediated Ferromagnetism in doped Semiconductors: Pathway for Optimization and Control of Semiconducting

Ferguson, G. (Assoc. Prof.)

Chemistry

Nanoparticles within Nanoparticles: Strategies for the Synthesis of Metal Cores Surrounded by Oxide Shells

Jagota A. (Prof.)

Chemical/Bio-engineering

Biomolecule-Functionalized Carbon-Based Nanomaterials as Sensors and Imaging Agents

Jedlicka, S. (Asst. Prof.)

Materials Science & Engineering

Tracking live neuronal cell dynamics on multifunctional materials: Towards an artificial synapse.

Liu, T. (Assoc. Prof.)

Chemistry

From Self-Recognition to Chiral Competition – Using Inorganic Macroions to Understand Fundamental Behaviors of Biomacromolecules

Manz, P. (Assoc. Prof.)
Nicolopolou, A. (Prof.)

Education & Human Services
Psychology

Developing Evidence-Based Interventions for Home Visiting Programs: An Examination of the Facilitators and Barriers to Implementing Dialogic Reading with Low-Income, Latino Families and their Children

Munson, Z. (Assoc. Prof.)

Sociology

The Organizational Dynamics of Political Violence

Schienberg, K. (Assoc.Prof.)
Chen, B. (Assist. Prof.)

Industrial & Systems Engineering
Computer Science & Engineering

Atom Independent Alignment for the Volumetric Comparison of Protein Binding Pockets by Optimization

Skibbens, R. (Associate Professor)

Biological Sciences

Developing a vertebrate model system for studying and treating SC Phocomelia/Roberts Syndrome and Cornelia de Lange Syndrome

Suleiman, M. (Assistant Professor)
Camp, A. (Assistant Professor)

Civil & Environmental Engineering
Biological Sciences

Biological Treatment of Soils to Improve Response of Infrastructure

Berger, B. (Assistant Professor), Chemical/Bio-engineering;
McIntosh, S. (Assistant Professor), Chemical Engineering
Biosynthesis of mixed inorganic nanoparticles from S. maltophilia: An environmentally benign route to nanostructured materials for energy applications

Lehigh FIG will enable the development of novel, biological approaches for fabrication of mixed metal nanostructured semiconductors, with particular emphasis on photocatalysts for hydrogen production from water splitting. These catalysts would generate a clean burning fuel from an abundant natural resource using only sunlight as an energy source. While semiconductors with the correct band gap have been shown to be active for this reaction, a significant challenge is having precise control over the semiconductor composition and nanostructure using environmentally-friendly synthesis methods. The bacteria Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is able to reduce metal salts to elemental metals or metal sulfides nanoparticles, nanowires, and nanomeshes. In particular they can fabricate these structures from cadmium and selenium – two materials with potential as photocatalysts. We aim to understand the metabolic pathways that enable these bacteria to fabricate the nanostructures and utilize this knowledge to expand our material palette as well as gain precise control over the resultant composition and structure. Ultimate, we anticipate our work will create an environmentally benign process to fabricate photocatalysts for renewable fuel production from water and sunlight.

Curtis, F. (Assistant Professor), Industrial Systems Engineering
Infeasibility detection in Optimization Algorithms

Optimization is one of the most important areas of engineering and applied mathematics. Indeed, it is quite unique that optimization problems arise in such a broad range of applications including structural design, telecommunications, image reconstruction, weather forecasting, supply chain management, and chemical process engineering. The theoretical foundations behind optimization problems and the techniques that have been developed for solving them have become integral in the analysis and design of complex systems. Moreover, due to recent advances in high performance computing capabilities, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of application areas in which computational optimization software has been employed successfully. There are, however, significant obstacles to overcome before optimization methods and software will be practical tools for the typical scientist or engineer. The reason for this, in short, is that due to the complexity inherent in real-world applications, most problems fail to satisfy the (strong) assumptions that must hold for contemporary software to run successfully. The goals of this project are to raise awareness about this issue and provide solutions in the form of novel optimization methods and software. Specifically, we plan to focus on a particular class of problems on which the deficiencies of contemporary methods are readily apparent. This investigation should be seen as the rest of many steps necessary toward the larger goal of providing efficient numerical methods for solving challenging optimization problems in various scientific and engineering fields.

Dierolf, V. (Professor), Physics
Strain-Mediated Ferromagnetism in doped Semiconductors: Pathway for Optimization and Control of Semiconducting

Today’s electronic devices, such as laptops and mobile phones, use the charge of electrons to communicate and process information while the direction of little magnets is at the heart of storage. This approach is quickly approaching its limits in terms of size and power consumption. The emerging field of “spintronics” aims at breaking the barrier by combining the communication, process, and storage functions into a single hybrid device. For this approach, the quantum-mechanical properties of electrons, which include both charge and spin (i.e. elementary mini magnet), are exploited and coherently manipulated. For the realization, magnetic semiconductors are needed. One approach to fill this need is to add dilute amounts of magnetic ions such as rare earth (RE) ions to regular nonmagnetic semiconducting materials. These ions convert the material into astonishingly strong magnets even at room temperature. However, published data of the effect are confusing, contradictory, and often counterintuitive. This has held back progress in understanding and further optimizing of this very promising material system. Recent results by the PI point towards a “hidden” parameter that governs the effect: Internal electric fields that are created by strain. This important finding marks an important breakthrough but requires further proof of principle. To provide this proof, the PI will exploit his capabilities of determining local electric and magnetic fields with optical spectroscopy using the same ions which are inducing the magnetism. Through this unique approach, a direct link between strain–induced electric fields and RE--ion-induced magnetization can be obtained.

Ferguson, G. (Associate Professor), Chemistry
Nanoparticles within Nanoparticles: Strategies for the Synthesis of Metal Cores Surrounded by Oxide Shells

The field of nanoscale materials has grown from an initial focus on “quantum-size” effects of single substances having one or more dimensions on the 1-100-nm scale of length to include structures of greater complexity that contain more than one substance. A subset of these materials —core-shell nanoparticles— has emerged as a particularly fertile area for new research, with potential applications ranging from solar energy conversion to heterogeneous catalysis. As the name suggests, these materials comprise a central core surrounded by a shell of a second composition. Metal nanoparticles have most commonly been used as cores, and metal oxides have most often been used as the outer shells. Furthermore, the diameter of the core may either match the inner diameter of the shell (conformal core-shell nanoparticles) or be smaller than it (“yolk-shell” nanoparticles or “nanorattles”). Our research focuses on the rational design of synthetic routes to metal nanoparticles using coordination chemistry. This approach aims to use the wealth of chemical reactivity provided by inorganic chemistry to devise discrete, modular steps that can be applied to these new targets in materials chemistry. The use of mechanistically well-understood reactions offers opportunities for a level of control of structure that is not, in general, provided by other methods. These synthetic steps will then be coupled with sol-gel methods to produce oxide coatings and complete the core-shell structures.

Jagota, A. (Professor), Chemical/Bio-engineering
Biomolecule-Functionalized Carbon-Based Nanomaterials as Sensors and Imaging Agents

Carbon-based nanomaterials (CBN), including single wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and graphene, have remarkable properties including their ability to be functionalized by biomolecules to create Biomolecule-Functionalized Carbon-Based Nanomaterials (BFCBN), robustly sensitive optical and electrical properties, and low intrinsic toxicity when prepared and handled properly. Because of these properties, BFCBN are candidate materials for biomedical imaging and sensing, and for targeted delivery of therapeutic agents. Despite the promise of their use in biomedical applications deriving from these properties, only a little of their potential has been exploited, so far. This is primarily due to difficult technical challenges such as (a) preparation of pure and well-characterized nanomaterials, and (b) development of techniques for their use in sensing and imaging for biomedical applications. In collaboration with M. Zheng’s group at NIST, we have developed unique ability to prepare pure and well-characterized biomolecule-functionalized SWNT hybrids. We have begun working with a leading nanomedicine researcher at Mayo Clinic, D. Mukhopadhyay, to study the interaction of our materials with cells, for potential use in imaging and sensing. This FIG grant will be used to explore the application in sensing and imaging of our expertise in the preparation, characterization, and understanding of BFCBN. We expect it to generate sufficient preliminary data to allow us to pursue longer-term funding by the NSF and/or the NIH.

Jedlicka, S. (Assistant Professor), Materials Science & Engineering
Tracking live neuronal cell dynamics on multifunctional materials: Towards an artificial synapse.

The development of neuronal cell-hybrid devices is an ongoing challenge in neuroengineering, a longstanding grand challenge in Health. One challenging research area is the functional coupling between neurons and artificial materials. Many materials have been examined for use in this functional coupling (known as the ‘brain-machine interface’), ranging from polymers to carbon nanotubes. However, the materials that have been explored typically only serve to allow for neuronal outgrowth. While neuronal outgrowth is critical, multi-functional materials can be developed to improve our analytical characterization of these hybrids. The research goal is to develop a bio-hybrid system that allows for live cell tracking on ceramic membranes designed to capture and concentrate specific classifications of neurotransmitters. Generally, the neurotransmitters of interest are small molecules that are secreted in low quantities, requiring significant post-processing to quantify neurotransmitter release capacity. A device such as the one proposed would improve the capabilities of current biosensors by concentrating the neurotransmitter molecules. Specifically, the surfaces of anodic alumina membranes will be optimized (both structurally and biochemically) to support neuronal differentiation from neural stem cells, while the pore channels of these membranes will be modified to selectively extract neurotransmitter molecules and localize them in a confined area. If successful, this device could serve as an artificial chemical synapse interface that could be translated for use in microfluidic devices, neuronal network modeling, and biosensing applications; seeding multiple new collaborations in biohybrid research.

Liu, T. (Associate Professor), Chemistry
From Self-Recognition to Chiral Competition – Using Inorganic Macroions to Understand Fundamental Behaviors of Biomacromolecules

This proposal aims to explore the possibility of using structurally well-defined inorganic molecular macroions as model systems to understand some fundamental, important behaviors of biological macromolecules, such as their self-recognition, self-assembly and chiral competition behaviors. This research direction is accidentally developed by my group very recently, when we noticed that when two types of very similar giant inorganic molecular macroions self-assemble into blackberry-type structures in their mixed dilute solutions, they could self-recognize with each other by forming two types of homogeneous blackberry-types structures instead of mixed ones. This unexpected recognition demonstrates the level of “intelligence” at the level of biomacromolecules and might provide a fundamental physicochemical explanation on various bio-recognition behaviors. We are eager to further explore this extremely important new field. In particular, we will explore the mysterious chiral selection and competition in biomacromolecules by considering the following questions: (1) Can we achieve self-recognition in the mixed dilute solution of two enantiomers? (2) Can we achieve biological-like chiral selection and competition in inorganic macroionic solutions? (3) What are the fundamental reasons for the self-recognition and the consequent chiral selection? What is the role of solvent in this process? (4) Is this chiral competition phenomenon universal? The results might help to understand the evolution and development of biological macromolecules in early stage. This project aims for external funding from the NIH after the proposed preliminary studies.

Manz, P. (Associate Professor), Education & Human Services;
Nicolopolou, A. (Professor), Psychology
Developing Evidence-Based Interventions for Home Visiting Programs: An Examination of the Facilitators and Barriers to Implementing Dialogic Reading with Low-Income, Latino Families and their Children

As demonstrated by the recent passing of Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), Lehigh’s grand challenge regarding health aligns with current national priorities. This FIG proposal emanates from this shared grand challenge to expand and enrich health promotion services for low-income, Latino children, who are the fastest growing minority group in the US and yet remain largely underserved. The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes children’s early language and literacy development as a pivotal component of healthy development. Sadly, socioeconomic risks threaten the acquisition of these fundamental skills for a large portion of Latino children, significantly increasing the likelihood of health, developmental, and behavioral problems. In contrast to the great need for language and literacy interventions, these children have been grossly neglected in this line of research. The primary aim of this project is to critically examine the application of Dialogic Reading, a widely-used intervention which is associated with impressive outcomes for Caucasian children from middle-to-upper income households, to low-income, Latino children. This project will specifically examine families’ use of the Dialogic Reading strategies and the consistency with which they read to their children. Findings from this study will indicate the promise and limitations of Dialogic Reading for this important population. This FIG project is the starting point for a line of research that aims to develop evidence-based interventions for integration into home visiting programs, which are highly recognized as beneficial means for providing services to underserved families. In fact, the advancement of home visiting effectiveness is a stated priority in ACA.

Munson, Z. (Associate Professor), Sociology
The Organizational Dynamics of Political Violence

Despite intense scrutiny, our understandings of when and how insurgent and social movement groups will adopt terrorist strategies remains undeveloped. Extant studies have focused disproportionate attention on individual-level data, yielding results limited by the fact that most terrorist attacks are carried out as part of larger organizational campaigns, not by lone individuals. Other studies have identified some of the key social-structural conditions that encourage and discourage terrorism, but such work concentrates on case studies with limited generalizable results. In order to address these limitations, the present study will create a new database of detailed information on the fifty most active organizations engaged in terrorist attacks over the last fifteen years. Data will be drawn from tens of thousands of pages of material located in hundreds of sources, including government and NGO reports, media accounts, and academic work by area specialists. Data will be human coded by students using a unique protocol developed specifically for this project and calibrated to key issues in several different scholarly literatures including organizational behavior, social movement studies, social network analysis, and belief formation. The result will be a unique and powerful tool for addressing organizational-level questions about the causes and dynamics of terrorism. Immediate research questions for the project center on the structure and composition of leadership teams that adopt terrorist strategies, and the relationship between radicalized organizational ideologies and public opinion. The innovative database developed in the study will be ideally suited to address these topics, and many others as the study expands.

Schienberg, K. (Associate Professor), Industrial & Systems Engineering;
Chen, B. (Assistant Professor), Computer Science & Engineering
Atom Independent Alignment for the Volumetric Comparison of Protein Binding Pockets by Optimization

The long term goal of this project is to develop a general and efficient computational tool for geometrically aligning functional elements on protein surfaces. Such a tool could enable structure based comparisons to reveal new mechanisms that drive differences in protein binding specificity, a topic of pervasive interest throughout the fields of molecular biology and pharmaceutical drug development. The project plan partners the computational biology expertise of Dr. Chen, who developed VASP, a first-of-its-kind tool for the volumetric analysis of the surfaces of proteins, with the mathematical optimization expertise of Dr. Scheinberg, who has developed state-of-the-art derivative free optimization methods for black-box optimization problems. By integrating VASP with a derivative free optimization algorithm, we will develop a tool that can search the space of protein alignments without depending on the simplifying assumptions and heuristics of existing methods. A further advantage of our approach is the potential to seamlessly integrate additional biophysical information, such as electrostatics or hydrophobicity, without fundamental changes to the search itself. Our initial testing has begun on carefully developed test sets based on families of well studied proteins, to ensure the value and verifiability of our results. Initial test results have revealed promising alignments, but several algorithmic developments are necessary to obtain consistent convergence to the optimal alignment. Within the scope of the FIG project, we plan to demonstrate the viability of our approach on the chosen test data, establishing a “proof-of-concept” to support an application for funding a long term research project.

Skibbens, R. (Associate Professor), Biological Sciences
Developing a vertebrate model system for studying and treating SC Phocomelia/Roberts Syndrome and Cornelia de Lange Syndrome

The goal of cell division is to generate two identical daughter cells. To achieve this, each parent cell replicates its chromosomes and then segregates the copies into the newly forming daughter cells. Over the last decade, my lab capitalized on the many attributes of budding yeast to identify and characterize the genes by which cells ensure proper chromosome segregation. Mutations in these genes lead to cells with inappropriate chromosome numbers – a hallmark of cancer cells. Clinical epidemiologists recently discovered that mutations in these same genes are at the root of severe developmental defects in humans such as Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS) and Roberts Syndrome/SC-Phocomelia (RBS). Individuals afflicted by either CdLS or RBS develop akin to thalidomide babies of the 1950s. My lab is strongly positioned to dissect at the molecular level the underlying mechanisms through which RBS and CdLS arise. The issue, however, is that single celled yeast don’t ‘develop’. Thus, the goal of this Faculty Innovation Grant is to support a new research program in which we will recapitulate RBS and CdLS in a genetically tractable vertebrate model organism. Zebrafish is a superb choice: they produce 20-50 eggs in a single laying, exhibit rapid embryonic growth/development and remain optically clear - allowing for analyses of organ and skeletal systems. We will use established protocols that reduce targeted gene expression to 1) recapitulate CdLS and RBS in zebrafish, 2) characterize the underlying mechanisms of these growth defects and ultimately, 3) test growth factor combinations that may relieve these abnormalities.

Suleiman, M. (Assistant Professor), Civil & Environmental Engineering ;
Camp, A. (Assistant Professor), Biological Sciences
Biological Treatment of Soils to Improve Response of Infrastructure

To support civil infrastructures, engineers are commonly faced with loose and saturated soil site conditions. Ground treatment methods have been developed to improve the response of infrastructure constructed on such soils. However, many of these methods use hazardous materials that are now banned in some countries. The long-term goal of the proposed project is to develop a practical biological soil treatment method that improves soil properties and response of infrastructure when subjected to static and dynamic loading. The use of biological processes to improve soil properties is a technical area with significant prospects as identified by the National Academy of Sciences. Although soil biological treatment has been recently studied, the focus was on microbial induced carbonate precipitation process, which results in degradation of soil strength at small strains, thus limiting their use in several applications (e.g., earthquake loading). This research will investigate the use of other biological processes to improve soil properties. For example, no studies have demonstrated that bacterial biofilm-associated extracellular polysaccharide (EPS) formation improves engineering soil properties. Moreover, the use of a mixture of bacteria, or the possibility of engineering the bacteria to more efficiently improve soil properties, remain unexplored. Finally, a significant limitation of current soil bio-treatment methods is the lack of delivery methods for field application. As such, our long-term plan will address these limitations. This FIG proposal presents the first phase of our research plan to develop laboratory soil treatment procedures using different types of bacteria, and to identify bacteria that provide desirable soil improvement.

 

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