Two COES Faculty Members Win National Science Foundation Grants

College of Engineering and Science faculty members Anand Balu Nellippallil and Pavithra Pathirathna have each been awarded two-year, $200,000 grants under the National Science Foundation’s highly competitive Engineering Research Initiation program.

These awards, selected by the NSF Directorate for Engineering, are designed to help build engineering research capacity across the nation by investing in and supporting new academic investigators “as they initiate their research programs and advance in their careers as researchers, educators and innovators,” according to the agency.

Nellippallil is a mechanical engineering assistant professor and principal investigator at The Systems Realization Laboratory at Florida Tech. His winning ERI project is “Multilevel Inverse Robust Co-Design of Materials, Products, and Manufacturing Processes.”

The NSF funding will support Nellippallil in investigating new ways to co-consider manufacturing processes in the early stages of materials and product design. By doing this, designers can make effective decisions to customize material microstructures and achieve desired product performance as envisioned by Integrated Computational Materials Engineering.

The project will seek to promote the progress of science by strategically integrating knowledge and techniques from the fields of systems engineering, engineering design and materials science to enable a fundamental understanding of the couplings between products, materials and manufacturing processes. 

It will also support graduate students and enhance the graduate student program at Florida Tech. Nellippallil has open Ph.D. student positions in his lab.

Pathirathna is a chemistry assistant professor. Her winning ERI project is “Ultrafast, Robust, Novel Four-bore Carbon-fiber Microelectrodes for Simultaneous Electrochemical Sensing of Multiple Neurotransmitters and Toxic Metals.”

Much of Pathirathna’s research focuses on the development of “smart, portable, fast, simple and inexpensive” sensors, and her ERI project will seek to further the development of an electrochemical sensing system that can detect heavy metals in the brain and better understand their role in neurological disorders.

She will do that by developing “a novel, robust electrochemical sensor that can perform ultra-fast, simultaneous measurements of heavy metals and multiple neurotransmitters,” according to her abstract. The sensor will be fabricated using carbon fiber microelectrodes, and the data acquisition and analysis will be performed using fast scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV).

There are just five active ERI projects underway in Florida, and two are at Florida Tech.

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