Four assistant professors win early-career awards

Cornell assistant professors researching artificial intelligence, sustainable energy and digitization in manufacturing have recently received National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Awards.

Over the next five years, the three researchers each will receive approximately $400,000 to $500,000 from the program, which supports 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,” according to the NSF website.

The researchers are:

Fatma Baytar, Ph.D. ’11, from the Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, in the College of Human Ecology;
Austin Benson, from the Department of Computer Science in the Cornell Bowers College of Computing and Information Science; and
Philip Milner, from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S).
Additionally, Andrew Musser, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology (A&S), has received a five-year early-career research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Science to further his study of the interaction of light and matter in organic materials.

Baytar will use her NSF award to accelerate digitization in manufacturing by creating a novel computational tool to facilitate rapid decision-making when using 2D or 3D digital technologies for product development. The award will also fund the design of effective training modules for the current and future workforce to strengthen their core knowledge and growth. The educational component includes organizing workshops for educators, designing curricular materials, mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, and outreach to 4-H and K-12 students.

Benson will use his award to further develop his research on higher-order network analysis, which develops new algorithms for analyzing, mining and learning from data arising from interconnected systems, such as social, information, financial and biological networks. The ability to understand, design, control and make predictions about networked systems is crucial to improving physical infrastructure, the national defense and the health of the economy. The award will also fund a research-based, interactive summer workshop for college students designed to broaden participation in computing-related postgraduate education.

Milner’s funding will further his research into chemical separations – breaking down a mixture of compounds into its individual components, which is critical to the industrial production of commodities such as plastics. Instead of traditional separation based on differences in the physical properties of chemicals, Milner will develop sponge-like materials capable of separating chemicals based on their differing reactivities. The project will be interdisciplinary – involving aspects of chemistry, chemical engineering and materials science – and will have an educational outreach component, particularly to underserved students in rural communities.

Musser will use his DOE award – $150,000 per year for five years – to explore the ability to control the properties of organic semiconductor materials entirely non-synthetically, using confined light. By sandwiching molecular materials in extremely thin layers between mirrors, Musser’s lab can create exotic new states that mix light and matter properties. Using a library of ultrafast laser techniques, the researchers aim to understand the fundamental properties of these structures, how they can be harnessed in new optoelectronic devices and how they can be controlled.

 

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