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Six Assistant Professors Win NSF Early Career Awards

Researchers studying cutting-edge methods of carbon removal and storage, new additive manufacturing techniques, and technologies that support the regulation of positive emotions are among six Cornell faculty members who recently received awards from Early Career Development from the National Science Foundation.

Over the next five years, each will receive approximately $400,000 to $600,000 from the program, which supports early-career faculty “who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and advance the mission of their department or organization. “, according to the NSF. Each funded project must include an educational component.

The recipients :

  • Greeshma Gadikota, Assistant Professor and Croll Sesquicentennial Fellow in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will use her award to further her research into large-scale carbon removal and storage, critical to limiting the harmful environmental impacts of climate change. His project will study the crystallization mechanisms of calcium and magnesium carbonates in fluids confined within structured siliceous nanochannels, with sizes from 2 to 20 nanometers. The mechanisms of carbonate crystallization in confined fluids will be studied in less reactive silica interfaces and more reactive calcium and magnesium silicate surfaces. The educational component will target underrepresented K-12 students in science education and communication through illustrated workbooks, mentorship videos, and hands-on experiential modules.
  • Mostafa Hassani, an assistant professor at the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, will use her award to advance the field of additive manufacturing (AM), which is used in the manufacture of high-value metal components but is sometimes limited by temperatures of processes (often beyond the melting point of the component materials) and the associated large thermal gradients and rapid cooling rates. This project will deepen the understanding of AM of non-melting metals, such as cold spray technology, in which tiny powder particles are accelerated to supersonic speed to collide, bond and accumulate materials under underlyings upon impact. The research aims to strengthen national defense and other industries by enabling sustainable and agile manufacturing and repair at the point of need. The team will engage educators and underrepresented K-12 students and educators through hands-on activities with a designed additive manufacturing toolkit.
  • Volodymyr Kuleshov, an assistant professor at Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech and in computer science at Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science, will use her award to try to improve genome sequencing through new artificial intelligence techniques and machine learning. The cost of genome sequencing has fallen dramatically over the past two decades, enabling the creation of datasets comprising millions of plant, animal and human genomes, but current methods of analyzing genetic data often struggle with the size and complexity of these datasets. This project aims to develop new mathematical models of genomic sequences that will serve as the basis for algorithms for analyzing genetic data, including for tasks such as analyzing human ancestry and understanding the effect of genetics. on the disease.
  • Yifan Peng, an assistant professor of population health sciences at Weill Cornell Medicine, will use his funding to improve the way clinical reports are generated through new computational and data science techniques. The Peng team’s approach will leverage the wealth of electronic health record (EHR) information to deeply understand the role of natural language, image analysis and deep learning in generating reports, with the goal of improving both workflow efficiency and healthcare outcomes. The new reporting system will improve communication between radiologists and referring physicians, especially in large and heterogeneous EHR databases. The project will closely integrate research with education by launching a postgraduate course on natural language processing and health and by supporting several capstone and honors projects.
  • Emma Pierson, an assistant professor of computer science at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute of Cornell Tech and the Technion, will use her award to help reduce bias in health care through more equitable decision-making. Huge health inequalities have led high-income Americans to live up to a decade longer, on average, than those in the lowest income levels, and biased medical decision-making contributes to this inequality by matter of health. This research will make medical decision-making fairer by statistically analyzing decisions made by both humans and algorithms, identifying sources of bias and proposing solutions, making healthcare both fairer and more effective by allocating medical resources where they will do the most good. The project will also create a publicly available class on how to design fair algorithms.
  • Jay Youn, assistant professor of human-centered design in the College of Human Ecology, will use her award to advance human-centered design research by integrating positive emotion regulation theory into the design of future technologies, and discover new understandings of the relationships between technologies, activities, positive emotions and well-being. The use of technologies such as smartphones can lead to pleasant moments, but they do not inherently lead to improved well-being and can go from exciting to mundane. This project will investigate the design of technologies to support positive emotion regulation in young adults, a population whose mental health may be affected by limited emotion regulation skills and difficulty accessing traditional health interventions. The project will also promote STEM education for underserved students through new community engagement programs.