New GAANNs in Engineering

The U.S. Dept. of Education has funded three new three-year 2012 Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) sites within the School of Engineering. These programs will provide $1.2 million for graduate student support in the areas of sustainable energy technologies (PI: M. Choi); nano-scale materials and device behavior for energy generation and storage (PI: C.B. Carter); and computer systems security (PI: J. Chandy).  UConn’s Neag School of Education and School of Nursing also received GAANN funding this year.

Seven prior GAANN awards in UConn Engineering supported graduate students studying biomaterials for tissue regeneration, sustainable energy technologies, advanced computing targeting biomedical informatics and underwater sensor networks, advanced computer security, cloud computing, alternative and renewable energy, and environmental biotechnology. The GAANN programs at UConn provide fellowships to outstanding, financially in-need graduate students who seek doctoral degrees in disciplinary areas considered strategically important to the nation.

Commenting on the news, Interim Provost and GAANN recipient Mun Y. Choi, said, “UConn has enjoyed a long history of collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education’s efforts to improve graduate education.  The GAANN program is the premier graduate fellowship program to train students for careers in academia, industry, government and entrepreneurship.”

Dr. Choi is the principal investigator on a new site pivoting around clean energy, which will immerse GAANN Fellows in the development of new, sustainable energy technologies that hold promise as alternatives to geopolitically volatile, carbon-emitting fossil fuels. Fuel cells, wind and solar power, gasification, carbon sequestration and distributed power are among the technologies under exploration that GAANN Fellows may help to advance at UConn. A facet of the research plan involves training the Fellows in entrepreneurship and commercialization to help them translate laboratory discoveries into marketplace solutions in clean energy. Dr. Choi’s collaborators include Drs. Baki Cetegen, Peter Luh, Radenka Maric and Prabhakar Singh.

The second GAANN site was awarded to Dr. John Chandy and will support doctoral students interested in developing advanced computer systems security methodologies. This research focus builds upon, and extends, a previous successful GAANN program for which Dr. Chandy was also the lead.  Dr. Chandy explains that security is an increasingly urgent concern as computer-driven devices become ever-more pervasive in our daily lives. The brains behind desktop computers, cell phones, laptops, e-readers – even automobiles, power plants, financial and communications systems, and navigation devices – are high-tech computers and microcontrollers. Their pervasive integration into all facets of daily life render computer systems vulnerable to individuals who wish to disrupt and corrupt the systems for financial, political or other reasons. Dr. Chandy and his collaborators (Drs. Bahram Javidi, Aggelos Kiayias, Jerry Shi, Alexander Shvartsman, Mohammad Tehranipoor, Bing Wang and Lei Wang), seek to develop the next generation of agile, savvy computer security experts who can help the nation protect its vital systems. 

A third new sustainable energy site focuses on nanostructures and devices for energy production and storage and is headed by principal investigator Dr. C. Barry Carter, with collaborators Drs. Radenka Maric and Chris Cornelius. Dr. Carter explains that devices such as MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) and NEMS (nanoelectromechanical systems) based motors and miniaturized batteries are examples of the types of energy systems the researchers will target; they are used in miniaturized fuel cells, personal solar power, and batteries for small devices such as those used in medical implants or where larger devices depend on nanoscale structures (as is necessary to satisfy energy density needs). He remarks that another aim is to advance the understanding that, in a sustainable environment, new batteries require new materials and these must be designed, manufactured and then tested.

Please visit our GAANN website for additional details and to apply.

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