McKelvey Engineering faculty receive LEAP awards<img alt="" src="/news/PublishingImages/Shantanu%20Genin%20Yang%20Zhou%20.jpg?RenditionID=1" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><div id="__publishingReusableFragmentIdSection"><a href="/ReusableContent/36_.000">a</a></div><p>Four McKelvey School of Engineering faculty members received awards from the Skandalaris Center's Leadership and Entrepreneurial Acceleration Program (LEAP).</p><p>The LEAP Awards support Washington University faculty developing a product or innovation and provide industry connections and gap funding to stimulate Washington University technology commercialization, illuminate investment risk and rapidly accelerate development of validated projects.  </p><p>Out of 25 teams that entered, <a href="">10 received awards</a> supported by funding from the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences, Siteman Cancer Center, Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship, McKelvey School of Engineering, and Center for Drug Discovery.<br/></p><p>The McKelvey Engineering faculty who received awards are:</p><ul><li>Shantanu Chakrabartty, professor of electrical & systems engineering, with Joe Beggs, an undergraduate student; Yarub Alazzawi, a doctoral student; and Kenji Aono, a postdoctoral research associate, for a project titled "SelfCap, self-capacitance based wireless powering technology that improves the aesthetic value and user compliance of wearables and semi-invasive biosensors by reducing its form-factor and battery requirements.<br/></li><li>Guy Genin, professor of mechanical engineering & materials science, with John M. Felder, assistant professor of surgery at the School of Medicine, for a project titled "Barbed Mesh for Sutureless Tissue Fixation, a mesh that can be used for fixating tissues, such as abdominal fascia, and skin, that eliminates the need for traditional suturing and saves OR time."<br/></li><li>Lan Yang, professor of electrical & systems engineering, with Jie Liao, a doctoral student; and Abraham J. Qavi, a postdoctoral research associate, for a project titled "Seeing Sound: Redefining Hear Aids Through Light, optical sensors that will drastically improve the performance of hearing aids.<br/></li><li>Chao Zhou, associate professor of biomedical engineering, with Rajendra Apte, MD, PhD, the Paul A. Cibis Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the School of Medicine, and Jason Jerwick, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering, for a project titled "Ultrahigh speed optical coherence tomography, a novel, patented technology that offers over 10x speed improvement in eye scans while being compatible/ retrofit-able with tens of thousands of OCT devices in the market."</li></ul><SPAN ID="__publishingReusableFragment"></SPAN><br/>(Clockwise) Shantanu Chakrabartty, Guy Genin, Lan Yang, Chao Zhou2020-03-12T05:00:00ZFour faculty members in the McKelvey School of Engineering recently received awards to prepare their products for commercialization.’s-CAREER-Award-could-reshape-how-to-build-computers-for-data-intensive-era.aspx1270Zhang’s CAREER Award could reshape how to build computers for data-intensive era<img alt="" src="/Profiles/PublishingImages/Zhang_Silvia_5631.jpg?RenditionID=2" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><div id="__publishingReusableFragmentIdSection"><a href="/ReusableContent/36_.000">a</a></div><p>​</p><p>The human brain is a remarkable inspiration for computer science and artificial intelligence. A systems architect in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis seeks to make information processing in future computing systems and mobile devices more efficient — both in speed and energy — by modeling it after the brain's neural network.</p><p> </p><p>Xuan "Silvia" Zhang, assistant professor of electrical & systems engineering, plans to improve computer performance while saving energy with a five-year, $500,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. The awards support junior faculty who model the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organization. One-third of current McKelvey Engineering faculty have received the award.</p><p> </p><p>Computers take in analog signals, or waves, and convert them to digital signals, the binary numbers made up of zeros and ones.</p><p> </p><p>"A lot of the signals the computer gets from sensors are analog in nature, so to perform digital computation, you have to do this conversion step," she said. "It wastes a lot of energy and also results in a huge number of sometimes redundant digital bits. As it turns out, saving and moving these digital bits around when they become very large is the most inefficient thing in the computer."</p><p> </p><p>Zhang, who studies computer architecture and integrated circuit design and automation, seeks to apply mathematical formulation from the brain's neural network to the design of computer chips using a technique called neural approximation.</p><p> </p><p>"We try to approximate the function using hardware that can function as a neuron, and by doing that, it opens up a very promising direction," Zhang said. "I plan to apply this neural approximation to save the unnecessary conversion step and to keep from moving the digital bits as much. By doing this, you can make the computer consume less power and run faster."</p><p> </p><p>This method has several potential applications, Zhang said. In computers, memory is stored in a separate place from where it is processed. Inspired by the brain, Zhang plans to co-locate the memory and its processing location on the computer chip, an emerging research area known as in-memory computing.</p><p> </p><p>"When you read from memory, it's an analog signal, then you compute based on that signal," she said. "I can apply my method to this because my method doesn't require everything to be converted to digital.</p><p>"I envision that in-memory computing can address a lot of today's important applications, like big-data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, because all of these algorithms are data-intensive computational tasks, which means that you move these data in the memory around, and that costs the most in efficiency."</p><p> </p><p>In addition, the framework could help with near-sensor processing, such as the types of sensors used in self-driving cars that generate a lot of data every second.</p><p> </p><p>"It is challenging to build efficient and high-performance information processing for this type of application because there is so much data generated from these sensors," Zhang said. "My idea is to bring the processing capability closer to the sensor to perform the computation near the sensor. And this naturally fits within the framework I'm proposing because the sensor generates an analog signal and doesn't have to be converted to digital bits."</p><p> </p><p>Zhang also plans to build an automated approach to design computers using this novel neural-network-inspired information processing approach.</p><p> </p><p>"If this method works, then it can really change and reshape the landscape of the industry because it's an approach that allows you to co-design the hardware and software," Zhang said.</p><p> </p><p>As part of the work, Zhang plans to integrate this framework into the curriculum for the courses she teaches as well as in her lab, where they build simulation and experimental platforms for miniature autonomous robotic cars. She also plans to develop an educational kit for K-12 teachers.</p><SPAN ID="__publishingReusableFragment"></SPAN><p> </p><p><br/></p>Beth Miller 2020-03-09T05:00:00ZXuan "Silvia" Zhang will use the brain's neural network as a model to design more efficient computer chips with a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. the media: Changing the World Through Science, Lan Yang is an Inspiration for Women at Washington University<img alt="" src="/Profiles/PublishingImages/Yang_Lan.jpg?RenditionID=1" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>​Lan Yang, PhD, is a leader among women at Washington University in St. Louis. The Edwin H. and Florence G. Skinner Professor at the McKelvey School of Engineering holds the most patents and disclosures of any female faculty member.</p><p>Yang’s innovative spirit first took root in China, long before her inventions. Growing up in the Hunan province of China in the 1990’s, Yang said most girls didn’t go to high school. Instead, they attended professional schools that may guarantee them a nice job. At age 14, Yang was scheduled to attend a professional school, as it was her mom’s sincere wish.  But Yang said she wanted more.</p><p>“I wanted something that can change the world and do things that can really make the world a different one because of me,” said Yang.</p><p>Needing her parents’ permission to attend high school, Yang took a stand by going on a hunger strike until they agreed with her. Luckily for Yang, her parents agreed    later that same day.</p><p>“My parents were scared,” she said. “They wanted to find a safe choice for me.”</p><p>Yang said she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do with her life, but she knew science was becoming a growing interest and she wanted to go to high school in order to fulfill her goal of attending the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC).</p><p>Yang succeeded! While attending USTC, she studied with the instructors who inspired her passion for science as a middle school student.</p><p>Yang pursued her PhD at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Wanting to learn something she didn’t know before, Yang chose to study photonics for fiber-optic communications and medical applications, such as laser surgery. Yang said the varied applications aligned with her goals to impact people’s lives and make a difference in the world.</p><p>Her work at Caltech led to a successful career at Washington University in St. Louis. Yang holds seven patents, the most patents of female faculty members. Yang said she has dozens more patents pending with over 100 published papers.</p><p> <a href=""> <img class="alignleft size-full wp-image-42481" src="" alt="" style="box-sizing: border-box; border-width: 0px; vertical-align: middle; display: block; float: left; margin: 5px; width: 585px; outline-width: 0px !important;"/></a> <br/></p><p> <br/> </p><p> <br/> </p><p> <br/> </p><p> <br/> </p><p> <br/> </p><p> <br/> </p><p> <br/> </p><p> <br/> </p><p><br/> <span style="font-size: 12px; vertical-align: sub;">Yang’s recent success involves fundamental understanding of light-matter interactions and optical technologies. She devised an optical resonator system that could trap light in a st</span><span style="font-size: 12px; vertical-align: sub;">ructure smaller than a human hair to study light-matter interactions. It could manipulate a process called electronically induced transparency (EIT), allowing for a level of control that can be used for the advancement of long distance optical communications. This is when light is used to carry information.</span><br/></p><p>She spent many years developing “whispering-gallery mode” resonators, the basis of Yang’s sensors.</p><p>“Whispering-gallery mode refers to light propagating along a curve surface in a manner similar to a phenomenon found in the gallery spaces of St. Paul’s Cathedral dome in London, where a single whisper, such as a sound wave, can be heard along the circular boundary of the architecture,” described Yang.</p><p>But instead of clearly heard sound that follows the curved path of a church dome, the sensors rely on light bouncing around the resonator. Yang’s research shows light propagating along the curved surface of a microtoroid and a microsphere.  The light is circling an object to be sensed- a blood cell, air molecule or a single nanoparticle.</p><p>The system has far reaching applications for public health.  It can be used in the management of air quality, specifically for the detection of harmful nanoparticles in the air. Yang’s resonators can also be used in the creation of portable biosensors for advanced early diagnosis of various diseases.</p><p> Yang says her group demonstrated its sensing capability by successfully detecting influenza A virus particles in the air.</p><p> Yang now wants to create an ultrasensitive virus detector for early diagnosis of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.</p><p>“(The sensors) would physically detect those existing virus particles around the person,” said Yang.</p><p>Yang said portable sensors derived from her optical method would diagnose those infected with coronavirus well before they show symptoms. She said the sensors would detect the virus particles in the air from the individual’s breath, when they exhale.</p><p>“(Rather than) just checking their temperature, because that’s not enough anymore,” she said.</p><p>Optical sensing technologies for airborne nanoparticles relevant to public health and coronavirus detection would involve more research. Yang said she plans to collaborate with researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.</p><p>Yang said if her plans succeed, the work might also help scientists create an effective vaccine.</p><p>“Our sensor could be functionalized with specific reagents and chemicals to understand their interactions with the virus particles, which could help quality testing of the vaccine,” said Yang.</p><p>As Yang explained, her ideas could take a couple of years to develop. “(The plan) aligns with my wish to make the world a better place for what we could do as researchers.”</p><p>Yang’s vision to develop sensing capabilities for coronavirus is close to her heart. Yang explained how her family in China has been devastated by the coronavirus outbreak. So with Yang’s expertise, she feels this is her chance to give back to those who supported her.</p><p>Taking a leading role is something Yang is accustomed to doing her entire life. She wants girls and women to know anything is possible.</p><p>“Every single person is born with talents,” she said. “You have the responsibility for yourself to find what your true talent is. For me, science is about doing something to help people, to make the community a better one.”<br/></p>By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science & Technology, HEC-TV her childhood in China to optical resonators at WashU, Lan Yang has always followed her innovative spirit. the wire: Real-time imaging helps reveal active sites of photocatalysts<img alt="" src="/news/PublishingImages/shutterstock_613151393_760-760x507.jpg?RenditionID=1" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>Nanoscale photocatalysts are small, man-made particles that harvest energy from sunlight to produce liquid fuels and other useful chemicals. But even within the same batch, the particles tend to vary widely in size, shape and surface composition. That makes it hard for researchers to tell what’s really doing the work.</p><p>A real-time imaging solution developed at Washington University in St. Louis could help, as reported in a new study in the journal <a href="">ACS Catalysis</a>.</p> <p>“The challenge in correlating single-molecule optical images with specific active sites in nanoscale catalysts is that the 10 to 25 nanometer spatial resolution provided by this technique still averages over many atoms on the surface of the catalyst — thus making it difficult to correlate reaction events with the structure of the catalyst,” said <a href="">Bryce Sadtler</a>, assistant professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences and co-lead author of the new study.</p><p>Sadtler wanted to try imaging catalytic reactions using single-molecule fluorescence ever since he arrived at Washington University in 2014. The project got a jump-start after he was introduced to <a href="/Profiles/Pages/Matthew-Lew.aspx">Matthew Lew</a>, assistant professor in the <a href="">Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering</a> in the <a href="/Pages/home.aspx">McKelvey School of Engineering</a>.</p><p>“After several discussions with Matt, we agreed that the microscopy hardware and image processing he was developing for super-resolution microscopy could provide a powerful tool to obtain structural information on the nature of the active sites in nanoscale catalysts that was previously unattainable,” Sadtler said.</p><p>For the new work reported in ACS Catalysis, the researchers imaged individual chemical reactions taking place on the surface of single tungsten oxide nanowires, a type of nanoscale photocatalyst that Sadtler’s group synthesized for the study.</p><p>They used two different chemical reporters that become fluorescent, or light up, in response to different types of reactions on the surface of the nanowires. By analyzing the spatial patterns of where these chemical reactions occur, they were able to elucidate the chemical structure of active sites on the surface of the nanowires.</p><p>The researchers found that clusters of oxygen vacancies along the nanowire surface activate adsorbed water molecules during the photocatalytic generation of hydroxyl radicals — an important intermediate in the production of chemical fuels, including hydrogen gas and methanol, from sunlight.</p> <figure class="wp-caption alignright" style="box-sizing: inherit; display: inline; margin: 0px 0px 1.5em 1.5em; float: right; max-width: 100%; padding: 0px; border: none; background-image: none; caret-color: #3c3d3d; color: #3c3d3d; font-family: "source sans pro", "helvetica neue", helvetica, arial, sans-serif; font-size: 19.200000762939453px;"><img data-attachment-id="381518" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="1806,945" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"ImageJ=1.52k","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"ImageJ=1.52k","orientation":"1"}" data-image-title="ImageJ=1.52k" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="size-full wp-image-381518" src="" alt="photocatalyst graphic" style="box-sizing: inherit; border-width: 0px; width: 627px; display: block; margin: 5px;"/><figcaption class="wp-caption-text" style="box-sizing: inherit; margin-bottom: 0px; font-size: 1rem; font-style: italic; line-height: 1.333; color: #626464; margin-top: 0.25em;">(Image courtesy ACS Catalysis)</figcaption></figure> <p>“While previous studies have focused on isolated oxygen vacancies, a type of defect common in metal oxides, the results reveal the significance of a structural feature — clusters of oxygen vacancies — in achieving high photocatalytic activity,” Sadtler said.</p><p>“This new insight provides a path toward designing photocatalysts with enhanced activity for sunlight-to-fuel conversion by controlling the distribution of oxygen vacancies.”</p><p>The results themselves — and the process used to uncover them — are both exciting to the researchers.</p><p>“It is always a dream to directly observe the single catalytic turnovers on the surface of solid catalysts while the catalytic transformation is going on,” said <a href="">Meikun Shen</a>, a graduate student in chemistry and first author of the new paper. “I can only speak for myself, this is my personal feeling!”</p><p>This particular imaging approach provides detailed spatial and temporal information on the catalytic process — something that is usually invisible to scientists like him, Shen explained.</p><p>“In this type of experiment, the chemical properties of the catalyst are usually hard to reveal,” Shen said. “We managed to overcome this difficulty by using two different molecules to probe either the activity or the chemical property of the same catalyst. The direct correlation we observed is unique in the research field of heterogeneous catalysis.”</p><hr style="height: 1px; background-color: #c8c8c8; border-top-width: 0px; margin-bottom: 1.5em; caret-color: #3c3d3d; color: #3c3d3d; font-family: "source sans pro", "helvetica neue", helvetica, arial, sans-serif; font-size: 19.200000762939453px;"/><p>Funding: This project received internal seed funding from Washington University’s <a href="">International Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability</a> (InCEES).</p><p>Read more: Nanoscale Colocalization of Fluorogenic Probes Reveals the Role of Oxygen Vacancies in the Photocatalytic Activity of Tungsten Oxide Nanowires. ACS Catal. 2020, 10, 3, 2088-2099. January 8, 2020. <a href=""></a><br/></p><span> <div class="cstm-section"><h3>Matthew Lew<br/></h3><div><p style="text-align: center;"> <img src="/Profiles/PublishingImages/Lew_Matthew_5620.jpg?RenditionID=3" class="ms-rtePosition-4" alt="" style="margin: 5px;"/> </p><p></p><ul style="padding-left: 20px; caret-color: #343434; color: #343434;"><li>Electrical Systems Engineering - <span style="caret-color: #343434; color: #343434;">Assistant Professor</span><br/></li><li>Research: Builds advanced imaging systems to study biological and chemical systems at the nanoscale, leveraging innovations in applied optics, signal and image processing, design optimization, and physical chemistry.<br/></li></ul><div style="text-align: center;"> <a href="/Profiles/Pages/Matthew-Lew.aspx">View Bio</a><br/></div></div><br/></div></span>An imaging solution developed in collaboration between chemists in Arts & Sciences and engineers at the McKelvey School of Engineering reveals the role of oxygen vacancies in the photocatalytic activity of tungsten oxide nanowires. (Photo: Shutterstock)Talia Ogliore research has implications for harvesting energy from sunlight<p>​InCEES-funded research has implications for harvesting energy from sunlight<br/></p> the molecular world<img alt="" src="/news/PublishingImages/Jennifer_Dionne_TON7598-760x507.jpg?RenditionID=1" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>​Directly seeing the workings of our world at nano- and molecular scale has largely remained an impossible task, left to theory and working assumptions. WashU alumna Jennifer Dionne, BS ’03, has found a way around all that. Dionne is among the first scientists to successfully focus and manipulate light beyond the known diffraction limit.</p><p>What does all this mean for the future? According to Dionne, it could mean more effective pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals, more efficient photocatalysts for clean energy and even all-optical computing schemes that mimic the way our brain computes, but at the speed of light. Ultimately, Dionne hopes her technologies will help “enable a healthier population and a healthier planet.”</p><p>Dionne’s approach helps her view intricacies of molecular structure and molecular binding, which is particularly important for creating safe agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. Adverse molecular binding in agrochemicals can cause them to leave residues in soil and lead to colony collapse in bees and organ failure in fish, birds and larger animals. In pharmaceuticals, it can give rise to delayed efficacy or deleterious<br/>side effects. Dionne uses light to detect and sort molecules with the goal to eliminate adverse molecular binding, achieving greater precision and efficacy in pharmaceutical and agrochemical design.</p><p>Dionne is also using these light-based approaches to understand the basis of various diseases. “We’re hoping to understand how the immune system can be more effective in fighting off infection, including bacterial infections and cancer,” Dionne explains. “By visualizing reactions occurring on the nanoscale, like an immune cell fighting a pathogen or the response of a single bacterial cell to an antibiotic, we hope to develop better drugs and immune therapies.” For this work, Dionne recently received the National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award for exceptionally creative early career scientists.</p><p>Dionne also is applying photonic technology toward making more effective photocatalysts and renewable energy generation systems, with the goal of improving air and water quality and producing solar fuels.</p><p>This wide-ranging passion for discovery is nothing new for Dionne. Growing up in Rhode Island, she always sought adventure – whether doing obstacle courses with her neighbors, traveling to Australia as a junior ambassador or honing her early engineering skills at Space Academy. And at Washington University, she found her passion in science and math, and her search for knowledge was quickly taken to the next level.</p><p>“If I were to pick one thing that fostered how I am as a scientist, it would be the close-knit community WashU provided,” Dionne says. “It taught me how much you can learn by working as a team.”</p><p>The Washington University community impacted Dionne outside the classroom as well. She married Nhat Vu, BSEE ’03, one of her first-year floormates. Today, the couple has two young sons, ages 3 and 5.</p><p>During her sophomore year, she lived in the same dorm as University of Washington psychologist Kristina Olson, AB ’03, who like Dionne, became one of the few women awarded the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award for scientists under the age of 40. Olson won the prestigious award in 2018 (see this <a href="">article</a> in the September 2019 issue of Washington) and Dionne in 2019 — a remarkable back-to-back victory for Washington University women in the sciences.</p><p>Dionne’s light-based research will continue exploring the frontiers of molecular and nano-scale science for years to come. She says that even something as fanciful as Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak is certainly in the realm of possibility. It would involve “creating precisely arranged nanostructures that allow light to be steered around an object at every wavelength between 400 and 800 nanometers, the wavelengths corresponding to human vision.” But presently, Dionne’s focus remains the opposite — making the “invisible” visible and improving lives in a big way by observing the smallest possible scale.<br/></p><div class="cstm-section"><h4 rtenodeid="2" style="text-align: left;">WHO<br rtenodeid="3"/></h4><ul rtenodeid="4" style="text-align: left;"><li rtenodeid="5">Jennifer Dionne, BS ‘03</li></ul><h4 rtenodeid="6" style="text-align: left;">STUDIED<br rtenodeid="7"/></h4><ul rtenodeid="8" style="text-align: left;"><li rtenodeid="9">Physics, and systems science & engineering</li></ul><h4 rtenodeid="10" style="text-align: left;">LOCATION<br rtenodeid="11"/></h4><ul rtenodeid="12" style="text-align: left;"><li rtenodeid="13">Stanford, California</li></ul><h4 rtenodeid="14" style="text-align: left;">CURRENTLY<br rtenodeid="15"/></h4><ul><li rtenodeid="16" style="text-align: left;">Associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford University </li><li rtenodeid="17" style="text-align: left;">Director of the Photonics at Thermodynamic Limits Energy Frontier Research Center accolades</li><li><div rtenodeid="18" style="text-align: left;">2019 Alan T. Waterman Award — the National Science Foundation’s highest honor for young researchers under 40<br/></div></li></ul></div>WashU Alumna Jennifer Dionne, BS '03, has found a way to see our world on the nano- and molecular scale. Her work earned her a 2019 Alan T. Waterman Award. Photo by Tony AvelarRyan Rhea Alumna Jennifer Dionne, BS '03, is among the first scientists to successfully focus and manipulate light beyond the known diffraction limit.