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Professors in mechanical engineering receive National Science Foundation Early Career Development Awards.
Two assistant professors in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Arkansas have been awarded individual Faculty Early Career Development awards for 2007 by the National Science Foundation. Min Zou and Sulin Zhang will each receive approximately $400,000 over five years to fund their research projects.
"It is uncommon for a department of our size to have two professors receive the NSF Career award in one year," said Joseph J. Rencis, professor and head of the mechanical engineering department.
The foundation offers its most prestigious awards in support of the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization.
"This is just another indication of the momentum for academic excellence that is building in the mechanical engineering department and in the UA College of Engineering," Rencis added.
Zou's research into nanoscale surface-engineering promises to improve the performance of products with micro-electro-mechanical systems, known as MEMS and ranging from the automotive to biomedical fields.
The project will benefit society through increased product reliability for MEMS and computer hard drive industries. The research focuses on the use of nanoscale bumps and surface chemistry to reduce adhesion and friction forces between two surfaces that come into contact. These products should not fail catastrophically or wear as quickly if adhesion and friction forces are reduced.
The program also provides a Lotus-Effect Demonstration Unit that will be used in outreach activities aimed at increasing high school students' awareness of and interest in the engineering profession.
Zou has been with the College of Engineering since 2003. She received a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1999. She spent four and a half years working in the computer hard drive industry before joining the department of mechanical engineering.
Zhang received the Career Award for his research that investigates the use of nanotechnology to maximize the therapeutic effectiveness of drug delivery systems.
One goal of this research is to open new pathways for site-specific drug delivery at the cellular level. Ideally, drugs should target unhealthy cells while leaving healthy cells undisturbed.
Zhang states that "successful completion of the proposed research will pave the way towards the realization of nanoparticle-based site-specific drug delivery systems."
This project will incorporate special topic lectures that will be made available for college and high school classes.
Zhang has been with the College of Engineering since 2005. He received a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 2002. Before coming to the University of Arkansas, he was a postdoctoral research associate at Northwestern University.
"These two young researchers are at the cutting edge of human knowledge in their respective fields. With the support of the National Science Foundation and the University of Arkansas, they now have an opportunity to push scientific boundaries in ways that could yield breathtaking results for our society," Rencis said.
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Leslie Lannutti, director of communications
College of Engineering
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