CoE News Briefs

Dr. Fei Lu Receives ARPA-E Grant

Congratulations to Dr. Fei Lu, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), who has been awarded a two-year, $500K grant from the Department of Energy’s new ARPA-E program, BREAKERS. Lu is the sole investigator under the award. The project is titled, “Resonant Solid State Breaker Based on Wireless Coupling in MVDC Systems.”

Dr. Fei Lu
Dr. Fei Lu

Lu aims to design a significantly more efficient, fast, low-cost, compact, and reliable circuit breaker for the medium-voltage direct-current (MVDC) power system, according to ARPA-E. The breaker is designed to protect MVDC systems from electrical faults and expected to respond in 500 microseconds. To realize this goal, Lu proposes a solid-state circuit breaker based on silicon carbide devices that aims to significantly improve breaker performance for the MVDC ecosystem.

BREAKERS projects seek to develop designs for medium voltage, direct current circuit breaks for a variety of applications and “to inform the creation of new devices capable of better securing the grid,” according to ARPA-E.

The BREAKERS funding program was announced for the first time last September.

“This is a truly phenomenal achievement given that Dr. Lu began his time at Drexel as recently as August 2018,” said Steve Weber, professor and department head, ECE.

Lu received his PhD from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2017, and his BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering from the Harbin Institute of Technology. His research at the College of Engineering focuses on the advanced power electronics system, specified on the wireless power transfer technology for the high-power electric vehicles and the low-power electronic devices.

Dr. Bahram Nabet Awarded NSF Grant

Bahram Nabet
Dr. Bahram Nabet

Congratulations to Dr. Bahram Nabet, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), who has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for his project titled, “I-Corps Teams: Opto-plasmonic Photodetectors for Low-Cost Tele/Data Communications Beyond 5G.” The grant total is $50K. It runs through July 31, 2019.

The co-investigator on this project is Dr. Pouya Dianat, an adjunct faculty in ECE. Dianat received his PhD from ECE in 2015.

Prior research, partially funded by NSF, led to the discovery of mechanisms that would allow ultra-high speed and ultra-low energy conversion of data carried by light, as in fiber optics, to data in electronic form, as in computer chips. This has applications in data communications and data center operations, and can accommodate some of the needs for 5G and beyond.

This basic research project was selected for funding by the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program, which prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the university laboratory and accelerates the economic and societal benefits of NSF-funded projects that are ready to move toward commercialization. In support of commercialization of his research findings on these opto-plasmonic devices, Nabet has received $50k as the technical lead, along with collaborator Dianat, who is the project entrepreneurial lead.

Additionally, the team has received support from Drexel Ventures in the form of a $50K Proof-of-Concept award to bridge a funding gap between NSF I-Corps Teams and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs, according to Nabet.

Robert Devlin ’13 Speaks at MSE’s Winter Seminar Series

Robert Devlin, PhD, and CoE alumnus BS/MS ’13, was featured at a Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) Winter Seminar Series lecture this week to present his talk, “Optical Metasurfaces: From Fundamental Science to Application.” Devlin, who received his PhD in applied physics from Harvard University, has coauthored a number of high-impact papers on the use of metamaterials to control light for applications in lensing and other optical devices.

Alumnus Rob Devlin with Dr. Steven May
Alumnus Robert Devlin (left) with associate professor Steven May

Two years ago, Devlin and his partners founded MetaLenz, Inc., a Cambridge, MA-based company that is commercializing flat optical technologies that have the potential to transition large-scale production of optical devices into semiconductor foundries, enable wafer-scale camera integration, and transform several areas in consumer electronics from 3D imaging to cell phone cameras. Devlin serves as the company’s chief scientific officer. His co-founders are Dr. Federico Capasso, professor of applied physics and research fellow in electrical engineering at Harvard University, and Devlin’s PhD advisor; and Boston entrepreneur Bart Riley, who serves as the company’s CEO.

During this week’s CoE lecture, Devlin explained that traditional materials have predetermined optical properties based on the material’s refractive index and dispersion. By judiciously patterning materials on a scale smaller than the wavelength of light, he said, scientists can create “metamaterials” with electromagnetic responses not achievable in natural materials.

At the College of Engineering, Devlin was advised on his MS thesis by Dr. Steven May, associate professor, MSE. May called Devlin “one of the most exceptional CoE students that I’ve interacted with in my time at Drexel.”

A reception followed the Wednesday, Feb. 13 lecture, and included undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and other guests.

Engineers Club of Phila Selects Two Drexel Alums for Engineers of the Year

The Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia has named John J. Peirce, founder and principal of Peirce Engineering, Inc., and College of Engineering alumnus (’73 and ‘78), as the 2019 Delaware Valley Engineer of the Year. This distinguished award recognizes a standout local engineer who demonstrates qualities that define professional excellence, civic duty, societal leadership, and community stewardship.

Prior to co-founding Peirce Engineering, Peirce held positions with The Conduit & Foundation Corporation and the Schnabel Foundation Company working in heavy and highway construction, excavation support and underpinning. His experience at both companies inspired him to found his own business. Among his firm’s projects are the restoration of the Historic Fairmount Waterworks, the Comcast Innovation Tower, New York City’s World Trade Center Ground Zero Access Bridges, underpinning and excavation support for the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and excavation support for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), which at 72-feet-deep is perhaps the deepest building excavation in the city.

Peirce earned his Bachelor of Science degree in soil mechanics and a master’s degree in geotechnical engineering from Drexel. In addition to his extensive industry involvement, Peirce serves as an adjunct professor at Villanova University’s College of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Eleanor F. Small, PhD, College of Engineering alumni and principal scientist at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., has been selected as the 2019 Delaware Valley Young Engineer of the Year by the Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia. The annual award recognizes an outstanding engineer age 35 or under who has demonstrated leadership and contributed to engineering within the Philadelphia region.

In her role as a principal scientist, Small serves as a lead in consumer Wound Care Product Development supporting Johnson & Johnson’s iconic Band-Aid® and Neosporin® brands. Small has helped to develop and launch unique technologies for products that fulfill regional and global consumer needs.

Small started her career at Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. six years ago as a post-doctoral scientist supporting new product development for J&J’s $1.6 billion Listerine® brand. Today, she is a global technical lead for Band-Aid® Brand responsible for development, claims support, scale up, and launch of new products. She also leads one of the department’s early stage research platforms focusing on infection prevention.

Small holds a BS in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Johns Hopkins University, and a doctorate in chemical and biological engineering from Drexel. She resides in Philadelphia.

New PhD Fellowship Fund

A new endowed fund has been created for the College of Engineering in the form of the Seiberlich Endowed PhD Fellowship Fund.

The description of the fund is as follows: “The FUND shall be designated for the benefit of graduate students enrolled in a PhD program at the College of Engineering and shall be used to provide financial support in the form of fellowship awards. Selection of award recipients shall be based on academic excellence and shall be determined by the Dean of the College in consultation with the Office of Financial Aid. Selection of recipients shall be made at the time of application review and acceptance into the program. Recipients shall be notified of the award at the time of acceptance into the program.”

An award will be made for Fall 2019. For more information on the fellowship, please contact Sherry Levin, CoE director of Graduate Programs, at