CoE News Briefs May 2019

Andrew Cohen Wins Prestigious Human Frontier Science Program Research Grant

Dr. Andrew Cohen, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), has won a Human Frontier Science Program Research grant of $350K per year for three years. Titled, "A spatiotemporal map of signaling processes controlling human stem cell renewal and differentiation,” Cohen’s grant is an international and interdisciplinary project that will use new engineering and biology approaches to understand how cells choose their fate.

Andrew Cohen
Dr. Andrew Cohen

“Improving our understanding of how cell fate is controlled will lead to new approaches for fighting cancer, for understanding developmental diseases like autism, for slowing the degenerative processes of aging, and for improving engineered cell therapies for a broad range of traumatic injury,” said Cohen.

Co-PIs on the research award include Cohen; Professor Olivier Pertz, of the University of Bern, Switzerland; and Professor Rafael Carazo Salas, of the University of Bristol, England.

The international Human Frontier Science Program, headquartered in Strasbourg, France, funds research into complex biological systems.

“One of the key processes in human disease and development is when cells divide to produce two new daughter cells. These daughter cells may functionally duplicate the parent, or they may take on more specialized roles,” said Cohen. “For example, a neural progenitor cell is a type of stem cell that divides to produce either new neural progenitor cells or differentiated neurons. This cell division is how humans are made. It starts with embryonic development and continues throughout our lifespan.

“The big question is, what are the control mechanisms that determine the type of daughter cells produced from a cell division? Partly it is cell-intrinsic, pre-programmed in the parent – cardiac progenitor cells produce cardiac tissue, even if you put them in a different environment; partly it is extrinsic, with signals from the environment telling cells when to hunker down and survive or when to switch on proliferation and make new tissue.

The goal of our research,” Cohen explained, “is to observe and measure the development of ‘clones’ or family trees of cells in response to different intrinsic and extrinsic programs. The cells are imaged live inside a microscope over a period of days or weeks, capturing movies that show signaling together with patterns of cell growth, motion, and interaction. Gene editing, opto-genetics, and induced pluripotent stem cells give us new tools for exploring how to program and control human-derived cells. The work will build on the software tools developed in my lab to follow individual cells through multiple rounds of cell division, in 2D and 3D, and apply new machine vision and learning approaches to identify the meaningful differences in dynamic behaviors among cells with different fates.”

Cohen added, “I am so fortunate to have found collaborators like Rafael and Olivier. The key to the success of our approach is not just three individuals at the cutting edges of their respective fields, but that each of us is willing to invest the time and effort to understand the challenges and capabilities of the others, and to build something beyond what any of our labs could do on their own.”

CoE Commencement Speaker is Nicholas Donofrio

The College of Engineering is pleased to announce the 2019 Commencement speech will be presented by Nicholas “Nick” Donofrio, founder and CEO of NMD Consulting, L.L.C., and an engineer focused throughout his life on advancing education, employment, and career opportunities for underrepresented minorities and women.

Nicholas Donofrio
Nicholas Donofrio

Donofrio is the chairman of the board of the Peace Tech Lab in Washington, DC; chairman of the board of Quantexa in the United Kingdom; and an executive in residence at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies. He also serves as an advisor to Workforce Opportunity Services, as well as numerous other organizations. Donofrio began his career at IBM in 1964, advancing over the course of 44 years to general manager of the large-scale computing division, and executive vice president of innovation and technology.

Donofrio served a term as a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation from 2009-2012, and also served on the US Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board from 2008 to 2012. He is a life fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a fellow of the UK-based Royal Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He belongs to several technical societies including Sigma Xi, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and the Society of Women Engineers.

He earned a BS in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1967, an MS in electrical engineering from Syracuse University in 1971, and numerous honorary degrees from universities here and abroad.

Mohana Shankar Recognized with Award for Pedagogy/Assessment

P Mohana Shankar
Dr. P. Mohana Shankar

Dr. P. Mohana Shankar, the Allen Rothwarf Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), has been recognized with the 2019 Drexel University Award for Pedagogy and Assessment. The award highlights Shankar’s “substantive achievement in assessment and pedagogy and for excellence in changing our culture by actively promoting the assurance of learning,” according to Vice Provost Stephen L. DiPietro. Shankar will be honored at the Faculty Recognition Dinner later this month. Shankar’s “tireless efforts in educating our students, and in assessing which methods are most effective in educating them,” makes him “a natural choice for this recognition,” said Dr. Steven Weber, professor and department head, ECE.

Walker Named Director of Engineering Deans Council Exec Board

Dean and Distinguished University Professor Sharon L. Walker was recently elected as the director of the Engineering Deans Council Executive Board, a board that oversees engineering deans. Dean Walker will serve for two years, from 2019 to 2021. Her terms commence at the close of the ASEE Annual Conference in June 2019 in Tampa, Florida, and end at the ASEE Annual Conference in June 2021 in Long Beach, California.

MEM Post-docs Land Academic Appointments

Two students mentored by Dr. Ying Sun, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics (MEM), have been offered academic positions. Dr. Han Hu, who successfully defended in 2016, has been named an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Arkansas; and Dr. Min Pack, who successfully defended in December 2017, will start his tenure-track career as an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Baylor University.

Two post-docs
Dr. Min Pack (left) and Dr. Han Hu (right)

Hu’s doctoral research at CoE focused on understanding the micro and nanoscale transport mechanisms during two-phase heat transfer, including disjoining pressure, Kapitza resistance, nano-meniscus, thin film evaporation, and film rupture with combined molecular dynamics simulations, experiments, and analytical modeling.

“I am very excited about taking the faculty position at the University of Arkansas,” said Hu. “It has been my career goal to start my own lab in an academic setting ever since the beginning of my graduate study at Drexel. I am eager to develop a research program to bridge thermal science with data science by leveraging machine learning approaches in resolving thermofluidic problems.”

Pack’s doctoral research at Drexel focused on understanding microscopic transport mechanisms in droplets. “I am overjoyed at the prospect of joining the Baylor University faculty,” said Pack. “I am excited to develop a research program that utilizes principles in optics and microfluidics to understand thermofluids problems, especially those pertaining to issues in the developing world context.”

CoE Undergrad/Wrestler Jarrell Named All-Area Athlete

Ebed Jarrell
Ebed Jarrell

Ebed Jarrell, a junior in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics (MEM) and a wrestler with the Drexel Dragons, has been named to the 2018-2019 Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area Men’s At-Large team. The team is nominated and voted on by the sports information offices of 30 colleges and universities in the Philadelphia Metropolitan area. Jarrell made his first NCAA Championship appearance this year. The 165-pounder went 22-6 in 2018-19 and now owns a 57-31 career mark with the Dragons. Jarrell was also named an EIWA Academic Achievement Award winner for the third time this spring.

Dragon Rover Team Places Nationally

Rover Team
Rover Team Members

The MEM-57 Drexel Dragon Rover Team took 34th place out of 54 teams at the annual NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge in Huntsville, Alabama last month. The national competition is an engineering design challenge that encourages research and development of new technology for future mission planning and crewed space missions. Team members include MEM undergraduates Raynard Hunter, Stephen Hall, Serena Yombe, Jeremy Isaacs, and Todd Spencer. The team was supported by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics, the College of Engineering, and the Boeing Company.

Undergraduate ET Team Going to Nationals

A team of undergraduate students from the Department of Engineering Technology (ET) will compete in the finals of the SME AeroDef Manufacturing Poster Challenge in Long Beach, California this week. Student members are: Guy Sappington, Matt Kowalski, and Anthony Catalano-Johnson. The team developed the project as part of their MHT314 Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer Analysis class during Winter Term. The project is a mini-jet engine using a custom-made combustion chamber and centrifugal compressor and turbine.

The competition was designed to foster interest and provide the aerospace and defense manufacturing engineering community with new perspectives and ideals.

Vladimir Genis Awarded NSF Grant

Vladimir Genis
Dr. Vladimir Genis

Drexel’s Department of Engineering Technology (ET) is pleased to announce the receipt of an NSF-funded grant in collaboration with Bucks County Community College (BCCC) to develop solutions to industry-related challenges in higher education. Drexel’s share of the grant is $92,300.

Titled “Innovative Model for Technician Education: Workforce Training and Entrepreneurship,” this three-year proposal will allow for close collaboration between Drexel and BCCC. Dr. Vladimir Genis, professor and department head, ET, will work with PI Christine Delahanty of BCCC to evaluate certifications for credit programs, establish 2+2+2 programs, guide in the development of the manufacturing course, and participate in the Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings of industry and higher education personnel. Genis will participate in the investigation of industry-related engineering problems through curricula and case studies.

Hoque to Serve on Committee of Arab-American Frontiers Symposium

Simi Hoque
Dr.  Simi Hoque

Associate Professor Simi Hoque of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering (CAEE), has been nominated to serve on the organizing committee of the 2019 Arab-American Frontiers of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Symposium. She will co-chair the thematic session on Community Resilience. The symposium will be held in mid-November at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt.

The Arab-American Frontiers program brings together outstanding young scientists, engineers, and medical professionals from the US and the 22 countries of the Arab League for a series of symposia to discuss exciting advances and opportunities in their fields. The goal is to enhance the scientific exchange and dialogue among young researchers in Arab countries and the United States, and through this interaction facilitate research collaboration within and beyond the region.

Drexel Power Team Advances to Final Round of IEEE IFEC Competition

The Drexel Power Team, advised by Dr. Fei Lu, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), has advanced to the final round of the IEEE International Future Energy Challenge (IFEC) after competing in the second-round competition in Anaheim, CA in March. Ten teams were selected to advance to the final competition, which will be held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this July.

IFEC is an annual international student competition for innovation, conservation, and effective use of electrical energy. The topic for the 2019 challenge is developing an E-drive for a bicycle. The winning team will be awarded a $10,000 grand prize.

The Drexel Power Team consists of 10 ECE undergraduate students: Amr Mostafa, Zachary Jones, Randy Hutchinson, Said Amajuoj, Egla Gjergo, Baofeng Huang, Sadman Islam, Ata Modiri, Zizi Elgamal, and Taylor Glietz, all members of the Class of ‘19. The team also has three students from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics (MEM): Leonardo Fonzetti and Sebastian Newton, both seniors; and pre-junior Fausto Pasmay.

Drexel Adds New 3D Metal Printing to Suite of Additive Manufacturing

Drexel University’s College of Engineering and School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems (Biomed) are the joint recipients of a TruPrint 1000 LMF system from Trumpf Inc .

The TruPrint 1000 LMF system is a 3D metal printer that will be used by Dr. Steven Kurtz , research professor and director of the Implant Research Center in Biomed; Dr. Michele Marcolongo , department head and professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE); and Dr. Mitra Taheri, Hoeganaes Professor in MSE in collaboration to further develop biocompatible implants using new titanium and zirconia alloys to improve bone ingrowth and biocompatibility. The Drexel group was one of three out of 22 applicants selected.   

“Additional capabilities for metal 3D printing here at Drexel will help us advance the understanding of advanced manufacturing of medical devices and other high-performance applications,” said Marcolongo.

TRUMPF Inc. is the North American subsidiary of TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG. based near Stuttgart, Germany and is one of the largest manufacturers of fabricating machinery in the United States.

Drexel Steel Bridge Team Advances to Nationals

Steel bridge team member practice

For the fourth year in a row, the Drexel Steel Bridge Team has advanced to the national Student Steel Bridge Competition, sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction, which will be held this year at Southern Illinois University from May 31 to June 1. The team won second place overall at the Mid-Atlantic Regional competition in mid-April, and also received the award for the lightest bridge. In order to qualify, the team must conceptualize, design, and build a mini-bridge that is then transported to the competition. There, they race against other over 200 other teams and the clock to build their entry in the shortest amount of time. Go Dragons!

Youngmoo Kim at TEDx/Philly:

Youngmoo Kim
Dr. Youngmoo Kim

Dr. Youngmoo Kim, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), will deliver a talk at the TEDx/Philadelphia main conference on Wednesday, May 15 to be held at the Temple Performing Arts Center. The theme of the conference is “Unintended Consequences.” Kim will be speaking about the digital divide: the gap between those with ready access to technology (including tech-driven resources and learning) and those without. The full-day multidisciplinary conference will feature 13 dynamic speakers. More information is available at the TEDx/Philadelphia website.


(Contributions from: Jeff Birou, Eric Carr, Gerry Willis, Leslie Campion, Kim Spina, and Andrew Cohen.)