Ünlü, Bird Win Faculty Awards

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By Sara Elizabeth Cody

Professor M. Selim Ünlü (ECE, BME, MSE)
Professor M. Selim Ünlü (ECE, BME, MSE)

In recognition of their major contributions to engineering and to society at large, Professor Selim Ünlü (ECE, BME, MSE) has been selected to receive this year’s Charles DeLisi Award and Lecture, and Assistant Professor James Bird (ME) has been named recipient of the Early Career Excellence Award.

The Charles DeLisi Award and Lecture recognizes faculty members with extraordinary records of well-cited scholarship, senior leaders in industry and extraordinary entrepreneurs who have invented and mentored transformative technologies that impact our quality of life, and provides the recipient with a public forum to discuss his or her work before the Boston University academic community and the general public.

Ünlü will present the Charles DeLisi Distinguished Lecture, “Optical Interference: from Soap Bubbles to Digital Detection of Viral Pathogens” on Thursday, April 14 at 4 p.m. in the GSU Conference Auditorium.

Ünlü received his bachelor’s degree from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, and his Master’s and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been on the faculty of Boston University since 1992 and is a Distinguished Professor of Engineering in electrical and computer engineering, with affiliations in biomedical engineering, physics, material science and engineering, and graduate medical sciences. He also served as the associate dean for Research and Graduate Programs in the College of Engineering as well as the associate director of the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology. His research interests include nanophotonics and biophotonics, focusing on high-resolution solid immersion lens microscopy of integrated circuits and development of biological detection and imaging techniques, particularly in multiplexed detection of single viral pathogens and protein and nucleic acid microarrays.

Nominated by professors Thomas Bifano (ME), Mark Grinstaff (BME, MSE, Chemistry, MED) and W. Clem Karl (ECE), who applauded his work as a “first-rate scholar, a tireless mentor, and a committed community member,” his nomination highlighted his accomplishments as a professor, researcher and professional. Ünlü was the recipient of the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) and Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Awards in 1996. He was selected as a Photonics Society Distinguished Lecturer from 2005-2007 and was the 2007 Australian Research Council Nanotechnology Network (ARCNN) Distinguished Lecturer. He was also elevated to Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellow rank for his contributions to optoelectronic devices in 2007. In 2008, he received the Science Award, the highest award given in Turkey for scientific achievement, by the Turkish Scientific Foundation. He served as the editor-in-chief for IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics from 2011-2014. At BU, Ünlü is the recipient of the 2002 ECE Faculty Teaching Award and 2006 College of Engineering Faculty Service Award. His students have received more than 40 awards, including numerous Graduate Science Day awards and first prize in the nationwide Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology Primary Healthcare Award. His students have also received a number of College of Engineering awards, such as best senior design projects in ECE and BME and the Societal Engineer/Impact Best Dissertation.

Assistant Professor James Bird (ME)
Assistant Professor James Bird (ME)

The Early Career Research Excellence Award celebrates the significant, recent, high-impact research achievements of exemplary tenure-track faculty who are within 10 years of receiving their PhD.

A faculty member since 2012, Bird’s research focuses on fluid dynamics with a focus on the capillary dynamics of drops and bubbles. He investigates problems such as how drops spread on surfaces and how bubbles pop, which has potential application in manufacturing, the environment, materials and healthcare. These projects range from measuring the dynamics and rupture of bubbles to modeling how oil flows through porous rock. Because these phenomena are often counter-intuitive, the group’s approach is to combine carefully controlled bench-top experiments with theoretical modeling. Experimental techniques include interferometry, microfluidics, and super high-speed photography.

“The research program that [Bird] has initiated at BU is exceptionally creative and unique,” said Professor Alice White, chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department. “Focusing on deep fundamental understanding of familiar but complicated phenomena in fluid dynamics and possessing a gift for describing his results in ways that are accessible to a general audience, he has established himself as the ‘go-to’ person about everything relating to fluids. He has established a record of highly innovative research that has wide impact for the field. Moreover, because of the emphasis that he places on communication, his research will continue to be highly cited and receive generous media coverage, leading to the education and inspiration of students, as well as the general public.”

Bird is the recipient of the 2016 Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award for his research “Bubbling Underwater to Breakup Biofilms and Lift Early Settlers (BUBBLES).” Bird received his PhD in Engineering Science from Harvard University in 2010.