By Cheryl R Stewart

ENG’s Gerald Fine wins Gitner Award for Classroom Tech Use

May 2nd, 2016 in MSE, Recent news

Future Engineers Learn Real-life, Hands-on Design

Almost 30 years in business left engineer Gerald Fine (ME, MSE) troubled as he spied the horizon of his profession. Too many young colleagues were good with a computer keyboard, but all thumbs when it came to something you’d expect to be as instinctive as breathing for engineers: working with equipment. New technologies, coming fast as Ferraris in the discipline, flummoxed them.

After joining the College of Engineering faculty in 2012, Fine, director of the Engineering Product Innovation Center (EPIC), designed ENG’s first new course in 40 years that’s mandatory for all students, with the goal of getting students’ hands dirty, as it were. The course has won him this year’s Gerald and Deanne Gitner Family Award for Innovation in Teaching with Technology.

Introduction to Engineering Design, required of all sophomores, employs what Fine calls hybrid learning. Students watch online videos before coming to class, and in class they practice what they’ve learned from the videos, working with  state-of-the-art technology: WiFi and Bluetooth radios, fiber optics, open-sourced microprocessors, and more. They use this technology to reverse-engineer (dismantle and examine) actual engineering products. They also build prototype products to address real problems given them by engineering companies.

Fine, a professor of the practice of mechanical engineering, says the award is a great honor, but points out that the course was a collaborative effort: several colleagues made vital suggestions, and its basic structure was suggested by Solomon Eisenberg, ENG’s senior associate dean for academic programs and a professor of biomedical engineering and of electrical and computer engineering.

Moreover, says Fine, “we couldn’t teach the course without EPIC.” In addition to the center’s technology and space, “the real key is the staff…and the student workers there. We serve in excess of 700 students per semester there now, including 200-plus” taking his Gitner-winning course.

In his letter nominating Fine for the award, Kenneth Lutchen, dean of ENG, wrote, “For the first time in our college history, all undergraduates join together in multidisciplinary teams for real-world engineering design problems. They practice conceptual design, modeling, and communication skills that are essential to modern engineering practice. They interact with real clients from real industries, and make working prototypes of their design solutions using state-of the-art machine shop facilities, 3-D printing, integrated electronics, and sophisticated microprocessor controls.

“The experience reinforces and extends for our undergraduates the core meaning of what it is to be a societal engineer, by giving them experience in how ideas are converted into real product design that society can benefit from.”

Fine’s industry contacts come from years in leadership jobs at technology companies such as Schott and Corning. He is also the chairman of fiber optics company Emcore. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and a PhD from the California Institute of Technology.

The Gitner Award is conferred by the Office of the Provost and the Center for Teaching & Learning. The winner receives $10,000 by developing, using, or adapting technology in ways that enhance BU’s undergraduate learning.

Michael Gooley awarded 2016 John S. Perkins Award for Distinguished Service

April 12th, 2016 in Recent news

Mike PhotoCongratulations to Michael Gooley! Michael (Grants Administrator, Department of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences) is one of three winners of the 2016 John S. Perkins Award for Distinguished Service. “The Perkins” is awarded to those members of the University community who serve BU with distinction.

The Perkins Awards will be presented at a special ceremony in the Metcalf Trustee Center, One Silber Way, on Wednesday, May 4, 2016 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. All are welcome to attend!

Professor John Straub receives United Methodist Church Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award

April 4th, 2016 in Recent news

StraubPROFILE2.15-205x300Boston University’s Chemistry Department and the Division of Materials Science & Engineering are proud to announce that  Professor John Straub has been selected as this year’s recipient of the United Methodist Church Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award!   This award is given each year to a Boston University faculty member in recognition of their record of ongoing, outstanding research and scholarship, and  excellence as a teacher.  This is one of the highest honors Boston University bestows to one of its faculty members.

Professor Straub’s research explores protein dynamics and thermodynamics using theoretical and computational methods, with a particular focus on elucidating pathways for conformational change associated with protein energy transfer, signaling, folding, and aggregation. He also works with the Pinhead Institute, a Smithsonian Affiliate based in Telluride, Colorado that strives to promote science-education both locally & globally. The Pinhead Institute educates and inspires children and adults in the greater Telluride region about the wonders of science and technology.

Congratulations to Professor Straub on receiving this much deserved award!

BUnano Director Mark Grinstaff Finds 2-Step Delivery Method Ups Cancer Drug’s Concentration

February 23rd, 2016 in MSE, Recent news

Mark W. Grinstaff of Boston University (Chemistry, BME, MSE) and Yolonda Colson of Brigham & Women’s Hospital, found that a two-step procedure—delivering a tumor-localizing, drug-absorbing nanoparticle followed by the actual therapeutic—can increase the amount of drug that reaches tumor cells and the amount of time the drug acts on the cells (Scientific Reports 2016, DOI:10.1038/srep18720). Cancer nanomedicine expert Joseph M. DeSimone of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, notes that the study “reports a first-of-its-kind result”. Read more in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN).

Announcing the Winners of the 2016 MSE Innovation Grants

February 5th, 2016 in Recent news

The Division of Materials Science & Engineering is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 MSE Innovation Grants. They are:

Harold Park, ME and David Campbell, Physics
“Novel Memory Effect Materials: the Monolayer Group-IV Monochalcogenides”

The discovery of two-dimensional graphene and the recognition of its many exotic electronic properties have led to intense interest in other two-dimensional (2D) materials that can be isolated into single layers through exfoliation. The hope is these exotic properties—including the existence of multiple “valleys” in momentum space, which essentially confer another spin-like degree of freedom to electrons in these materials—can be used to make novel electronic devices. To date, however, any putative “valleytronic” devices have lacked the ability store information in non-volatile memories. We propose to study a class of materials in which the “valleytronics” are coupled to structural phase changes in the material, so that the bit value corresponds to a distinct structural phase of the material. As prototypical materials we will use SnS and GeSe, which belong to the family of group-IV layered monochalcogenides MX (M=Ge or Sn, and X=S or Se) and are known to undergo structural phase changes under mechanical strain. We will use computational studies to demonstrate that mechanical strain, and potential phase transformations in the monochalcogenides, can excite electrons from the valence band to the conduction band at the X or the Y-valley separately, using appropriately polarized light. The success of this research project could have a transformative effect on the field of 2D electronics and specifically lead to an entirely new class of nanoscale electronic devices based on non-volatile valleytronics.

Keith Brown, ME
“Imaging with Cantilever-free Scanning Probes”

The atomic force microscope (AFM) is a tool that images surfaces with extremely high resolution by detecting miniscule forces acting on a sharp tip. Conventionally, these instruments require the use of a flexible microscopic cantilever in order to detect these forces; a fact which makes AFM probes difficult to manufacture and operate in parallel. Here, we propose to detect forces acting on probes that are directly mounted on a rigid support coated with a compliant film. Since these cantilever-free probes can easily be manufactured in massively parallel arrays, using them to image would transform AFM into a tool that can accommodate centimeter-scale, rather than microscopic, samples.  This capability is expected to enable advances in diverse fields including biomedical engineering, hierarchical materials, and nanoelectronics.

Bjorn Reinhard, Chemistry

“Photonics Molecules for Enhanced Optical Forces for Chiral Trapping”

Chemical chirality refers to a phenomenon that occurs when a molecule does not superimpose with its own mirror image. Importantly, the chemical properties of the so-called enantiomers can differ even though the molecules have the same formula. The concept of chirality is, however, not limited to stereochemistry but also applies to some electromagnetic fields.  The goal of this project is to take advantage of the chirality of electromagnetic fields to develop new strategies for separating chemical enantiomers.  In particular, the design criteria and fundamental working principles of nanoscale antennas that generate strong gradients in the optical chirality as needed for strong enantiomer-selective forces will be explored.

Michelle Sander, ECE
“Multi-dimensional Photothermal Vibrational Infrared Spectroscopy”

Infrared spectroscopy in the mid-infrared fingerprint region has emerged as a powerful tool to determine molecular structure. However, for characterization in crowded and overlapping vibrational spectral bands, unique material identification can be challenging. Thus, the combination of spectral characterization with additional thermal material-specific properties can provide critical information for the detection of hazardous materials or chemical analysis. Similarly, spectral signatures of proteins (amide-bands) combined with variations in thermal properties across a sample could provide a novel way to systematically differentiate healthy from diseased tissue. The overall goal of this project is to develop a mid-infrared multi-dimensional vibrational spectroscopy system with high sensitivity that combines photothermal and characteristic thermal material measurements in one label-free, contactless configuration at eye-safe wavelengths, utilizing a fiber laser probe.

Xin Zhang, ME and Stephan Anderson, Radiology, BUSM
“Marrying MEMS with Acoustic Metamaterials to Realize Ultrasound Applications”

Metamaterials composed of sub-wavelength unit cell can exhibit extraordinary behaviors that do not exist in the nature. Achieving negative permeability and permittivity in electromagnetic metamaterials (EMM) has been widely reported with a range of phenomena such as negative index materials and cloaking having been realized in this area. With regards to acoustic metamaterials (AMMs), the design of these sub-wavelength unit cell structures enables acoustic wave manipulation and many promising acoustics applications have been explored. Despite the promise of AMMs, one of the fundamental limitations include their relatively low working frequency as the majority of proposed acoustic metamaterials are effective in the range of Hz-kHz. Overcoming this common limitation of AMMs would enable their practical application in ultrasound imaging, which requires operation in the MHz regime. During this project, we seek to design and fabricate AMMs in the micron-scale using MEMS fabrication approaches, thereby achieving operating frequencies in the MHz regime, appropriate for biomedical ultrasound imaging. Achieving functional AMMs in the frequency regime optimal for ultrasound imaging enables a host of applications that may dramatically potentiate this powerful medical imaging modality.

Congratulations! And many thanks to all who applied.

Holmes, Stepp Receive NSF CAREER Award

January 13th, 2016 in MSE, Recent news

Thin rod study has potential for smart needles, robotic arms

Douglas Holmes, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science & engineering, and Cara Stepp, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and speech, language and hearing sciences, have received the 2015 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award in recognition of their outstanding research and teaching capabilities. Collectively, they will net more than $1 million over the next five years to pursue high-impact projects that combine research and educational goals.

Holmes will study the mechanics of how thin rods move through soft and fragile media such as tissue and granular materials. Knowledge gained from the study could enable the construction of advanced, autonomous structures capable of navigating around obstacles in such media. Thin rods and other active materials that can bend and fold on command are essential to the engineering of smart needles, soft robotic arms, and other flexible devices.

“The results of this award will help predict the deformation and buckling of slender structures within complex media, while providing a general framework for designing structures that can actively and controllably bend within soft and fragile matter,” says Holmes.

Part of the funding will be used to develop open, online course content designed to improve the general public’s understanding of mechanical engineering.

Stepp will use her NSF CAREER award funding to develop new technology to empower severely paralyzed individuals to communicate as quickly and reliably as people with normal speech and motor functioning. The technology could dramatically increase their independence.

“The problem of low information transfer rates (ITR) is a critical one for people with severe speech and motor impairments, who must rely on augmented and alternative communication (AAC) to interact with other people,” said Stepp. “The CAREER award will enable me to develop hardware and software to boost ITR by optimizing human-machine interfaces that support AAC.”

Stepp will also use the funding to create an organization for communication sciences and biomedical engineering students at Boston University in which teams will develop custom solutions for individuals with communication impairments.

Naturally Inspired: Zhang’s Research Takes a Page from Biology to Build Materials

January 13th, 2016 in MSE, Recent news

By Sara Elizabeth Cody

5. Cross section of a Coscinodiscus sp. diatom frustule by Zhang
The porous, three-dimensional structure of the diatom frustrules can be oriented on a large scale and used as a potential alternative for creating micro- and nanopattern surfaces, which have many practical applications in research.

At first glance, diatoms seem to have little to do with engineering. However, to Professor Xin Zhang, (ME, MSE), they are the central focus of a recently published study coming from her Laboratory for Microsystems Technology.

“By drawing inspiration from different fields of science, we come up with unconventional approaches to study the materials, which allows us to learn more about them,” says Zhang. “In this case, we learn from nature to build materials of our own.”

The study, published as the cover story in Extreme Mechanics Letters, used the exoskeletons of diatoms called frustules to develop a stencil that can be easily produced and replicated in a certain range of sizes for use in research protocols. The porous, bowl-shaped, three-dimensional exoskeletons, made naturally of pure silica, lent themselves well to stencil-making, and served as a unique fabrication method.

“The ability to uniformly orient the frustules will be beneficial for enhancing their application to practical technologies, from sensors to solar cells,” says Aobo Li (ME), a graduate student who worked on the study. “We were able to figure out how to orient them uniformly on a large scale, which allowed us to make micro- and nanostencils.”

Current methods of creating nanopattern surfaces presented a number of problems for researchers—they can be costly, time-consuming, or it can be hard to achieve scalability or control over the size of the stencil. Zhang’s novel approach seeks to address these limitations by using the bio-structures of the diatoms as a potential alternative for fabricating micro- and nanopatterns.

“You can make chips, you can make computers but if you humbly turn to nature, you see so many unique micro- and nanostructures that already exist,” says Zhang. “You can be inspired by these beautiful, available structures and can even build engineering components directly out of them. By looking to diatoms, we are trying to understand nature and leverage these biological components for our specific engineering purposes.”

BUnano shows strong presence at MRS 2015 Fall Meeting

December 15th, 2015 in MSE, Recent news

Material Research Society (MRS) held its bi-annual meeting in Boston November 30-December 4, 2015. BUnano faculty Klapperich, Bansil, and graduate students from Dal Negro’s and Grinstaff’s labs delivered oral and poster presentations. The advances described varied from biomaterials, drug delivery, optics, nanolayers and plasmonic applications to teaching.

KlapperichCatherine Klapperich, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering delivered a talk titled “Effects of Paper Materials on In Situ Nucleic Acid Amplification” where she reported the results of her group’s extensive investigation into the optimization of two different isothermal amplification schemes, helicase dependent amplification (tHDA) and loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP), on PCR for four separate DNA and RNA targets.

BansilRama Bansil, Professors of Physics and Materials Science & Engineering delivered an invited talk titled “Engaging Non-Science Majors: Physics of Food and Cooking.” The talk discussed a new course that Prof. Bansil has developed that introduces non-science majors to the basic principles of phase transitions and the science involved in cooking.

Professor Luca Dal Negro’s (ECE, MSE) group members delivered several talks on plasmonic applications at the MRS meeting. Yu Wang’s first talk “Broadband Enhancement of Local Density of States Using Silicon-Compatible Hyperbolic Metamaterials” highlighted a promising first step towards the engineering of novel Si-compatible broadband sources for applications to on-chip optical communication, processing and sensing. His second talk, “Tunable Optical and Structural Properties of Alternative Plasmonic Materials” demonstrated the critical importance of annealing treatments to provide tunability of both optical and structural properties of nanolayers. Another student from Professor Dal Negro’s group also presented two talks. Ran Zhang’s first talk, “Plasmon-enhanced Random Lasing in Bio-compatible Networks of Cellulose Nanofibers” focused on the cost-effective and facile synthesis of plasmon-driven random lasers and their potential for the development of novel types of random cavities and plasmonic lasers for optical biosensing and detection. Zhang’s second talk, “Active Core-Shell Plasmonic Composites for Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering,” focused on his research using biochemical testing and sensing. Finally, Ren Wang’s talk “Radiative Properties of Diffractively-coupled Optical Nano-antennas with Helical Geometry” highlighted novel opportunities for the engineering of chiral sensors, filters, polarized lasers, and components for nano-scale active antennas with unprecedented beam forming and polarization capabilities.

Professor Mark Grinstaff students Iriny Ekladious and Kristie Charoen Tevis delivered oral presentations. Kristie’s talk was titled “Efficacy of Paclitaxel Impacted by Both Three Dimensional Culture and Tumor Macrostructure,” while Iriny’s presentation was titled “Synthesis and Characterization of Poly(1,2-glycerol carbonate)-graft-succinic acid-paclitaxel Conjugate Nanoparticles.” Iriny’s talk described how through engineering a polymeric nanoparticle drug delivery system their group aims to address the known deficiencies of paclitaxel, chemotherapy drug. Kristie’s talk focused on the development of multi-cellular spheroid model of a breast cancer tumor, and its subsequent use to evaluate drug treatments, including a nanoparticulate formulation. Translational Research in Biomaterials (TRB) fellows from Grinstaff lab, Benjy Cooper and Julia Wang gave poster presentations. Benjy is developing, with promising results, polymeric biomaterials to restore lubrication and compressive strength to osteoarthritic cartilage. His poster, “Improving Cartilage Biolubrication with Soluble Polyzwitterionic Networks,” was a nominee for best poster prize. Julia’s poster, “Electrosprayed Superhydrophobic Layered Composites for Tension-induced Wetting and Drug Release,” focused on drug release with mechanical triggers using a superhydrophobic composite, since triggers are present in the body physiologically or can be applied externally. Control of the release of dye, proteins, and chemotherapeutics depended on the amount of strain applied to the system. Marlena Konieczynska’s posterA Dissolvable Hydrogel-based Dressing for Second-degree Burn Wounds” described a transparent hydrogel dressing which would address the painful problem of dressing change for second-degree burns. Finally, an undergraduate student from Grinstaff lab, Kathryn Hardin, presented a poster titled “Tribological Characterization of the Mode of Action of Multifunctional Polymer Lubricants,” which described her results on understanding the mechanism of lubrication between two surfaces of several new biopolymers.

BU MRS Student Chapter Participates in 2015 MRS Fall Meeting

December 15th, 2015 in MSE, Recent news









Members of the BU MRS Student Chapter entered the MRS T-shirt contest at the 2015 MRS Fall Meeting that was held Nov. 30-Dec 4th at the Hynes Convention Center, Boston.  Pictured  (left to right): Scott Gillard, Tom Stark, Erin Roberts. The MRS Reception was sponsored by the BU Division of Materials Science & Engineering, Department of Physics and the BU Nanotechnology Innovation Center. Photo Credit: Tom Stark

MSE graduate students also presented the following posters at the 2015 MRS Fall Meeting:
Title: Thermal conduction with phase change in a cylindrical liquid-solid two phase system under non-axisymmetric condition
Authors: Jicheng Guo, Mustafa Ordu, James Bird, Soumendra Basu,
Abstract: The melting dynamics of a phase change material (PCM) under non-axisymmetric condition appear qualitatively similar to the evaporation of a drop under Leidenfrost conditions, as both features a thin liquid/vapor layer between PCM and hot surface. However, the extent of the analogy is unclear. Here, we investigate the melting dynamics of PCM in thin-walled cylindrical containers. Through a combination of experiments and physical modeling, we identify a characteristic melting time and gap thickness, which we compare to evaporating droplets.
Title: Development of Transparent Electrodynamic Screens on Ultrathin Flexible Glass Film Substrates for Retrofitting Solar Panels and Mirrors for Self-Cleaning Function
Authors: M. K. Mazumder1, J. W. Stark1, C. Heiling1, M. Liu1, A. Bernard1, M. N. Horenstein1, S. Garner2, and H. Y. Lin3
1Boston University, Boston, MA 2Corning Inc., Corning. N.Y.3Industrial Technology Research Institute, Taiwan
Abstract: Design and construction of transparent electrodynamic screens(EDS) printed on ultra thin(100μm) flexible Corning®WillowTM glass film for retrofitting on solar mirrors and panels providing self-cleaning function are presented. Large-scale solarplants installed in semi-arid and desert lands can be shielded by EDS from dust layer build upon solar collectors, which cause major energy-yield loss[1,2]. Cost-effective printing of transparent conductive electrodes is discussed.

Title: Electrophoretically Deposited Spinel Coatings on Crofer 22 APU Interconnect in Solid Oxide Fuel Cells
Authors: Zhihao Sun, Ryan EriksenYiwen Gong, Ruofan Wang, Srikanth Gopalan, Uday Pal, Soumendra Basu
Abstract: The application of a protective coating on metallic interconnects is an effective way to prevent Cr-poisoning of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) cathod. In this study, nano-sized powders of copper manganese spinels (Cu1.3Mn1.7O4) were synthesized by glycine nitrate combustion process (GNP) and then were ball-milled and deposited on Crofer 22 APU by electrophoretic deposition (EPD).  After subsequent heat treatment, a dense and well-adhered coating  layer was achieved.

BUnano: The Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology Reveals New Name

December 2nd, 2015 in MSE, Recent news

Mark Grinstaff (Chemistry, BME, MSE), Director of Nanotechnology Innovation Center

Mark Grinstaff (Chemistry, BME, MSE), Director of Nanotechnology Innovation Center

Boston University Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology is changing its name to the Nanotechnology Innovation Center (BUnano). BUnano Center is where nanomaterials intersect medicine and energy, and the new name better reflects the ground-breaking activity and aspirations of the center.

BUnano is an interdisciplinary academic research center, now in its tenth year, which seeks to attain national and international prominence and recognition for Boston University research and applications in nanoscience, particularly in nanobiosystems and nanophotonics.

The Center (8 St. Mary’s Street) includes 45 affiliated faculty members representing ten departments from the Colleges of Engineering and Arts and Sciences and the School of Medicine and has over 200 students and postdoctoral fellows engaged in nano-based research.

The BUnano center builds linkages between researchers and technology commercialization resources at BU, including the Photonics Center, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and the BU-Fraunhofer Alliance for Medical Devices, Instrumentation and Diagnostics, to accelerate the development and deployment of nanotechnology innovations that will be used to meet key challenges in medicine, energy and materials science

The Center also serves as focal point for interactions with peer universities, Boston-area hospitals, industry, and government to accelerate advances in the field of nanoscience.

One of the most important programs offered by BUnano is the Cross-disciplinary Training in Nanotechnology for Cancer (XTNC) Program. XTNC has been supported by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, and trains pre- and post-doctoral scholars from science, engineering, and medicine in nanotechnology applications for cancer diagnostics and treatment. Through co-mentored research experiences, specialized coursework and hands on workshops, strong recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities, and a unique urban outreach program, XTNC trainees become versatile and skilled in research acumen, aware of many technologies and opportunities, and prepared to make an impact on cancer and other medical challenges.

To learn more about the Nanotechnology Innovation Center and its programs, visit our website: