Prestigious CAREER Grants Assist Young Investigators

Professor Treena Livingston Arinzeh, recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) award, the highest national honor for young scientists and engineers.

When computer scientist Yi Chen joined the NJIT faculty in January as associate professor of management, she brought with her a research program that focuses on big data analytics; information discovery, social computing and workflow management.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, IBM and Google, she studies fundamental technologies to address these problems as well as their applications in business, Web, science and healthcare.

“We are in the era of big data. While data are everywhere, how to discover relevant information and how to obtain actionable knowledge from the vast amounts of data are pressing challenges,” she explained. “My work aims to provide data management solutions for structured data in business, Web, science and healthcare applications.”

Chen’s grant support includes a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant, which recognizes promising young researchers and helps them build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research. The CAREER grant is one of the NSF's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Chen is not the only CAREER recipient at NJIT; 19 young faculty members have been recognized since the program began in 1996.

The most notable recipient has been Treena Livingston Arinzeh, professor of biomedical engineering. Her CAREER grant, awarded in 2003, was upgraded to a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) award, the highest national honor for young scientists and engineers, for her groundbreaking research with adult stem cells. She has since won numerous awards and grants for her research. She developed a new technique for building scaffolds to support stem cells in a technique to repair and grow bones, using electrospinning, in which an electrical charge draws nanoscale fibers from a liquid. She recently received a Coulter Foundation Translational Award to develop this product and establish its pre-clinical efficacy. She is also leading an NSF-funded project to investigate using piezoelectric materials as scaffolding for stem cells in regenerating severe cartilage defects.

Five faculty members in addition to Chen currently hold CAREER grants:

Nirwan Ansari, professor of electrical and computer engineering, researches various aspects of high speed networks and multimedia communications. His CAREER grant, focused on dependable data management in sensor networks, aims to provide insights for dependable data management in emerging wireless networks such as mobile ad hoc networks, wireless mesh networks, and vehicular networks.

Wenda Cao, associate professor of physics, received a CAREER award to upgrade the focal plane instrumentation suite (specifically the infrared imaging magnetograph, or IRIM) from the now-retired 65-cm telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory. The goal is to develop high resolution instrumentation to explore solar activity.

Reza Curtmola, assistant professor of computer science, focuses his research on the integrity of data stored remotely at a cloud storage provider. He received a CAREER grant to develop a practical remote data checking (RDC) framework to ensure long-term integrity and reliability for remotely stored data.

Edgardo Farinas, assistant professor of chemistry and environmental science, received a prestigious NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award to support his research in the development of methodologies and “rules” for enzyme design, and the application of these methods efficiently to create novel and practical biocatalysts.

Bryan Pfister, associate professor of biomedical engineering, received a CAREER award f to support and expand his research into rapid axon stretch growth, a technique for regenerating damaged or diseased nerve cells. By studying the tissue grown through the stretching technique, he hopes to find clues to repairing traumatic injuries to the spinal cord and other nerve tissue. He also hopes to develop a nerve-tissue interface that would allow for a thought-controlled prosthesis that would behave like a natural limb.

Former CAREER grant recipients include some of the university’s top researchers:

Tara Alvarez, associate professor of biomedical engineering, is conducting neuroscience research that could help stroke victims recover their vision but also lead to diagnosis of other visual diseases. She seeks to understand how the brain learns when visually locating objects in three-dimensional (3D) space. Her research will lead to a better understanding of basic motor control and also discover how dysfunctions in the eyes’ three-dimensional tracking system affect motor learning. 

Marvin Nakayama, professor of computer science, focuses his research on computer simulation modeling and analysis. His current project is to study complex stochastic systems, with one particular focus on cascading failures, such as the electric power grid and fault-tolerant computing systems. The goal is to produce efficient analytical and simulation methods for analyzing such systems, as well as a better understanding of this potentially devastating phenomenon.

Andrei Sirenko, professor of physics, studies the application of spectroscopy in optics, condensed matter physics, and device materials physics. His areas of expertise include raman spectroscopy, infrared spectroscopy, hard x-ray synchrotron, and optical ellipsometry. His group built a far-infrared ellipsometer to probe magnetic excitations in complex oxide materials for the National Synchrotron Light Source.

Trevor Tyson, distinguished professor of physics, has established himself as one of the top scientists in the world in the studies of atomic, magnetic, and electronic structure of correlated electron systems. His experimental work is closely coupled with detailed modeling to provide a comprehensive picture of the microscopic origin of macroscopic phenomena such as magnetism, ferrolelectricity and basic atomic structure.

Haiman Wang, distinguished professor of physics and director of the Space Weather Research Laboratory, leads two important international projects: Global Halpha Network to observe the sun around the clock and Information Technology Research for Space Weather Prediction.