Two NJIT faculty members will receive Innovators’ Awards and two recent alumni will be honored at the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame dinner on Oct. 22, 2009 at Stevens Institute of Technology.
NJIT Distinguished Chemical Engineering Professor Kamalesh Sirkar, of Bridgewater, will be honored for his work advancing membrane separation technology. Last week the NJIT Board of Overseers awarded Sirkar its prestigious Excellence in Research Prize and Medal for his work which includes 24 patents, 156 refereed journal articles, mentoring many professionals and obtaining many competitive federal grants.
Ali Abdi, an associate professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, will be honored for his “novel cross-disciplinary engineering biology invention.” Last year Abdi received the same award for his research in acoustic communication. Abdi shares this year’s award with Effat S. Emamian, MD, founder and CEO of Advanced Technologies for Novel Therapeutics, a start-up company in NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center, a business incubator program. In 2006, Abdi received an NJIT Excellence in Teaching Award.
Recent doctoral graduates Chuan Bi Lin and Ziqian Dong will be honored for their inventive applications-oriented electrical engineering research. Dong was the recipient of the prestigious Hashimoto Prize at the May 2009 commencement.
“Professors Sirkar and Abdi demonstrate NJIT’s commitment to making science work for issues that are important to everyone,” said Donald H. Sebastian, PhD, NJIT Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Research and Development. “The university is channeling its resources to orient every academic unit towards solving the technical, business and social issues related to alternative energy, sustainable systems, applied life science and engineering, healthcare and the design professions.
Sirkar, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is a recipient of the prestigious Clarence G. Gerhold Award from the separations division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).
Today, membrane separation technology has secured niches in industries ranging from brewing beer to manufacturing pharmaceuticals. This technology is also integral to meeting stringent standards for the purity of the water and even air. It is key to preventing explosions in aircraft fuel tanks and helping people with kidney disease. “Membrane separation will become the best technology for future applications that require separating components in a liquid or gas,” he said. “You can achieve the highest levels of purity at costs lower than those of alternative processes.” Sirkar is NJIT Foundation Professor of Membrane Separations and director of the Center for Membrane Technologies.
The basic principles of membrane separation have been known for a long time. Intestines in animals and humans are semi-permeable membranes, and early experiments to study the process of separation were performed by chemists using samples of animal intestine. By 2040, most US water treatment plants will use this technology because it is a green process that uses relatively low energy consumption.
In Sirkar’s NJIT lab, recent groundbreaking work in the field has included a membrane distillation technique that can recover a larger fraction of water from brine than reverse osmosis; a selective protein ultrafiltration method that could rival chromatography as a process for protein purification; and gas permeation membranes that facilitate the separation of carbon dioxide from air by allowing the carbon dioxide to pass through the membrane up to eighteen-thousand times faster than oxygen and nitrogen.
Abdi’s research focuses on digital communication in underwater and terrestrial channels, estimation and characterization of wireless channels, blind modulation recognition, and molecular networks. Last year, Science Signaling published an article by Abdi, Emamian, and Mehdi Tahoori, assistant professor at Northeastern University, about a computational biology method they developed. The team assumed that complex diseases such as schizophrenia, major depression and cancer are not caused by one, but a multitude of dysfunctional genes. They developed a biologically-driven vulnerability assessment method. This novel algorithm is capable of calculating the vulnerability levels of all molecules in a network. Using a computer, they analyzed the vulnerability of several signaling networks. The research holds promise for finding molecules that contribute to human diseases and for identifying targets in drug development.