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From Animal Locomotion to Intelligent Transportation Systems: Showcasing NJIT's New Research Talent

Namas Chandra

In a showcase of NJIT’s new research talent, a symposium and poster session on campus this week presented the university’s growing expertise in scholarly fields ranging from health care informatics, to biochemistry, to architecture, while highlighting the potential for multidisciplinary collaborations to address pressing 21st century challenges.

Focusing on the interface between technology and human health, the symposium featured talks by a neuroscientist who researches information transfer in animal motor control systems, a biomedical engineer who specializes in understanding the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI), and an architect who recently designed and built three government-commissioned health care centers for the city of Madrid.

NJIT’s 12 new hires this academic year are part of an ambitious plan launched in 2012 to broaden the university’s research capabilities, adding a total of 50 new faculty members over a three-year period, and in the process, “expanding our research portfolio and the horizons of our university,” as Basil Baltzis, interim dean of the Newark College of Engineering, put it in introducing what he called the “extremely talented and promising individuals” presenting their work at the event.

In the talk Neural Circuit Dynamics: Lessons from Lobsters and Crabs, Dirk Bucher, an associate professor of biological sciences, described his research on the role of neuromodulators in shaping and stabilizing neural network functions, pointing up the importance of basic science in elucidating fundamental bodily processes.

Bucher, who joined the faculty of NJIT from the University of Florida College of Medicine, began his slide show by illustrating his eagerness to join what he called the “vibrant neuroscience community of NJIT” with contrasting photos of a sun-drenched Florida landscape and of himself in an ice-encrusted winter hat, noting, “I was willing to leave this for this,” prompting chuckles from the winter-weary audience.

Namas Chandra, a professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Center for Injury Bio-Mechanics, Materials and Medicine, who evaluates the impact of blasts and blunt impacts on the brain in a ‘shock tube,’ described his research as “in itself an interdisciplinary challenge” that requires a holistic approach that draws on biology, medicine and engineering.

“We are able to solve problems by working collectively,” Chandras noted, adding that because of its broad expertise, he looked to NJIT to become “the focal point for TBI in the tri-state region.”

Maria Hurtado de Mendoza, an associate professor of architecture and co-founder of the Madrid-based studio.entresitio, discussed her firm’s multi-year commission to build three health care clinics for the city of Madrid that resulted in dramatically different structures, despite their common footprint and floor plan, through the use of different materials, textures and color schemes. Quickly hailed as beautiful and iconic structures, she noted that the design process had focused, however, “not on the outer form, but the connections inside.”

For a fuller view of faculty research including work presented in the poster session and for faculty biographies, connect here: http://www.njit.edu/academics/pdf/2014-Faculty-Mini-Symposium_Program.pdf.