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Vanderbilt robot teams, nano-engineering projects win young faculty NSF awards

Young Vanderbilt engineering faculty have netted prestigious CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation for their innovations.

Computer Scientist Julie A. Adams won a 2007 CAREER award for her human-robot teaming project, while mechanical engineer Deyu Li won the award for his research in nanochannels used in drug discovery and drug-detection devices.

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Li is developing minuscule devices that can analyze tiny samples of prospective new drugs so that development of new pharmaceuticals can be done more quickly and cheaply. An expert in nanofluidics, Li is studying the dynamics of how fluids flow and can be controlled at the nanoscale level (one billionth of a meter). This virtually uncharted territory is considered the frontier for pharmaceutical development.

“We will be using molecular simulations to predict nanoscale behavior of various fluids,” Li said. “We will take experimental measurements to test our predictions and will develop fluid-flow control strategies using thermal and electrical control strategies.”

Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Computer Engineering Adams is developing human-robotic interaction systems that allow a single human to supervise and coordinate large numbers of ground and aerial unmanned vehicles.

“The current state of the art in unmanned vehicle technology doesn’t support human interaction with large numbers of unmanned vehicles,” Adams said. “We are working toward developing systems that can provide sufficient support for emergency response to biological, nuclear, chemical, radioactive or explosive incidents.”

Adams is working on the design of visualizations that allow the human operator to easily understand the situations large numbers of unmanned vehicles are confronting and to supervise, manage and guide their activities. The resulting system will permit human users from all levels of emergency response command to understand the unmanned vehicle activities across the incident scene.

Adams came to Vanderbilt in 2003 from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She earned her doctoral degree in 1995 from the University of Pennsylvania. Li joined the Vanderbilt Engineering faculty in 2004 from the University of California, Berkeley, where he obtained his doctoral degree in 2002.


National Science Foundation CAREER award Julie A. Adams Deyu Li