Six University of Tennessee, Knoxville researchers were awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER prices for the 2020 submission period. Recipients include three professors from the College of Arts and Sciences, two of Tickle College of Engineering, and one of the College of Education, Health and Humanities-all assistant professors. Since 1995, 77 UT researchers have received NSF CAREER awards.
“We are very proud of our 2020-2021 CAREER laureates,” said Vice-Chancellor Research Deborah Crawford. “They join a community of highly accomplished UT faculty whose expertise spans the spectrum of scientific and technical fields and whose contributions to research and education position Tennessee as a leader in the global economy of Tennessee. ‘innovation.”
In previous years, UT professors with CAREER projects have contributed to fundamental understanding of immunology, sustainable urban water management, quantum materials and the future of agriculture and of food production.
The CAREER award is one of the highest honors a junior science or engineering faculty member can receive. Each award includes a grant of at least $ 400,000 over five years to establish a solid foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.
CARRIÈRE award winners
The research of Mahshid Ahmadi, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, involves designing so-called inorganic organic halide perovskites, a general term for a class of materials that can be made by combining several different metallic elements. such as lead and tin, organic molecules and halides. to form a perovskite structure.
“Winning an NSF CAREER award is quite an honor, and it reflects both my work and that of my research collaborators,” said Ahmadi. “I look forward to the breakthroughs that will be made possible by this award and the support that goes with it. “
Jessica Budke, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of the UT Herbarium, received a CAREER award for her work on parent-child conflict in mosses. Over the next five years, his research group will study the evolution of structures allowing the offspring of mosses to take more resources for their growth and simultaneously the evolution of parenting structures that help them conserve resources for their own survival. and their future reproduction – what Budke calls an “evolutionary arms race”.
“We’re trying to think about this in terms of how plants live in the world,” Budke said. “Evolution can occur over long periods of time, but with this research we are focusing on a single generation to understand how parents influence their offspring, particularly how they provide the resources they need to survive, thrive, and produce. the next generation of foams.
Through a community-engaged critical fellowship and in collaboration with black and Latin families, teachers and two community organizations, Frances Harper, Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education Theory and Practice, will co-design and co-design will explore two educational programs aimed at advancing racial justice in elementary mathematics. The first program aims to build the capacity of parents to catalyze change in classrooms and schools, and the second will provide professional development that helps elementary math teachers learn with and from black and Latin families.
Through his research, Harper aims to understand how to foster and increase the engagement of black and Latin parents in solidarity with community organizations and teachers to provide a role model for other communities and schools seeking to advance racial justice in mathematics education.
“By the end of the project,” explained Harper, “the goal is to bring together a dedicated group of teachers, parents and caregivers, and community partners who can lead change in math education for students. black and Latin children.
Olivia Prosper, assistant professor of mathematics, aims to create a methodology that finds the most cost-effective approach to collecting data for a given mathematical model. Mathematical modeling of infectious diseases is a valuable tool for improving understanding of the spread of disease and for answering “what if” questions about different control measures. However, a mismatch between the data available and the data needed to inform a model could lead to erroneous conclusions about which control policies will be most effective in achieving a particular goal.
“The methods and framework developed in the project have the potential to transform the way modeling and empirical work is carried out by providing a concrete means of informing the experimental design a priori and so that mathematical models can be useful to empiricists at a reasonable cost, ”said Prosper.
As part of the award, Prosper will develop a series of educational modules that will engage undergraduates in the fundamentals of mathematical modeling, coding and visualization, using a collaborative and inquiry-based approach.
“I’m targeting math novices or students who come to college with little or no math experience,” Prosper said. “I want to challenge the idea that students have to come to college knowing math and calculus in order to earn STEM degrees.”
Assistant Professor Hector Pulgar of the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science uses emerging technology to improve the flow of energy in the power grid, especially from non-traditional sources.
“The increased use of energy from things like solar power and wind turbines requires that we come up with new control systems and examine how they interact with existing control mechanisms under various conditions. operational, ”said Pulgar. “If we make this progress, not only will we have an impact on grid stability, but it can at the same time help the environment by helping us continue to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. “
His proposal includes an educational plan that will leverage research through specific projects, including the creation of mentorship programs for Latin American students at the pre-college and college levels.
Kimberly Sheldon, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, studies the impact of temperature on insect development and survival, and how rising temperatures are expected to cause insect populations to decline. However, insects could compensate for temperature increases by modifying their behavior to take advantage of the cooler microclimates in their environment. To understand the potential for behavioral changes to protect organisms from warming, Sheldon’s CAREER project will expose tropical and temperate dung beetles, a group of ecologically and economically beneficial insects, to temperature increases using experiments in laboratory and field operations. The research will be incorporated into a Native American high school curriculum and undergraduate internships to support STEM literacy and interest in STEM fields among various students.
Sheldon, who joined UT faculty in 2016, credits the support she received from colleagues and the college for her successful grant proposal.
“I was given the encouragement and freedom to pursue my research goals and develop the educational program that led to the CAREER award,” said Sheldon. “I also have excellent collaborators in Ecuador and with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians who have supported the research and education goals and talented lab members who have put together some of the preliminary data that went into the proposal. “
Heather Peters (865-974-8674, [email protected])
Erin Chapin (865-974-2187, [email protected])