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Su Honored with NSF CAREER award

August 10, 2009 11:29 AM

Two UMBC Professors Win NSF CAREER Awards

Two UMBC scientists were recently recognized as among the nation’s top young faculty in their fields by the National Science Foundation (NSF), receiving the NSF’s CAREER award, an honor that comes with five years of research funding and support.

Without the expertise of physicists like Gougousi, beloved consumer electronics like iPhones, Blackberries and iPods would drain their batteries in half an hour. “Silicon-based technology has reached its limit,” Gougousi said. “Gallium Arsenide is a possible next-generation material."

“It’s somewhat like putting down paving stones to make a patio; we stack layers of atoms one on top of the other. Our stones and glue are organic molecules and water. Our goal is to understand the interactions of these materials at the atomic level and develop techniques to produce a dependable, good quality film.”

“Show Me the Motion”

“We use virtual reality, or VR, as a tool to design machine systems, especially those with flexible parts,” Su said. Su’s toolkit, known as the VR design environment, adds a crucial third dimension to early-stage design and prototyping.

Su and his students use a virtual reality helmet, interactive glove and a pen-like gizmo known as a haptic device, which lets users feel a virtual prototype. Their goal is designing machine parts capable of precise - sometimes delicate - motions at the different scales.

“An example is the tip of a robot’s grasper arm in a factory assembly line,” said Su. “It has to be able to be flexible in order to accommodate errors. If it’s too rigid, it doesn’t work correctly.”

Su is honored by the CAREER award, and hopes it will enable him to spend time on another passion: educating the next generation of engineers. Hosting and teaching a two-week summer course for high school students was part of his award proposal.

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