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Four VINSE Faculty Win 2024 School of Engineering Research Awards

Posted by on Thursday, May 9, 2024 in News.



At the recent School of Engineering End of the Year Social, Dean Krish Roy presented several awards. Four faculty members from the Vanderbilt Institute for Nanoscale Science and Engineering (VINSE) were honored for their outstanding contributions to research.


Rising Star Research Award: Marjan Rafat

Marjan Rafat, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Radiation Oncology, received the Rising Star Research Award. This award celebrates an early-career faculty member who has demonstrated significant potential in research within the first five years of their academic appointment. Rafat’s research integrates engineering and cancer biology concepts to understand how healthy tissues interact with cancer cells in driving tumor recurrence and metastasis. By investigating the intricate relationship of tumor cells, normal tissues and the immune system, the Rafat lab is revealing how physical, chemical and biological cues contribute to cancer metastasis and relapse after therapy. With funding from prominent institutions like National Cancer Institute, the Breast Cancer Alliance, the Concern Foundation, the American Cancer Society and METAvivor, her lab is working to create in vitro models that mimic tumors and tissues as well as bio-inspired hydrogel materials.


Innovative Research Award: Justus Ndukaife

The Innovative Research Award was presented to Justus Ndukaife, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. This award recognizes a faculty member who has developed novel methodologies or technologies that have substantially advanced their field of study. In Ndukaife’s research, he is creating a new optical nanotweezer approach to capture thousands of single extracellular vesicles and particles within seconds and then analyze them to determine their individual biomolecular composition. His work has long-term implications in the fields of biology and human health and in the development of therapies for cancer and other diseases. Ndukaife’s research is creating entirely new ways of investigating the chemical interactions that define life.


Interdisciplinary Research Award: Josh Caldwell

Josh Caldwell, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of Vanderbilt’s Interdisciplinary Materials Science (IMS) graduate program, was honored with the Interdisciplinary Research Award for successfully leading interdisciplinary projects and integrating different fields of study to address complex research questions. Caldwell’s research focuses on the confinement of electromagnetic energy to the nano- to atomic-scale and the interactions between light and matter within confined systems. His group is studying photons and electron-phonon coupling for infrared nanophotonics and is identifying novel optical, electro-optical and electronic materials. His achievements have earned him recent elections to the 2024 class of Optica Fellows and SPIE Fellows, as well as a prestigious Multi-University Research Initiative (MURI) grant from the Office of Naval Research.


Best Paper Award: Deyu Li

The prestigious Best Paper Award was given to Deyu Li, Professor of Mechanical Engineering. This award acknowledges a senior faculty member who has made sustained and extraordinary contributions to research over the course of their career. Li has made significant contributions in nanoscale energy transport as well as microfluidics and nanofluidics. He is internationally recognized for his pioneering work in thermal transport through individual nanostructures and their contacts, which has important implications in microelectronics cooling and nanocomposites. His recent work on “Remarkable heat conduction mediated by non-equilibrium phonon polaritons” was published in Nature (Nature 623, 307-312, 2023).


VINSE congratulates these faculty members on their outstanding research and contributions to the community!

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