Victoria Andre, College of Engineering graduate student at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, presents her research to Dr. Alsafrjalani from the Department of Electrical and Chemical Engineering.

College of Engineering Faculty and Students Present Groundbreaking Research on “Research Day”

Victoria Andre, College of Engineering graduate student at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, presents her research to Dr. Alsafrjalani from the Department of Electrical and Chemical Engineering.
By Lucas Baker

Victoria Andre, College of Engineering graduate student at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, presents her research to Dr. Alsafrjalani from the Department of Electrical and Chemical Engineering.

College of Engineering Faculty and Students Present Groundbreaking Research on “Research Day”

By Lucas Baker
College of Engineering faculty and students presented 85 projects centered on developing innovative solutions to real-world problems.

As part of college’s second annual Research Day, held February 25, 2022, at the Coral Gables campus, presenters shared their advances towards finding cures for cancer, energy-efficient building materials, advanced materials synthesis, and new applications for 3D printing, among others.

These areas of presentation highlighted the strategic initiatives of the college and the high level of involvement from faculty, research staff, and students advanced the mission of the college. Alan Sirkin, member of the Dean’s Advisory Committee and the class of 1967, sponsored Research Day to promote the value of research. “I remember when I was a student here at UM, the best parts of studying engineering were the laboratories and learning about new things and how to create things, and that’s always been with me.” Mr. Sirkin continues to share his love for research, and we are grateful to the Sirkin family for supporting this year’s event.

“The College of Engineering is focused on answering the big, challenging questions and working together across the departments to propose solutions to pressing social problems, in areas such as health engineering, advanced materials, sustainability and resilience, space sciences and engineering, data sciences and engineering, and energy and environment,” explained Dean Pratim Biswas, speaking at the event.

The college’s annual Research Day event is organized by Dr. Helena Solo-Gabriele, Associate Dean for Research of the College of Engineering. Looking back at how the event has grown, she recognizes the importance and impact it has for the college. “Research Day showcases much of the high-impact research conducted in the College of Engineering. It is a day where we were able to connect with collaborators, faculty, and students to share what we have been working on. The event showcases the diversity and depth of research within the College of Engineering.”

PhD and undergraduate students displayed the results of their work during the Poster Session and the following speaker sessions highlighted crucial areas of research activity in the college.

Engineering Cancer Cures

Dr. Ashutosh Agarwal and Dr. Shanta Dhar unveiled their Engineering Cancer Cures project, a joint initiative from the college and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center (SCCC). Researchers are bringing together their expertise and resources to seek unprecedented, lifesaving, technological innovation. Dr. Stephen Nimer, Director of the SCCC, expounded on the strategy for developing the initiative this year, explaining that their goal is “to develop as many collaborations as we can to yield meaningful and important research projects.” The project has set three areas of emphasis: intelligent materials for detection, diagnosis, and treatment; engineering devices to promote drug discovery and delivery; and big data and artificial intelligence as applied to imaging.

Advanced Materials for Manufacturing

Dr. Emrah Celik, Dr. James Coakley, Dr. Luis Ruiz Pestana, and Dr. Giacomo Po moderated the next speaker session, Advanced Materials for Manufacturing. Presenters treated the audience to a spectacularly wide range of research topics. Bill Hixson discussed how developing alloys that cool faster can significantly accelerate 3D printing: “The way 3D printing works for metals, particularly with selective laser melting, is you lay down a thin layer of metal powder. A pinpoint laser melts that powder in a certain pattern, as designed, and it melts to what’s below it. Then a new layer of powder is applied and the laser scans over it once more. Eventually, layer by layer, you can build up a three-dimensional part.”

Dr. James Coakley contrasted the current generation of materials that make up aerospace engines to refractory superalloys, the next generation of aerospace materials that his team is working on at the University. He says the goal is to beat nickel as the de facto material in engine-making. Refractory superalloys can usher in a new generation of low-density, high-performance, high-temperature materials. Research funded by the National Science Foundation will be commencing in August 2022.

Addressing crucial challenges posed by climate change, Zhiwie Yan presented research focused on how new energy storage devices are needed to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. Climate change will fundamentally alter human life and ecology in Miami, but innovation in renewable energy could help curb the worst effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

Concerned with the more than one billion tons of wasted basaltic rock per year, Ying Wang discussed how cutting-edge heating methods could make basaltic rock suitable for construction. Tomorrow’s buildings could be built with rocks currently wasted and taking up space all over the world.

Dr. Ghahremaninezhad and Elvis Baffoe presented research on how nature could teach us how to create self-healing concrete. Taking inspiration from mussels that create high-performance adhesion using special proteins, bio-inspired concrete materials could heal infrastructural cracks and fissures, leading to safer structures for all.

Advanced Materials in Healthcare

Dr. Sakhrat Khizroev and Dr. Fabrice Manns moderated the third speaker session, Advanced Materials in Healthcare, demonstrating all the ways engineering and medicine intersect.

Combating eye cancer, Emma Drabbe declared that her mission is to, “make the first ever laboratory model to mimic retinoblastoma. We do this by growing eye organoids from a single cell into a mini tissue so we can study how this cancer starts and how it progresses and to, eventually, know what we need to attack.”

Kevin Davis presented exciting research regarding brain computer interfaces and how direct brain control of computers could transform the lives of people suffering from paralysis, which number 5.4 million in the United States.

Dr. Diana Velluto discussed how nanomaterials could be used as drug delivery vehicles in the body, calling them a “nano-FedEx” that can improve pharmaceutical results. Her patented Drug Integrating Amphiphilic Nanomaterial Assemblies (DIANAs) can reduce side effects by ensuring localized drug delivery and necessitating fewer treatments.

Dr. Ashutosh Agarwal’s presentation, “Breast Cancer Metastasis on a Chip,” detailed how the use of animals has limited applicability when studying diseases and therapeutics. Using a chip, researchers hope to discover how breast cancer metastasizes in a specific patient. As this research develops, researchers could learn how to isolate cancer cells using a blood sample and test the effectiveness of specific chemotherapies on these cancer cells before treating the patient.

Spotlighting her ongoing work in spinal cord injury, Dr. Courtney Dumont explained how hydrogel tubes can guide spinal cord repair. Biomaterial Accumulating Carriers for On-demand Nanotargeting (BEACON) could be injected into a patient to find spinal cord injury and deliver medicine directly. This research has been mainly driven by Andrew Ciciriello and in collaboration with Dr. Shanta Dhar’s lab.

Dr. Onur Tigli delved into his research on chips and their many healthcare applications. For example, chips can be used as biosensors to detect viruses and bacteria as well as diagnose cancers.

Closing out the session, Dr. Sakhrat Khizroev communicated his confidence that, while there is much more work to do, cancer will be cured. His presentation focused on Engineering Cancer Cures, the joint initiative by the college and the SCCC. “High-specificity membrane crossing—penetrating cancer cells while sparing normal cells—is a major technology challenge. Using magneto-electric nanoparticles (MENPs) solves this challenge. We want to be able to kill cancer cells at the earliest stages.”

Research Day Poster Session Winners

During the poster session in the Lakeside Pavilion, judges and the public surveyed 54 research posters created by students. Judges looked for clarity of content, quality of content, results and conclusions, significance of study, graphs and visuals, informativeness, oral skills, and proficient expertise. Winners were announced for each category.

General Undergraduate: Collette Thomas

Energy, Environment & Manufacturing: Mert Akin

Healthcare/Biomedical: Leonor Teles

Materials: Elric Zhang

Machine Learning and Computer Science: Anchen Sun

The college could not be prouder of the forward-thinking research put forward by its students.

Attend a College of Engineering 75th Anniversary Event

The college is hosting an event every month this year to celebrate its history and its future. Check out the event calendar and join us in celebrating the College’s cutting-edge work and ever brighter future.