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ENGINEERING University of Arizona College of Engineering Progress Report 2011

R E S E A R C H P O R T F O L I O , P H I L O S O P H Y, E D U C A T I O N

Research is at the Heart of Arizona Engineering This is Arizona Engineering — improving the quality of life for all through a multidisciplinary attack against important problems — says UA College of Engineering Dean Jeff Goldberg Research and education go hand in hand at the University of Arizona College of Engineering. Each year we share our discoveries and publish hundreds of papers in the leading engineering and science journals. Participating in the discovery process in research is a key piece of both our graduate and undergraduate programs. Our goal is to create knowledge and implement systems that will improve the quality of life for all people.

Research Portfolio The College’s 120 faculty members conduct research in four general areas that reflect the strategic needs of Arizona and the world: sustainability; biomedical; aerospace, defense and autonomous systems; and signals, sensors and systems. Our research portfolio includes more than 100 funded projects, and research expenditures have increased during the past five years. In fiscal year 2010 we had expenditures of more than $25 million and awards of more than $33 million. We support more than 200 graduate research assistants and have hundreds of undergraduates and high school interns in our laboratories. Involving students in research is a key part of our recruiting strategy and a strength

we have upgraded our facilities and enhanced our staff skills. We work hard at research development and we find projects from industry, the federal government, defense agencies, and private foundations. Our goals are increasing knowledge and educating students, and we are developing funding and facilities to fully accomplish them.

Tackling Important Problems UA College of Engineering Dean Jeff Goldberg

of the College. By any measure, the research future of the College is extremely bright.

Research Philosophy We have transformed our research philosophy during the last three years and it is now a key part of the College’s new strategic plan. We continue to strive to solve important problems relative to our region and to the nation, but as problems become more difficult they invariably require engineering ideas from different disciplines. It is imperative, therefore, that we attack with a broad array of skills and talent. Compared to a decade ago, we now have far more team research projects and multiinvestigator, large-dollar programs. To support our faculty in this change,


The hardest part of producing this progress report was deciding which projects to include. We decided to emphasize the idea of progress and highlight our newest faculty members, our newest funded projects, and projects that go to the heart of our four research areas. In this report you will see faculty of all ranks, but in all cases you will see research that is critical to improving the quality of life. From solving water and energy issues to ensure sustainable long-term growth in the Southwest, to understanding cell organization so we can determine how tissue grows and is repaired, to expanding our horizons in space travel, to detecting and correcting errors in data storage and communication — we work on important problems. — Jeff Goldberg


Algae Biofuels and Future Engineers Kimberly Ogden is UA’s principal investigator on a $44 million DoE biofuels project, and an NSF-funded STEM educator The National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB), of which the UA is a member, received a grant in 2010 from the U.S. Department of Energy totaling more than $44 million for algal biofuels and bioproducts research and development. Kim Ogden, professor of chemical and environmental engineering, serves as the University of Arizona’s principal investigator and is also head of the alliance’s engineering efforts. “To tackle the problem of large-scale production of algae for fuels and other products we have to have a better

understanding of everything from the biology to the interfacing with existing petroleum processing plants,” Ogden said. “We’re looking at the whole thing, from growing algae to putting fuel in your tank.” The UA’s multifaceted contribution includes water usage and quality research, and reactor design.

Professor Kim Ogden

This program gives graduate students a greater understanding of their own work, and improves their teaching abilities while sparking kids’ interest in engineering. “The idea is for graduate students to invigorate the junior high and high school curricula by bringing their research related to water and energy engineered systems directly to the classroom,” Ogden said.

In 2010 Ogden was also awarded $2.7 million by the National Science Foundation for a project to get engineering graduates and educators teaching side by side in school classrooms. The award was made under the NSF Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education program.

Contaminant-Free Drinking Water

BIO5 Institute

Shane Snyder conducts research critical to public health in water‑scarce regions Shane Snyder joined the UA College of Engineering as a professor of chemical and environmental engineering in 2010.

Professor Shane Snyder is co-director of the NSFfunded Arizona Lab for Emerging Contaminants

In 1998, Snyder discovered that estrogens and pharmaceuticals were common contaminants in North American waters. His research has been hailed as the first in North America to link the presence of trace steroids to reproductive problems in fish.

Snyder’s research focus is on the fate, transport, and treatment of what are known as emerging contaminants, such as endocrine-disrupting compounds, perchlorate, nanoparticles, and pharmaceuticals.

Several of these chemicals have been linked to abnormalities in fish and there is growing concern about the implications for public health. In waterscarce regions of the world, including Arizona, water reuse is essential for sustainability, and Snyder’s research is recognized as a critical component of water reuse projects. Snyder’s research on emerging contaminants and sustainable engineered systems for water reuse will play an important role in the planning and design of sustainable cities. “Considering the far reaching consequences of climate change and burgeoning human pollution and urban density, the demand for clean, sustainable water will continue to escalate,” Snyder said.



line.” They are, he said, “economic cost, environmental cost — which includes energy consumption and greenhouse gas production — and social costs, or social acceptability.” The research group will work with the City of Tucson, Pima County and Global Water, a private water provider.

More Clean Water, Less Energy Use Kevin Lansey is remodeling Tucson’s municipal water supply for sustainability Professor Kevin Lansey, head of the department of civil engineering and engineering mechanics, and four UA colleagues have been awarded $2 million by the National Science Foundation to research water reuse and supply systems. The NSF’s Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation is funding the research project — Optimization of Dual Conjunctive Water Supply and Reuse Systems with Distributed

Professor Kevin Lansey

Treatment for High-growth Water-scarce Regions — which will ultimately produce a computer model for water managers who are grappling with the problem of using less energy while meeting increased demand for water. Lansey defines the research project has having three goals, or three costs, what he describes as a “triple bottom

Lansey’s model proposes decentralized, distributed water treatment plants to ameliorate the prodigious amount of energy required, and greenhouse gases emitted, to move the vast volumes of water around the city between consumers and treatment plants. Lansey’s group will look at where to locate these decentralized plants, and investigate how to make such systems reliable, and how to ensure that the water being served is of the appropriate quality. “We’re going to show what’s cost effective at what scale,” Lansey said.

Aerosol Particles Demystified Armin Sorooshian is studying how aerosol particles affect everything from climate change to naval operations Armin Sorooshian, an assistant professor in the department of chemical and environmental engineering, and the atmospheric sciences department, researches the effects of aerosol particles on climate change, public health, and renewable energy applications. In particular, he is studying the interactions between aerosols, clouds, and precipitation. He uses various methods for this research, including laboratory experiments, ground and airborne field measurements, modeling, and remote

sensing observations. Sorooshian’s recent work has explored the effects of ocean ecology on maritime clouds and has shown which regions of the planet may be most susceptible to suppression of rainfall as a result of aerosol pollution. “These aerosols, which influence critical environmental parameters such as visibility, remain poorly understood owing to their complex nature, measurement limitations and the difficulty in untangling aerosol effects from meteorology,” Sorooshian said.


Assistant Professor Armin Sorooshian

Sorooshian is one of only 17 scientists chosen nationally by the Office of Naval Research to receive a Young Investigators Program grant. He is using the grant to design and build instrumentation to measure interactions between atmospheric water and aerosols.


Making Mining Safe and Sustainable Mary Poulton heads a new minerals institute with an interdisciplinary focus on safety and sustainability The Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources is the largest interdisciplinary mineral resources research center in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. It is directed by mining and geological engineering department head and University Distinguished Professor Mary Poulton, and funded by $17.2 million from Science Foundation Arizona and 21 industry partners, $1.6 million from NIOSH, and an endowment from J. David and Edith Lowell. The IMR has engaged nearly 200 faculty, staff, and students on 41 research projects in 16 departments across seven colleges at UA and works with faculty members

at four other universities in the U.S. The Lowell Professional Programs in Mineral Resources have had 600 participants from 51 companies and 26 countries. Work at IMR includes finding ways to use nonpotable water for mineral production; softening rocks to lower energy demand in drilling and crushing; creating software that revolutionizes data management in mining operations; educating miners and supervisors on safety training; building a database of mineralogical data for all known mineral species; examining the nano- and microscale structure of minerals to improve extraction methods; studying the

health effects on underground miners of biodiesel emissions; investigating airborne dust on the Navajo Nation; creating gaming simulations for mine safety training; developing fiber optic real-time sensing technologies for rock stress and air quality parameters in underground mines; and building data warehouses on sustainability metrics and social impacts of mining.

drainage using sulfate-reducing bacteria that generate sulfides to precipitate heavy metals with the potential for reuse. His team is researching the treatment of uranium in groundwater based on the biological reduction of soluble hexavalent uranium to insoluble minerals.

Bioremediation of Toxic Pollutants Jim Field uses microbes to clean the environment of hazardous pollutants Professor Jim A. Field is chair of the chemical and environmental engineering department, where his research program focuses on bioremediation, which is the application of bacteria and fungi to catalyze the transformation of toxic pollutants into environmentally safe end products. Field’s current research portfolio focuses on issues relevant to the Southwest, such

University Distinguished Professor Mary Poulton

Professor Jim Field is the chair of the chemical and environmental engineering department and co-director of the Dean Carter Binational Center for Environmental Health Sciences

as acid mine drainage, and uranium and arsenic pollution. He is developing passive (low management, low cost) treatment systems for treating acid mine

Field’s group has also discovered how to harness bacteria to oxidize toxic arsenic in situ in groundwater to immobile forms without relying on oxygen, which is difficult to supply to the subsurface. New areas of funded research include toxicity and environmental fate of engineered nanomaterials, and the Department of Defense announced recently that it is planning to award $1 million to Field’s team to explore the biodegradation of new explosive materials.



New Tools for Cancer Imaging Jennifer Barton and others are developing holography and optical coherence tomography methods to detect cancer Jennifer Barton, head of the biomedical engineering department, is working on advanced optical imaging tools that can peer inside the body and detect abnormal cells. She uses optical coherence tomography (OCT), which is analogous to ultrasound. “The first stages of cancer are microscopic changes in cells,” Barton said. “If cancer is caught at this early stage, the chance of recovery is excellent.” Ovarian cancer is so dangerous that women at high risk for this disease may be advised to have their ovaries removed prophylactically. Ovaries, however, are important not only for reproduction

but also for overall health. “With optical techniques, we can provide detailed images below the surface,” Barton said. “If we can assure the health of the ovaries, their removal can be delayed, even avoided.” Access to the ovaries is a challenge because, unlike MRI, optical techniques cannot image through the entire abdomen. Barton is working on minimally invasive endoscopes that can fit through a small incision in the abdomen, or even through the reproductive tract, to reach the ovaries. In addition to her own work with OCT and advanced microscopy, she is also part of a team with professor Ray Kostuk,

working under a $2.4 million NIH grant to use novel holographic techniques to assess ovarian health. The advantage of holography is that it can be used to simultaneously image multiple depths, leading to shorter imaging times and fewer artifacts from breathing and surgeon movement.

conventional surgery. The test bed developed by Rozenblit and his team uses sensor-based tracking to collect and aggregate data about laparoscopic instruments and how they are being used.

Reducing Surgical Risk Jerzy Rozenblit is working on intelligent systems to assist and evaluate surgeons University Distinguished Professor Jerzy Rozenblit, director of the Model Based System Design Laboratory, recently stepped down as electrical and computer engineering department head to focus on research. He is also co-director of the Arizona Simulation Technology and Education Center at the UA College of Medicine, where his research includes custom building a surgical instrument

Professor Jennifer Barton is also assistant director of the BIO5 Institute, chair of the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Interdisciplinary Program, and a member of the Arizona Cancer Center

University Distinguished Professor Jerzy Rozenblit

manipulator for computer-assisted surgical training and performance measurement of laparoscopies. In this type of procedure, surgeons do not get the same visual and tactile feedback they rely on when conducting


Effective training and assessment of surgical skills are essential if the dangers of laparoscopies are to be avoided. Experienced surgeons currently conduct training and assessment, but using fuzzy logic to emulate clinical judgment, Rozenblit and his team are developing a computer model that measures and scores laparoscopic skills more consistently. A second manipulator under construction will evaluate bilateral surgical instrumentation, and evaluate suturing skills of project participants, from novices to experts.


Cardiovascular Research Program in the UA College of Medicine. “We are studying biological processes related to muscular dystrophy and cardiomyopathy,” Wong said. “We are also exploring neurodegeneration.”

Rules of Cellular Engineering Pak Wong is researching how cells organize into structures bigger than themselves Pak Kin Wong, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, is the recipient of a $1.5 million NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. Wong’s research aims to discover the rules that govern how biological tissues are formed from individual cells. In particular, Wong is investigating how to grow new tissue to replace that destroyed by disease. “The research holds great promise in treating degenerative diseases by

Professor Pak Kin Wong is director of UA’s Systematic Bioengineering Laboratory

stimulating damaged tissues to repair themselves, or replacing them with engineered tissues when the body cannot heal itself,” Wong said. “We will be able to explore extremely challenging research problems that may produce important medical advances.” Wong is working with professor Carol Gregorio, director of the Molecular

Wong’s research project is seeking the answer to a crucial question in tissue regeneration: How do the cells of a tissue know how to organize into structures that are much bigger than themselves? “This project will investigate the fundamental rules of cells that collectively drive complex tissue architectures,” Wong said. His research will look at how individual cells know what they are supposed to do without a central coordinator or a blueprint. “We aim to study, understand, and control how nature builds complex tissue,” he said.

Laser Light and the Nano Gold Rush Marek Romanowski and others are using femtosecond laser pulses to target drug delivery and create bioimages Marek Romanowski, associate professor in the biomedical engineering department, heads a UA research team that recently won an NSF award to help fund a broadly tunable femtosecond laser facility. When used in medical imaging, femtosecond laser pulses can produce clearer images and more accurate diagnoses of disease with no tissue damage and no background interference. Romanowski’s research involves sending light-responsive gold nanocapsules to target specific cells within the body.

Laser pulses cause the gold particles to release therapeutic chemicals, and then cause the gold capsules to self-destruct so they can be flushed out through the kidneys. In addition to delivering a drug, gold particles could also deliver genetic material to a cell to modify the cell’s DNA, a key step in gene therapy. In related research, Mark “Marty” Pagel, associate professor in the biomedical engineering department, is developing contrast agents for photoacoustic imaging, whereby nonionizing laser

Associate Professor Marek Romanowski

pulses are fired into biological tissue. Some of the delivered energy is absorbed and converted into heat, leading to transient thermoelastic expansion and thus wideband ultrasonic emission. Transducers then detect the ultrasonic waves, which are used to form images.



inside the tubules, and the metallization process starts there. By properly timing the copper salt cycle, copper forms only inside the microtubules, resulting in tiny insulated wires.

Nanowires: Next Big Small Thing Pierre Deymier is growing cell-division proteins to build biological microchips Professor Pierre Deymier, head of the materials science and engineering department and director of the UA’s School of Sustainable Engineered Systems, and his team have patented a bioengineering process that could completely transform microchip manufacture. Through a combination of biological processes and electroless copper deposition, the research team has created tiny wires based on

Professor Pierre Deymier

proteins called microtubules. The key component of this patent is the ability to deposit copper inside the nonconducting microtubules to make tiny insulated wires. “The key is to metalize the inside of the microtubules before the outside,” Deymier said. Histidine, which has a strong affinity for copper, forms naturally

One of the key breakthroughs was finding a biologically benign deposition process that wouldn’t harm microtubule function or structure. This process was developed by professor Srini Raghavan and his students in the department of materials science and engineering. In addition to their use in connecting molecule-size circuit elements, microtubule-based nanowires might be used to extract current from solar cells that mimic photosynthesis, Deymier said. These plant-like photo cells include light-sensitive plant proteins that capture photons and produce electrons. Nanowires could be used to channel these electrons to the outside world.

Microsensors Improve Ocular Health Eniko Enikov has designed a self-administered glaucoma test instrument that advances current ocular diagnostic methods Eniko Enikov, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, is studying tactile microsensors for digital tonometry of the eye, with a view to understanding the mechanical response of the human eye during digital palpation. A recent result of this NSF-funded research is a self-administered glaucoma test that can be conducted at home. “You simply close your eye and rub the eyelid like you might casually rub your eye,” said Enikov. “The instrument

detects the stiffness and, therefore, infers the intraocular pressure.” In addition to screening for glaucoma, which can lead to blindness if left untreated, the device corrects some problems with the current procedure, and can be used to measure drainage of intraocular fluid. “Eye pressure varies over a 24-hour cycle,” Enikov said. “So it could be low at the doctor’s office and three hours later it might be high. With only a single test, the doctor might miss the problem. Having the ability to take more frequent


Professor Eniko Enikov is director of the Advanced Micro and Nanosystems Laboratory

tests can lead to earlier detection in some cases.” Current glaucoma tests don’t work on some patients. “If a patient had cataract surgery ... the cornea sometimes thickens,” Enikov said. “The cornea’s structure is different but our test remains accurate” because it’s applied to the entire eyeball.

A E R O S PA C E , D E F E N S E , A U T O N O M O U S S Y S T E M S

New Materials for Space Exploration Erica Corral is investigating new materials to protect aerospace vehicles from the harshness of hypersonic flight environments Erica L. Corral, assistant professor in the department of materials science and engineering, is funded by NSF and AFOSR to research new thermal protection coatings for aerospace vehicles that can withstand the harsh environments encountered during hypersonic flight. Corral uses spark plasma sintering to process new ultra-high-temperature ceramic (UHTC) composites. Understanding these ceramics and how they oxidize will pave the way to developing new materials for use in space exploration. Corral said there is the potential for longer missions in more extreme environments if UHTCs

are used instead of ablative coatings. “However, the response of UHTCs under hypersonic flight conditions is not well understood,” Corral said. Corral’s research focuses on enabling dynamic oxidation behavior in reverse infiltrated UHTC-coated carbon-carbon composites for use as thermal protection material systems in hypersonic vehicles.

Assistant Professor Erica Corral

The ceramic coatings used in these thermal protection systems include carbides and diborides of silicon, tantalum, zirconium and hafnium. Her previous research already indicates that no single coating material offers enough

Corral uses thermal analysis equipment and a thermal test facility that can duplicate hypersonic flight heat-flux environments, which enable her to study the oxidation kinetics and thermal shock of her coatings.

Space Systems Engineering Roberto Furfaro searches for delta-V while making gardeners of astronauts The University of Arizona is the highest ranked research university for planetary exploration in terms of scientific literature citations. Professor Roberto Furfaro, of the department of systems and industrial design, directs the Space Systems Engineering Laboratory in the Osiris-Rex Science and Processing Operations Center run by the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, which leads

Assistant Professor Roberto Furfaro

the billion-dollar Osiris-Rex mission to launch in 2016 and bring back a pristine asteroid sample in 2023. Myriad onboard systems plus structural and communications needs all translate into a space mission’s delta-V budget, and Furfaro and his team construct “what-if” simulations to optimize mission

protection, so Corral is investigating the oxidation of multilayer and composite ceramic coatings.

plans and spacecraft designs, and search for the most efficient trajectory that uses the least propellant to reach the target planet or asteroid. Furfaro, in conjunction with Raytheon Missile Systems, is refining a tool to calculate delta-V called the Mission Design Trajectory Optimization Program, which analyzes complex one-way and round-trip missions that include gravity assists, deep space maneuvers, extended stays at intermediate bodies, orbit insertions and escapes, and asteroid landings. Furfaro is also part of UA’s Lunar Greenhouse Project, which aims to support astronauts by growing food while providing fresh water and oxygen, and he is working with Moon Express, a group of private investors and scientists who plan to send a lander to the moon in 2014.


A E R O S PA C E , D E F E N S E , A U T O N O M O U S S Y S T E M S

Hybrid Control Systems Theory Ricardo Sanfelice designs control systems that could help prevent aircraft collisions and guide autonomous vehicles Ricardo Sanfelice, assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering and director of the Hybrid Dynamics and Control Laboratory, is developing mathematical analysis and design methods that could radically advance the capabilities of unmanned aircraft and ground vehicles, as well as many other systems that rely on autonomous decision making. Sanfelice’s research focuses on mathematical analysis and design of control systems that have applications in robotics, biology and aerospace engineering. “What we do here in our lab is mainly theory,” said Sanfelice.

“We model dynamical systems, analyze them mathematically, devise ways to control them, test them in simulations and, when possible, validate them in our test bed.” Sanfelice and his students currently are studying ways to extract energy from wind gusts and thermals to gain altitude without using power. “This is very different from traditional control system design, where you want to nullify the effects of perturbations. Here, we’re exploiting them,” he said. Hybrid control system theory is a relatively new field, having evolved

Pilotless Planes: Stealthy and Agile Sergey Shkarayev designs MAVs that can shift rapidly from hovering to level flight Sergey Shkarayev, professor in the department of aerospace and mechanical engineering, is director of the Micro Air Vehicles Laboratory, where he researches unsteady aerodynamics and the design of small, unmanned aircraft. In addition to basic reconnaissance and surveillance, micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) can be equipped with sensors and, being only a few inches long,

Professor Sergey Shkarayev

can go virtually unnoticed. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research is funding Shkarayev’s research into the aerodynamic design of an MAV capable of aggressive vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL). The aerodynamics


Assistant Professor Ricardo Sanfelice

during the past 20 years or so. As a result, theoretical tools for analysis, design, and simulation of hybrid control systems are in the early stages of development. “We are developing a toolbox for simulation of such systems, to make them more designer- and user-friendly,” he said. “We hope that this toolbox will eventually become part of a commercial simulation product.”

of fixed-wing VTOL MAVs, which use contra-rotating motors and propellers, are complex, and much of Shkarayev’s research focuses on rapid pitching, the swift transition between hovering and level flight modes. He has conducted extensive wind-tunnel aerodynamic research aimed at improving autonomous execution of rapid-pitching maneuvers, and has built and flown fully autonomous VTOL MAVs. With a wingspan of only 10 inches, the speed of Shkarayev’s MAVs ranges from 0 (hover) to 30 mph. The aircraft can transition from hover to high-speed level flight in one second. “Historically, pilot discomfort has been a barrier to development of these aircraft,” Shkarayev said. “This makes MAVs an attractive technical solution.”

A E R O S PA C E , D E F E N S E , A U T O N O M O U S S Y S T E M S

Future is Blowing in the Wind Hermann Fasel’s research creates safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly aircraft Hermann Fasel, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, directs the Computational Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and the Hydrodynamics Laboratory. Since 2002 he has secured nearly 30 research grants and currently has active funding of more than $5 million. Fasel leads research teams in areas such as laminar-turbulent transition, flow control, aerodynamics and dynamically scaled flight-testing of aircraft.

Professor Hermann Fasel is the inaugural holder of the 1885 Society Presidential Chair

At the fundamental level, Fasel’s research focuses on how fluid dynamics phenomena influence the efficiency and safety of vehicles in the air, on land, or under water. His research in computational fluid dynamics requires massive computer simulations that are only possible with the nation’s most powerful supercomputers at the

Department of Defense, NASA and Department of Energy. These agencies annually provide Fasel millions of hours of computing time to conduct his research. Fasel validates the computer simulations with measurements obtained in wind tunnel, water tunnel and free flight experiments. One of Fasel’s specialties is studying laminar-turbulent transition, which has a profound effect on the safety and performance of space flight vehicles. This research may lead to innovative separation and transition control concepts that could result in vehicles that can travel faster and farther at reduced cost. His research is funded by AFOSR, ONR, NASA and NSF. His interest in fluid dynamics and sustainable engineering underpins his recent research into solar chimney power plants, horizontal axis wind turbines, and tidal power plants.

Robotic Planetary Exploration Wolfgang Fink sees future planetary exploration being conducted by a hierarchy of curious autonomous robots Wolfgang Fink, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, directs the Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory. His NASA- and NSF-funded research reflects his vision of planetary exploration being conducted by a hierarchy of intelligent, autonomous robots that could include satellites, airships or blimps, and a fleet of rovers and lake landers. Fink’s term for this concept is “tier-scalable reconnaissance,” whereby an orbiting satellite would direct atmospheric

blimps to scan potentially interesting areas of a planet’s surface. The blimps would then order surface-based rovers to investigate geological features in detail and collect samples in situ. Communication between the tiers in this robotic hierarchy would only take milliseconds, not hours, and the satellite at the top of the chain of command would make intelligent decisions about which sites were safest or might yield the most interesting results. Fink’s aim is to endow robots with curiosity. He wants them to

Associate Professor Wolfgang Fink is the Keonjian Distinguished Professor in Microelectronics

want to investigate certain situations and environments, and then learn from those investigations so they can make increasingly smarter choices about where to go and what to investigate next. “We have rovers, boats, and soon blimps on the UA campus ready to test,” said Fink.



Error Correction Beyond Belief Bane Vasić’s error-correction results permeate data storage and communications The work of Bane Vasić, a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department, in the area of coding for data storage is widely known. He co-invented the soft error-event decoding algorithm, and is the key architect of a detector-decoder chip developed at Bell Labs, which was the first to use the principle of soft decoding in magnetic-recording read channels. He is a leading expert in low-density parity-check (LDPC) codes that are now

Professor Bane Vasic´

in many communications standards. A new decoding algorithm for LDPC codes recently developed at UA by Vasić has led to industry licensing the technology, and patents are pending to meet the growing demand for it. The belief propagation algorithm used to interpret current error-correction codes is prone to abrupt drops in performance. Vasić describes it as

“arguably one of the most important problems in coding theory,” and has discovered how to do error correction that outperforms and is simpler than belief propagation. The development of these new algorithms has taken years of research using new theoretical tools. Vasić said his discovery “opens up a plethora of beautiful theoretical problems.” The National Science Foundation agrees, and is funding this and other research. Vasic’s more recent work includes development of error-correction systems for nano-scale fault-tolerant memories. He has demonstrated that efficient error control is possible even if error correction decoders are made of faulty components that make errors – in other words, if the device responsible for correcting errors, in the process of correction, makes errors.

Molecular Engineering Linda Powers’ research spans starving plague bacteria, growing stem cells, and catching transient optical data. Adipose tissue is a valuable source of stem cells for regenerative medicine, but purifying therapeutic quantities of stem cells requires costly antibodies. Instead of antibodies, Powers, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, is using small molecules tethered to magnetic beads for affinity purification of stem cells, stripping away the endothelial cells and fibroblasts that can cause undesirable mechanical tissue properties. Pathogenic bacteria, such as plaguecausing Yersinia pestis, get nutritional

iron from their hosts, so Powers is developing molecules that block iron uptake by Y. pestis. “This work constitutes a radically different approach to the development of antibacterial drugs,” Powers said. “Starve the bacterial cells by iron deprivation.” There is no method to sequentially collect time-resolved fluorescence measurements in real time upon excitation by a single pulse, which makes it difficult to collect fluorescence data on transient or unstable processes. Powers’ answer is to capture


Professor Linda Powers holds the Thomas R. Brown Chair in Bioengineering

photons in a photomultiplier tube and convert the signal to an electrical current. “This system uses a very high speed operational amplifier, high speed analogto-digital converter, field programmable gate array, and a high speed digital signal processor,” Powers said.


Creating What Nature Cannot Provide Richard Ziolkowski needs materials that don’t exist in nature for micro-antennas, so he creates them himself Professor Richard Ziolkowski of the electrical and computer engineering department was at the seminal 1999 DARPA workshop on metamaterials and has been at the leading edge of metamaterials research ever since, particularly in the area of electrically small antennas. In 2006, he and Nader Engheta, of the University of Pennsylvania, wrote a best-selling book on the subject, Metamaterials: Physics and Engineering Explorations. Ziolkowski has been working on a DARPA‑funded project with Boeing to create an extremely small, low-loss unit cell that is only 1/75th of a wavelength at

400 MHz. Boeing has already built a 100 MHz antenna based on his design, which is currently being tested by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “We’re exploring whether or not some of the metamaterial‑inspired antennas we’ve developed could move into the millimeter and terahertz range to be used for power harvesting,” Ziolkowski said. “We’d also like to move up in frequency eventually into the solar range and create a highly efficient solar energy convertor.” “We have demonstrated that we can make efficient, electrically small antennas,”

Ziolkowski said. “Now we’ve made predictions that we also can potentially create those electrically small antennas with a wide frequency bandwidth.” That would break through a barrier that’s existed since the 1880s when Heinrich Hertz transmitted his first radio signals, and would shrink communications systems to sizes that seemed unimaginable only a few years ago.

experiments conducted in virtual reality environments, including evacuation behavior during a terrorist bomb attack, pedestrian behavior in a shopping mall, evacuation behavior in a factory fire, and error detection and resolution in a complex manufacturing facility.

Virtual Reality and Model Citizens Young Jun Son is simulating how we think and act during crises so we can survive them Professor Young Jun Son of the systems and industrial engineering department is simulating human decision-making and social behavior to determine how people, as crowds or individuals, act and react in various scenarios, from evacuating a burning factory, to shopping at a mall, to fleeing in panic from a terrorist attack. His research is funded by AFOSR, NIST and DOT-FHWA.

Professor Richard Ziolkowski is the Litton Industries John M. Leonis Distinguished Professor

Professor Young Jun Son directs the Advanced Integration of Manufacturing Systems and Technologies Center

Son’s group has developed a belief-desireintention framework that integrates behavioral models from engineering, psychology and economics. The framework derives its realism by reverseengineering actual human behavior in

The human behavior observed during a simulated bomb attack allows law enforcement and homeland security personnel to conduct what-if analyses of evacuation management decisions, such as where to deploy troops or officers and whether to guide or restrict crowd movement, and to determine evacuation times and potential casualties. Son’s simulator also allows factory designers to conduct what-if analyses that optimize factory layouts for productivity, safety and security.



This approach involves performing certain sensor processing optically, before electronic sampling, rather than via standard post-processing of the sampled data. “Doing so results in sensor systems with revolutionary performance and physical characteristics,” Gehm said.

Computational Optical Sensing Michael Gehm and the LENS lab take a nontraditional view of sensor research Michael E. Gehm is assistant professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, with a joint appointment in the College of Optical Sciences. As director of the Laboratory for Engineering Nontraditional Sensors, or LENS, his research, much of which is funded by DARPA and NSF, includes compressive measurement for spectral imaging, statistical and informationtheoretic methods in computational imaging, image formation and computational imaging in extremely

University of Arizona College of Engineering

Assistant Professor Michael Gehm

large imaging arrays, and adaptive spectroscopy for rapid chemical detection. As the name suggests, the primary research activity in LENS is the invention, design, construction, and testing of novel optical sensor systems. “Our efforts can best be described as computational sensing,” Gehm said.

Recently, LENS has started a second research thrust into the rapid fabrication of volumetric terahertz optical components. The lab is equipped with a rapid-prototyping machine that can be used to easily fabricate complicated optical components that are either impossible or extremely expensive to acquire by traditional methods. “We are investigating how this technology can be modified and expanded to increase the range of possible components,” Gehm said.


B. Goldberg TELEPHONE: 520.621.6594




Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

School of Sustainable Engineered Systems

Materials Science and Engineering




Jeffrey Jacobs EMAIL: TELEPHONE: 520.621.8459

Pierre Deymier EMAIL: TELEPHONE: 520.621.6080

Pierre Deymier TELEPHONE: 520.621.6080 EMAIL:

Biomedical Engineering

Chemical and Environmental Engineering

Mining and Geological Engineering




Jennifer Barton EMAIL: TELEPHONE: 520.621.4116

Jim Field EMAIL: TELEPHONE: 520.621.2591

L. Schrader TELEPHONE: 520.621.6595

Mary Poulton TELEPHONE: 520.621.8391 EMAIL:

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics

Systems and Industrial Engineering




Hal Tharp EMAIL: TELEPHONE: 520.621.2436

Kevin Lansey EMAIL: TELEPHONE: 520.621.6564

Larry Head TELEPHONE: 520.621.2264 EMAIL:

All contents © 2011 Arizona Board of Regents. All rights reserved. The University of Arizona is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution. The University prohibits discrimination in its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, or sexual orientation and is committed to maintaining an environment free from sexual harassment and retaliation. Produced by UA College of Engineering Communications, PO Box 210072, Tucson, AZ 85721-0072. Telephone: 520.621.3754. Email:



Solid Support Underpins Successful Research Lightening the administrative burden upon faculty leads to stronger, more successful research proposals, says UA College of Engineering Associate Dean for Research Glenn Schrader This 2011 Progress Report by the UA College of Engineering offers a cross-section of the outstanding projects that faculty have developed over the past year. Our researchers continue to address many of the grand challenges faced by the regional, national and international communities, and the faculty’s leadership in these areas represents leading-edge approaches that are attracting major funding. Achieving progress on these complex issues typically requires a strategy that embraces focused efforts by multidisciplinary teams that can partner in key areas with other researchers both on and off campus. The College recognizes that it is essential that these groups of researchers have sufficient resources and infrastructure to enhance their opportunities for success. The College of Engineering has implemented several changes through its strategic planning process that directly affect the productivity of its researchers. In 2010-2011 the College research office reorganized the proposal submission process by forming Engineering Proposal Services, which now has the ability to prepare proposals to a broader and more complex array of federal agencies or other funding sources. By reducing the time that faculty

Associate Dean for Research Glenn Schrader

need to spend on budgetary issues or institutional requirements, a stronger emphasis can be placed on technical aspects of the proposal. The College has also initiated a formal process open to all faculty for building concerted, sustained efforts that span UA colleges and other universities. The Engineering Forums and Research Initiatives (Arizona) or EFRI-A process is modeled after internal NSF procedures that have led to significant increases in funding at the federal level. In 2010-2011, more than 90 percent of the faculty participated in 12 EFRI-A forums. These teams are now competing at the national level for major research centers, and several groups have received awards of more than $1 million within the past year.

The College of Engineering is dedicated to building strategic partnerships with industry, state and federal agencies, national laboratories, and international institutions. Within the past year, discussions have been held and major agreements have been signed with companies such as Honeywell Aerospace and with federal entities such as Sandia National Laboratories. We have held “industry days” with several companies in our region who are major investors in technology and science. Consortia have been formed with larger groups of companies who are focused on aspects of energy, water, or manufacturing. Several institutes have been conceived in areas that are key to our regional and national economic strength, such as mining, defense, and advanced materials. The key to success in all of these activities is excellence — and being the best partners possible. Research in the College of Engineering is growing significantly, and we are very proud to report on some of our faculty’s best efforts for this 2011 Progress Report. We look forward to highlighting more areas of expanding effort in next year’s report. — Glenn Schrader



2011 Arizona Engineering Progress Report  
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