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2017 JDRD Awards

In 2017 the Science Alliance funded nine new first year projects and one second year project.

First Year Projects

Christopher Baker, Department of ChemistryA Microfluidic droplet array sensor for the discovery of high value bioproducts in fungal cell cultures

Fungi are just beginning to gain attention for their potential uses in industrial, environmental and biomedical applications. Wastewater and contaminated soil can be remedied with treatments of fungi and fungal-derived enzymes. Over 100 species of edible mushrooms have been attributed with a variety of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and immune boosting properties. Unfortunately, few technologies are available for high throughput analysis of the molecular byproducts of fungal metabolism. Baker’s project proposes to develop a microscale sensor platform that will enable quantitation of enzyme expression from a variety of fungal cultures.


Jeremiah Johnson, Department of MicrobiologyEpidemiological study of human campylobateriosis with the development of a microbial source-tracking database

Campylobacter jejuni is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States. Little is known about the source of these infections, but Johnson hopes his project can change that. Johnson’s JDRD project will utilize whole-genome sequencing on a diverse set of Campylobacter isolates over a six month period. Using analytic tools created in collaboration with ORNL, Johnson’s team will develop a genome database for use by public health experts to identify the sources of human infection.


Maik Lang, Department of Nuclear EngineeringUnraveling short-range order in SiO2 glass under extreme conditions using the ORNL Integrated Computational Environmental-Modeling & Analysis for Neutrons (ICE-MAN)

Silica is an abundant glass forming material with importance in the fields of Earth sciences and nuclear waste management. Thanks to its polymorphism under varying conditions, the structural behavior of vitreous silica has been studied extensively and initial neutron scattering data has been gathered from the NOMAD instrument at ORNL. Reverse Monte Carlo modeling is the next step in interpreting the data. Lang’s JDRD team intends to collaborate with ORNL to implement the Integrated Computational Environment-Modeling & Analysis for Neutrons (ICE-MAN) to gain further insights into the behavior of glasses under extreme conditions.


Eric Lukosi, Department of Nuclear EngineeringMicrofluidic spectrometry for biomedical applications

Lukosi’s JDRD project proposes to assist in the development of a targeted cancer therapy. In working with ORNL, the project will focus on the development of a new spectrometer and will support current ORNL efforts with this technology. Team members will conduct both simulations and experiments to evaluate performance and create the necessary post-processing algorithms. Lukosi plans to be able to investigate biomedical applications of the new spectrometer within one year.


Sharani Roy, Department of ChemistryUnderstanding complexity at reactive interfaces through theory and experiments

Chemistry at solid surfaces and interfaces is foundational to a variety of technologies from gas storage and chemical sensing to nanoelectronics and solar cells. The development of powerful next-generation technologies in these areas relies on understanding and controlling molecular transformations at complex interfaces. Recent advances in quantum chemistry, chemical dynamic simulations and computer technologies have improved computational models of surface chemistry but little is known about the fundamental molecular scale phenomena driving chemical selectivity at these interfaces. Roy’s goal is to combine techniques developed at ORNL with molecular level theory developed by her team to discover the fundamental mechanisms of energy transfer and chemical transformations at interfaces.


Seungha Shin, Department of Mechanical, Aerospace , and Biomedical EngineeringAtomistic investigation of interfacial transport in aluminum alloys

U.S. fuel economy standards have begun to promote the use of lightweight aluminum in vehicles. Unfortunately, its lack of strength, particularly at high temperatures, creates durability concerns and limits potential applications for the material. Combining aluminum with copper has become an increasingly popular method for improving its durability but the microstructural influences on the properties of these alloys are not well understood. Shin’s JDRD project seeks to investigate mass and thermal transport near microstructural interfaces to assess transport properties. He hopes to identify atomic level structural effects and develop an effective framework for their calculation and control.


Oleg Shylo, Department of Industrial and Systems EngineeringScalable communication models for parallel optimization

In recent years High Performance Computing, HPC, has become increasingly important in many scientific and industrial areas where extreme computational requirements are common. However, HPC systems have not been extensively used to address complex optimization problems due to limitations on the structure of applications. Shylo’s project plans to address this by establishing a proof of concept for a novel algorithmic design methodology that enables efficient and scalable solutions with optimal communication structures. Existing research addressing communication in algorithm portfolios is often very specific, applicable to a limited number of configurations and structures. Shylo’s project could result in the first example of a general model of communication strategies for algorithm portfolios and would be a significant step toward scalable parallel computing optimization.


Haixuan Xu, Department of Materials Science and EngineeringRadiation effects and defect properties in low-dimensional materials

Two-dimensional (2D) materials have recently attracted a tremendous amount of attention due to their unique physical properties and potential applications in a variety of devices. Xu’s JDRD project will focus on gaining a theoretical understanding of defect production in these materials and its subsequent effect on the material’s electronic properties. He plans to create atomically precise 2D structures and explore their qubit properties for future research endeavors of 2D materials and quantum computing.


Zhili Zhang, Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical EngineeringReal-time nonintrusive tomographic imaging of plasma facing components surface and subsurface erosions

The plasma facing components (PFCs) in energy producing fusion devices, such as the Prototype Material Plasma Exposure eXperiment (Proto-MPEX) at ORNL, experience incredibly high heat, particle, and neutron fluxes. These fluctuations inevitably lead to the erosion of the base material over the lifetime of the PFCs. Zhang’s JDRD project proposes to develop real-time 3D optical imaging instruments for monitoring the erosion of PFCs of the Proto-MPEX, both on the surface and subsurface. According to Zhang, understanding and mitigating the destructive effects from both intense fusion neutron and plasma exposure is integral to the further development of magnetic fusion devices at ORNL.


Second Year Projects

Veerle Keppens, Department of Materials Science and EngineeringElectronic and magnetic phase control of complex materials using ionic liquid gating

Keppens’ JDRD project was the only proposal to receive second year funding. In its first year her project supported graduate student Amanda Haglund as she worked to synthesize novel 2D materials. Haglund successfully grew several single crystals of layered magnetic materials, an accomplishment that enabled full characterization of these exotic materials. While the team has not yet successfully been able to make a good device with any of these magnetic materials, in its second year Keppens’ project will continue to address hurdles and push forward to more fully explore the full potential of ionic liquid induced physics.