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Research Spotlights

Constance BaileyOn average, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, approves 20 new drugs per year for public use. Each of those drugs has been on a decade long journey of research and development that may have cost as much as $2.6 billion. The JDRD work of Constance Bailey, assistant professor of chemistry, could help reduce the time, and subsequently costs, of drug development. 

Creating pharmaceuticals is a complex process that typically begins in a lab. The process of constructing drugs relies heavily on understanding how certain molecules exist in three-dimensional space, or stereochemistry.  Continue reading

Zhenbo WangIn 2009, the Google Self-Driving Car Project made its debut, ushering in an age of interest and research in automated vehicles. Connected and automated vehicles, CAVs, have continued to capture the attention of researchers as they attempt to address some of the fundamental problems with connective vehicle technology. Zhenbo Wang, assistant professor of mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering is tackling one of these very problems: intersections. 

CAVs use a variety of technologies to communicate with other connected devices around them. This may include other cars, roadside assistance services, or even traffic signals. These communications could provide information that allow drivers and vehicles to adjust for improved efficiency, such as changes in acceleration to adapt to an approaching intersection.  Continue reading

Michela TauferNeural networks, computational systems conceptually modeled after the brain, are an increasingly effective tool in modern data analysis. One challenge facing scientists using neural networks is the nature of their data. Different types of data require the use of different neural networks. Michela Taufer, Dongarra Professor of electrical engineering and computer science, hopes her JDRD project will make identifying the correct neural networks easier. 

Humans have always found ways to complete tasks more quickly and effectively. Beginning around the 1980’s factories began to use more and more automation in order to generate products more quickly. The volume and pace of production outstripped human capability so humans turned to computerized operation. Neural networks do a similar job for data analysis.  Continue reading

Mahshid AhmadiMaterials science has played an important role in the creation of many modern technologies, from lithium-ion batteries to improved steels. The development of new materials has led to innovation in a variety of fields, but the process can be lengthy and inefficient. Mashid Ahmadi, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, hopes to contribute to a better process. 

“The historical approach to materials development has been random; basically they mixed a bit of one molecule and a little bit of another element and then examined the properties of this new material for suitable applications,” said Ahmadi. 

For this StART project, Ahmadi’s team is working with materials for optoelectronic applications, such as solar cells. Solar power has become one of the most popular forms of alternative energy. By 2019, California had one million solar roofs in operation. However, solar cells have had limited efficiency in the past, ranging from around 13% to around 46% efficient. In contrast, fossil fuels hover around 50% efficiency and hydroelectric energy can have efficiency rates as high as 90%.   Continue reading

Xiaopeng ZhaoAlzheimer’s disease is responsible for between 60 and 80 percent of dementia cases.  A progressive disease that attacks the human brain, symptoms include memory loss, difficulty thinking, and behavioral changes that can worsen over time. While no cure exists, researchers have begun to consider the possibility of treatment with devices using brain-computer interfaces, BCIs. Before such a treatment could be attempted, a larger body of research must be developed. Xiaopeng Zhao, professor of mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering, hopes to contribute to that research. 

More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s with numbers projected to reach 16 million by 2050. In Tennessee, around 120,000 people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. To address cases in Tennessee, in 2015 the Pat Summitt Foundation and the University of Tennessee Medical Center created the Pat Summitt Clinic to improve access to services for Alzheimer’s patients and family members.   Continue reading