Rajan Chakrabarty, Fangqiong Ling, Chuan Wang, and Patty Weisensee, all assistant professors in the McKelvey School of Engineering, have been awarded $25,000 Collaboration Initiation Grants from the school.

The program awards one-year grants to projects that facilitate collaborative research outside of and within McKelvey Engineering departments for tenure-track faculty. The grants are a pathway for faculty to apply for larger, interdisciplinary grants, to create a more synergistic project than could be achieved by one researcher in one discipline, and to demonstrate the potential to sustain the collaboration and obtain external funding. Each awardee receives $20,000 from the school and must have $5,000 in cost-sharing from their department or collaborators.

Chakrabarty, in the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering, will work with Kevin Black, professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine, to study a data-driven model for real-time detection, forecasting and suppression of tics in patients with Tourette Syndrome. They plan to gather pilot data that would establish a scale for the onset of tics in patients with Tourette, which would help them provide a quantitative evaluation of the severity of the syndrome and effectiveness of treatments over time. In addition, they plan to develop an artificial intelligence system prototype, possibly with a smart phone app, that could detect and predict tics, facilitate a suppression treatment, and alleviating the lack of accessibility to treatment because of a provider shortage.

Ling, also in the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering, will collaborate with Jennie H. Kwon, assistant professor of infectious diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine at the School of Medicine. Together, they plan to study the microbiome that develops on hand-washing sinks in hospitals. They will sequence the genomes of the bacteria in sinks from an intensive care unit for patients who have had bone marrow transplants, then determine bacterial resistance in these sinks and perform whole genome sequences on organisms of interest. Ultimately, they plan to develop a genomic analysis platform of multi-drug-resistant organisms that would help clinicians prevent the spread of these organisms. Ling's award is funded equally by the McKelvey School of Engineering and the university's Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences.

Wang, in the Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering, will work with Yong Wang, assistant professor of obstetrics & gynecology at the School of Medicine, who developed an electromyometrial imaging technique that tracks electrical signal patterns to study contractions that could lead to preterm labor and birth. Yong Wang's method uses up to 256 electrodes, which take time to attach and can be uncomfortable for the patient. Together, Wang and Wang plan to develop an ultrathin, disposable soft sensor patch using a low-cost, inkjet printing process. The patch would contain electrodes and sensors to measure the electrical and mechanical signals during contractions. In the end, they would like to develop a new wearable sensor system that would ease translation of the data from the imaging technique and allow researchers to better understand preterm birth.

Weisensee, in the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, is teaming with Kenneth Kelton, the Arthur Holly Compton Professor of Physics in Arts & Sciences, to develop a measurement technique to measure cooling rates inside impinging metal droplets, something that has not yet been done. Once they develop the measurement and analysis technique, they plan to apply the model to infer heat transfer rates on other surfaces. Their plan is to understand the coupling of fluid dynamics, heat transfer, nucleation dynamics and microstructure during the impact of the droplet that will provide insight into precise control during additive manufacturing, a process that builds 3-D objects layer by layer.

The Ling-Kwon research project is supported by the Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences grant UL1TR002345 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official view of the NIH.

The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis promotes independent inquiry and education with an emphasis on scientific excellence, innovation and collaboration without boundaries. McKelvey Engineering has top-ranked research and graduate programs across departments, particularly in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and computing, and has one of the most selective undergraduate programs in the country. With 140 full-time faculty, 1,387 undergraduate students, 1,448 graduate students and 21,000 living alumni, we are working to solve some of society’s greatest challenges; to prepare students to become leaders and innovate throughout their careers; and to be a catalyst of economic development for the St. Louis region and beyond.

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