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Four Engineering Faculty Receive 2015 CAREER Award

Nina Welding • DATE: March 25, 2015

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has named four faculty members in the University of Notre Dame’s College of Engineering winners of the Early Career Development Award. Anthony Hoffman, Collin McMillan, Tijana Milenkovic, and Fabio Semperlotti are among the 146 scholars across the country slated to receive this highest honor given by the U.S. government to young faculty in engineering and science. Established in 1995, the CAREER program recognizes and supports junior faculty who exhibit a commitment to stimulating research while also providing educational opportunities for students. According to the NSF, “the creative work of these scholar-teachers will open new frontiers of knowledge in a wide range of engineering fields while addressing pressing questions of great societal importance in manufacturing, health, energy, environment, infrastructure, and education.”

Hoffman, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, was honored for his proposal titled  “Mid-Infrared Intersubband Polaritronics,” which focuses on developing new optical devices using quantum engineering. He and his team are investigating the interactions between light and the extremely thin layers of semiconductors to provide more sensitive imaging and detection for applications in medicine, industry, and homeland security. In addition to this foundational research that aims to develop a new set of tools for optoelectronic devices that incorporate strong light-matter interactions, Hoffman and his team will be developing and hosting a series of engineering days for local school children that are built around hands-on optics-based experiments to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

A graduate of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, earning his bachelor’s degree in physics in 2004, Hoffman received a master’s degree in 2006 in electrical engineering from Princeton University and a doctorate, also in electrical engineering, in 2009 from Princeton. He joined the Notre Dame faculty in 2012.

An assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, McMillan’s CAREER project, “Understanding Program Comprehension for Automated Software Documentation Generation,” targets the “concept assignment problem” in program comprehension. As they study the process that programmers follow when reading source code to write documentation, McMillan and his team will also be developing algorithms to mimic that process. The algorithms will then be integrated with novel natural language generation systems to create descriptions of software behavior. A key outcome of this project will be to increase workforce participation in the industry by persons with visual disabilities. It will also be used to develop an outreach program for state K-12 schools for the blind and visually impaired to prepare students for careers in software development.

McMillan joined the University in 2012. He earned his doctorate and masters from the College of William & Mary in 2012 and 2009, respectively. He received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Tulsa in 2007.

Also an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Milenkovic will develop novel network analysis approaches for studying cellular functioning and molecular causes of disease. This is the goal of her CAREER project “Novel Algorithms for Dynamic Network Analysis in Computational Biology.” Cellular function is dynamic, and Milenkovic and her team are working to develop efficient computational strategies for inference and analysis of dynamic biological networks. The goal of this study is to contribute to global health by offering novel options for therapeutic intervention. Educational activities that will grow out of this project include the development of new curriculum, career mentoring, and community outreach to K-12 students that focuses on women.

Milenkovic, who joined the Notre Dame faculty in 2010, earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 2005; she received her master’s in computer science from the University of California at Irvine in 2008 and a doctorate, also in computer science, in 2010.

Semperlotti, an assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, will be working to advance the state-of-the-art in non-destructive/non-intrusive imaging techniques for structural health monitoring through his project titled “Multi-Physics Transient Holography: A Non-Intrusive Imaging Approach for the Identification of Structural Damage in Mechanical Systems.” He and his team will be exploring a new concept in imaging that leverages multiple principles that currently exist in imaging technologies — from the mechanical to thermal to the electromagnetic fields — to achieve unprecedented sensitivity and image resolution, in essence creating a holographic framework. By establishing new collaborations with the South Bend Community School Corporation, Semperlotti will develop a four-year long program in “Math and Wave Engineering” that targets high school students and teachers and includes real-world applications to civil and aerospace systems.

Semperlotti joined the University in 2011. He earned master’s degrees in aerospace engineering and astronautic engineering from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” in 2000 and 2002, respectively. He received his doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2009 from The Pennsylvania State University.