Engineering faculty win NSF CAREER and Navy YIP awards for young investigators and innovators

Downspout on the side of Cushing Hall of Engineering

Six Notre Dame faculty in the College of Engineering received some of the nation’s most selective early-career awards in 2021-22. Five received National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) awards and one received a Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) award from the Office of Naval Research.

NSF CAREER awards recognize faculty for their potential as innovators, both in research and education, with five years of financial support. Notre Dame Engineering awardees were the following:   

  • Yamil Colón, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, develops powerful computational modeling tools and machine learning to better understand the adsorption process. His CAREER project aims to create a universal gas adsorption model to advance work in drug delivery, power production, energy storage, atmospheric water harvesting and carbon capture technologies.
  • Maria Holland, Clare Boothe Luce assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, carries out biomechanics-informed research on variations in cerebral cortex thickness. Her CAREER project will investigate a new metric, modified cortical thickness, which seeks to remove the effect of folding on cortical thickness so that more precise and meaningful comparisons can be made.
  • Meng Jiang, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, brings together the methods of behavior representation, information extraction and text generation to create a new type of intelligent assistance that can operate in highly specialized domains. His CAREER research will provide better informed, more comprehensive online answers for those seeking mental health support on social media.
  • Marc Muller, assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences, researches the impact of climate change on society through sociohydrology — an interdisciplinary field focused on the relationship between water and people. His CAREER project seeks to better understand the societal impacts of climate change through water resources.
  • Mark Plecnik, assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, researches the role of computation to design novel machine geometries for use as robots and other mechanical devices.  Plecnik’s CAREER project aims to create a new mathematical framework for exploring how structures used in robotics mechanically interact with the world.

The Navy YIP award is given to young faculty in recognition of their outstanding promise for significant scientific breakthroughs. Matthew J. Zahr, assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, received a YIP award for research focused on enhancing understanding of hypersonic flow, which is crucial to the design and control of vehicles that operate at extremely high speeds.

— Karla Cruise, College of Engineering