Beckman Seed Grant Awardees Announced

The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology recently held an open competition to seed new interdisciplinary research directions in engineering and the physical, behavioral, and life sciences. The “Taking the Beckman Institute to the Next Level: Seeding Novel Interdisciplinary Research” competition brought many new ideas to the table and the Beckman Institute is pleased to announce that five proposals have been selected to receive support for the period May 16, 2014 – May 15, 2016.

Art Kramer, Director of the Beckman Institute, said this competition is very valuable to the Institute’s mission and its evolution into new research directions.

“This competition continues the self-renewal and reinvention process that has been critically important to the vitality of the Beckman Institute and its ongoing mission to foster novel interdisciplinary research,” said Kramer.

The selected seed proposals cover a wide range of topics that involve 17 researchers from over 10 different departments. One team not only uses expertise found at the Institute, but also incorporates additional researchers from other campus units.

“The NanoStrong team will explore the use of a novel process to dramatically strengthen carbon nanotube-based structural materials,” said Joseph Lyding, PI on the project. “Though strong, these materials are nearly two orders of magnitude weaker than the intrinsic strength of carbon nanotubes. To close this strength gap, the NanoStrong team includes Professor SungWoo Nam from the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering. Though not previously affiliated with Beckman, Professor Nam’s expertise is in the fabrication and mechanical testing of carbon nanotube-based composite structures.”

The titles of the selected Beckman Institute seed proposals are as follows:

  • Engineered 3D breast tumors: from basic science to biomedical use (PI: Rohit Bhargava, bioengineering; Narayana Aluru, mechanical science and engineering; Jian Ma, bioengineering; Prasanth Kannanganattu, cell and developmental biology)
  • Optical stimulus and control platform for neural circuits (PI: Stephen Boppart, electrical and computer engineering, and bioengineering; John Rogers, materials science and engineering; Justin Rhodes, psychology)
  • Graphene nanopore transistor for bio-molecule sensing and manipulation (PI: Jean-Pierre Leburton, electrical and computer engineering; Rashid Bashir, bioengineering; Klaus Schulten, physics)
  • Development of novel optogenetic and brain imaging approaches to study top-down control mechanisms (PI: Daniel Llano, molecular and integrative physiology; Stephanie Ceman, cell and developmental biology; Brad Sutton, bioengineering)
  • NanoStrong: Ultra-strong nanostructured carbon-based materials (PI: Joseph Lyding, electrical and computer engineering; Greg Girolami, chemistry; Narayana Aluru, mechanical science and engineering; SungWoo Nam, mechanical science and engineering)

The expectation is that the seed proposal research will be conducted at the Beckman Institute and within two years will lead to externally funded programs at the Beckman Institute.