2021 Interdisciplinary Research Institute Highlights

This page lists a number of noteworthy accomplishments among Georgia Tech's Interdisciplinary Research Institutes in 2021. 

The IRIs consist of:

While there are other Georgia Tech units under the Office of the Vice President for Interdisciplinary Research, the highlights below cover the 2021 accomplishments of these 10 IRIs. They are organized according to the IRIs' impact areas. The information below is merely a selection of activities from the dozens of accomplishments that the IRIs realized in 2021. 

Catalyze the Interdisciplinary Research Community

GTMI: Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Center of Atlanta Manufacturing Program Advisor 

The Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute building at nightGTMI accepted a new role with MBDA Center under GT's Enterprise Innovation Institute to help develop EWD programming and provide technical (design/manufacturing/prototyping) assistance for MBDA Center minority business enterprise clients. Dr. Billyde Brown hosted a fireside chat event with Dean Raheem Beyah of COE and Carbice CTO at the annual National MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) Manufacturers Summit entitled: "Fireside Chat: Minority-Led Georgia Tech Manufacturing Startups Thrive Through Adversity."

GTMI: NSF Research Experience for Student Veterans in Advanced Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship (REVAMP) REU Summer Program

GTMI recruited participants, planned, and executed 10-week summer program for 10 undergraduate student participants to conduct advanced manufacturing research with faculty mentors from various schools in the College of Engineering, and receive entrepreneurship training from partners at GT Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2). Student veterans also received significant mentorship and facility tours from several GTRI veteran faculty.

BBISS: NSF Planning Grant

Engineering Research Center for Urban Agricultural Infrastructure Systems (PI: Yongsheng Chen; $100,000 Award) - hosted a series of 7 workshops (February - August 2021) to identify the top nutrient, energy, water, and transportation (NEWT) challenges facing 21st century urban populations. Workshops included 16 researchers from Georgia Tech, 13 faculty from five other universities (Clemson, University of Florida, University of Maryland, Kennesaw State University, and University of Florida A&M), and 8 other practitioners.

IBB: CMaT Workforce Development Program

Cell Manufacturing Technologies CMaT has more than 160 trainees including postdocs, grad students, undergrad students, high school students and teachers, and technical college students and teachers.

IEN: CHIPS Act Faculty Workshop - April 2021

IEN, in partnership with IMat, GTMI, GTRI, and the Office of Industry Research, held a CHIPS Act Faculty Workshop in April 2021 and initiated related follow-up activities. The April workshop was attended by nearly 100 faculty and staff representing ChBE, CoC, ECE, EI2, EVPR, IEN, IMat, Industry Research, Institute Relations, ISyE, GTMI, GTRI, ME, and MSE. 

IEN: Outreach to K-12 Students and Educators

1,026 middle and high school students in GA participated in virtual "Introduction to Nanotechnology" lectures where they learned about nanotechnology and career opportunities and watched demos. Additionally, four high school teachers and one technical college faculty member spent six weeks on campus doing research as part of the NSF-supported Research Experiences for Teachers program. Thirty teachers from across the US participated in a virtual, week-long Nano Summer Institute for Middle School Teachers with hands-on activities and guest lectures/virtual lab tours.

IMat: Sandia Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Program (CINT)

Scientific instrumentationSandia’s CINT and GT’s Institute of Materials (IMat) collaborated on the jointly funded CINT talent initiative which engages undergraduate students to do research with CINT users in the summer. Jud Ready, Deputy Director, Innovation Initiatives for IMat, Jeff Nelson, Senior Manager for CINT, Remi Dingreville, Sandia Nanostructure Physics staff member and adjunct professor at GT, and Rebecca Horton, Partnerships Manager, have all engaged in this effort. 

IPaT: Education and Outreach (Future STEM Workforce)

IPaT research faculty developed and delivered continuing education for K12 educators in Prototyping and Design and Gaming and eSports in the classroom. They served as mentors to Tucker Middle School for the National Samsung Challenge (where students won a national community choice award). IPaT research faculty also shaped future of education by participating in the Georgia Department of Education CS Task Force to develop standards for esports curriculum for middle and high school.

IRIM: RoboWomen 

IRIM encouraged this group to become more active by selecting student leaders to plan specific events for women in the robotics graduate programs.  During the academic year, they hosted virtual coffee chats to begin the re-engagement of our students.

IRIM: Edison Patent Award from the Research & Development Council of New Jersey awarded to Yosef Razin (PhD Candidate, AE)

Razin and his co-inventors at Princeton Satellite Systems and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory received this award for their patent "Method and Apparatus to Produce High Specific Impulse and Moderate Thrust from a Fusion-Powered Rocket Engine," describing a nuclear fusion rocket engine that uses deuterium and helium-3 to produce thrust and electric power for space travel.

RBI: Udita Ringania Won Blue Sky Young Researchers and Innovation Award 

Udita Ringania, an RBI-funded PhD student, was nominated for and won the international Blue Sky Young Researchers and Innovation Award sponsored by the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations. (Featured on ChBE website June 2021, but could attract a wider audience.)

SEI: SEI and IBB Collaboration on Energy and Public Health Initiative

In collaboration with IBB, SEI launched an initiative exploring opportunities at the intersection of energy and health. A kickoff workshop (virtual) was hosted in May 2021 with attendees from more than 5 local organizations and a seed funding call (~$500,000) was initiated in summer of 2021. This initiative, led by SEI leaders Sally Ng and Sharon Murphy, directly aligns with energy equity and justice conversations and has garnered much interest from Georgia Tech faculty as well as community partners. 

Cultivate Thought Leadership

BBISS: Master of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Management (MSEEM) 

In the School of Public Policy and under the leadership of Brook Byers Professor Marilyn Brown BBISS launched the Master of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Management (MSEEM) including the support for 5 fully funded MSEEM fellowships for full-time on-campus students.

IBB: Strong Public Engagement Despite the COVID-19 Impact  

The Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience quadIBB hosted 271 events and 16,021 guests in FY21. The IBB website had 77,164 visitors to its website. As an example, IBB continued to take an active role in leading and hosting discussions and education activities regarding social justice. Dr. Kamau Bobb gave IBB’s inaugural Antiracism Distinguished Lecture titled “Considering Citizenship in a New World.” Mark Colasurdo, doctoral candidate, gave an IBB Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion seminar titled “My Perspective on Disability for the STEM Community and Beyond.”


IDEaS organized the two-day PREVENT symposium for the NSF during February 12-13, 2021. The purpose of the symposium was to bring together researchers from multiple disciplines to discuss strategies to prevent future pandemic spreads.

SEI: Developed Language for Federally Funded Regional Cybersecurity Centers

SEI led Georgia Tech in partnership with Federal Relations to develop draft appropriations language on funds for center-scale DOE regional university-based cybersecurity-energy research centers. In FY21, the language was adopted and funding was earmarked for this program. The FOA was released and preliminary proposals were received in Fall 2021.

Enhance IRI Resources

IDEaS: NSF MRI - Hive Supercomputer

A white man with gray hair in a blue shirt sitting before a number of computer monitors and serversThe Hive supercomputer is managed to support data and HPC enabled research across campus. Major areas supported include astrophysics, biology, chemistry, health, materials, manufacturing, and covid modeling. Hive also supported research in centers (CHiPC, CRA) and IRIs (IMat, GTMI). Overall, Hive supported over 40 faculty and their research groups totaling over 225 users.

IPaT: NSF FABRIC Node Deployment in Coda Data Center 

FABRIC is a unique national research infrastructure to enable cutting-edge and exploratory research at-scale in networking, cybersecurity, distributed computing and storage systems, machine learning, and science applications.

IRIM: Human Augmentation Core

IRIM added this ~3,000 sq. ft. core facility, which enhances IRIM's ability to do experimental work in human augmentation and exoskeletons, including trials with human subjects.

SEI: Commissioning and Ribbon Cutting of Tech Square Microgrid

In partnership with Georgia Power, SEI leadership played a significant role in the development and commissioning of the Tech Square Microgrid. SEI leadership has several representatives on the governance board and Initiative Lead, Scott Duncan, is actively driving the efforts towards research-ready. This campus demonstrator will allow GT researchers access to live data as early as Spring 2022.

Create New Interdisciplinary Research Areas

IMat: GT-US Army DEVCOM ARL Workshop on Materials + Manufacturing Science & Engineering 

A laboratory scientist examining a disk under an magnifying lightGTMI, MSE and IMat co-organized an interactive virtual forum with ARL to facilitate the exchange of major research programs in materials and manufacturing science, to identify areas of collaboration and potential funding opportunities, and to discuss possibilities for personnel exchanges and guest research programs for ARL scientists and GT faculty. The event had six sessions with IMat faculty organizing 3 of these. Numerous faculty and graduate students from across GT, and researchers from ARL participated.

GTMI: Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure Conference Proposals

Paige Shee, GTMI Strategic Partners Officer assisted Carolyn Yeago, Assoc. Director, MC3M in developing the vision for and writing an NSF proposal for a series of Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure planning conferences that was awarded (submitted Aug 2020). The output of the workshops that GT hosted in Fall 2020 was used to help write the NSF MSRI-2 proposal and later a BBBRC proposal focused on biomanufacturing.

IDEaS: COVID Information Commons

IDEaS faculty worked with important organizations such as the CDC and Georgia State led efforts to tackle the pandemic. In partnership with other Big Data Regional Hubs, we managed the COVID Information Commons for the NSF.

IPaT: Cognitive Augmented Reality Program

IPaT grew a new research program related to Cognitive Augmented Reality funded by Facebook, Cisco, NASA, the TechSAge RERC, and an upcoming contract with Ansell. GT collaborators include Psychology, Design, and Public Policy faculty. Student engagement via IPaT Internship program and multiple MS HCI Project advisees. External collaboration included NC State University (Human Factors Psychology).

Accelerate Technology and Knowledge Transfer

SEI: Enhancing Efforts Towards Energy Commercialization

A large array of solar panelsSEI recently appointed an Initiative Lead, Suresh Sharma, to provide resources and encourage GT students and faculty to pursue commercialization of their research products, in support of university-wide goals. In FY21, SEI offered weekly commercialization office hours, hosted a VC day, and Mr. Sharma was an integral part of the team that hosted Startup Launch: Faculty Edition in Summer of 2021. In addition, he mentored 2 energy-focused companies within the cohort.

BBISS: Advocate for GT Public Innovation Centers

BBISS continues to advocate internally for the creation of GT Public Innovation Centers as a compliment to the ~30 Corporate Innovation Centers now established in and around Tech Square. In FY21, BBISS anticipated the creation of a pilot Public Innovation Center (PIC) for parks. PICs focus wholly on public good, which is the main impact of almost all sustainability initiatives. BBISS oversaw the signing of a Master Research Agreement between the National Park Service and GTRC; created a VIP Course called National Parks: Diversity and Sustainability (Fall 2021; 6 students; Course Instructors: BBISS Faculty Fellow Kevin Caravati, and GTRI researchers Stephanie Richter and Paula Gomez); and prepared a seed grant teaming proposal. 

GTMI: New Strategic Relationship with Pfizer

Paige Shee, GTMI Strategic Partners Officer, established a new strategic relationship with Pfizer (May-June 2021) and as part of this secured their commitment to deliver a special topic lecture, “End to End View of Covid Vaccine Manufacture and Distribution” (delivered Oct 2021). Ms. Shee secured commitments from multiple other IRIs and schools to co-sponsor (co-promote) the lecture: GT School of Public Policy, GT Office of Industry Research, Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization and Manufacturing and arranged an introductory meeting and GT capabilities presentation between all these units and Pfizer.

IBB: Bio Launchpad Seminar Series

IBB educated and informed entrepreneurs in areas such as IP strategy, startup creation and financing. Startup Numbers: $11,842,000 investment in startups, 1 major acquisition, 5 startups ready to spin out in the coming year.

RBI: Support of Georgia International Paper Pulp Mill Trial of Graphene Oxide Membranes

RBI supported the Georgia International Paper pulp mill trial of graphene oxide membranes for black liquor purification, a patent-pending technology developed by S. Nair, M. Shofner and S. Sinquefield under RBI support via a consortium project with 4 RBI member companies and 2 additional membrane fabricators.