NNCI Societal and Ethical Implications Webinar: Philanthropic Funding of Scientific Research

While a lot of funding of academic labs comes from Federal government agencies, philanthropies are playing an increasingly important role in supporting the scientific enterprise. The mission, goals, and administration of philanthropies are, however, quite different from organizations like the NSF and DOE.  This webinar will bring together a panel of experts with extensive experience at philanthropies. We will host a 30-40 minute discussion about the landscape of philanthropic funding for scientific research, followed by ample time for questions from the audience.

ARM Lunch, Learn, Engage | Generalizable Robotics in Lab Automation

Professor Animesh Garg (COC) will lead a discussion around how the advent of language- and image-based foundation models promises to solve long standing challenges in robotics such as general-purpose perception and reasoning. This new capability has accelerated the autonomy of robotics, and as a result these systems are increasingly viable for flexible automation in scientific labs. We will present a framework for robot planning with visual feedback in the loop to solve open world reasoning.

Special MEMS Industry Invited Lecture | High-Performance Fused-Silica Vibratory Micro Shell Resonator Gyroscope

Abstract: Enertia Micro is commercializing a novel high-precision MEMS gyroscope technology called the birdbath resonator gyroscope (BRG) for rapidly emerging applications requiring excellent performance, small size, low power, and low cost (e.g. autonomous vehicles, industrial robots, consumer electronics, and aerospace applications).  The BRG is the world’s first fused-silica vibratory MEMS gyroscope and is a near-navigation-grade MEMS gyroscope (i.e. in-run bias stability < 0.01 deg/hr).&

Empowering Research Faculty: Georgia Tech’s Strategic Plan

A scientist dressed in protective clothing works in a clean room laboratory at Georgia Tech

A research scientist from the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology (IEN) works in a clean room at the Marcus Nanotechnology Building. Research faculty are the non-tenure track faculty who carry out crucial research in labs, centers, and departments across campus. (Credit: Rob Felt)

Georgia Tech is supporting career growth for its research faculty, who do critical work at the heart of the research enterprise.

The word faculty is often synonymous with tenure-track professors — the individuals who teach courses and run major labs with their surnames in the title. But while groundbreaking discoveries regularly happen at Georgia Tech, the people doing the day-in, day-out research aren’t always visible.

Research faculty are non-tenure track faculty who carry out crucial research in labs, centers, and departments across campus. They are the lifeblood of research enterprises at major universities like Georgia Tech, but their work often occurs behind the scenes.

To support these essential employees, Georgia Tech launched an initiative to recognize and develop research faculty, who comprise 60% of the nearly 4,400 total faculty currently employed at the Institute. It is part of the second phase of Research Next, the strategic plan for Georgia Tech’s research enterprise.  

Maribeth Coleman, interim assistant vice provost for Research Faculty, and Michelle Rinehart, vice provost for Faculty, were appointed as co-chairs of a Research Next implementation team tasked with finding ways to recognize, support, and retain research faculty. Building on years of effort and collaboration with campus partners, the group took on several projects to improve the research faculty experience and environment at Georgia Tech.  

“Research faculty are critical members of the Georgia Tech community, and their contributions to our billion-dollar research enterprise and the state’s economic development cannot be overstated,” Rinehart said. “We wanted to understand what it’s like for research faculty as they come on board at Georgia Tech, what the hiring process is like, and how we as an Institute can more effectively mentor and develop research faculty in terms of advancing in their careers.”

At the outset, the implementation team identified and examined several facets of the research faculty experience. They reviewed policies in the faculty handbook, giving special attention to existing guidance for promotion and career growth for research faculty.

Promotion guidelines are generally clear for tenure-track faculty. Research faculty, on the other hand, are often not actively encouraged to seek promotion, and may not even know that promotion is an option, according to Rinehart and Coleman. One issue is that funding for research faculty often comes from external research dollars. At least nine months of a tenure-track faculty member’s salary, however, comes from the state budget.

“When you’re constantly having to bring in all of your own salary, as research faculty do, it can be a stressful experience,” Coleman said. “It can also mean you’re more isolated, because you’re focused on bringing in those research dollars that will help you keep your position. But we want research faculty to know that we want them to build their careers here.”

To address these issues, the team developed reference materials and workshops for research faculty seeking promotion. The workshops are offered on a regular basis, and resources and recordings are available on the Georgia Tech faculty website. The team also created educational materials for promotion committees, often composed of tenure-track faculty who are unfamiliar with the research faculty experience.  

“We saw a need for better consistency across campus with regards to guidance for research faculty promotion committees,” Rinehart said. “Tenure-track faculty need guidance on not just how to properly hire research faculty, but also in how to mentor and retain them.”

According to Coleman and Rinehart, the implementation team’s most significant achievement was the launch of a research faculty mentoring network. The mentoring network connects junior research faculty mentees with senior research faculty mentors who have grown their careers at Georgia Tech.

“When new tenure-track faculty arrive, they are usually assigned a mentor within their School or department, but that method doesn’t generally work for research faculty,” Coleman said. “There may not be a large research faculty community in their unit, and research faculty roles and responsibilities vary significantly from person to person. For this reason, the mentoring network is meant to foster cross-pollination and build community across units.”

The mentoring network is a collaboration with MentorTech, a program run by Georgia Tech Professional Education. The program is ongoing, and enrollment is always open. 

To foster inclusivity and belonging, the team established an orientation program for research faculty, modeled after the tenure-track faculty orientation. The Provost’s Office hosted the inaugural research faculty orientation in Fall 2023. Because research faculty are hired throughout the year, the team decided the orientation should take place semiannually. The second orientation took place on March 13. 

In addition to the workshops, mentor network, and orientations, the implementation team also launched a program to welcome research faculty in a personal way. When a new research faculty member is hired, another more senior research faculty member is assigned to welcome them in person, provide them with important information for getting oriented to campus, tell them about relevant professional opportunities, and give them Georgia Tech-branded swag.

“All of this work is about recognizing that research faculty are a tremendously valuable part of our community,” Rinehart said. “They also really enhance our reputation internationally.”

According to Coleman, research faculty can sometimes be viewed as disposable, because of their support from grants that may be limited in time and scope. But she believes that line of thinking is a disservice to both the individual and the Institute.

“It’s important that we recognize the value of research faculty, nurture them, and retain them long term,” she said. “We need to make it possible for people to spend their careers here, as I have, and help make sure research faculty positions at Georgia Tech can be both viable and fulfilling long-term careers.”

 

To read more about Georgia Tech's strategic research initiatives, visit the Research Next website.

News Contact

Catherine Barzler, Senior Research Writer/Editor

catherine.barzler@gatech.edu

Nano@Tech Spring 2024 Series | A Rubric for Using Machine Learning in Engineering Sciences

Abstract: Machine learning is transforming societies, and is beginning to see wide adoption in many engineering sciences. This seminar will introduce successes and open challenges in application of machine learning to innovate materials design and manufacturing technologies using case studies from my research career, as well as serving as the Deputy Editor for a manufacturing journal.

Cosmic Curiosity: Georgia Tech Hosts Science and Engineering Day to Open Atlanta Science Festival

A young boy wearing blue latex gloves holds a human brain

A young investigator holds a human brain. (Credit: Joya Chapman)

Georgia Tech opened the 11th annual Atlanta Science Festival (ASF) with record attendance for Science and Engineering Day. Despite the drizzly weather, about 4,000 people of all ages from throughout metro Atlanta — more than double the number of attendees in 2023 — visited campus on Saturday, March 9, 2024, for the space-themed event. They explored more than 45 exhibitions and hands-on activities related to art, robotics, nanotechnology, chemical and systems engineering, and biology, as well as other STEAM areas. 

Visitors began their investigations at “Earth” (the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design), where they picked up a galactic passport specially designed to guide them from building to building — each designated with the name of a planet — and the demonstrations housed within.

At “Mars” (Marcus Nanotechnology Building), attendees measured their height in nanometers, experimented with fruit batteries, and took a window-tour of the largest cleanroom in the Southeast, where semiconductors are developed. Inside “Venus” (Parker H. Petit Biotech Building), budding scientists examined bioluminescent bacteria under a microscope and made Play-Doh models of the human brain. When visiting “Saturn” (Ford Environmental Sciences and Technology Building), visitors studied density by making DIY lava lamps and inspected human brain specimens the way a pathologist would.

“Getting to hold a human brain was cool,” said a 12-year-old participant from Alpharetta. “And I also liked comparing it to the brains of a pig and a mouse.”

Other activities included math games and puzzles, the opportunity to build an artificial hand and a gallery display of research-inspired artwork. Georgia Tech faculty, students, and staff hosted all the demonstrations and served as volunteers who helped Science and Engineering Day guests navigate campus and the demonstration sites.

For many participants, the undoubted highlight was the chance to hear a presentation by former NASA astronaut and Georgia Tech alumnus Shane Kimbrough, MS OR 1998. Kimbrough spent 388 days in space over three missions and served as commander of the International Space Station (ISS) in 2016. He captivated the standing-room-only crowd with photos and descriptions of his time living and working aboard the ISS and answered questions from the kids in the audience.

“It’s really exciting to see all the activities around campus today … we’re inspiring the next generation of scientists and explorers for our country,” Kimbrough said afterward.

The event was a resounding success for Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Science Fair.

Lauren Overton-Kirk, who organized the event for the Institute, said, "Georgia Tech Science and Engineering Day 2024 was so wonderful to share with the community. What started years ago as a day for young scientific exploration became an all-ages, space-themed scientific spectacular. You could feel the passion for learning fill the campus in a way only Georgia Tech could do.”

Both the Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Science Festival teams are looking forward to next year’s Science and Engineering Day.

“As one of the founding organizations of the Atlanta Science Festival, Georgia Tech has been deeply invested in sharing the Institute’s innovations with the community,” said Meisa Salaita, ASF co-director. “And that investment was deeply evident on March 9th as they opened their doors to kick off the 11th annual Science Festival. Their students and faculty came out with enthusiasm to showcase science to the public. We couldn't be more thrilled with this partnership — and the many ways Tech has helped us show our community that Atlanta is a science city.”

A man in a blue shirt stands in front of a class of adolescents

Former astronaut and Tech Alumnus Shane Kimbrough described what it was like to live and work in space to a packed crowd at Science and Engineering Day. (Credit: Joya Chapman)

A blue booklet with an illustration of a pink astronaut

The Atlanta Science Festival Galactic Passport that visitors used to navigate their explorations around Georgia Tech's campus (Credit: Joya Chapman)

Little girl in yellow headband examines a test tube.

This guest at Science and Engineering Day examines tiny living organisms in a test tube. (Credit: Joya Chapman)

A person looks into a microscope. A sign with the text "why do bacteria GLOW" is in the foreground

A budding scientist examines bioluminescent bacteria under a microscope. (Credit: Joya Chapman)

News Contact

Shelley Wunder-Smith, Institute Communications

Universal Controller Could Push Robotic Prostheses, Exoskeletons Into Real-World Use

Researcher Aaron Young makes adjustments to an experimental exoskeleton worn by then-Ph.D. student Dean Molinaro.

Researcher Aaron Young makes adjustments to an experimental exoskeleton worn by then-Ph.D. student Dean Molinaro. The team used the exoskeleton to develop a unified control framework for robotic assistance devices that would allow users to put on an "exo" and go — no extensive training, tuning, or calibration required. (Photo: Candler Hobbs)

Robotic exoskeletons designed to help humans with walking or physically demanding work have been the stuff of sci-fi lore for decades. Remember Ellen Ripley in that Power Loader in Alien? Or the crazy mobile platform George McFly wore in 2015 in Back to the Future, Part II because he threw his back out?

Researchers are working on real-life robotic assistance that could protect workers from painful injuries and help stroke patients regain their mobility. So far, they have required extensive calibration and context-specific tuning, which keeps them largely limited to research labs.

Mechanical engineers at Georgia Tech may be on the verge of changing that, allowing exoskeleton technology to be deployed in homes, workplaces, and more.

A team of researchers in Aaron Young’s lab have developed a universal approach to controlling robotic exoskeletons that requires no training, no calibration, and no adjustments to complicated algorithms. Instead, users can don the “exo” and go.

Their system uses a kind of artificial intelligence called deep learning to autonomously adjust how the exoskeleton provides assistance, and they’ve shown it works seamlessly to support walking, standing, and climbing stairs or ramps. They described their “unified control framework” March 20 in Science Robotics.

“The goal was not just to provide control across different activities, but to create a single unified system. You don't have to press buttons to switch between modes or have some classifier algorithm that tries to predict that you're climbing stairs or walking,” said Young, associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

Get the full story on the College of Engineering website.

A man wearing a robotic exoskeleton on his upper legs and hips walks up a ramp in a large, open lab space.

Dean Molinaro walks up an adjustable ramp while wearing an experimental exoskeleton, demonstrating how the team collected data in their effort to develop a unified control framework for robotic assistance devices. (Photo: Candler Hobbs)

News Contact

Joshua Stewart
College of Engineering

Real-Time Heat Protection Device Being Tested in Florida

Researchers in Hong Yeo's lab work on the electronics of wearable biosensors

Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology researchers are using a $2.46 million grant to test and continue developing a wearable BioPatch for farmworkers and others who work outside, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. This BioPatch will use multiple sensors to predict heat-related illnesses, dehydration, and acute kidney injury. By transmitting data to a smart phone or other device, artificial intelligence tools will provide real-time warnings to workers with the goal of reducing health risks associated with occupational heat exposure.

Researchers with Georgia Tech and Emory University are field testing a new device that could help protect people who work outside from heat related injury. It’s a skin patch you can wear while working that sends detailed information to a smartphone or other device about important health markers like skin hydration and body temperature. The device takes different measurements than health wearables on the market currently and will be paired with an artificial intelligence program to predict health hazards. The team is calling the device BioPatch, and it’s being put to the test with landscaping crews. Researchers hope use of the device can guide better decisions about working in the heat.

The project involves collaboration between principal investigators Vicki Hertzberg from Emory University, W. Hong Yeo from Georgia Tech, and Li Xiong from Emory University. Their expertise spans statistics, mechanical and biomedical engineering, and computer science, respectively. Roxana Chicas of the Emory School of Nursing and Jeff Sands of the Emory School of Medicine, along with members of the Farmworker Association of Florida, are also part of the team. This video shows the device and data collection during a key component of testing during the summer.

News Contact

Blair Meeks

Institute Communications

Georgia Tech

Bakir Named Director of the Packaging Research Center

photograph of Muhannad Bakir

Muhannad Bakir has been named director of the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology’s 3D Systems Packaging Research Center (PRC).

"We’re thrilled to have Professor Bakir joining us as the new director,” said Michael Filler, IEN’s interim executive director. “His wealth of experience and pioneering work in advanced packaging make him an excellent fit to lead the PRC into an exciting new era of innovation and technological impact.”

Originating as a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center in 1993, the PRC is a national leader in the advanced packaging of microelectronics. Advanced packaging in microelectronics refers to innovative techniques for merging and interconnecting multiple components within a single electronic entity. This enables more powerful, efficient, and versatile microelectronic systems, driving innovation across various industries. The Center conducts research and education in all aspects of electronics packaging, including design, materials, process, assembly, thermal management, and system integration. Its work is driven by a wide range of applications, such as high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, automotive systems, wireless communications, and space exploration.

“I am honored for the opportunity to lead the PRC and look forward to working with the campus community and our industry, government, and academic partners on a research agenda that tackles the multifaceted challenges in advanced packaging and heterogeneous integration,” said Bakir.

As director, Bakir will guide the PRC into the future of advanced packaging through his vision and expertise. He is responsible for ensuring that the PRC's world-class facilities support the emerging needs of advanced packaging of microelectronics and supports members of the campus community who uses these facilities.

“We are excited to lead the science and engineering that culminates in system level prototyping and demonstrators for AI, mm-wave, photonic systems, and beyond,” he said.

Bakir, who also serves as the Dan Fielder Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and leads the Integrated 3D Systems Group, brings a wealth of experience to his new role as PRC director. He and his research group have received more than 30 paper and presentation awards including seven from the IEEE Electronic Components and Technology Conference, four from the IEEE International Interconnect Technology Conference, and one from the IEEE Custom Integrated Circuits Conference. His group was also awarded the 2014 and 2017 Best Papers of the IEEE Transactions on Components Packaging and Manufacturing Technology.

Bakir is the recipient of the 2013 Intel Early Career Faculty Honor Award, 2012 DARPA Young Faculty Award, 2011 IEEE CPMT Society Outstanding Young Engineer Award, and was an Invited Participant in the 2012 National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Symposium. He is the co-recipient of the 2018 IEEE Electronics Packaging Society Exceptional Technical Achievement Award “for contributions to 2.5D and 3D IC heterogeneous integration, with a focus on interconnect technologies.” He is also the co-recipient of the 2018 McKnight Foundation Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Awards. In 2020, Bakir received the Georgia Tech Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Advisor Award.

He serves as a senior area editor for the IEEE Transactions on Components, Packaging and Manufacturing Technology and was previously an Editor for IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices. He has also served as a distinguished lecturer for IEEE EPS.

Learn more about PRC

News Contact

Amelia Neumeister
Research Communications Program Manager

Nano@Tech Spring 2024 Series | Imaging, Learning, and Engineering of Nanoparticles’ Dynamics using Liquid Phase Transmission Electron Microscopy

Abstract: Motion and interaction of nanoparticles near heterogeneous surfaces play a key role in nanoscale transport processes involved in nanomedicine, environmental remediation, electronics, and sensing. Liquid phase transmission electron microscopy (LPTEM) has emerged as a promising technique for single particle tracking at the nanoscale, enabling us to visualize and characterize the motion and interaction with unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution.