Tevis Jacobs: Infectiously inspiring in the classroom

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 15 October 2019

In his classroom, engineering faculty member Tevis Jacobs is one animated presenter.

He speaks rapidly and enthusiastically while adding diagrams to clear overlays on two screens of slides projected onto the white board.  The course is “Mechanical Behavior of Materials,” which examines how things bend and break, down to their atomic structures. Today’s class encompasses the concepts of “work hardening,” “twinning,” and nickel-based super alloys (“You guys know that is my favorite topic,” Jacobs says). 

Jacobs joined the faculty of the Swanson School of Engineering in fall 2015, teaching this undergraduate class and another on experimental techniques, and offering one on tribology — the study of friction, wear and lubrication of sliding surfaces — to graduate students.

“I’ve always wanted to understand how the world works,” Jacobs says. “Mechanical engineering and materials science: what I like about them is that they are all around us. We are constantly interacting with objects, seeing how they perform. I like the idea of making them better in the future … but the current goal is (studying) ‘Why did this thing happen in this way?’ “What I love,” he adds, “especially in the classes I’m teaching now: we can answer that.”

Swanson Engineering faculty promotions

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 2 October 2019

The Autumnal Equinox ushers in a season of welcome changes in the Swanson Engineering Department, in the form of faculty promotions! Congratulations to Giannis Mpourmpakis and John Keith for their promotions and to Karl Johnson, Chris Wilmer, and Susan Fullerton for receiving the William Kepler Whiteford Professorship, William Kepler Whiteford Fellowship, and Bicentennial Board of Visitors Faculty Fellowship, respectively.

Ben Hunt honored with endowed CMU professorship

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 18 September 2019

Among six Mellon College of Science (MCS) faculty members, Ben Hunt has been honored with a career development professorship that supports scientists at the beginning of their careers. He and the other faculty were recognized at a reception Sept. 12 in the Mellon Institute. “An endowed professorship is one of the highest honors that our institution bestows upon faculty, and this honor symbolizes the high esteem to which they are held,” said Carnegie Mellon University Provost Jim Garrett.

“Each of these faculty members are being recognized for their important work in fields that will be some of the most important of the 21st century,” said Rebecca W. Doerge, Glen de Vries Dean of the Mellon College of Science. “While their discoveries will make a significant impact in the world, that impact is equaled by their contributions to the students who they teach in class and mentor in the lab.”

Heng Ban, Jung-Kun Lee, and Kevin Chen awarded DOE grants in nuclear energy research

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 18 September 2019

The Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering program at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has received three substantial grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) totaling $2.3 million. PQI faculty members Dr. Heng Ban, Dr. Jung-Kun Lee, and Dr. Kevin Chen are among the recipients.

The awards are three of the 40 grants in 23 states issued by the DOE, which awarded more than $28.5 million to research programs through the NEUP this year to maintain the U.S.’s leadership in nuclear research. 

“Nuclear energy research is a vital and growing source of clean energy in the U.S., and we are at the forefront of this exciting field,” says Heng Ban, PhD, R.K. Mellon Professor in Energy and director of the Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program at the Swanson School of Engineering. “These grants will enable us to collaborate with leading international experts, conducting research that will help shape future of nuclear energy.” 


First Universal Computer Model for Metal Nanoparticle Adsorption

  • By Ke Xu
  • 16 September 2019

New research from the Giannis (Yanni) Mpourmpakis and his team introduces the first universal adsorption model that accounts for detailed nanoparticle structural characteristics, metal composition and different adsorbates, making it possible to not only predict adsorption behavior on any metal nanoparticles but screen their stability, as well. The research combines computational chemistry modeling with machine learning to fit a large number of data and accurately predict adsorption trends on nanoparticles that have not previously been seen. By connecting adsorption with the stability of nanoparticles, nanoparticles can now be optimized in terms of their synthetic accessibility and application property behavior. This improvement will significantly accelerate nanomaterials design and avoid trial and error experimentation in the lab. Their work was published in Science Advances on Sept. 13, 2019.

Lillian Chong's NIH award renewed for simulating biological processes

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 3 September 2019

Prof. Lillian Chong has been awarded an NIH RO1 renewal for $1.1 million over 4 years to pursue efforts involving "High-Performance Weighted Ensemble Software for Simulation of Complex Bio-Events." The efforts will be carried out in collaboration with co-PI Prof. Daniel Zuckerman (Oregon Health & Science University), co-I Prof. James Faeder (University of Pittsburgh Medical School), and co-I David Aristoff (Colorado State University). 

Congratulations Dr. Chong!

Qing Li receives DARPA Young Faculty Award

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 27 August 2019

Qing Li, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, is the recipient of a prestigious 2019 Young Faculty Award from the US Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He received the award based on his research proposal titled "Visible and mid-infrared frequency comb generation in wide-bandgap photonic materials."

Giannis Mpourmpakis awarded NSF for screening catalysts

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 13 August 2019

The National Science Foundation has awarded Giannis (Yanni) Mpourmpakis $354,954 to continue his research into a promising but poorly understood method of creating olefins. Olefins, simple compounds of hydrogen and carbon, serve as the building blocks in chemical industry and are important for the synthesis of materials, including polymers, plastics and more. However, creating them can be problematic: it requires the use of fossil fuels, energy intensive “cracking” facilities, and limited production control. The team in Dr. Mpourmpakis’s CANELa lab will use computational modeling and machine learning to understand how the dehydrogenation of alkanes takes place on metal oxides, and use that knowledge to screen a wide range of metal oxides and their properties for use in the process.

Congratulations Dr. Mpourmpakis!

Jyoti Katoch receives DOE Early Career Grant to probe quantum matter

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 7 August 2019

Jyoti Katoch, assistant professor of physics at Carnegie Mellon University, has received a prestigious early career grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Katoch’s research focuses on understanding the properties of two-dimensional quantum materials.

The grant will allow Katoch, a condensed matter physicist, and her research group in Carnegie Mellon’s Lab for Investigating Quantum Materials, Interfaces and Devices (LIQUID) to investigate quantum materials using advanced technologies. 2D materials are the thinnest known materials. When these materials are stacked together, they form heterostructures with unique quantum properties, such as superconductivity. By changing the layers of materials, researchers can finely tune the heterostructure’s electronic and physical properties.

Under the DOE grant, Katoch will probe the spatially resolved electronic band structure of 2D quantum materials, including those made by stacking graphene and transition metal dichalcogenides, and engineer the materials’ properties by making nanoscale perturbations in superlattices and adatoms found in the materials’ heterostructures. They will do this by further developing in-operando nanoARPES, an experimental technique that combines spectroscopy and microscopy to study the band structures of quantum systems under non-equilibrium conditions.

John Keith receives NSF funding for water sterilization research

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 7 August 2019

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund collaborative research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and Drexel University’s College of Engineering that could transform the way we sterilize water on demand and in larger scales. 

The project, “Collaborative Research: Regulating homogeneous and heterogeneous mechanisms in six-electron water oxidation,” will receive $473,065, with $222,789 designated for Pitt’s team. Led at Pitt by John Keith, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, the research aims to discover a simpler and less energy-intensive way to create ozone, a molecule that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for water and food sanitation since 2001.  

Dr. Keith’s research group will use computer modeling to study how water can react to form ozone in electrochemical cells.