NJIT Gains More than $1.2 million in NSF Funding to Bring Cutting-Edge Technologies to Classrooms

NJIT brings cutting-edge Technologies from labs to classrooms

Top researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology will be bringing their breakthrough technologies out of the laboratory and into the classroom in new innovative programs supported by three multi-year grants from the National Science Foundation totaling more than $1.2 million.

Structured organic particulates, nanotechnology, and advanced computational analysis are the focal points of three educational initiatives aimed at students from the graduate level down through K-12.

“The idea is to demonstrate for students how proficiency in the STEM disciplines can be put to use in the marketplace,” Fadi P. Deek, NJIT provost and senior executive vice president, said. “These programs are uniquely NJIT – we are utilizing our particular faculty expertise in advanced technologies to help reinforce and expand student interest in STEM careers.”

Particulate Research for High School Teachers

High school science and technology teachers will spend their summer vacations conducting cutting-edge pharmaceutical research in a program led by John Carpinelli, executive director of NJIT’s Center for Pre-College Programs and professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Distinguished Professor Rajesh Dave, NJIT’s lead investigator at the Engineering Research Center for Structured Organic Particulates (C-SOPS).

“We will be involving the teachers directly in the C-SOPS research program, dealing with topics in pharmaceutical materials structure, function, performance, and processing, geared towards a unifying goal of improving pharmaceutical products,” Dave explained. “The fundamental knowledge from research, done in close collaboration with our students and postdocs, leading to improved design, manufacturing and quality of pharmaceutical products will help high school teachers better understand the role of engineers and develop curriculum materials that will help their students better appreciate science and engineering.”

Carpinelli said that the program projects enrolling a total of 36 teachers over its three-year span. “As participating teachers bring their experiences and educational materials into their own classrooms, this program will ultimately reach thousands of students, and will contribute towards development of a well-trained, diverse workforce in this area of national importance,” he said.

He said that modules to train teachers in inquiry-based research and in concepts of product design and engineering through examples from pharmaceutical engineering will be developed and made available to educators across the country.

Linking K-12 through Graduate Education through Nanotechnology

Raquel Perez-Castillejos, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Tissue Models Lab, directs a program designed to introduce students of all levels to nanotechnology and its many applications, from solar cells and batteries to water purification, to cell biology and medical diagnostics.

  • Undergraduate offerings will include a new 15-week course designed to introduce students to basic concepts of nanotechnology through a series of lectures and hands-on sessions, as well as a nanotechnology-oriented summer research program.
  • Graduate researchers will be trained in educational strategies for effectively teaching and mentoring in nanotechnology. 
  • High school students will learn about nanotechnology on their tablets and smart phones through a multi-platform nanotechnology education app.
  • “Our aim is taking nanotechnology from the research labs at NJIT into multiple educational settings, from high schools to undergraduate and graduate schools,” Perez Castillejos said. “We will bring together resources and support from all levels of NJIT as well as from local industry in order to provide students with a holistic access to the field of nanotechnology.”

In addition to Perez-Castillejos, the project team includes: Treena Arinzeh, professor of biomedical engineering; John Carpinelli, executive director of NJIT’s Center for Pre-College Programs and professor of electrical and computer engineering; George Collins, research professor of biomedical engineering; Michael Ehrlich, associate professor of finance; Haim Grebel, professor of electrical and computer engineering; Zafar Iqbal, research professor of chemistry and environmental science; Zoi-Heleni Michalopoulou, professor of mathematical sciences; Somenath Mitra, distinguished professor of chemistry and environmental science; and Wen Zhang, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering .

Undergraduates to Learn How to Put Big Data to Work

NJIT undergraduates who participate in EXTREEMS-QED (Expeditions in Training, Research, and Education for Mathematics and Statistics through Quantitative Explorations of Data) will be getting an immersive look at the modeling and simulation of complex systems and the computational analysis of data. Through courses, research and group projects, students will learn to use and develop fast and accurate algorithms to study problems in medicine, fluid dynamics, acoustics, climate modeling, and risk assessment.

Michael Siegel, professor of mathematical sciences and director of NJIT’s Center for Applied Mathematics and Statistics, said that computational tools are increasingly important in a broad number of areas in science and technology. “For example, computer algorithms are used to predict the spread of an oil spill, investigate the properties of DNA, process and sharpen radar images, and assess the risks of investment portfolios and nuclear power plants,” he said. “In many fields, extremely large data sets are being collected or generated, posing significant challenges to modeling, computer simulation, and data analysis.”

 As co-director of the five-year EXTREEMS initiative with associate professor of mathematical sciences David Horntrop, Siegel says that the program will significantly enhance the exposure of undergraduate students at NJIT to computational and data-enabled science and engineering.

“We’ll introduce students to computational tools, such as dimension reduction, data assimilation, and Monte Carlo methods, for the analysis of large data sets and modeling and simulation of complex systems,” he said. “With expertise in scientific computation and data analysis and their honed leadership and communication skills, EXTREEMS students will emerge from this program with the unique interdisciplinary skills to become future leaders in the mathematical sciences both in industry and in academic settings.”

Other faculty of the EXTREEMS program include: Professor Marvin Nakayama in the Department of Computer Science, and Professor Zoi-Heleni Michalopoulou and Associate Professors Ji Meng Loh, Shidong Jiang, Richard Moore, Catalin Turc, and Peter Petropoulos in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, as well as industrial participants William Morokoff, managing director and chief quantitative analyst with Standard & Poor's Quantitative Analytics group, and Suhrid Balakrishnan of AT&T Research.