Clean-energy developer Adewuyi, other faculty honored with 2014 Research Excellence Awards

A nationally recognized pioneer in clean-energy development has been named Senior Researcher of the Year at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Over a career of more than 25 years, Dr. Yusuf “Debo” Adewuyi has skillfully fused chemical engineering and environmental science to explore new dimensions of energy production, including the use of nanoscale materials and sound-wave technology for pollution control.

Dr. Adewuyi is one of five individual researchers and one research team selected this year for N.C. A&T’s highest research honor, the Research Excellence Awards. In addition to Dr. Adewuyi, the honorees are:

  • Dr. Justin Zhan, Department of Computer Science, Outstanding Junior Researcher;
  • Dr. Stephanie Kelly, Department of Business Education, and Dr. Lifeng Zhang, Department of Nanoengineering at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, co-winners of the Rookie of the Year award;
  • Dr. Salil Desai, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Intellectual Property Award; and
  • The NSF CREST Bioenergy Center, Interdisciplinary Team Award.

They were chosen from a field consisting of faculty members selected as researchers of the year by their colleges and schools. The winners and nominees will be honored Friday April 11 at the annual Celebration of Faculty Excellence.

Details on the winners follow the jump.

Senior Researcher of the Year

The awards committee cited Dr. Yusuf Adewuyi’s long record of leadership in his field and a sustained high level of research activity. That productivity is particularly remarkable in a department that doesn’t offer a doctoral degree, the committee noted.

Dr. Adewuyi is a professor in the Department of Chemical, Biological and Bio Engineering. He investigates emerging areas of energy, the environment and sustainability. Specific areas include catalysis and environmental reaction engineering for the sustainable production of energy and chemicals; synthesis of nanoscale materials for energy and environmental applications; and sonochemistry, cavitation and advanced oxidation processes for pollution control and remediation. Sonochemistry is the study of the effects of sonic waves and wave properties on chemicals. Cavitation is the formation, growth, and implosive collapse of bubbles in a liquid.

Dr. Adewuyi’s seminal 2001 paper, “Sonochemistry: Environmental Science and Engineering Applications,” has been ranked in the top 1 percent in its field worldwide. It has received more than 330 Web of Science citations and 450 citations in Google Scholar.

He is a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and in 2013 received the institute’s Eminent Chemical Engineer Award. He is a three-time Senior Researcher of the Year in the College of Engineering. He holds three patents and has more than 50 peer-reviewed publications and more than 90 refereed conference papers.

At N.C. A&T, he has been a principal investigator or researcher on projects funded by the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Before joining A&T in 1994, Dr. Adewuyi worked as an engineer and researcher at Mobil Research and Development Corporation, now part of ExxonMobil, for five years. Previously, he had been a post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a researcher with a joint project of Boston College and Aerodyne Corporation.

Dr. Adewuyi received his graduate degrees from the University of Iowa, a Ph.D. in chemical and biochemical engineering and M.S. in chemical and materials engineering. His B.S. degree in chemical engineering is from Ohio University.

Outstanding Junior Researcher

Dr. Justin Zhan is an assistant professor of computer science. His research focuses on big data, information assurance, social computing, and biomedical computing.

In just three years at A&T, he has received $1.8 million in external funding for seven research projects as a principal investigator; he also has been a co-PI on six more projects valued at $1.4 million. His funding has come from the Department of Defense, National Consortium for Data Science, National Science Foundation, and other agencies.

He established ILAB, an interdisciplinary research institute with collaborators from the departments of Accounting, Bioengineering, Biology, Computer Science, Electronic and Computer Engineering, Energy and Environmental Systems, Human Development and Services, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Mathematics, Nanoengineering, Physics, and Sociology and Social Work. ILAB also has collaborators at Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Northwestern, Stanford, and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Dr. Zhan was named A&T’s research Rookie of the Year in 2013. Since then, he has spoken on big data and cybersecurity at the White House Big Data Workshop, was named a Distinguished Data Fellow by the National Consortium for Data Science, and received the Best Paper Award at the 2013 IEEE/ASE International Conference on Big Data.

He received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Ottawa. His master’s is in statistics from Syracuse University. He received his bachelor’s degree in engineering from Liaoning University of Engineering and Technology in China.

Rookies of the Year

Dr. Stephanie Kelly is an assistant professor of business education. Her research studies interpersonal influence and measurement – how messages effect receiver motivation, information-seeking and learning in such relationships as physician-patient, teacher-student, and supervisor-subordinate.

She is also interested in the pedagogy of teaching research. She has organized interdisciplinary undergraduate research teams, two of which looked at communications training in the School of Business and Economics. Their case studies led to a transition of the school’s Writing Assistance Center into a Business Communication Center that assists students with both written and oral communication.

Since coming to A&T, she has had 13 publications accepted. Her work appears in such Tier 1 journals as the International Journal of Business Communication and the Journal of Research in Business Education.

Dr. Kelly received her Ph.D. in communication and information from the University of Tennessee. Her master’s in organizational communication and bachelor’s in mathematics are from Murray State University.

Dr. Lifeng Zhang is an assistant professor of nanoengineering at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. His research focuses on engineered materials at the nanometer scale. He has developed advanced nanomaterials for ballistic protection, energy conversion and storage, and a variety biomedical applications, including antimicrobial fabrics, controllable drug release, and scaffolds for tissue engineering.

As a researcher at JSNN, Dr. Zhang has published five peer-reviewed journal articles, given five invited talks and national and international events, and submitted six invention disclosures and two patent applications. In 2013, he received the university’s Intellectual Property Award. He also coordinated an academic exchange agreement between A&T and Xi’an Jiaotong University, one of the top universities in China.

Dr. Zhang holds a Ph.D. in fiber and polymer science and engineering from the University of California at Davis. He received his master’s in polymer materials science and engineering from the Beijing Institute of Technology and his bachelor’s degree in the same discipline from Xi’an Jiaotong University.

Intellectual Property Award

Dr. Salil Desai is an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering. He is the director of the Integrated Nano and Bio Manufacturing Laboratory.

He also serves as an affiliate faculty member of the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering and as an adjunct associate professor with the Wake Forest University Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Wake Forest University Medical School.

Dr. Desai is a researcher who has generated patent applications and innovation disclosures and then has successfully taken the next step, working with a broad range of partners to put his technology to use in a variety of applications.

His research interests include hybrid nano/micro and bio manufacturing, tissue engineering and drug delivery, and multiscale and multiphysics modeling. Those interests come together in his drive to translate basic research into new technology. He has turned his direct-write process, capable of depositing droplets ranging from nano- to micro-scale based on laser modulation, into a nano/micro manufacturing process for which he has received a patent in 2013. He is working with the Office of Technology Transfer to commercialize the technology and has received interest from start-ups and venture capitalists.

He has applied his direct-write technology to apply coatings for cardiovascular and thoracic devices being developed by the NSF Engineering Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials. He also has developed innovative processes for the fabrication of biomimetic tissue engineering scaffolds and drug-delivery carriers.

He is working with Wake Forest University on biomedical applications for the technology, including the development of a novel bio-printer that builds regenerative skin tissue. That work is being conducted with MicroFab Technologies Inc. and the U.S. Army Medical Command. He also is working with NanoTechLabs of Yadkinville to apply the technology to the manufacture of thin-film transistors for aerospace systems.

“Dr. Desai’s lab has consistently translated fundamental research into innovative manufacturing methods/apparatus/products that have significant commercial potential,” the Office of Technology Transfer wrote in supporting Dr. Desai’s nomination. “His collaborations with local nano-biotech labs and small businesses lead toward scale-up and high-tech employment opportunities.”

Dr. Desai received his Ph.D. and M.S. in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. He received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai in India.

Interdisciplinary Team Award

The NSF CREST Bioenergy Center is making biomass a more viable source of renewable energy by developing the basic science and technology that will make energy conversions more efficient and costs more affordable. Its team is drawn from eight departments in four colleges and schools.

It conducts fundamental research toward the development of advanced thermochemical biomass conversion technology for the efficient, economic production of liquid transportation fuels and hydrogen.

Its research is divided into three thrust areas.

Thrust Area I deals with gasification of biomass (lignocelluloses). Thrust Area II is directed toward developing specific catalytic materials and processes for clean biofuels (alkanes and alcohols) and for hydrogen production with industrial applications. Thrust Area III is geared toward fuel processing and reforming technologies for hydrogen production and separation as H2-fuel.

A cross-cutting economics research initiative also is included.

The center provides education and training in bioenergy for undergraduates and graduate students. Opportunities are available for students with backgrounds in biological engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, economics, math, and related fields.

The center’s funding is provided a National Science Foundation grant of $5 million over five years.

The center’s leaders are:

  • Dr. Abolghasem Shahbazi, center director and director of the A&T Biological Engineering Program;
  • Dr. Debasish Kuila, Thrust II director, professor of chemistry and research director;
  • Dr. Lijun Wang, Thrust I director, associate professor of biological engineering;
  • Dr. Shamsuddin Ilias, Thrust III director, research professor of chemical and bioengineering;
  • Dr. Keith Schimmel, education director, associate professor of chemical engineering and chair of the Department of Energy and Environmental Systems; and
  • Dr. Lyubov Kurkalova, economic analysis leader, professor of economics.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s