Fifteen Armour College of Engineering Undergraduates Named Recipients of Fall 2016 Armour R&D Fellowships

Armour_RD_News_Image.jpgFifteen Armour College of Engineering undergraduate students and their faculty mentors have been awarded fall 2016 Armour R&D Fellowships. The program, an Armour College of Engineering Distinctive Education initiative, offers undergraduate engineering students the opportunity to gain hands-on research and development experience in the lab of a faculty mentor.

Thirteen students funded during the fall term will begin projects for the first time, while three participants will continue research started during prior semesters. Students have been selected to participate in the program based on the quality of project proposals submitted. The proposals are reviewed and selected by Natacha DePaola, Carol and Ed Kaplan Armour College Dean of Engineering, and the Distinctive Education Council.

Armour R&D will run for ten weeks, culminating with the Fall 2016 Armour R&D Expo to be held in November 2016. The students will also present their work at the Third Annual Armour R&D Expo to be held at the end of the spring 2017 semester. During these expos, students will participate in a poster competition where they share the results of their work and compete for awards.

The fall 2016 Armour R&D projects are categorized under the four Illinois Tech Engineering Themes: Water, Health, Energy, and Security. These themes represent areas in which engineers can create solutions of global impact that advance society.


Rachel Affenit (ChE 4th Year) and John Georgiadis, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and R. A. Pritzker Professor of Biomedical Engineering, will begin work on their project “Developing Phantoms for Breast Tissue Mechanics.” Affenit is returning to the Armour R&D after conducting tissue engineering research in fall 2015. Ultrasound shows promise as a tool to image breast cancer during surgery, but it can be difficult to keep track of a nodule. For her project, she will strive to create a breast tissue phantom that will be used to test a model being developed that will predict the location of a nodule during surgery. This research could allow surgeons to revise their margins before making the final cut during a lumpectomy, helping to ensure that the entire tumor is removed.

Janik Alcala (MS 3rd Year) and Abhunav Bhushan, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, will start work on the project “Gut-on-a-Chip and Ulcerative Colitis.” This research will focus on finding the most useful probiotic that can reduce inflammation in the gut caused by ulcerative colitis. The team will use a small chip to mimic the in vitro environment of the gut instead of utilizing living animals as test subject. This technique allows for studies to be conducted more efficiently than traditional methods and will produce more research results to aid people suffering from ulcerative colitis.

Yusairah Basheer and Kenneth Tichauer, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, will begin work on their project “Sensitive Detection of Cancer Spread to Lymph Nodes: Evaluating Image Agent Delivery Protocols.” A doctor’s inability to effectively decipher whether cancer is metastatic or localized is the biggest problem with the current treatment options for breast cancer. The objective of this project is to map cancer distribution in lymph nodes using imaging technology ADEPT (agent-dependent early-photon tomography). The team will test the ability of the imaging agents to locate cancerous cells in the lymph nodes by soaking cancerous cells in an imaging agent and comparing them with control rat lymph nodes. Future application of this research aims to develop a non- invasive, highly sensitized method for doctors to determine if breast cancer has metastasized, and the location, in hopes of improving the diagnosis and prognosis of all patients afflicted with the disease.

Morgan Fogarty and Kenneth Tichauer, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, will begin work on the project “Validating Performance of Optical Imaging System for Diagnosis of Metastatic Breast Cancer.” A non-invasive method for detecting the spread of breast cancer through lymph nodes, the Agent-Dependent Early Photon Tomography (ADEPT) Cancer Imager, is being developed in Tichauer’s lab. Fogarty will work to analyze the performance of the ADEPT prototype through MATLAB simulations and physical phantoms that mimic tissue. This analysis will allow the ADEPT prototype to be further developed and tested with animal tissues. When completed, the ADEPT device could provide a more reliable diagnosis and assist in selecting the most appropriate cancer treatment.

Merjem Mededovic (BME 3rd Year) and Georgia Papavasiliou, associate professor of biomedical engineering, will begin work on their project “Effects of QK Loaded Hydrogel Nanoparticles on Scaffold Neovascularization In Vivo.” Illnesses such as stroke and coronary artery disease are a big issue in the United States. Papavasiliou’s lab has focused on drug delivery of a molecule called QK which stimulates the growth of new blood vessels in tissues that are not receiving enough nutrients or oxygen. Mededovic will analyze sections of tissue placed under the skin of animal subjects to confirm if drug delivery will stimulate blood vessel growth in living subjects. These findings will help further research in more complex animals which have issues with oxygen and nutrient delivery in their hind legs.

Vesna Naumovski (BME/ChE 5th year) and Assistant Professor Seok Hoon Hong will continue work on the project they started in the Summer 2016 Armour R&D Program, “Rapid Detection Method: Testing Bacteriocin Efficiency.” Extensive use of antibiotics has resulted in multidrug-resistant bacteria. A promising solution to fight bacteria, bacteriocins, has been developed but lacks a method to test their efficiency. Naumovski will seek to design and test a rapid detection method, based on fluorescent intensity, that will aid researchers in confirming the abilities of the bacteriocins to successfully kill bacteria. The team’s development of an efficient screening method could lead to new methods of treating bacterial infections.

Geeya Patel (BME 4th Year) and Jennifer Kang-Mieler, associate professor of biomedical engineering, will start work on the project “Dual Antibiotic Release from PEG-PLLA-DA Hydrogel.” Many patients use antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection after surgery. When using topical eye drops, the medicine may not get to where it needs to be. This problem can be solved by encapsulating two antibiotics into a thermo-responsive hydrogel. This hydrogel will release drugs over two weeks and break down in the body. Patel will work to determine the amount of each drug that is being released from the hydrogel. She will then test the bioactivity of each drug to confirm they remain active for the duration of two weeks. This research may lead to treatments that reduce infection and improve healing after eye surgery without the use of drops.

Dawid Walus (BME 4th Year) and Jovan Brankov, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate professor of biomedical engineering, will continue work on the project “Monte Carlo Simulation for the Advancement of 3D Image Reconstruction of Cancer Tissue by way of the Agent-Dependent Early-Photon Tomography (ADEPT) System.” Unlike other molecular imaging modalities such as PET or SPECT, the ADEPT system obtains 3D images of tumors and their interactions with drug delivery systems on the micron scale. Walus will focus on predicting the behavior of the involved photons as they travel through this wide range of cancer tissues to help improve the resolution of the device. This research would allow researchers to observe whether or not their drug is engaging with the biological target.

Maria Warren (CE 4th Year) and Mehdi Modares, associate professor of civil and architectural engineering, will start work on their project “An Investigation on Prediction of Human Bone Fracture Initiation.” Human bone fracture may occur instantaneously, such as from an impact event, or from wear over time, known as fatigue. Warren and the research team will study fatigue fractures to better understand the specific conditions that precede a bone breaking. Their research could lead to new prevention methods and treatment options with applications in the fields of osteoporosis, dentistry, and sports medicine.


Sagnik Aich (ChE 4th year) and Fouad Teymour, S.C. Johnson Professor of Chemical Engineering and director of the Center for Complex Systems and Dynamics, will start work on their project “Exploration of Ecological Sustainability Effects in Autocatalytic Models.” Teymour’s research explores the behavior of complex autocatalytic reactions, where the product of a reaction catalyzes the reactants to make more product. Aich will further explore the dynamics of decaying products that have been recycled and the sustainability of recycling two products. As sustainability and responsible ecology are becoming leading concerns for the human race, the team’s research will explore mathematically how these affect the dynamics of autocatalytic ecologies.

Kathleen Mullin (MSE 3rd Year) and Philip Nash, Charles and Lee Finkl Professor of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering and director of the Thermal Processing Technology Center, will begin work on the project “Verification of the Heusler Phases of Fe2TiGe and Co2FeGe.” Heusler compounds are metal materials that have unique magnetic and thermoelectric properties. Mullin will analyze two predicted Heusler compounds (Fe2TiGe and Co2FeGe). If these compounds are proven Heusler, they could be used in several energy saving applications such as high efficiency refrigeration and waste heat recovery.

Phan Tu (AeroE 4th Year) and Wei Chen, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, will start work on their project “High Entropy Alloy Elastic Tensor Calculation Using Density Functional Theory.” The team seeks to predict the elastic tensor for high-entropy alloys (HEA) in order to obtain the material’s mechanical and thermal properties. Because of the high cost of synthesizing an alloy for every experiment to test for material properties, Tu will work to develop a computational model to further explore the properties of these novel materials. The results of this project will help improve the use of these materials as safety equipment in environments with extreme conditions or as lightweight materials that can be used to increase the energy efficiency of aircraft and automobiles.


Faizan Ahmad (CPE 4th Year) and Erdal Oruklu, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, will begin work on their project “Iris Recognition – Pupil Dilation, Time Variability and Contact Lenses Problems in the Current System.” Many shortcomings plague current iris recognition systems that are used as security features in some electronic devices. Ahmad will work to find distinguishing features of the iris that are consistent over time in order to overcome discrepancies. Iris recognition is considered to be the future of security/identification and solving this problem will help a provide a more secure authentication system.

Uriel Ramirez (AeroE 5th Year) and Seebany Datta-Barua, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, will start their project “Implementation of Ionospheric Data Assimilation 4-Dimensional (IDA4D) for Ionospheric Plasma Specification.” The EMPIRE (Estimating Model Parameters from Ionospheric Reverse Engineering) algorithm uses measurements of electron densities to obtain information about Earth’s atmosphere. This is especially important during solar storms that cause disruption in communications and navigation systems, damage to satellites and affect the power grid. This project will provide improvements to EMPIRE space weather forecasting, allowing people to prepare for the potential threat that geomagnetic storms pose to our security and economy.


Brandon Simmons (EE 3rd Year) and Brent Stephens, associate professor of architectural engineering, will commence work on their project “Improving the Energy and Water Efficiencies of Urban Agriculture.” The team seeks to evaluate and improve the energy and water efficiency of urban agriculture systems by constructing and evaluating an aquaponics unit. Simmons will incorporate a variety of sensors into the system to improve the system’s efficiency. This system will allow the team to compare it to other forms of farming and optimize other traditional methods, and ultimately improve the supply of food around the world.