Seventeen Engineering Undergraduate Students Participating in the Spring 2017 Armour R&D Program

Armour_RD_ACE_Website.jpgArmour College of Engineering undergraduate students and their faculty mentors have been awarded spring 2017 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.

Twelve students funded during the spring term will begin projects for the first time, while five participants will build on research they 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 3rd Annual Armour R&D Expo to be held on Thursday, April 6 in the John T. Rettaliata Engineering Center Atrium. During the Expo, students will participate in a poster competition where they will share the results of their work and compete for awards with participants from the summer and fall 2016 semesters.

The spring 2017 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.


Rachael Affenit (BME 5th Year) and John Georgiadis, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and R. A. Pritzker Professor of Biomedical Engineering, will work on their project Matching Composition and Mechanics in Breast Tissue Phantoms, a continuation of a project the team began in fall 2016. Affenit also conducted tissue engineering research through Armour R&D with Ali Cinar in fall 2015. Ultrasound shows promise as a tool surgeons can use to image breast cancer during surgery. This allows them to ensure that the entire tumor is removed by revising their margins before making the final cut. Affenit will create a breast tissue phantom that matches the composition and viscoelastic properties of healthy and cancerous breast tissue to test a model being developed that predicts the location of a nodule during surgery. This research has the potential to improve the efficacy of intraoperative breast imaging and could help improve surgeon’s ability to completely remove cancerous tumors.

Stacey Cahoon (BME 5th Year) and Abhinav Bhushan, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, will continue work on the project she started in Bhushan’s lab in May 2016, Continuous Insulin Monitoring Through Microfluidic Devices. In order to improve the accuracy of measuring the concentration of insulin in people with type 2 diabetes, the team will use a microfluidic device, or lab-on-a-chip, to study how specific hormones, cytokines, are linked to insulin concentration in the body. The team hopes to determine a more efficient way of calculating insulin levels so that devices can be developed that automatically administer insulin based on the body’s current needs.

Xipeng Chai (EE 4th Year) and Geoffrey Williamson, associate dean for analytics for Armour College of Engineering and professor of electrical and computer engineering, will begin work on their project Effect of Spectral Analysis Parameter Choice on Assessment of Renal Autoregulation. The aim of the project is to investigate the effect that spectral analysis parameter choices have on the values of the transfer function characteristics. The team will perform spectral analysis of blood pressure and renal blood flow data provided by the Medical College of Wisconsin while varying key parameters to determine resulting transfer function characteristics, such as magnitude and phase. This project could provide the renal hemodynamic research community with guidelines for the appropriate selection of these analysis parameters.

Shengxuan Chen (BME 3rd Year) and Eric Brey, Duchossois Leadership Professor and professor of biomedical engineering, will begin work on the project Examining the Effect of LVAD-Like Flow Conditions on Angiogenesis Using Sheared Plasma. The LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist device) is a life-support device used on patients with end-stage heart failure who are waiting for a transplant. Many severe complications such as infection, gastrointestinal bleeding, and thrombosis can occur when using an LVAD. Gastrointestinal bleeding may be caused by a degraded Von Willebrand Factor, a clotting factor found in plasma. Chen will attempt to better understand the cause of this condition by simulating LVAD flow conditions and shear stresses on human plasma to test the effect of sheared plasma on vessel formation. This research will help the team understand the role that blood flow plays in vessel formation and the underlying mechanism of the clotting disorders associated with LVAD.

Sung Min Choi Hong (ChE 5th year) and Assistant Professor Seok Hoon Hong will begin work on the project Effect of Fatty Acids on Persister Cells. Persister cells, a type of bacterial cell that are tolerant to antibiotics, make it harder for doctors to treat infections with antibiotics. The team hopes to better understand the mechanisms that drive persister formation by studying how over 70 different fatty acids affect their growth. This research could lead to new methods of treating bacterial infections by incorporating fatty acids with the antibiotic treatment.

Paul Kolodziej (ChE 4th Year) and Ali Cinar, professor of chemical engineering and director of the Engineering Center for Diabetes Research and Education, will start work on the project Modeling Physiological Variables for a Simulated Patient with Type I Diabetes. The long-term goal of Cinar’s lab is to design an artificial pancreas (AP) system that automatically administers insulin based on real-time information it gathers from various sensors on the patient’s body. Kolodziej will model one of the variables the sensor will be reading at different physiological states such as rest, exercise, sleep, and mealtime. This model will be incorporated into a simulator to test the AP system before it is tested on humans.

Arman Kulkarni (BME 3rd Year) and Konstantinos Arfanakis, professor of biomedical engineering and director of the MRI Program at the Pritzker Institute, will begin work on their project Validation of White Matter Hyperintensities Within Ex-Vivo MRI. The team hopes to determine if ex-vivo MRI scans are an effective tool to assess the degree of White Matter Hyperintensity (WMH) burden. Kulkarni will analyze the effect of death on WMH by comparing MRI scans of brains when they were living and dead to see if there was an increase, decrease or no change in WMH. The findings of this research could enable researchers using postmortem data to conduct studies with high potential impact on fields of aging and neurodegenerative disease.

Merjem Mededovic (BME 4th Year) and Georgia Papavasiliou, associate professor of biomedical engineering, will work on their project Investigate the Effects of Matrix Stiffness and Cell Mediated Degradation on MSC Differentiation and Behavior, to further research the team started in fall 2016. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC’s) can turn into different types of cells, such as bone cells, cartilage cells and muscle cells. Mededovic will be investigating the role hydrogel scaffold stiffness and enzymatic degradation of the scaffold have on the differentiation and outgrowth of MSC in hydrogels. This research will help the team understand how a 3D stiffness gradient affects differentiation of MSC’s with potential applications in tissue engineering.

Jessica Park (BME 4th Year) and Georgia Papavasiliou, associate professor of biomedical engineering, will begin their project Sustained Co-Delivery of Pro-Angiogenic Peptides for Rapid and Stable Neovascularization of Engineered Tissue. Papavasiliou’s lab has focused on a novel dual drug delivery approach using a peptide that promotes neovascularization (QK) as well as a peptide that stabilizes vessels (VT) to promote stabilized vessel formation in an engineered tissue. Park will assist in preparing the scaffolds for implantation in rats by processing and staining the tissues sections. After implantation she will analyze vessel density and diameter within the newly formed tissue to confirm if the dual drug delivery method has promoted stabilized vessel growth. If successful, this could lead to the development of new treatments for vascularizing ischemic tissue due to critical limb ischemia in diabetic patients.

Nanyque Sirkis  (BME 5th Year) and David Mogul, professor of biomedical engineering, will start work on the project Seizure Onset Synchrony in Epilepsy. In Mogul’s lab, it was previously discovered that different regions in the rat brain synchronize as seizures begin. This signal could be used to predict if a seizure is going to occur. Nanyque aims to investigate if a similar predictive signal can be found in humans. She will use novel methods developed in Mogul’s laboratory to analyze patient data provided by the University of Pennsylvania to detect if a signal exists. If a predictive signal is found it could greatly improve the independence of epileptic patients by providing an early warning system that a seizure is imminent.


Saman Bagheri Farahani (ME 5th year) and Carrie Hall, assistant professor of mechanical materials and aerospace engineering, will start work on their project Nonlinear, Model-Based Control Strategies for Advanced Fuel Flow. Engines with dual fuel combustion have been shown to emit less pollution and run more efficiently than traditional internal combustion engines. When these designs are scaled-up however, fluctuations between the cylinders reduce their efficiency. Farahani previously worked with Hall on the project over the summer 2016 for class credit by helping wire sensors and programming the engine control unit. This semester he will focus on finding the best location to implement the second set of fuel injectors into the engine. He will run a computer simulation to ensure the location of the injector promotes a thorough mix of air and fuel and that each cylinder gets the same amount of fuel during each combustion cycle. This research could lead to a new dual-fuel engine that burns diesel and a secondary fuel to run much cleaner and more efficiently than traditional engines.

Mary Bianca Hawgood (MSE 4th Year) and Philip Nash, Charles and Lee Finkl Professor of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering and director of the Thermal Processing Technology Center, will work on the project Standard Enthalpies of Formation of Select Ternary Compounds, building off their summer 2016 Armour R&D project. Heusler compounds, materials with unique magnetic and thermoelectric properties, have been computationally discovered using functional density theory. Hawgood will work to synthesize these materials in the lab and measure the material’s heat content and heat of reaction to confirm the simulated predictions. If these materials are successfully synthesized, they could lead to electronics that convert waste heat into energy the devices can use.

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 work on the project Loss of Germanium in Fe2TiGe and Co2FeGe, to expand on the Armour R&D project they initiated in fall 2016. Heusler compounds are metal materials that have many fascinating functional properties, such as magnetic shape memory, thermoelectric properties, and spintronic behavior. Mullin will analyze two predicted Heusler compounds (Fe2TiGe and Co2FeGe) to confirm they have a Heusler phase. Previous work in Nash’s lab has shown that substantial germanium loss occurs when the samples are cast through arc melting. Mullin will cast ingots using arc melting and induction melting and then analyze them to determine if the germanium loss in the compounds can be controlled. If these compounds are proven Heusler, they could be used in several energy saving applications such as high efficiency refrigeration and waste heat recovery.

Jason Voelker (AeroE 4th Year) and Sammy Tin, professor of materials engineering, will start work on their project Nickel Based Super Alloys. The team seeks to investigate novel methods in which Ni alloys can be improved mechanically by varying the thermal-mechanical process used to manufacture them. An existing alloy will be fabricated using differing thermal-mechanical processing techniques to enable control of the material’s underlying microstructure. Voelker will then test the alloy that is produced to characterize the material’s grain boundaries. If the team succeeds in creating an alloy with their desired properties, the material produced could increase the efficiency of gas turbines, power generation systems, jet engines and other products that require resistance to high temperatures and pressures.

Tu Phan (AeroE 4th Year) and Wei Chen, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, will continue work on their project High Entropy Alloy Elastic Tensor Calculation Using Density Functional Theory. Previously, the team worked to obtain accurate elastic tensors of a high-entropy alloy (HEA). This semester, the team will expand their scope to include more alloys, as well as improving the process’ reliability, efficiency, and speed by developing an automated workflow code to facilitate the Density Functional Theory (DFT) process. Phan will work to develop the workflow, analyze the results, and perform calculations. The result of this research will present a fast, reliable, and inexpensive way to study the behavior of HEA which can be used 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.


Aaron Hillel Young (AeroE 5th Year) and Seebany Datta-Barua, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, will begin work on their project Ionospheric Scintillation. GPS signals experience disruptions due to effects in the ionosphere, called ionospheric scintillation. The team hopes to develop an understanding of how ionospheric scintillation is related to charged particle concentration in the atmosphere. Young will cross correlate data collected at the Poker Flats Research Range with data from WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System), a navigation system used by aircraft. Comparing the advent of scintillation with losses in WAAS navigation will help the team determine the effects of scintillation on WAAS. This research could help validate and improve the GPS systems that guide navigation systems for military, industry and personal use.

Elizabeth McQueney (MechE 3rd Year) and Matthew Spenko, associate professor of mechanical engineering, will start their project Optimizing Dust Mitigation in Biologically-Inspired Electrostatic Adhesives. The team will examine methods to reduce the amount of dust that accumulates on the adhesives, which diminishes their adhesive capabilities. McQueney will focus on conducting tests to verify the electrode geometry that optimizes dust mitigation. This research has applications in grippers for industrial robot manipulators, climbing robots being developed for the intelligence community, and perching free-flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for the International Space Station.