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New ECE class gives students an in-depth look at the engineering process

New ECE class gives students an in-depth look at the engineering process

Starting this semester, ECE ILLINOIS will offer students an opportunity to study the engineering design process and possibly get a head start on their Senior Design projects with a new class called ECE 398, Special Topics in ECE.

Lam, Sathe, and Wood named Beckman Fellows

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By Max Tane, ECE ILLINOIS
September 24, 2012

  • ECE Graduate students Fan Lam, Chaitanya Sathe, and Josh Wood have been selected for the Beckman Institute Graduate Fellows Program.
  • They are each working with two Illinois faculty on their respective research projects.
  • The fellowship is intended to foster interdisciplinary research.

ECE Graduate students Fan Lam, Chaitanya Sathe, and Josh Wood, have been selected for the Beckman Institute Graduate Fellows Program. They are among only ten graduate students who were selected for the fellowships. They will begin working with their designated faculty in fall 2012.

Fan Lam
Fan Lam

Lam received his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Tsinghua University in 2008. He then received his master’s degree from Illinois in 2010. Sathe received his bachelor’s degree from Bangalore University in India in 2005. He then received his master’s from the Indian Institute of Science in 2007. Both degrees were in electrical engineering. Wood completed his undergraduate program at Valparaiso University in 2008, with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. He received his master’s degree in computer engineering from Illinois in December 2009. He plans to complete his PhD in August 2013.

“I am very glad that our work is well recognized by the committee,” said Lam.

Lam will work with ECE ProfessorZhi-Pei Liang and Bioengineering Assistant Professor Brad Sutton. Lam will focus on developing and implementing a novel method for integrated structural, functional and physiological (metabolic) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. This new method is expected to provide neuroscientists a powerful tool to study structural and functional changes of the aging brain. In order to accomplish this goal, he has to address the limited signal-to-noise ratio and imaging speed challenges associated with conventional MR imaging methods.

“I have been working with Professor Brad Sutton for a long time,” said Lam. “He is a very experienced MRI physicist and has done a lot of work in developing fast imaging acquisition methods for MRI.”

Liang added, “Fan is a very talented guy. While this is an extremely challenging problem, I think that Fan has the right training and skill set and Beckman provides an ideal environment to tackle this problem.”

Lam will also work with Psychology Professor Art Kramer, who is an expert in aging study. He is currently at the stage of developing the imaging methodology. After that, he will try to look at specific applications. He also hopes to make the techniques he develops useful for other neuroscience research in the Beckman Institute.

Chaitanya  Sathe
Chaitanya Sathe

Sathe will work with Professor Jean-Pierre Leburton and Physics Professor Klaus Schulten. Sathe will be working on DNA sequencing using graphene nanopores. The idea is to thread DNA through a tiny pore in graphene and hopefully be able to tell what the sequence is. The purpose is to find how graphene responds electrically to the DNA passing or "translocating" through the nanopore, and conversely how the electric properties of graphene can influence the translocation of DNA through the nanopore. The group will hope to be able to better understand and model the interaction between DNA and graphene which is crucial to building sensors using graphene.

“Chaitanya is a very gifted student with original ideas, and superb academic credentials,” Leburton said. The Beckman Fellowship is ideally suited for a candidate like him, and I have no doubt he will perform very well in his collaborative research between the research groups.”

“I would like to thank Professor Schulten and Professor Leburton for allowing me to work on such an exciting interdisciplinary topic which involves engineering, physics and biology,” Sathe said. “This interdisciplinary project has benefited a lot from the culture in Beckman where such projects are encouraged.”

Joshua D. Wood
Joshua D. Wood

Wood’s research focus is on carbon-based nanomaterials, specifically graphene and carbon nanotubes. He will investigate ways to better synthesize and control these materials. He will use graphene as a synthetic “cell membrane” for DNA. This structure will be inserted into a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), a microscope that research groups uses to investigate surfaces with atomic-level precision.

“We're trying to get atomic-scale information of DNA including its physical structure and electronic characteristics,” said Wood.

The STM will allow researchers to observe things at the atomic-level, but it requires a conducting surface. Graphene is a single atom thin metallic layer, which protects the biological materials from those conditions while providing the conducting surface needed for STM. It's thin enough that they can ideally see through it. Wood will be working with ECE Professors Joseph W. Lyding and Rashid Bashir.

 “I am very glad that Josh Wood received this prestigious fellowship,” said Bashir. “He is doing very exciting work in which has the potential to make an impact on use of graphene for nanoelectronics and nano-bio applications.”

“All of the faculty I work with afford me a great deal of latitude and creativity in my research and thought processes,” said Wood. “Their mentoring styles have been great for investigating problems whose solutions require lateral thinking and interdisciplinary effort, like problems in the area of carbon nanotechnology.”

The Beckman Graduate Fellows Program offers University of Illinois graduate students the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary research at the Institute. Research projects must involve at least one Beckman faculty member in addition to a second Illinois faculty member. Preference is given to proposals that are interdisciplinary and involve the active participation of two Beckman faculty members from two different groups.

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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