Professors Milad Abolhasani and Qingshan Wei Receive NSF CAREER Awards

This article contains slightly-modified content from articles about the Abolhasani and Wei CAREER Awards written by Darsee Heath, Associate Director of Engineering Communications.

The Department is pleased and proud to announce that Professors Milad Abolhasani and Qingshan Wei have received National Science Foundation CAREER Awards.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare…” As such, it’s the premier funding agency in the U.S. for scientific research.

The NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program is the Foundation’s most prestigious awards program in support of early-career faculty “who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.”

Professor Milad Abolhasani
Prof. Milad Abolhasani

Professor Abolhasani will receive $558,779 in funding over five years to support his project, “Intelligent Synthesis of Colloidal Nanocrystals Enabled by Microreaction Engineering in Flow.”

Abolhasani’s research goal is to develop the fundamental scientific knowledge that will enable on-demand flow synthesis of precisely engineered colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals, i.e., quantum dots (QD). The project will employ advanced microfluidic reactors to study the complex nucleation and growth mechanisms of lead halide perovskite quantum dots through comprehending microscale transport mechanisms of chemical precursors.

The results of the CAREER project will lead to better understanding of the synthesis and control of perovskite quantum dots for applications in chemical, (opto)electronics and energy industries. This research program complements education and outreach programs aimed at training graduate and undergraduate students on flow chemistry and microfluidics, educating the general public on smart manufacturing through educational interactive videos and recruiting members of underrepresented groups into STEM careers.

Abolhasani’s research interests include studies of flow chemistry and microfluidic strategies tailored toward addressing the most pervasive challenge of the modern world: meeting a rapidly growing global energy demand while preserving the environment. To meet these goals, the Abolhasani group studies fundamentals of process intensification and microscale transport phenomena using microreaction engineering concepts and principles of smart manufacturing.

Abolhasani received his B.S. and M.A.Sc. degrees in mechanical engineering from Sharif University of Technology and the University of British Columbia, respectively. He obtained a Ph.D. from the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto. His postdoctoral training was completed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In addition to the NSF CAREER Award, Abolhasani has received the American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF) Doctoral New Investigator award, AIChE Futures, and Emerging Investigator recognitions from the journals Lab on a Chip, Reaction Chemistry & Engineering, and Flow Chemistry.

Professor Qingshan Wei
Prof. Qingshan Wei

Professor Wei, who’s also a member of the NC State Emerging Plant Disease and Food Security Cluster, will receive $500,000 in funding over five years to support his project, “Smartphone-Based CRISPR Biosensor for Point-of-Care HIV Viral Load Testing.”

To accurately monitor the effectiveness of any long-period treatment of HIV/AIDS and to assure patients’ confidence in the treatment strategy, a technology that’s capable of testing certain biomarkers for HIV is essential. Wei’s project aims to study the fundamental properties of the CRISPR technology for applications in ultrasensitive molecular diagnostics and to design and develop a chip-based, smartphone-readable CRISPR biosensor for monitoring the therapeutic progress of HIV treatments at the point-of-care (POC).

The results of this research will significantly improve the quality and outcome of HIV treatment protocols. He also expects the developed sensory methodology will be broadly applicable to the detection of many other diseases in resource-limited settings in the future. By integrating research and education, the project will increase a diverse STEM workforce by attracting, retaining, and training students in the interdisciplinary field of engineering and biotechnology.

Prof. Wei’s research program is focused on developing next-generation field-deployable molecular imaging, sensing, and diagnostic tools for plants and humans. His research group has previously developed two portable sensors employing smartphone and lab-on-a-chip technologies. Those are a device that allows farmers to identify plant diseases in the field and a device that can test for cyanotoxins in water. Cyanotoxins are toxic substances produced by cyanobacteria (a.k.a. “blue-green algae”) that can cause health effects ranging from headache and vomiting to respiratory paralysis and in rare circumstances, death.

Prof. Wei received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in polymer materials and engineering from Zhejiang University, and his Ph.D. in chemistry from Purdue University. He conducted postdoctoral training in the Bioengineering and Electrical Engineering Departments at UCLA and he’s the recipient of a Nano Research Young Innovator Award in NanoBiotech.

Congratulations to Professors Abolhasani and Wei for your outstanding research accomplishments!