ESAM Students Awarded NSF Graduate Fellowships

Stephanie Ger (center) and Nishant Nangia (left) have been named NSF graduate student fellows. Rebecca Menssen (right) received an honorable mention in the competition. 
Ger's project is titled "Effects of Attention and Neuronal Rewiring on the Detection of Complex Olfactory Stimuli in Noisy Environments."  The goal of the project is to study gamma rhythms and whether they play a key role in the ability to detect and attend to a specific odor in a noisy environment.  Gamma rhythms have been identified as important in both auditory and visual systems for resolving sounds and images in a noisy environment, and so it is hypothesized that they also play a role in the olfactory system.  By studying this system, Ger hopes to achieve a deeper understanding of brain function in the context of attention.  This could have further implications in the context of Attention Deficit Disorder and Alzheimer's disease.
Nangia's project concerns the mechanics of fish locomotion and its applications to the development of more efficient underwater vehicles.  Of particular interest are fish that utilize caudal fin propulsion, such as salmon and eels, because of their greater potential for thrust.  The details of the mechanics are specific to each species, which optimizes for its given physical characteristics, e.g. its length, width and fin shape.  The goal of this project is to determine the optimal morphology for underwater propulsion.  The objective function to be optimized is obtained from the output of a complex three-dimensional numerical simulation that involves solving equations for fluid dynamics, solid mechanics and their coupling through the fluid/solid interface.  The simulations will be conducted on Northwestern University's Quest supercomputer cluster.