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McCormick News


An Easy Way to See the World's Thinnest Material

GrapheneIt’s been used to dye the Chicago River green on St. Patrick’s Day and to find latent blood stains at crime scenes. Now researchers at Northwestern have used it to examine the thinnest material in the world.

It is the dye fluorescein, which Jiaxing Huang, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, has used to create a new imaging technique to view sheets of graphene, a material one atom thick that could help produce low-cost carbon-based transparent and flexible electronics. The results were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The world’s thinnest material, graphene is difficult to see. Current imaging typically involves expensive and time-consuming methods. When Huang and his research group coated a graphene sample with fluorescein and put it under a fluorescence microscope — a relatively cheap and readily available instrument — they obtained remarkably clear images. The team named its new technique fluorescence quenching microscopy (FQM).

The group also found that FQM can visualize graphene materials in solution —“No one has been able to demonstrate this before,” Huang says — and the dye can be easily washed off without disrupting the sheets themselves. “It’s a simple and dirt-cheap method that works surprisingly well in many situations,” Huang says.

Greg Olson Elected to NAE

Greg OlsonGreg Olson, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He is cited for his contribution to research, development, implementation, and teaching of science-based materials by design.

Olson is considered one of the founders of computational materials design. He developed a systematic science-based approach for designing alloys that takes the desired properties and calculates the optimum composition and processing route.

He directs the Materials Technology Laboratory/Steel Research Group at McCormick. In 1997 he founded QuesTek Innovations LLC, a materials design company that was selected one of Fortune magazine’s 25 breakthrough companies of 2005. QuesTek’s first creation was a high-performance gear steel that was designed at Northwestern and licensed to the company. The company recently developed a stainless steel alloy for aircraft landing gear that replaces cadmium-plated steel, which poses an environmental hazard.

McCormick Student Named to Anita Borg Institute

Eugenia GabrielovaEugenia Gabrielova (computer science ’10) is one of the first student members on the board of the Anita Borg Institute. Based in Palo Alto, California, the Anita Borg Institute helps industry, academia, and government recruit, retain, and develop women leaders in high-tech fields. Gabrielova will assist with the organization’s strategy and outreach to students and its efforts to make computer science a sustainable field for women. “It’s really exciting to be able to get involved and try to involve more women in science and technology,” she says.

Gabrielova was nominated by Seda Memik, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and has worked on distributed systems research with Fabián Bustamante, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science. Last summer she performed research at the Databases Lab at the University of Washington.

Gabrielova is applying for graduate school and hopes to get her PhD in computer science with an emphasis on distributed systems.

SWE Earns National Award at Conference

Northwestern’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) was named Outstanding Collegiate Section — Silver Level at the organization’s national conference in Long Beach, California. The honor recognized the chapter’s ability to meet the society’s strategic priorities, including outreach, education, and personal and professional growth. The Northwestern SWE chapter, founded in 1976, includes graduate and undergraduate female and male engineers who, through various events, build relationships and net-works with other engineers and scientists and develop their skills in leadership, problem solving, and interpersonal relationships.

Builders of New Minneapolis Bridge Honored at Lipinksi Symposium

The team that built the Minneapolis I-35W bridge — replacing the one that collapsed into the Mississippi River two years ago — received the David F. Schulz Award for Outstanding Public Service in Transportation and Infrastructure Policy from Northwestern in November 2009. The honor was presented as part of the third annual William O. Lipinski Symposium on Transportation Policy.

I35 bridgeThe I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge team included the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the City of Minneapolis, the Federal Highway Administration, Figg Engineering, and Flatiron Manson, A Joint Venture.

“The bridge opened only 437 days after design work began — a near miracle,” said Joseph Schofer, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of Northwestern’s Infrastructure Technology Institute (ITI), which sponsored the symposium. “This team showed what could be accomplished in response to the unexpected loss of a critical piece of transportation infrastructure.”

The award is named for the late Dave Schulz, a McCormick professor and the founding director of ITI.

This year’s Lipinski Symposium, titled “Moving the Goods: Chicago and the Nation’s Freight,” was held on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Transportation leaders and policy makers — including U.S. Trans-por-tation Secretary Ray LaHood and former Con--gress-man William O. Lipinski, for whom the symposium is named — addressed issues and opportunities in freight transportation for the Chicago region, the nation’s leading freight hub.

Two Named Boeing Engineering Students of the Year

Boeing AwardsTwo McCormick graduate students received first- and second-place awards in the 2009 Engineering Student of the Year competition sponsored by the Boeing Company and presented by the aerospace publisher Flightglobal.

Can Bayram (second from left) was one of two first-place winners and Pierre-Yves Delaunay (second from right) won second place. Both are PhD candidates in electrical engineering and computer science.

Bayram, a native of Turkey, focuses his research on energy-efficient III-Nitride semi-conductor devices, including high-sensitivity ultraviolet detectors, high-performance light-emitting diodes, and compact terahertz emitters, that could advance reliability, duration, and performance in many areas of aeronautics and astronautics.

Delaunay, a native of France, uses a novel quantum material called Type-II superlattices to fabricate infrared cameras. Atomic engineering of this semiconductor opens the door to novel photon detectors that are more sensitive and faster than previous technologies. The infrared cameras based on superlattices can detect temperature differences of a few millidegrees Celsius in a fraction of a millisecond.

Bayram and Delaunay are members of the Center for Quantum Devices, led by Manijeh Razeghi, Walter P. Murphy Professor in electrical engineering and computer science.

Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School, hosted the awards ceremony at McCormick last December. John Tracy, Boeing’s chief technology officer and senior vice president of engineering, operations, and technology (far right), presented the awards with Warren McEwan, Flightglobal’s North American sales director (far left).

Dean's Grand Challenges Lectures in Medicine and Engineering

McCormick and the Feinberg School of Medicine have announced the Dean’s Grand Challenge Lecture Series in Medicine and Engineering. The six-lecture series brings together engineering and medical faculty members to catalyze interdisciplinary collaboration.

Silverman Hall“Research at the boundaries of disciplines is critical to addressing the problems facing our society,” says Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School. “Northwestern is a very collaborative institution, and these lectures are designed to bring our collaborations to an even higher level.”

The series addresses topics ranging from neurobiology and nanomechanics to cell-based therapies for heart disease and oncofertility. It is free and open to all members of the Northwestern community. The lectures will take place on the Chicago and Evanston campuses throughout the academic year.

“By aligning researchers and practitioners from the fields of medicine and engineering, we can find fertile new research areas that may have greater impact than either of these groups working alone,” says J. Larry Jameson, dean of Feinberg.

For more information and to view past lectures, visit

Silverman Hall Opens, Encourages Medical Discoveries

The Richard and Barbara Silverman Hall for Molecular Therapeutics and Diagnostics was dedicated on Northwestern’s Evanston campus in November 2009. It is home to the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute and approximately 245 researchers and staff in 17 research groups; seven McCormick faculty members have space in the building. The facility brings together faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, staff, and undergraduates from the physical sciences, engineering, and life sciences to address fundamental questions in biomedical research and to develop new medicines and diagnostics.

Designed to support interactions and collaborations among colleagues, the 147,000-square-foot building has state-of-the-art research laboratories and student offices on each of its five floors.

The building is named for Richard B. Silverman, the John Evans Professor of Chemistry in the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College, and his wife, Barbara. Silverman donated to the University a portion of the royalties that he receives from sales of the drug Lyrica to help fund construction of the building. In 1989 Silverman and his Northwestern research group first synthesized an organic molecule that was ultimately marketed as Lyrica. The drug, sold by Pfizer, is used to combat epilepsy, neuropathic pain, and fibromyalgia.

International Materials Institute Established at McCormick

Bob ChangThe International Materials Institute for Solar Energy Con-version, funded by a $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, is being established at Northwestern. The institute, led by Bob Chang, professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Materials Research Institute, will develop a network of global materials researchers and train young U.S. researchers for positions of leadership in the field.

“This program will build U.S. capacity in solar energy research," says Chang, "by linking U.S. expertise with international best practices, building collaborative partnerships abroad, and preparing the next generation of U.S. researchers to enter the global workforce as leaders.”

Key to the institute is a partnership with Tsinghua University in China in organic/inorganic photovoltaic cells. The institute also features collaborations with researchers from Louisiana State University and Argonne National Laboratory. In addition to research, participating organizations will develop educational content for college and precollege students and the public, including undergraduate courses on energy topics and modules for K–12 math and science classes.

Bažant Receives Timoshenko Medal

Zdenek BazantZdeněk P. Bažant, McCormick School Professor and Walter P. Murphy Professor in civil and environmental engineering and in materials science and engineering, was awarded the prestigious Timoshenko Medal in 2009 by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Bažant received the medal in November. Previous recipients of the medal include Ted Belytschko, Walter P. Murphy Professor and McCormick Professor in civil and environmental engineering and in mechanical engineering, in 2001 and Jan Achenbach, professor emeritus in service of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering, in 1992.

McCormick Student Named Academic All-American

Zeke MarkshausenZeke Markshausen (mechanical engineering ’09; above), a wide receiver on Northwestern’s football team, was named an Academic All-American first-team selection by ESPN The Magazine. The honorees are chosen by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Markshausen led the Wildcats with 79 receptions in 2009, second among Big Ten players. He also had 774 receiving yards and three touchdowns and was named a second-team All–Big Ten selection by the media. Markshausen is now enrolled in McCormick’s Master of Science in Engineering Design and Innovation Program.

He is the second McCormick student in as many years to be chosen. Wildcat long snapper Phil Brunner was named a first team selection last year; he is now at work on a PhD in materials science and engineering at Northwestern.

Achenbach Receives Von Karman Medal

Jan AchenbachJan Achenbach, professor emeritus in service of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering, will receive the 2010 Theodore von Karman Medal from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The award, established in 1960, recognizes distinguished achievement in engineering mechanics applicable to any branch of civil engineering.

Hersam Named Outstanding Young Investigator

Mark HersamMark Hersam, professor of materials science and engineering and chemistry, will receive the Outstanding Young Investigator Award from the Materials Research Society. The award recognizes outstanding interdisciplinary scientific work in materials research by a young scientist or engineer. Hersam is cited for “pioneering research on the physics, chemistry, and engineering of nanoelectronic materials and devices, including solution phase techniques for sorting carbon nanotubes and graphene and for organic functionalization and nanopatterning of semiconductor surfaces.”