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Early Success: Six OSU faculty receive prestigious NSF CAREER awards

Monday, September 18, 2023

Media Contact: Harrison Hill | Senior Research Communications Specialist | 405-744-5827 |

The future is bright for Oklahoma State University faculty.

OSU had six National Science Foundation CAREER award winners in 2023 from the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is an NSF award given to 500 people annually. Winners are chosen based on their potential to serve as an academic role model and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

“We believe this is the largest number of NSF CAREER awards given to OSU investigators in a year,” said Dr. Kenneth Sewell, OSU vice president for research. “It is a reflection of the highly talented faculty members we have been able to recruit and retain.”

OSU’s recipients are Dr. Marimuthu Andiappan, Dr. Aurelie Azoug, Dr. Nicoletta Fala, Dr. Martin McCullagh, Dr. John O’Hara and Dr. Ritesh Sachan.

The faculty were awarded grants for a specific proposal in each of their fields.

Using virtual reality to advance research and learning and promote positive skill transfer in complex environments with applications in enhanced flight training

Nicoletta Fala
Nicoletta Fala

Fala is an assistant professor in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. She is a licensed commercial pilot and flight instructor and graduated from Purdue University with her bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D.

Her project will study skill transfer from VR-based simulation to the real world by evaluating the physical, functional and cognitive characteristics of simulation, as applied to the flight training environment.

“I am passionate about all components of the project: education, research and implementation, so it seemed like it was made for me,” Fala said. “It’s nice to have someone else who believes in your work. It’s easy to formulate an idea and believe that it is a good idea in your own silo, but to also have the recognition of your peers and others in the research area agree is very rewarding.”

Dissipation Mechanisms and Damping in Smart Elastomers with Intermolecular Organization

Aurelie Azoug
Aurelie Azoug

Azoug attended school in France at the Université de Technologie de Compiègne and Ecole Polytechnique. After spending time as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University, she moved to OSU to be an assistant professor.

Her research will focus on three objectives — introducing soft robotics, improving coding skills and mentoring through research — with the hope being to increase women’s confidence and interest in engineering.

“This award is very validating,” Azoug said. “It’s recognition that says, ‘Hey, you’re doing good science and we’d like to see you continue down this path and see where you can take this research.’”

Taming the Terahertz for 6G Wireless Backhaul

John O’Hara
John O’Hara

O’Hara recently became an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a doctorate from OSU.

He spent time as the director of central intelligence postdoctoral fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he was part of a team pioneering the studies of artificial electromagnetic materials in the terahertz frequency range.

O’Hara’s project will leverage the existing abilities of his laboratory to explore system architectures and channel models needed for 6G communication systems.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have been surrounded with immense support and great colleagues,” O’Hara said. “It’s a bit serendipitous, just be at the right place at the right time and capitalize on opportunities that you’re afforded.”

Developing a Computational Workflow to Quantify Atomic-level Allosteric Mechanisms

Martin McCullagh
Martin McCullagh

McCullagh recently was promoted to associate professor in the Department of Chemistry after being an assistant professor for three years. He graduated with his doctorate from Northwestern University.

McCullagh and his students at OSU will be working to develop computational workflow to quantify atomic-level allosteric mechanisms. Allostery, referred to as the “second secret of life,” is a poorly understood control knob that can be used to regulate the function of almost any protein. Additionally, as part of this grant, the McCullagh group will develop and disseminate an online chemistry textbook that utilizes coding to help facilitate learning in chemistry.

“I am honored to receive the NSF CAREER award and excited to continue research on allosteric mechanisms in proteins,” McCullagh said. “More specifically, we will attempt to understand how the function of pyruvate kinase, an important enzyme in glycolysis, can be turned on and off by different ligands. The NSF CAREER award also has a focus on education and outreach and, to that end, we are excited to facilitate the uptake of coding in the local chemistry curriculums by developing an online textbook as well as hosting a local, annual workshop for chemistry faculty.”

Leading to Accelerated Discoveries in High- Throughput Ultrafast Laser- Driven Processing of High Entropy Alloy Nanoparticles

Ritesh Sachan
Ritesh Sachan

Sachan graduated with his doctorate from the University of Tennessee. He was a National Research Council research associate at the Army Research Office before becoming an assistant professor at OSU.

Sachan will be conducting fundamental research in the area of novel nanoparticle composition and its benefits, as well as using new methods to review and understand the microstructure of these nanoparticles.

“It is exciting because we have a pathway forward,” Sachan said. “We know the steps we are going to take. Whether it is successful or not remains to be seen, but it will be an interesting journey.”

CAS-Climate: Structure-Property- Performance Relationships of Iron- and Copper-Based Hybrid Mie-Resonator Photocatalysts for C-C and C-N Coupling Reactions

Marimuthu Andiappan
Marimuthu Andiappan

Andiappan received his doctorate from the University of Michigan. Before coming to the OSU School of Chemical Engineering, he worked as a research scientist at Eli Lilly & Company.

His project includes educational activities that build upon the proposed research to infuse photocatalysis and solar energy concepts into the chemical engineering curriculum at OSU.

“It’s an amazing recognition to receive,” Andiappan said. “It is an amazing feeling to have our research recognized by our peers and national agencies like the National Science Foundation. It has provided a lot of confidence to me and my students to move forward and continue this amazing research.”

Photo By: Gary Lawson and Provided

Story By: Abby Cage | Research Matters Magazine

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