Carnegie Mellon University
March 04, 2020

Early CAREER Faculty Shine

Four Engineering faculty receive NSF awards

By Madison Brewer

Krista Burns
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • 412-268-5316
Lisa Kulick
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • 412-268-5444

Four College of Engineering faculty have been awarded CAREER awards by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The awards, which are part of the Faculty Early Career Development Program, are given to people early in their careers who are believed to play a part in furthering their area of science. The awards support their research and educational goals. 

Vanessa ChenVanessa Chen, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, was awarded an NSF CAREER award for her work on machine-learning and encryption. Chen hopes to make the internet more secure using the chaos of true randomness. Without a patterned code to break, it should be nearly impossible for hackers to access secure information such as credit card and social security numbers. In addition, Chen’s award describes an outreach plan, bringing her complex research into the reach of our next generation. She hopes this will encourage women and other underrepresented minorities to pursue jobs in STEM. Read more about her research

Swarun KumarSwarun Kumar, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, received a CAREER award for his work on low-power wide-area networks (LP-WANs). LP-WANs are designed to provide a wireless network over a large area. Since many of these currently use a maintenance requiring battery, Kumar wants to find a better power source. This new power source could provide wireless network to a larger area including, he hopes, an entire city. The award also proposes a K-12 outreach program. Read more about his research

Rebecca TaylorRebecca Taylor, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, received her CAREER award to support her research on nanostructures made using an artificially synthesized DNA-mimicking polymer. She will study the structure and formation of these novel nanostructures made using programmable gamma peptide nucleic acid (gammaPNA)-based materials. In particular, she will be studying the effects of different “weaving” patterns, chemical modifications and organic solvent mixtures as she seeks to learn more about peptide nucleic acid self-assembly. Taylor suggests this could one day be used to enable sequence-specific polymer synthesis. The goal of the project is to understand how complex nanostructures can be built with a synthetic DNA-mimic and how the solvent and chemical modifications relate to the resulting form of the structures.

Kate WhitefootKate Whitefoot, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and engineering and public policy, also received a CAREER award. Whitefoot’s research bridges engineering design and economics to understand product design in the context of markets and regulations. The award will support her research on product differentiation. This work will better understand the optimal variety of product designs under different market and policy conditions. It will also develop computational models to inform product design strategies.

"We are delighted that these early career faculty are being recognized with NSF CAREER awards," said Bill Sanders, dean of the College of Engineering. "This support highlights the creative contributions our faculty are making to their respective fields."