Aye, Shepherd win Young Investigator awards from Navy
By Tom Fleischman
Cornell assistant professors Yimon Aye and Robert Shepherd are among 33 scientists selected from among 360 applicants to receive Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program (YIP) awards, which support early-career academic scientists and engineers.
The program awards a total of $16 million in three-year grants; the typical award is $170,000 per year.
Aye, from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, is principal investigator of the Aye Lab, which focuses on chemistry-driven methods development in chemical biology. Its YIP award will support work in gene activation by innate nucleophilicity (GAIN) – the development and application of a programmable, small-molecule-based toolkit that hijacks innate reduction/oxidation (redox)-sensing proteins for turn-on stress defense in complex vertebrate animals.
The group’s proposal seeks to help strengthen the U.S. Navy with technology geared to improving individual sailors’ performance, healing and ability to fight infection at a specific time.
Shepherd, from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, leads Organic Robotics Laboratory. Its focus is on making robots operate more like animals, and Shepherd will use the YIP grant to further develop hydraulically actuated systems, including exoskeletons. This includes the development of flow batteries that could store electrical potential in the “blood” – hydraulic fluid – of a robot.
The group plans to work on increasing the energy density of flow batteries, while also making them compatible with hydraulic actuation. “It is going to be a fun project, that we think is very important,” Shepherd said. “I am very excited and honored that ONR chose to fund this project.”
The scientists chosen to receive this year’s YIP grants represent 25 institutions nationwide.