From exploring the mechanics of early-stage bone metastasis to analyzing price formation policies in wholesale electricity markets, Cornell Engineering’s Sprout Awards are funding unique research projects with the potential to grow partnerships across Cornell.
The Sprout Awards program, which launched in 2022, provides support to teams of investigators from different fields in the early stages of collaborating on novel research.
“The most promising seeds of ideas often germinate at the intersections between disciplines,” said Lois Pollack, associate dean for research and graduate studies at Cornell Engineering. “We launched the Sprout Awards program to ensure that our college continues to be an environment where exciting concepts, like those submitted by this year’s awardees, can grow to fruition.”
This year, there were six new awards and one renewal. The recipients include:
New techniques to quantify total organic fluorine in solid and liquid matrices at the intersection of materials science and environmental engineering
The goal of this project by Damian Helbling, associate professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Chris Ober, the Francis Norwood Bard Professor of Metallurgical Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is to expound the sources of and mechanisms by which per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are introduced or generated during semiconductor manufacturing. The unique chemical properties of PFASs make them valuable in a variety of commercial and industrial applications. As such, there are thousands of PFASs that are synthesized and used in commercial and industrial applications in the U.S.
Developing a suite of replenishable, biologically relevant models of human intestinal mucus
Biofilm formation in the human body is associated with a wide range of disorders, including cystic fibrosis, periodontitis, vaginal vaginosis, colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Recent evidence points to a causal role of bacterial pathobionts that invade the colonic mucus, forming polymicrobial biofilms. How exactly these biofilms form and stabilize within dynamic environments, such as the gut, are unknown, as are the host- or bacterial-born factors that affect bacterial engagement with the mucus layer.
This project, led by Ilana Brito, associate professor in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, will provide new tools to study these biofilms through the development of a suite of replenishable, biological models of human intestinal mucus. Co-investigators include Meredith Silberstein, associate professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Jingjie Yeo, assistant professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
Matrix-regulation of tumor dormancy and immunoregulation in breast cancer bone metastasis
Bone metastases occur in 80% of advanced breast cancer patients and are the leading cause of breast cancer-related deaths among women worldwide. However, effective treatment strategies are missing due to limited understanding of the crucial early stages of bone metastasis.
Claudia Fischbach-Teschl, the Stanley Bryer 1946 Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, is working with co-investigators Matthew Paszek, associate professor in the Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Matthew Greenblatt, associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Dynamics of price formation in low-carbon electricity grids
The expectation for much higher levels of wind, solar and storage in future electricity systems poses a number of challenges for electricity market design, and there is widespread concern that existing market structures will not support an efficient transition. A central concern relates to the fundamentals of spot price formation. Price formation is core to the performance of liberalized power systems, governing the incentives to build, maintain and operate resources that will contribute to a reliable and low-cost system.
This work proposed by Jacob Mays, assistant professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Systems Engineering Program, and Lindsay Anderson, professor and chair in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, seeks to advance the design and analysis of price formation policies in wholesale electricity markets as the resource mix evolves, in support of efficiency and reliability in both short-term operations and long-term investments in bulk power systems.
Learning in dynamic, time-varying, uncertain energy markets: Will AI increase the risk of collusion?
Demand response mechanisms, which incentivize consumers to adjust their electricity usage in response to changes in energy prices or grid conditions, promote sustainability by reducing energy consumption, enabling the integration of renewable energy sources, and improving the reliability and resilience of the electric grid.
This project, led by Francesca Parise, assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Systems Engineering Program, and Eilyan Bitar, associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will study learning dynamics in a modified Bertrand model that captures the unique features of competition among multiple energy aggregators.
Quantum sensing using single spin defects in gallium nitride
This research, headed by Greg Fuchs, professor in the School of Applied and Engineering Physics, and Farhan Rana, the Joseph P. Ripley Professor of Engineering in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will lay the scientific and technical foundation for a quantum sensing platform based on the spin resonance of a single point defect in gallium nitride.
The research builds on Fuchs' recent discovery of optical spin readout in a new gallium-nitride point defect, which has great promise for quantum sensing because, in contrast to diamond, gallium nitride is a mature optoelectronic semiconductor.
Enabling practical fusion power: Advanced lithium alloy facing materials
A critical common factor spanning nearly all proposed fusion power reactor concepts is the need for materials that can withstand extreme reactor environments, including neutron irradiation, elevated temperatures, transient thermal and mechanical loads, and management of tritium.
A team led by Mostafa Hassani, assistant professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, received a Sprout Award renewal to help them complete advanced characterizations of a novel refractory high entropy alloy that was realized, for the first time, in the lab as a result of an initial round of Sprout funding.
Hassani is joined by co-principal investigators David Hammer, the J. Carlton Ward, Jr. Professor of Nuclear Energy Engineering in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Atieh Moridi, assistant professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.