Four UAB assistant professors recognized by the National Science Foundation

Prestigious awards program honors junior faculty who excel in research and education.
nsf awards Clockwise from top left: Eugenia Kharlampieva, Ragib Hasan, Karolina Mukhtar and Thamar Solorio. An unprecedented four University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences faculty have been awarded CAREER Awards by the National Science Foundation. The recipients are assistant professors Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., and Thamar Solorio, Ph.D., Computer and Information Sciences, Eugenia Kharlampieva, Ph.D., Chemistry, and Karolina Mukhtar, Ph.D., Biology.

The CAREER Award is the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award. It supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the missions of their organizations.

Selection for the award is based on two criteria: innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and community service demonstrated through scientific leadership, education or community outreach.

“Winning four National Science Foundation CAREER Awards in one year is an outstanding achievement for the College of Arts and Sciences and a strong indicator of the caliber of faculty we are able to recruit to UAB,” said Robert E. Palazzo, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “These are among the most competitive National Science Foundation grants awarded to the most promising young investigators in the country. I congratulate these exceptional young faculty members, their department chairs and their senior mentors for a great effort and a great outcome.”

The funding for each five-year award, which collectively total more than $2.5 million, will benefit the recipients’ ongoing research and enable them to fulfill additional projects in relation to their research.

Yogesh K. Vohra, Ph.D., professor and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, notes that the number and value of this year’s awards are directly related to the college’s investment in faculty development and mentoring; three of the four winners received grant money and coaching from senior college faculty before applying for the NSF CAREER grant.
Yogesh K. Vohra, Ph.D., professor and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, notes that the number and value of this year’s awards are directly related to the college’s investment in faculty development and mentoring; three of the four winners received grant money and coaching from senior college faculty before applying for the NSF CAREER grant.

“These things don’t happen in a vacuum,” Vohra said. “For Dr. Kharlampieva and Dr. Hasan, we funded CAS Interdisciplinary Team Awards for $30,000 each. Dr. Solorio received a Graduate Entrepreneurship Award for $10,000. So for spending $70,000, we have received more than $2.5 million in federal money in return. I would say that is a wise investment.”
 
The awards foster innovative developments in science and technology, increase awareness of careers in science and engineering, give recognition to the scientific missions of the participating agencies, enhance connections between fundamental research and national goals, and highlight the importance of science and technology for the nation’s future.

2014 research grants and monetary awards:

Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., Computer and Information Sciences
Secure and Trustworthy Provenance for Accountable Clouds (Award amount: $485,000)
Hasan’s research addresses the issue of lack of accountability and noncompliance with data protection regulations in cloud computing, which has emerged as one of the most successful computing models in recent years. Using the popular cloud platform OpenStack, Hasan’s research implements a new architecture for the cloud that provides tools for collecting, storing and securing data ownership and use history and creates a secure access mechanism. His research is accompanied by an integrated educational component, which includes development of new curricula, a textbook and an online course. The project also includes mentoring K-12, undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students, summer camps, and involving women and minorities to increase diversity within the workforce.

Eugenia Kharlampieva, Ph.D., Chemistry
Shape Responses of Ultrathin Hydrogel Microcapsules (Award amount: $525,000)
The goal of Kharlampieva’s research is to develop a novel class of shape-adaptable materials using stimuli-sensitive, hollow capsules of specific shapes. Control over material shape is a key parameter in developing the next generation of intelligent materials that can transform to perform specific functions, a feature crucial in many technologies for drug delivery and sensing. The award also will advance educational and outreach activities focused on developing new baccalaureate and doctoral programs in polymer science at UAB that will exert a strong influence on education in this field in the Southeast, with potentially significant social and economic impact.

Karolina Mukhtar, Ph.D., Biology
Regulatory Mechanisms of Pathogen Mediated Cellular Stress Signaling in Arabidopsis: Taking Plant Molecular Biology to the Urban Garden (Award amount: $1,100,000)
Mukhtar’s application of the award will focus on significantly enhancing our understanding of pathogen-mediated endoplasmic reticulum stress in plants, training next-generation minority scientists and engaging an urban community in citizen science. The findings will influence the agricultural sciences by demonstrating mechanisms to develop crop plants with the capacity to function under increased cellular stress, which is a necessity for a more sustainable future. To complement the research, this CAREER Award will implement an innovative education program called OUTPACE Summer Camp.

Thamar Solorio, Ph.D., Computer and Information Sciences
Authorship Analysis in Cross Domain Settings (Award amount: $470,000)
Solorio’s research addresses a key challenge in authorship analysis, which focuses on the task of extracting characteristics from a written document that can help to determine its authorship, generate a profile of the author or identify cases of plagiarism. Current technologies only enable investigators to work with samples of known authorship and closely match the domain of the documents of interest. Solorio will work to design robust frameworks for scenarios with different cross-domain degrees: cross-topic, cross-genre and cross-modality (text versus transcribed speech). This research will make direct contributions to the field of forensic linguistics, which is relevant for national security. The award will enable Solorio to design an advanced seminar in computational approaches for forensic linguistics and expand ongoing educational and outreach activities for underrepresented groups in the STEM disciplines. She also will integrate opportunities for international visits to key research labs for graduate students in the program to enrich their training and provide networking opportunities.
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