FIU joins forces with other universities to pioneer small health and environment-monitoring devices
FIU will partner with North Carolina State University, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Virginia on a national nanotechnology research effort to create small, wearable, self-powered devices that will help people monitor their health.
The National Science Foundation Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST), will be headquartered on NC State’s Centennial Campus and is a joint effort among the four institutions. The center, funded by an initial five-year $18.5 million grant from NSF, also includes five affiliated universities and about 30 industry partners in its global research consortium.
NSF Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) are among the largest and most prestigious grants made by the engineering directorate of the federal agency.
“We are honored to play such an important role in groundbreaking research that has the potential to save lives,” said Amir Mirmiran, dean of FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing. “This is recognition of FIU’s strategic investment and hard work in nanotechnology research that will have a tremendous impact on our local and global communities.”
FIU is home to the Motorola Nanofabrication Research Facility. Through its nanotechnology research, FIU has established itself as a leader in the detection of cortisol, an important hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. FIU’s sensor and energy research has implications for continuous monitoring and treatment of complex diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder and autoimmune disorders, among others.
ASSIST researchers will use the tiniest of materials to develop self-powered health and environmental monitoring sensors and devices. These devices could be worn on the chest like a patch, on the wrist like a watch, as a cap that fits over a tooth, or in other ways, depending on the biological system that is being monitored.
The researchers from FIU will create sensors that gather biochemical signals from the body, such as stress levels. The results of that work, coupled with FIU-developed nano energy storage systems and low-power radios developed by the University of Michigan, will be used to process and transmit health data gathered by the sensors to computers and consumer devices, such as cell phones, so patients, doctors and researchers can easily access it.
The center also will partner with 11 middle and high schools in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania, including Miami Coral Park Senior High School and Rockway Middle School in Miami-Dade, to develop outreach activities that bring nanosystems engineering into K-12 classrooms. Students in partner high schools will have the chance to be involved in ASSIST research.
“The development of these tiny systems will transform both wellness and healthcare,” said Shekhar Bhansali, Alcatel-Lucent professor, chair of FIU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and FIU site director for the ERC. “The work we are doing provides a unique opportunity for our students and industry partners to be at the frontier of a technological and societal transformation.”
Pictured from left to right, ASSIST faculty: Masoud Milani, associate professor in the School of Computing and Information Sciences and director of the Center for Diversity in Engineering and Computing; Gustavo Roig, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Joong-ho Moon, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Shekhar Bhansali, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and FIU site director for the ERC; and Neera Bhansali, visiting clinical assistant professor in the Department of Decision Sciences and Information Systems.