Junior faculty receive prestigious NSF Early Career Awards

Author: William G. Gilroy

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has named four University of Notre Dame junior faculty members winners of the Early Career Development Award (CAREER). Three recent additions to the Notre Dame faculty also received CAREER Awards while at their previous institutions.

Anthony Hoffman, Collin McMillan, Tijana Milenkovic and Fabio Semperlotti are among the 146 scholars across the country who received this highest honor given by the U.S. government to young faculty in engineering and science.

“It is upon the successes of these junior faculty that Notre Dame will continue to grow its research programs,” Robert J. Bernhard, vice president for research, said. “I commend all of our Early Career Development Award winners for their wonderful achievements and look forward to watching their research and teaching careers develop at the University.”

Anthony Hoffman Anthony Hoffman

Hoffman, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, was honored for his proposal titled, “Mid-Infrared Intersubband Polaritronics,” which focuses on developing new optical devices using quantum engineering. He and his team are investigating the interactions between light and the extremely thin layers of semiconductors to provide more sensitive imaging and detection for applications in medicine, industry and homeland security. In addition to this foundational research that aims to develop a new set of tools for optoelectronic devices that incorporate strong light-matter interactions, Hoffman and his team will be developing and hosting a series of engineering days for local school children that are built around hands-on optics-based experiments to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

A graduate of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, earning his bachelor’s degree in physics in 2004, Hoffman received a master’s degree in 2006 in electrical engineering from Princeton University and a doctorate, also in electrical engineering, in 2009 from Princeton. He joined the Notre Dame faculty in 2012.

Collin McMillan Collin McMillan

An assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, McMillan’s CAREER project, “Understanding Program Comprehension for Automated Software Documentation Generation,” targets the “concept assignment problem” in program comprehension. As they study the process that programmers follow when reading source code to write documentation, McMillan and his team will also develop algorithms to mimic that process. The algorithms will then be integrated with novel natural language generation systems to create descriptions of software behavior. A key outcome of this project will be to increase workforce participation in the industry by people with visual disabilities. It will also be used to develop an outreach program for state K-12 schools for the blind and visually impaired to prepare students for careers in software development.

McMillan joined the University in 2012. He earned his doctorate and master’s from the College of William & Mary in 2012 and 2009, respectively. He received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Tulsa in 2007.

Tijana Milenkovic Tijana Milenkovic

Milenkovic, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, received the CAREER award for her project, “Novel Algorithms for Dynamic Network Analysis in Computational Biology.” Through this project, Milenkovic will develop novel computational strategies for both inference and analysis of dynamic biological networks, which will likely advance understanding of cellular functioning and molecular causes of disease compared to traditional static biological network research. Dynamic analyses of biological networks have applications of societal importance, such as studying cellular changes with disease progression, drug treatment or age, which Milenkovic will explore. Thus, her CAREER project could contribute to global health. Educational activities that will grow out of this project include the development of new curriculum, career mentoring and community outreach activities to K-12 students that focuses on attracting women to and retaining them in the field of computer science and engineering.

Milenkovic, who joined the Notre Dame faculty in 2010, earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Sarajevo in 2005, her master’s degree in computer science from the University of California at Irvine (UCI) in 2008, and her doctorate degree, also in computer science, from UCI in 2010.

Fabio Semperlotti Fabio Semperlotti

Semperlotti, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, will be working to advance non-destructive/non-intrusive imaging techniques for structural health monitoring through his project titled, “Multi-Physics Transient Holography: A Non-Intrusive Imaging Approach for the Identification of Structural Damage in Mechanical Systems.” He and his team will be exploring a new concept in imaging that leverages multiple principles that currently exist in imaging technologies — from the mechanical to thermal to the electromagnetic fields — to achieve unprecedented sensitivity and image resolution, in essence creating a holographic framework. By establishing new collaborations with the South Bend Community School Corp., Semperlotti will develop a four-year-long program in “Math and Wave Engineering” that targets high school students and teachers and includes real-world applications to civil and aerospace systems.

Semperlotti joined the University in 2011. He earned master’s degrees in aerospace engineering and astronautic engineering from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” in 2000 and 2002, respectively. He received his doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2009 from The Pennsylvania State University.

“Our young faculty in engineering are among the very best in the country and are having great success with this highly prestigious NSF award, as well as with regular NSF grants, AFOSR and ARO Young Investigator awards, and DOE Early CAREER Awards,” Peter Kilpatrick, dean of the College of Engineering, said. “I am delighted that they are finding ways to launch their careers in very significant and meaningful ways.”

Three faculty members who joined Notre Dame this year — Mark Behrens, John and Margaret McAndrews Chair and professor of mathematics; Jon Camden, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; and Chaoli Wang, associate professor of computer science and engineering — all bring with them Early CAREER Awards they received while at their previous institutions.

Established in 1995, the CAREER program recognizes and supports junior faculty who exhibit a commitment to stimulating research while also providing educational opportunities for students. According to the NSF, “the creative work of these scholar-teachers will open new frontiers of knowledge in a wide range of engineering fields while addressing pressing questions of great societal importance in manufacturing, health, energy, environment, infrastructure and education.”