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04-17-2006

Clarkson Research Seed Grants Jumpstart New Research Directions

Could a biofeedback device in shoes help reduce falls among the elderly or train individuals impaired by neurological disorders? How effective are extra-porous concretes in reducing pollution due to road and parking lot runoff? Can scientists develop a better understanding of osteoporosis fractures by testing synthetic vertebrae which have been made using computer-generated algorithms?

The Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering (CSOE) has announced initial funding to support five interdisciplinary research proposals consistent with the school's theme "Technology Serving Humanity." Selected faculty members will share $20,000 in CSOE grants to explore concepts, develop faculty expertise, and generate preliminary findings within the next year. This initial data can bolster subsequent proposals to highly competitive external funding sources for major financial support.

The five selected projects fall within strategic areas of interdisciplinary research strength emphasized by Clarkson in its drive to increase academic excellence. These fields include: advanced materials, biotechnology, entrepreneurship, environment and energy, and global supply chain management.

The CSOE-funded projects:

Using Shoe Biofeedback for Safer Walking -- The team will investigate how a biofeedback device installed in the insole of shoes might compensate for loss of nerve sensitivity in the elderly to help prevent falls and injuries. Initially the researchers will map pressure response patterns on the sole of the foot. By identifying conditions that lead to abnormal posture control, they will be able to design a compensatory biofeedback mechanism. Eventually such a device may also be used in rehabilitation training for those who have neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease or stroke. Researchers include Principal Investigator Eduard Sazonov, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; Stacey Zeigler, clinical assistant professor of physical therapy; and Samantha Marocco, academic coordinator for clinical education and clinical assistant professor of physical therapy. This project is predominantly funded by the Center for Health Sciences and the Center for Rehabilitation Engineering Science and Technology.

Synthetic Vertebrae for Osteoporosis Fracture Analysis -- To investigate how the deterioration of bone microstructure leads to compression fractures in vertebrae, the research team will create synthetic vertebrae as test specimens upon which to examine the weakening effects of osteoporosis. They will use tomographic scans of healthy microstructures to develop computer algorithms for creating standardized specimens with the same microstructural base, but with varying levels of deterioration. This method eliminates unwanted variations found in natural samples taken from different bones. Researchers include: Principal Investigator Kathleen Issen, associate professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering; Gregory Campbell, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; James Carroll, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Tony Keller of the Florida Orthopedic Institute.

Improving Wind Turbine Blades -- The research team aims to develop better flow control techniques for wind turbines that will lead to greater power generation, improved life of blades through reduced structural fatigue, and less noise. By using smart actuators and sensors, the professors will alter the properties of blades while testing them initially in Clarkson's low-speed wind tunnel. Synthetic jet and piezo-bimorph actuators will function as flow control devices, with the researchers developing an innovative approach of model-based robust controller design. Researchers include Principal Investigator Ratneshwar Jha, associate professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering, and Piergiovanni Marzocca, assistant professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering.

Constructing an Indoor Air Chamber to Expand Research Capabilities -- a CSOE seed grant is supporting construction of a rectangular chamber (3 x 5 x 2.5 meters), with a removable partition dividing it into two equal compartments. The chamber will increase Clarkson's capacity to perform research on the quality and behavior of indoor air and increase experimental capabilities. The device will also allow researchers to facilitate new research in topics such as indoor air fate and transport, particle mechanisms, and human exposure to pollutants. Initial experiments will include studying transport of ultrafine (100 nanometer) particles through cracks and resuspension of particles from various floorings. The project is being led by Andrea Ferro, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

"The seed funding is a direct investment in our faculty," says Coulter School Dean Goodarz Ahmadi. "We believe it will be returned many times over, not only in external support dollars, but also in the benefits of new knowledge to society. The grants underscore our commitment to academic excellence at Clarkson."

Externally funded support for research at Clarkson totaled $16.1 million during fiscal year 2004-2005, the third consecutive new annual record.

Clarkson University, located in Potsdam, New York, is a private, nationally ranked university with a reputation for developing innovative leaders in engineering, business, the sciences, health sciences and the humanities. At Clarkson, 3,000 high-ability students excel in an environment where learning is not only positive, friendly and supportive but spans the boundaries of traditional disciplines and knowledge. Faculty achieves international recognition for their research and scholarship and connects students to their leadership potential in the marketplace through dynamic, real-world problem solving.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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