Two UMR researchers will receive an estimated $400,000 apiece during the next five years as part of the National Science Foundation’s CAREER program, which supports promising scientists early in their careers. The program recognizes and supports the early career development of teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.
Chang-Soo Kim is working to understand the relationship between plant roots and their surrounding environment. His work may help unearth solutions to low crop yields and land pollution.
“The interaction between the plant roots and the surrounding media is the least understood and most challenging aspect of plant research,” says Kim, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UMR.
His NSF funding will support Kim’s development of “horticulture-on-a-chip,” a microsystem that integrates 3-D sensor arrays with a miniature plant growth system. The device will monitor root zone oxygen distribution and could be used in nearly all aspects of root research, including metabolic engineering, plant stress physiology and plant pathology. If successful, the new microsystem would be a major technological breakthrough for root research efforts. Mehdi Ferdowsi is studying how vehicle fleets could be used to help improve the nation’s power grid.
Ferdowsi, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, envisions a future where at least 10 percent of the vehicles on the road will be hybrid cars with onboard energy storage units. When they aren’t on the road, owners could plug the vehicles into the power grid and their storage units would be used for grid regulation and peak load shaving, a technique that helps stabilize energy prices.
“It has been proven that employing energy storage systems improves the efficiency and reliability of the electric power generation as well as the power train of the vehicles,” Ferdowsi explains. “If both the transportation and electric power generation sectors used the same energy storage systems, we could integrate the two and improve the efficiency, fuel economy and reliability of both systems.”