Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Research Team Publishes Research on Efficient Conversion of Solar Energy

Quinn Qiao Lab

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor Quinn Qiao and a research team from the College of Engineering and Computer Science recently published two papers in Advanced Materials in collaboration with Peking University and other universities in Europe. Both papers focus on the organic solar cell (OSC), which is a photovoltaic device that converts solar energy to electrical energy. 

The first paper is titled Quasi-Homojunction Organic Nonfullerene Photovoltaics Featuring Fundamentals Distinct from Bulk Heterojunction and discusses the unconventional organic solar cells structure with more intrinsic charge generation and less charge recombination. The second paper is tilted Simultaneously Enhancing Exciton/Charge Transport in Organic Solar Cells by an Organoboron Additive and provides a facile strategy of morphology optimization to improve the performance of OSCs. In both cases, the solar cell’s power conversion efficiencies (PCE) increase which means they can convert solar energy to electrical energy more efficiently. And Qiao’s group confirmed the mechanism of better performance for the solar cell from experiments.

The research was conducted at Qiao’s solar cell lab in the Link Hall. An atomic force microscopy (AFM) was mainly used in the research to measure the current sensing AFM (C-AFM) data and an oscilloscope was used to obtain charge carrier dynamics data. The group has applied a patent for the measurement and has published many papers based on the technique recent years. In the future, the group will publish more influential papers in the field.

Four Engineering and Computer Science Faculty Receive NSF CAREER Awards in the 2021-2022 Academic Year

Sara Eftekharnejad, Ferdinando Fioretto, Zhao Qin and Teng Zeng

College of Engineering and Computer Science Professors Sara EftekharnejadFerdinando FiorettoZhao Qin and Teng Zeng received CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development program during the 2021-22 academic year.

The highly competitive NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

Eftekharnejad and Fioretto are members of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Qin and Zeng teach in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Eftekharnejad’s project, “Modeling and Quantification of the Interdependent Power Grid Uncertainties,” examines how conditions impact the U.S. electric power grid and looks at developing better methods of predicting grid disruptions. She is using statistical modeling of power grid failures to help predict power outages within rapid timeframes. Another focus is modeling power-generation uncertainties from various types of energy supplies, including those that are weather dependent. She and her team are working on using system measurements of grid status and condition uncertainties to find a dynamic model that adjusts in real time to help predict power outages before they occur.

In his project, “End-to-End Constrained Optimization Learning,” Fioretto is researching new models for solving computer optimization problems by accelerating data-driven learning. In that effort, he and his research team are approximating near-real-time integration of constrained optimization principles into machine learning algorithms. Optimized algorithms can improve an array of computer-based processes used in industrial applications that affect everyday life, such as meeting electricity demands efficiently, matching organ donors with receivers, scheduling flights and finding a nearby driver at a ride-sharing service.

Qin’s project, “Multiscale Mechanics of Mycelium for Lightweight, Strong and Sustainable Composites” seeks to reveal the fundamental principles that govern the multiscale mechanics of mycelium-based composites and integrate research into an educational program. Mycelium, produced during mushroom growth as the main body of fungi, plays an essential role in altering soil chemistry and mechanics, enabling a suitable living environment for different plant species.

Inland lakes in the northeastern United States have shown inconsistent trends of browning, a shift toward darker water color. Many of these lakes also receive inputs of organic contaminants originating from human activities within the lake watersheds. For “Impacts of Lake Browning on the Photochemical Fate of Organic Micropollutants,” Zeng is studying the sunlight-driven transformation of organic contaminants in the context of browning. The project is a collaboration with a volunteer lake monitoring and education program. He plans to develop new data and knowledge that will support development of adaptative lake monitoring programs and water treatment practices.

A total of nine Syracuse University faculty members received CAREER awards during the 2021-22 academic year. This is the largest number of the prestigious NSF awards earned in a single year.

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Professor Gurdip Singh Appointed as a Divisional Dean at George Mason University

Electrical engineering and computer science professor Gurdip Singh has been appointed divisional dean of the School of Computing at George Mason University. The School of Computing, together with the Volgenau School of Engineering, comprise Mason’s College of Engineering and Computing.

Singh has been on leave from Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) since March of 2020, serving as division director for the Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) Directorate with the National Science Foundation (NSF). As division director, he oversees 27 program officers, 12 administrative staff, and a budget of $240 million. Singh will complete his service with the NSF through the fall semester and will join George Mason on a full-time basis in January 2023.

Prior to serving as CISE division director, Singh served as associate dean for research and graduate programs in ECS, where he strengthened multidisciplinary research in several areas such as unmanned aerial systems, smart cities and energy. He put a specific focus on mentoring early career faculty and led ECS’s effort in the Syracuse University cluster-hire initiative where ECS’s multidisciplinary focus resulted in many faculty positions. Singh also led the formation of graduate professional development program, expansion of recruitment efforts for ECS graduate programs and development of mechanisms to provide timely recruitment data and projections to ECS departments.

Dacheng Ren currently serves as Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs in ECS.

“Dr. Singh provided foundations that we have grown to rapidly expand our research in the past two years,” said Ren. “This is a great opportunity for him and all of us at the College of Engineering and Computer Science know he will be very successful.”

Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Zhao Qin Receives NSF CAREER Award to Support Mycelium Research

Professor Zhao Qin

The future of construction materials may exist just inches below the surface of a typical lawn. In between the rocks and soil, a vast microfiber network is constantly assimilating wood chips along with plant waste. You may not see the network building, but you do see what it produces once mature – mushrooms.

“When temperature and humidity produce the right conditions, mushrooms grow out of the mycelium network that has existed beneath the ground,” says civil and environmental engineering Professor Zhao Qin.


Qin has been researching the structure of mycelium and the potential for it to be used in other adhesive applications. He sees it as an interface between material science, civil engineering and environmental engineering.

“It is like a glue that integrates wood chips and waste material and then assimilate all these pieces together,” says Qin. “Around cliff areas, people are looking to stabilize the soil. Mycelium is doing this all the time.”

Qin received a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for his project, “Multiscale Mechanics of Mycelium for Lightweight, Strong and Sustainable Composites.” He seeks to reveal the fundamental principles that govern the multiscale mechanics of mycelium-based composites and integrate research into an educational program. Mycelium, produced during mushroom growth as the main body of fungi, plays an essential role in altering soil chemistry and mechanics, enabling a suitable living environment for different plant species.

He and his research team are building a computational model to show how mycelium blends wood chips and waste into complex microfiber structures.

“Once we have a computational model we can optimize the process,” says Qin. “We plan to generate the culture for Mycelium to grow in the lab. Then we generate conditions like temperature or pressure so we can characterize the strength of the material.”

Eventually, Qin wants to take these natural materials into the lab to see if it can be processed into a composite for infrastructure uses.

“A composite version of mycelium could require less energy to produce and be biocompatible,” says Qin. “It could be used for construction – think about similar properties to medium-density fiberboard  but integrated by a mycelium network rather than an adhesive. We want to see what is possible once we know how the mycelium achieve these mechanical properties.”

Qin says Syracuse University is the perfect environment for his research. He will be collaborating with Professors Daekwon Park and Nina Sharifi from the School of Architecture. Their project was initially funded by a CUSE Grant.

“This is a fantastic research institution. My colleagues here in Engineering and Computer Science and the School of Architecture are very supportive, we have excellent facilities and outstanding graduate students,” says Qin. “Once we set the recipe for these materials, we can apply that to real world applications in construction and architecture.”

“Our department is thrilled to see Dr. Qin’s work recognized by the NSF,” says civil and environmental engineering department chair Andria Costello Staniec. “His work is significant for modeling of bioinspired materials and will contribute to the development of eco-friendly composite materials that have wide applications in civil engineering and beyond.”

As part of the NSF grant, Qin is involving K-12 students in research and also plans to develop an educational exhibit related to mycelium study at the Museum of Science and Technology in downtown Syracuse.

“We will design educational programs that will help aspiring young engineers and scientists to learn by playing,” says Qin.

“Dr. Qin’s research is an outstanding example of the kind of research that ECS seeks to grow,” said College of Engineering and Computer Science Dean J. Cole Smith. “He is showing how to leverage his foundational excellence in science and engineering to construct effective composite materials. Furthermore, he is engaged in deep collaborations with some of our truly fantastic colleagues in the School of Architecture. I am so personally excited to see Dr. Qin recognized for the promising and innovative researcher that he is.”

2022 Engineering and Computer Science Research Day Awards

2022 Research Day

We are happy to announce the winners from the 2022 Engineering and Computer Science Research Day held on March 25th, 2022.

Poster Competition

1st Place: Elizabeth Oguntade, PhD student in Bioengineering.

On-Demand Activation of Functional Protein Surface Patterns with Tunable Topography
Suitable for Biomedical Applications. Advisor: Dr. James Henderson

2nd Place: Natalie Petryk, MS student in Bioengineering.

Synthesis of Shape Memory Polymer Foams with Off-the-Shelf Components for Improved
Commercialization. Advisor: Dr. Mary Beth Monroe

3rd Place: Alexander Hartwell, PhD student in Mechanical and Aerospace

Introduction of a Multilayered Cathode for Improved Internal
Cathode Tubular Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Performance. Advisor: Dr. Jeongmin Ahn
Honorable Mention: Saif Khalil Elsayed, MS student in Civil Engineering.
Modeling Self-Folding Hybrid SU-8 Skin for 3D Biosensing Microstructures.
Advisor: Dr. Zhao Qin

Oral Presentation Competition

Communication and Security Session

1st Place: Kai Li, PhD student in Electrical/Computer Engineering. Detect and
Mitigate Vulnerabilities in Ethereum Transaction Pool. Advisor: Dr. Yuzhe Tang

2nd Place: Xinyi Zhou, PhD student in Computer/Information Science. “This is
Fake! Shared it by Mistake”: Assessing the Intent of Fake News Spreaders. Advisor:
Dr. Reza Zafarani

Health and Well-being Session

1st Place: Yousr Dhaouadi, PhD student in Chemical Engineering. Forming
Bacterial Persisters with Light. Advisor: Dr. Dacheng Ren

2nd Place: Henry Beaman, PhD student in Bioengineering. Gas-Blown Super
Porous Hydrogels with Rapid Gelling and High Cell Viability for Cell Encapsulation.
Advisor: Dr. Mary Beth Monroe

Energy, Environment & Smart Materials Session

1st Place: Durgesh Ranjan, PhD student in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
Porous nanochannel wicks based solar vapor generation device. Advisor: Dr.
Shalabh Maroo

2nd Place: Alexander Johnson, PhD student in Civil Engineering. Estimating Dry
Deposition of Atmospheric Particles by Rain Washoff from Urban Surfaces.
Advisor: Dr. Cliff Davidson

Sensors, Robotics & Smart Systems Session

1st Place: Lin Zhang, PhD student in Computer/Information Science. Adaptive
Sensor Attack Detection for Cyber-Physical Systems. Advisor: Dr. Fanxin Kong

2nd Place: Zixin Jiang, PhD student in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering,
Short-term occupancy prediction driven intelligent HVAC control. Advisor: Dr. Bing

Biomedical and Chemical Engineering Professor Lawrence Tavlarides Retires After Remarkable Academic and Research Career

After 40 incredible years at Syracuse University, biomedical and chemical engineering Professor Lawrence Tavlarides will retire at the end of the Fall 2021 semester. Tavlarides received his BS, MS and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1960s. After working several years at Gulf Research and Development Center as a research engineer in Pennsylvania and completing his academic studies at the University of Pittsburgh he went through the academic professional ranks at Illinois Institute of Technology for the 12 years from 1969 – 1981. Tavlarides then joined Syracuse University in September  1981 as the chairman of the then chemical engineering and material science department for four years and has continued as a professor. He has received numerous honors and recognitions for contributions to the chemical engineering profession, academia and society. Tavlarides has taught numerous courses in chemical engineering, nuclear engineering and biochemical engineering. He has supervised 45 masters of science students ( 31 at SU ), 34 doctoral students  (23 at SU), and 13 post-doctoral associates at SU over his career.  His contributions with students and colleagues to research includes 1 book, 18 patents, 163 research publications , 2 educational publications and over 300 presentations  at technical meetings and Universities. He was principle investigator of 70 research grants ( 53 at SU) over his career. Tavlarides was also a member of numerous committees on treatment of nuclear wastes for the US Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission  in the first decade of 2000. He is proud to complete his career at Syracuse University.