MNTL Hilights report web (Apr. 2016) - Page 28

TRAINING THE NEXT GENERATION OF SEMICONDUCTOR & BIOMEDICAL LEADERS RUOCHEN LU, a second-year electrical engineering graduate student in Songbin Gong’s group, is designing novel RF transformers based on two-port resonators. Some of the biggest challenges he faces relate to the parasitic capacitance inherent to electrical circuits. This unavoidable stray capacitance exists in all circuits due to the close proximity of components that can then cause interference and unreliable operation. In the summer of 2015, Lu earned a best poster finalist honor at the 18th International Conference on Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems (Transducers 2015) for his work on a novel numerical approach to model the thermal nonlinearity in piezoelectric micro-resonators, which are commonly found in the transceivers of modern wireless systems. His approach uses an approximation-free algorithm that more accurately accounts for the complex non-linear dynamics found in MEMS resonators. Lu also won the Electrical & Computer Department’s Lam Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award. A graduate of Tsinghua University in China, Lu describes his doctoral experience at MNTL as amazing because of the great facilities and research collaborations. “The faculty and local research groups are very close,” Lu said. “We often discuss different research topics and learn a lot from each other.” Mechanical Science & Engineering doctoral student RITU RAMAN, who works with Professors Rashid Bashir and Taher Saif, has built a high-resolution 3D printer for patterning cells and biomaterials with resolutions on the order of single cells—less than 5 micron patterning. Working with other members of her group, she has also engineered BioBots, or 3D printed skeletons and muscle actuators, that have been induced to contract by both electrical and optical stimulation. Interested in commercializing this technology, Raman won the 2015 Illinois Innovation Prize, a campus-wide student entrepreneur competition. She is using the $15,000 prize to manufacture the biological building blocks, or BioBlocks, required for the BioBots. The BioBlocks can harness the innate abilities of biological materials to sense, process, and respond to a variety of dynamic environmental signals in real time. Raman’s achievements extend beyond the laboratory. In the Fall 2015 semester, she created and taught a new Bioengineering class (BIOE306), where students learn how to design and build their own BioBots. “I’m really proud of this because all the cool stuff I’m learning doesn’t mean anything if I’m the only one that can do it,” she said. “I want to introduce those materials into every engineer’s toolbox.” According to Raman, some of her success can be attributed to the collaborative environment at Illinois. “You have access to everything and you are always going to find someone who is an expert in what you’re doing. I write better and more in-depth papers because I get so much help from other people.” 28