Research in the DMS Laboratory
Sensors & Systems Research
Our Sensors Research focuses primarily on chemical and biological sensing, with an emphasis on creative systems design to facilitate applications that have remained inaccessible via conventional sensing paradigms. A great deal of research effort has been allocated to the development and optimization of sensor coatings to capture an analyte or target compound of interest. The coating, however, is just one (albeit) critical piece of the system design. The sensor coating (or functionalization) of a sensor platform ensures that a target compound or molecule (= analyte) binds to an immobilized platform. Once immobilized or bound, the binding information must be transduced; our research focuses on integrating systems that use surface plasmon resonance; fluorescence analysis (in the optical arena); and conductive and electrochemical means (in the non-optical arena). We pursue paradigms of sensing and systems integration techniques that draw on olfactory models, hierarchical networks, pattern recognition, and other signal processing frameworks that enable chemical and biological sensors, despite their imperfections, to meet often stringent target application requirements in food and water safety monitoring, indoor air quality assessment, heavy metal detection in liquid media, and other areas relevant to protecting the health and well being of humans and the environment.
Engineering Education Research
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Our Engineering Education research ranges from making advances in basic research to developing tools for engineering educators. Our top priority in all the research we do is to support the engineering community from college through retirement in creating learning and work environments that attract, retain, and support a wide variety of engineers who bring an equally broad range of talents and ways of thinking to the classroom and to the workplace. In basic research, we used mixed methods research to understand more deeply issues of belonging, self-efficacy, engagement, and other community-related factors that affect how well students can engage, perform, and thrive in the world of engineering. In other research, we seek to more fully understand why students leave engineering majors and later, why working engineers leave the workplace. On the other side of the fence, we seek to probe more deeply into why engineering faculty teach the way they do given content-heavy curricula and what practical and effective means exist for making the classroom a more active place to learn. Curriculum modules that expand on existing curricula without expanding credit loads have been developed by our team in the areas of professional skills, personal development, professional ethics, humanitarian engineering, and sustainability. At all levels, we seek to disseminate our results and lessons learned widely, so that we can serve the engineering community in the work that we do. We use a wide variety of research methods including surveys, focus groups, interviews, observations, and evaluation of student work to help us attain our research goals.
Organic Devices, Circuits, & Systems Research
Organic materials have seen a surge in research and development in recent years because of their amenability to key applications in photonics and in integrated display design. As substitutes for the dominant transistor, the MOSFET, organic materials used in transistors (OFETs) are often compared to silicon and amorphous silicon based primarily on mobility (and therefore speed). A wide range of applications that require integrated circuit solutions, however, do not require ultra-high speeds of operation. In display operation, circuit speeds can remain at sub-MHz and still meet minimum frame rate requirements for high resolution displays. In niche areas, such as MEMs high voltage driver applications and chemical sensor development, organic devices offer unique potential to decrease cost and improve manufacturing flexibility. In order to identify appropriate applications for Organic materials, effective circuit simulation models are a necessity. This area of our research focuses on the sensor-based applications that can optimize the use of organic materials and achieve advantages over silicon or amorphous silicon systems. These applications include dual-gate ChemFETs, bandpass and lowpass filter banks that mimic the operation of the human cochlea (ear), and solar cell (photosensors) for portable energy harvesting applications. The life cycle advantages of organic over silicon in environmental impact are also studied by our laboratory.