Three ECE faculty receive appointments to the Center for Advanced Study


Charlie Johnson, ECE ILLINOIS

At its March 10 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the appointment of 25 faculty members as Center for Advanced Study (CAS) fellows and associates for the 2010-2011 academic year. Appointment to the Center is one of the highest honors that the University can bestow upon its faculty.

Each year the center names fellows and associates, providing them with one semester of release time for creative work. Fellows (untenured faculty members) and associates (tenured faculty members) are selected from across campus to carry out programs of self-initiated research or professional activity. These appointments provide an incentive to pursue the highest level of scholarly achievement.

Three ECE faculty members—Todd Coleman, Xiuling Li, and Daniel Liberzon—were honored with this distinction.

Todd Prentice Coleman
Todd Prentice Coleman

“It’s very prestigious and I’m humbled to have been picked,” said Assistant Professor Todd Prentice Coleman. “I really want to thank my department head because he was really the one who gave me the idea to apply.”

Coleman plans to use next spring to spend his semester on the “Systems Engineering Principles for the Design of Brain-Machine Interfaces.” Always interested in research that sits at the intersection of neuroscience and engineering, Coleman’s research will explore ways to improve brain-machine interfacing. When trying to control a machine using brain functions, a large discrepancy can exist between what the user wants the machine to do, what the machine actually does, and what the user then comprehends the machine to have done. By shrinking this gap, Coleman hopes to pave the way for more and more “brain in the loop” technologies.

Potential applications of developing a noninvasive “brain in the loop system” include fast and accurate diagnosis of concussions in football players, more effective rehabilitation of stroke victims, and hyper-interactive video games, just to name a few.

“It’s really pretty remarkable that I get paid to do this sort of stuff. It’s incredibly interesting and fun,” said Coleman.

Xiuling Li
Xiuling Li

Assistant Professor Xiuling Li intends to use her semester of release to explore several new research opportunities with her graduate students. In particular, she will be working on her project “All-Silicon Nanowire Tandem Solar Cell for $1 per Watt Energy Conversion.”

Solar energy, while being a highly desirable because of its renewability and minimal environmental impact, is still not cost-effective enough to compete with other methods of power generation in the everyday marketplace. Li proposes to explore an all-silicon, nanowire based solar cell fabricated using metal assisted chemical etching. Li hopes that this new, low-cost high versatility approach will allow for big strides in cost-efficiency and maybe break the barrier of $1 per watt sustainable energy conversion.

“It’s a great honor to be appointed as a CAS fellow. The fact that three members of ECE were named reflects the excellence of our faculty and the tremendous support we receive from the department,” said Li.

Daniel M Liberzon
Daniel M Liberzon

“One of the nice things about this grant, besides the convenience of a break from teaching, is that you can do work that might be a bit more premature than might otherwise be funded by, say, a federal agency,” said Associate Professor Daniel M Liberzon. “It’s a great way to jump start a novel idea.”

Liberzon, who was named a CAS associate, plans to use his free semester to develop a project titled “Stability Analysis of Switched Dynamics via Commutators,” which uses advanced mathematical principles to analyze dynamic system changes. Right now, this mathematical analysis has a very thin domain of applicability, which Liberzon hopes to expand.

“The potential for application exists, but the project is very mathematically challenging because now I have to take this math theory to a new level,” said Liberzon, whose PhD from Brandeis University is in mathematics. “Some of the work is a bit out there, but that’s what makes this award great. I can take my time to go to the math library and really immerse myself in the project.”