Research Snapshots – January 2016

Using ISS as a Microgravity Lab

Boris Khusid, working with several of his NJIT colleagues and NASA astronaut Donald R. Pettit, used the International Space Station (ISS) as a lab to explore the behavior of charged water droplets in a microgravity environment. Their research — including development of an important new technique for controlling the shape of a fluid droplet before it becomes a spray — could lead to better inkjet printers, more precise techniques for manufacturing polymer fibers and improvements in mass spectrometry.

Tapping Into a Swarm’s Collective Intelligence

Simon Garnier and members of his Swarm Lab study the mechanisms underlying the coordination of large animal groups, such as ant colonies or human crowds, and how this can lead to the emergence of “intelligent” and “less intelligent” group behaviors. Their work has applications to complex problems such as the organization of pedestrian traffic or the control of robotic swarms.

Waking Up Coffee Farmers to Better Pricing Strategies

Junmin Shi studies Kenya’s coffee industry, looking at whether small-scale coffee farmers can use inventory management to thrive financially in the face of unpredictable coffee supplies and wide price fluctuations. By applying mathematical modeling and theory to the real-life practices of Kenya’s 700,000 small-scale coffee farmers and the five million people they support, Dr. Shi’s research may contribute to the U.N. Millennium goal of eradicating extreme hunger and poverty in Africa.

Assuring Biomedical Information Quality to Support Researchers and Physicians

Researchers and medical professionals worldwide depend on vast, shared, continually growing and evolving repositories of biomedical information where quality, consistency, organization and accessibility are paramount. Two NJIT computer scientists, Yehoshua Perl and James Geller, have been awarded a three-year, $1.75 million federal grant to support their research work on quality assurance of families of biomedical ontologies. Ontologies, or the common terms and vocabularies used by researchers, are increasingly important to support interdisciplinary research, information retrieval and knowledge management.

Lighting the Way With New LEDs

Standard LED lights consume 90 percent less power than incandescent bulbs. But now Hieu Pham Trung Nguyen is taking LED design and production to a new level by exploring the use of nanomaterials that can be precisely manipulated at the atomic level. This research seeks to eliminate LED reliance on costly phosphorescent rare-earth materials and aims to generate light directly at different parts of the visible spectrum.

Investigating Biological Timekeeping

Jet lag and night shifts have long played havoc with human health. Now Casey Diekman, funded by the National Science Foundation, is using mathematical modeling to study electrical activity in the brain and the role this plays in circadian timekeeping, especially in response to natural light/dark cycles.

Mining Social Media to Reveal Cancer Risks

Songhua Xu, assistant professor of information systems at NJIT, is leveraging the power of online content and social media, e.g., Foursquare check-ins and location-stamped Facebook posts, to explore and possibly reveal the relationships between geographic locations and diseases like cancer. The research is funded by a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Strengthening N.J.’s Aerospace and Defense Supply Chain

Backed by a $5.67 million grant from the Department of Defense, New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), an NJIT corporation that applies the intellectual and technological resources of the university to challenges identified by industry partners, is focused on a statewide strategy to support New Jersey’s aerospace and defense industry.

NJ MarketShift, led by NJII Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Franklin, works with aerospace and defense contractors in the state to improve their competitiveness, penetrate new markets, develop new products and grow their business. NJ MarketShift also helps community leaders and policymakers by providing powerful web-based applications to improve regional planning and economic development.

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