Research Snapshots – Spring 2016

Searching for Biomarkers of Cognitive Deficits

Xiaobo Li is working at the intersection of neurobiology and neuroimaging to better understand the biological underpinnings of cognitive disorders. As director of the Computational Neuroanatomy and Neuroinformatics lab at NJIT, her goal is to integrate predictive analytical and statistical models with sophisticated neuroimaging techniques in order to improve clinical diagnoses of cognitive deficits associated with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder and schizophrenia, among others.

Accounting for the Human Element

Ming Fang aims to increase the effectiveness of accounting practices in conveying information to shareholders, regulators and others. Her current research looks at the impact of social connections among managers from different firms on accounting practices such as earnings management and tax avoidance. She studies a range of topics within empirical accounting, including financial reporting, tax evasion, fraud and regulation, corporate innovation and corporate governance.

Exploring Ethical and Practical Implications of Science Policy

Are scientists and engineers who receive federal or state research grants obliged to address societal needs or can they pursue knowledge for its own sake? Should funding agencies institute a “societal impact” requirement and, if so, how would they implement it? These are just two issues surrounding research ethics and accountability in the science-society relationship that Britt Holbrook investigates. His work has far-reaching implications for policymakers and the increasingly globalized research enterprise.

Combating Neurological Disease

Xiaoyang Xu, a specialist in novel biomaterials and nanotechnologies, has teamed up with James Haorah, an expert in brain biology, to improve the treatment of crippling neurological disorders. New therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have been only partly effective to date because they are unable to penetrate the brain’s protective membrane to reach the central nervous system. The researchers propose encapsulating drugs inside a nanoparticle equipped with a set of chemical tools to “unlock” the membrane by altering its surface.

Interpreting Cultural Expression in Architecture

Architectural historian Zeynep Celik studies how politics and ideologies shape cities and influence architecture. Her most recent work, awarded a $100,000 prize, shows for the first time that the late Ottoman Empire was a force in the rise of modernity, a cultural development traditionally attributed strictly to Western thought and influence. In January, the School of Engineering and Architecture at Ghent University honored Dr. Celik with the George Sarton Medal, which recognizes outstanding historians of science in the international scholarly community.

Building a Next-Gen Search Engine for Learning Support

With funding from the National Science Foundation, Vincent Oria and other computer scientists at NJIT and partner universities are developing ways to make course content more organized, interactive and accessible. A specialist in multimedia databases, Dr. Oria’s research will enable students to easily search information-rich multimedia course materials — including textbooks, slides, and audio and video content — to find specific subject matter. With the ultimate aim of improving learning, the technology and methodology could enable a truly interactive, individualized curriculum that assembles course materials based on learning styles and other personalized needs.

Detecting a Deadly Cancer

Eon Soo Lee and Bharath Babu Nunna are developing a microbiosensor chip to diagnose ovarian cancer without any external equipment. The chip consists of microchannels with specially designed flow patterns coated with antibodies and novel sensing technologies. Cancer antigens in the blood pass through the channels, where they are detected both quantitatively and qualitatively, accurately diagnosing the cancer along with its development stage. If their work proves successful, the microchip could enable unobtrusive, cost-effective early detection of this deadly cancer.

Aiding Recovery from Injury

Research projects in Gal Haspel’s lab focus on neural connectivity, activity and recovery from injury and, ultimately, could help individuals recover from neurological damage, including spinal cord injury. He and his colleagues are studying the neurobiology of locomotion in the nematode C. elegans, a transparent round worm that was the first multicellular organism to have its entire genome sequenced and the only organism to date with its neural connections or “wiring diagram” so thoroughly mapped.

Making Smart Gels Smarter

Polymeric gels are increasingly ubiquitous and used in everything from contact lenses to oil-well seals. Smart gels that respond to stimuli such as changes in temperature, pH and ion concentration are being developed for applications as varied as drug delivery, biomedical sensing, tissue engineering and hydraulic fracturing. Despite their huge, sector-spanning potential, little is known about how these gels perform in complex, real-world settings outside of the lab. Shawn Chester, an expert in materials behavior, is providing engineers with the simulation tools to test smart gels in particular applications so they can be used with confidence and deliver on their highly anticipated promise.

Advancing 5G Mobile Networks

Osvaldo Simeone and colleagues at NJIT’s Elisha Yegal Bar-Ness Center for Wireless Communications and Signal Processing Research are addressing the challenges posed by the next generation of mobile networks. Dr. Simeone is leading a team developing enabling technologies, and transmission models and protocols, for mobile cloud computing.

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