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The U.S. National Science Foundation has named eight UCF professors 2022 NSF CAREER award recipients.

All of the recipients are engineers by training who are working on interdisciplinary projects that aim to improve health or to develop new technology that promises to improve our lives. The awardees represent the most promising junior researchers in the nation with the potential to lead in their respective fields, according to criteria outlined by NSF. This brings UCF’s total NSF CAREER winners to date to 85.

UCF has seen a rise in winners for the past few years. In 2019, the Office of Research launched a program to help junior faculty prepare their applications. The results — a record 12 winners in 2020. There were five winners in 2021, above the norm for UCF in the past decade. This year’s results continue the positive upward trend.

The winners all share three common traits. They are experts in their respective areas. They are curious about the world, and they believe their students are invaluable to their success.

They are:

  • Fei Liu, associate professor of computer science
  • Tengfei Jiang, assistant professor of material science and engineering
  • YeonWoong Jung, assistant professor of material science and engineering with an appointment to the Nanoscience Technology Center
  • Brian Kim, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering
  • Kawai Kwok, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering
  • Mehdi Razavi, assistant professor of medicine, materials science and engineering, and a member of the Biionix Cluster
  • Sharma Thankachan, assistant professor of computer science
  • Thomas Wahl, assistant professor of civil engineering and member of UCF Coastal

Creating New Microelectronics

Tengfei Jiang
College of Engineering and Computer Science
Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center
Grant: $500,000

The pandemic triggered supply chain issues including a shortage of semiconductor chips which has impacted more than 160 American industries from computer makers, vehicle companies and even dishwasher makers.

Assistant professor Jiang hopes to help give American more options by unlocking the power of materials used in semiconductor chips. Her research looks at materials and their manipulation to advance high performance computing. Traditional microelectronics follow Moore’s Law of scaling. Simply put, transistors are made smaller and smaller to increase device density and improve performance. However, at a certain point the benefits of miniaturizing diminishes and cost increases. At the same time there is a growing demand for higher performance computing from individual users that tap into their smart home systems to companies using big data and the cloud for daily business operations.

So how do we improve output and power? Jiang says one promising solution could be three-dimensional integrated circuits (3D IC). This is a new approach that allows for interconnected stacked electronic circuits. Copper is a potential material to use in building the structure, but it has limitations and reliability issues within a device. This is where Jiang comes in. She’s looking to find ways to make this technology more efficient and solve the reliability issues.

“The CAREER award will let me focus on addressing the fundamental reliability challenge of 3D interconnect to fill important knowledge gaps,” she says. “This research will pave the way for high density 3D heterogeneous integration that can enable a broad range of critical applications such as high-performance computing, autonomous vehicles, mobile connectivity and aerospace and defense applications.”

She credits her Ph.D. advisor at the University of Texas at Austin, Paul S. Ho, with her passion and drive.

“He was encouraging of female students in his group, telling us that we could excel when we put our hearts to what we work on,” she says.

She also encourages her own students to pursue excellence and says that without them, her work wouldn’t be possible.

“Students are indispensable,” Jiang says. “They are the ones doing experiments in the lab and running models. Students generate results to make my research ideas possible. I also get inspired when I discuss with my students.”

Jiang joined UCF in 2015. She has published more than 21 papers in peer-reviewed publications and has funding from various corporations and funding agencies. She holds multiple degrees including a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering.

Exploring Stretchy Laptops and Smartphones

YeonWoong “Eric” Jung
College of Engineering and Computer Science
Nanoscience Technology Center
Grant: $562,713

Imagine a smart phone that bends or stretches and can withstand the extremes of the Mariana Trench on Earth or the cold valleys of the moon.

Assistant professor Jung is studying materials and nanotech that could one day make this possible.

“When the size of materials becomes extremely small — down to the nanoscale (smaller than 1/1,000,000 times of a human hair thickness) they start exhibiting unusually exciting and superior properties which cannot be obtained in any traditional materials,” Jung says. “The 2D materials that I’m researching can be stretched more than 10 times compared to silicon (the major driver for modern electronics) while still preserving excellent electrical conductivity and semiconducting properties, which are essential for digital electronics. This research enables us to project creating extremely stretchable electronic devices based on the 2D materials. Think laptops or cell phones that can be twisted, folded, and stretched in all dimensions.”

That means potentially packing more computing or optical power and flexibility for use in a broad array of environments.

Jung’s curiosity for creating new materials and search for excellence drives his work and why he loves working with his students in the lab.

“[Students] are pivotal in all aspects of my research,” he says. “Without them, none of what I have accomplished at UCF would be possible … I’m very proud of them. My graduate students have received more than 30 awards for their research excellence inside and outside UCF. They have also found great jobs in places such as Apple, Intel and Yale University. Seeing how they are growing professionally is always quite rewarding and inspiring for me, and it continuously help me keep my momentum in doing what I’m doing.”

Jung joined UCF in 2015 and has published more than 100 journal papers. He has funding from federal agencies including the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and from corporations including Samsung. His work led to two patents. Jung holds multiple degrees including a Ph.D. in material sciences and engineering. Before arriving at UCF he worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Yale University. In 2022 Jung was named a UCF Reach for the Stars awardee.

Developing Implants of the Future

Mehdi Razavi
College of Medicine and College of Engineering
Biionix Cluster
Grant: $606,413

Assistant professor Razavi’s goal is to reduce the pain many patients feel especially when suffer a fracture. Although he’s not a medical doctor, much of the work he and his team conduct focuses on using engineering to eventually help improve patient outcomes.

Bone injuries and degeneration caused by aging, cancer, accidents and even sport’s injuries often require metal implants to restore a patient’s mobility. But those implants often pose problems as the body rejects the foreign objects. One possible solution is the use of bioabsorbable magnesium implants. Currently these implants corrode too quickly, generating harmful hydrogen gas pockets. That’s a major challenge, which Razavi will work to overcome with the funding provided by his CAREER grant. The group will focus on improving the corrosion resistance to produce better magnesium-based bone implants.

“I remain optimistic that the basic science we all do today, will lead to new technologies to help patients in the future,” he says.

Razavi was deliberate in choosing UCF as his home. After completing postdoctoral work at Stanford University, which was on the heels of work at the Brunel Center for Advanced Solidification Technology — a world renowned casting center in the United Kingdom — he wanted to find a place that would support a collaboration among mechanical engineering, material science, medicine and nanotech. He saw the potential at UCF.

UCF was an ideal incubator of synergies. Home to the Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center, the NanoScience Technology Center, the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, the College of Medicine and the Biionix Cluster, it was a no brainer for Razavi.

“Together they provide a hub for biomedical innovation that is transforming Orlando into a globe destination for biomedical education, research and healthcare,” he says. “All these together create a top working environment which is hardly found at other universities.

Razavi like the other CAREER winners says that students are the heart of his research.

“They are like my second family,” he says. “All I have accomplished and will achieve is because of my students. These students work alongside me, and I can’t thank them enough for all the things they have done.”

Razavi holds multiple degrees including a Ph.D. in biomaterials. He has published more than 80 articles and his work has contributed to securing eight patents. His students are also successful, includine, most recently, Angela Shar was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship. He mentors several students graduate, undergraduate and high school students.

For more information about the NSF CAREER prep program and others offered to help faculty with proposals contact the Research Development Office or Professor Saiful Khondaker (, who helped established the program.

Written by Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala for UCF Today.