Young Scholars Honored at UI

By The News-Gazette
Copyright © 2002 The News Gazette
Published Online Feb 27 2003

URBANA – An expert in learning and teaching technical processes, a chemist who came up with a way to detect lead and possibly other toxic metals in the environment, and an engineer who has developed "smart materials" are among the best young scholars at the University of Illinois.
Six researchers and teachers in Urbana were recently named 2002-2003 University Scholars. The designation is the highest honor from the UI for young faculty members, said Chester Gardner, vice president for academic affairs.
"This recognition is especially meaningful since recipients are nominated and selected by their peers," he said. "These awards not only acknowledge the superb accomplishments of the recipients, but also symbolize the university's commitment to foster outstanding people and their work."

The University Scholars program recognizes excellent scholars and tries to help retain them at the UI.
It provides $10,000 to each scholar for travel, equipment, research assistants, books or other expenses.
Since the program began in 1985, 377 scholars have been named and $8.6 million awarded to support teaching and research. The money comes from private gifts to the UI.
The scholars and their research are:

– Richard Braatz, chemical engineering. Braatz develops methods to control chemical processes, and his research has resulted in breakthroughs in theory and algorithms, as well as in industry practice. His work has implications for the production of pharmaceuticals and the manufacturing of microelectronics. He also works with local high school teachers to develop teaching methods for chemistry classes.

– Scott Johnson, human resource education. Johnson is an expert on learning and teaching related to the technical content in engineering school, technical institutes, and corporate education and training centers. He has developed a computer tutor to test theoretical assumptions about the cognitive processes involved in solving technical problems.

Yi Lu, chemistry. Lu is one of the nation's best young scholars in the field of bioinorganic chemistry, and he is internationally known for his study of metalloproteins. He is interested in the role of metal ions or minerals in biological systems – both the design of proteins containing beneficial metal ions and the detecting of toxic metal ions, such as lead, in the environment. His discoveries are revolutionizing the understanding of biochemical issues, particularly the interactions of metal ions with proteins, DNA and RNA.

– Eric Michielssen, electrical and computer engineering. Michielssen's field is computational electromagnetics. He has developed several fast algorithms for solving electromagnetic problems that are many times faster than the previous algorithms. This will allow computer simulations to solve complex real-world problems.

– Nancy Sottos, theoretical and applied mechanics. Sottos is an expert on smart materials, and she and her colleagues have developed a material with the property of healing itself when damaged. The polymers contain tiny capsules with a healing agent released to repair microscopic cracks or fractures. The technology could extend the life of microelectronics, sports equipment or military aircraft. Sottos has also been recognized several times as Best Adviser in the College of Engineering.

– Matthew Wheeler, animal sciences. Wheeler is a nationally and internationally known scholar in gamete and embryo physiology. He has developed a system based on microfluid channel technology for assisted reproduction in animals and humans. He has also been recognized for his teaching ability, including receiving the D.E. Becker Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and Counseling from his department in 1999.

The scholars were recognized at a dinner last week.

© 2002 The News Gazette