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Three Win Prestigious NSF Award for Young Faculty

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April 1, 2008 | by Megan Fellman
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Three young faculty members at Northwestern University have received Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards from the National Science Foundation.

They are Steven D. Jacobsen, assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and Matthew A. Grayson and Aleksandar Kuzmanovic, assistant professors of electrical engineering and computer science in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The CAREER program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards for new faculty members. The CAREER program recognizes and supports the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. CAREER awardees are selected on the basis of creative, career-development plans that effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their institution. The minimum CAREER award size is $400,000 for a five-year period.

An experimental geophysicist, Jacobsen conducts laboratory experiments at both Northwestern and the Advanced Photon Source of Argonne National Laboratory. His interests and research in Earth science include global geophysics and geochemistry, high-pressure physics and chemistry, water distribution in the Earth, and the role of materials in renewable energy technology. Jacobsen's work has ranged from studying Antarctic ice cores to the properties of iron-oxide near the Earth's core. Results from his studies will allow seismologists to better interpret the seismic structure of the Earth's mantle in terms of variations in temperature, mineralogy and composition.

With his CAREER award, Jacobsen will study water cycling in the Earth's deep mantle, investigating the possibility that several oceans worth of water could be stored in a rocky layer of the mantle located about 250 to 400 miles beneath the surface. His project, "Effects of Hydration on the Physical Properties of Mantle Materials from Atomic to Geophysical Scales," will rely on a scientific team composed of undergraduates, graduate students and one postdoctoral fellow. Using high-pressure and temperatures inside presses made of gem-diamond anvils, Jacobsen and his team will examine the influence of water on the physical properties of materials at conditions reflective of the Earth's mantle.

Grayson's research focuses on engineering semiconductor systems to induce collective electron behavior and to control quantum numbers such as the spin and valley degrees of freedom.

He received a CAREER award for his proposal titled "Bose-Einstein Condensation Using Different Flavors of Electrons." Most electronic devices operate by sending negatively charged electrons, positively charged holes, or both, around a device for the purposes of signal amplification and logic switching. However, certain semiconductors host different kinds of electrons, designated by their so-called "valley-index." New quantum device ideas and physical phenomena could be realized, says Grayson, if it were possible to control and distinguish these different kinds of electrons.

Grayson will use his award to study possible ways of distinguishing these different flavors of electrons and investigate simple electronic devices that function as a result of this distinguishability. He will seek evidence for a rare quantum state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate, where, under certain conditions, electrons from different valleys might be coerced to pair with each other.

Kuzmanovic's research interests are in the area of computer networking with emphasis on design, measurements, analysis, denial-of-service resiliency and prototype implementation of protocols and algorithms for the Internet.

He received a CAREER award for his proposal titled "Internet Audit: A Theory, Toolset, and Applications for a World without Net Neutrality." The main goal of this research is to build a system capable of monitoring Internet Service Provider (ISP) and Content Distribution Network services and elements, revealing their behavior and policies and accurately detecting and exposing biased or discriminatory network practices.

Kuzmanovic will focus on devising novel distributed end-host-based auditing methodologies and tools to systematically study a number of threat models, ranging from open denial-of-service (DoS) attacks to more sophisticated methods in which ISPs are adding jitter or using differentiated services in destructive ways.