Nagpal, Vernerey win NSF’s prestigious CAREER award

By Staff




Two faculty members in the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science have been honored with the National Science Foundation’s prestigious CAREER award.

The NSF Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, award supports junior faculty members who demonstrate excellence in research and who effectively integrate their research with education. CU-Boulder’s recent recipients are Prashant Nagpal, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Franck Vernerey, an assistant professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering.

Nagpal is being awarded $499,077 over five years to work on improving the amount of energy from the sun that photovoltaic panels can convert into electricity. Nagpal’s work focuses on using “hot carriers” in quantum-confined semiconductor nanostructures to capture the waste energy that cannot be captured by the bulk semiconductors used in today’s solar panels.

Nagpal also will investigate if semiconductor nanostructures can be used as photocatalysts to split water, creating clean hydrogen fuel, or to generate other hydrocarbon solar fuels using carbon dioxide, water and sunlight in an artificial photosynthetic process.

Vernerey is being awarded $400,000 over five years to develop mathematical models that can predict and control the regeneration of damaged tissues from a patient’s own cells in a hydrogel scaffolding.

Vernerey’s work could eventually enable personalized medicine by introducing a new generation of algorithms that can learn from the behavior of specific cell populations and predict the type of scaffolding that will lead to successful tissue regeneration. In the long term, this strategy could provide an alternative to tissue or organ transplants.