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Research


Camera Foster and Merry Koschan

The UT College of Engineering pursues new understanding through basic research while striving to translate the outcomes into practice that benefits humanity and society. The college is a cornerstone of UT's mission “to move forward the frontiers of human knowledge and enrich and elevate the citizens of the state of Tennessee, the nation, and the world” as part of the institution's strategic plan: VolVision: Journey to the Top 25.

Over the past several years, our research program has grown by leaps and bounds, with a steady increase in funding and significant growth in PhD student involvement over the last five years. This growth, spurred by the increased quality of our faculty's research, as well as additional research leadership, has enhanced support of graduate programs and new facilities.

UT COE PhD Student Enrollment

UT COE Research Expenditures

Lab ExperimentThe Tennessee Governor's Chair Program further facilitates this growth by the addition of nationally and internationally recognized leaders in environmental, nuclear, material, electrical, and chemical engineering.

The college is able to compete for the best graduate talent through the Bredesen Center, in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the highly competitive UT Chancellor's Graduate Fellowship program.

UT boasts new state-of-the-art engineering facilities, including the recently opened Min Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building, which supports the largest department in the college. The John D. Tickle Engineering Building, which houses our Civil & Environmental Engineering and Industrial & Systems Engineering Departments, opened in the fall of 2013. The college will also have faculty members in the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials building that is under construction.

SalasinThe college is home to several research centers and collaborative research initiatives. We invite you to explore the links on these pages to learn more about ongoing research, our various academic programs, and the support that we provide to researchers pursuing external funding.

 

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Research Highlights

SMRC researchAs the depth and breadth of the College of Engineering's faculty quality and capabilities of our facilities have grown, the college's research portfolio has diversified. From developing alternative treatments for heart-valve disease to improving nuclear safety and efficiency, some of the more recent COE research ventures include:

  • Garrett Rose: An EECS research team is helping to develop a computing system that mimics the nervous system to design a chip that would allow computers to operate at an even faster rate and calculate more complicated processing than simple binary-based computing. Read more »
  • Chuck Melcher: Improving scintillation materials to fight cancer and terrorism. Read more »
  • Thanos Papanicolaou: Research informing farmers and improving agricultural techniques designed to preserve and restore soil organic carbon (SOC) for healthier soil. Read more »
  • Yilu Liu has been named a newly elected member of the¬†National Academy of Engineering, among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Read more »
  • Materials science and engineering and nuclear engineering faculty team up as part of a $30 million consortium sponsored by DOE. Read more »
  • Yong Liu: researching problems inherent to current photovoltaic power generation, its effect on the US power grid frequency stability, and how to mitigate its effect in order to avoid large blackouts. Read more »
  • John Auxier II: Recently developed a method for crafting synthetic nuclear melt glass for nuclear forensic analysis. Read More »
  • Energy Department Awards $2.9 Million to the University of Tennessee's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department to Advance Master's and Doctoral Training in Power Electronics. Read more »
  • Fred Wang: Leading a team working on microgrids, systems that can operate independently of the overall power grid. Read more »

Awards and Recognitions

  • Jie Wu: received the prestigious Wheeley Award, given annually in recognition of UT faculty members who have shown the ability to “excel in the commercialization of university-based research.” Read more »
  • Doug Birdwell: Birdwell, professor emeritus of¬†electrical engineering and computer science, named to National Academy of Inventors. Read more »
  • Tom Zawodzinski: Named fellow of the American Chemical Society's Polymer Science Division, one of the highest honors in his field. Read more »
  • College of Engineering faculty and students received twenty plaques acknowledging new patents and eight certificates honoring licensing agreements with UTRF at Innovation Awards. Read More »
  • College of Engineering Faculty Net 5 NSF Career Awards: Wei Gao, assistant professor, electrical engineering and computer science (EECS); Jon Hathaway, assistant professor, civil and environmental engineering; Donatello Materassi, assistant professor, EECS; Kai Sun, assistant professor, EECS; and Cong Trinh, assistant professor, chemical and biomolecular engineering, received NSF Career Awards. Read More »

For more details, please see Faculty Research.

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Undergraduate Research

As a public research institution, the University of Tennessee is committed to enriching the educational experience of undergraduate students through research. Research experiences for undergraduate students reinforce classroom learning, clarify career interests and goals, and stimulate interest in graduate study.

Civil and Environmental Engineering ResearchDuring the summer or throughout the academic year, working alongside a faculty member provides the student with access to cutting-edge technologies and the opportunity to further develop the ability to think, learn, and work independently; sharpen analytical skills; and contribute to the creation of new knowledge. UT engineering students have access to a number of programs to support their research interests.

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Translational Research

With the diversification of the college's research initiatives and the ever-increasing portfolio of scientific knowledge, technology transfer and commercialization have become increasingly important. College of Engineering faculty members are active participants in the institutional efforts at UT to create and develop intellectual property.

Mariya Zhuravleva SMRCWhile the college's contributions are focused in computer science, electrical engineering, and materials science engineering at present, we are experiencing a diversification in the development of intellectual property, particularly as the University of Tennessee Research Foundation gains strength, as evidenced by its accomplishments in 2012:

  • 21 license and option agreements
  • 4 startups formed
  • 28 US patents issued
  • 145 new inventions
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Corporate and Government Partnerships

The College of Engineering recognizes the importance of external partnering to benefit the efforts of faculty and students for the good of the college, the university, and our partners. We work with both the university's Office of Research and UT Development to create partnerships of value to all parties. 

Examples of our current partnerships include:

  • CURENT — This NSF/DOE-funded research center was established in part because of the strength of its planned industry partnerships that span from power-generation companies to technology companies to new start-ups.
  • Eastman — The Eastman connection dates back decades and is clearly among our strongest partnerships. Research funding, corporate philanthropy, student Capstone Design Projects, interaction in the Process-Control Lab, and extensive co-op and internship experiences are all important components of this expanding relationship. UT engineering alumni are prominent in Eastman's leadership team and are a vibrant part of its global workforce.
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory — Through joint institutes, joint faculty members, jointly supervised graduate students and undergraduate research supervision, the efforts of the College in energy, materials, and security research are richly entwined with ORNL's mission and goals. 
  • Siemens Medical Solutions — In the early 2000s, Siemens stepwise increased the College's growing knowledge and experience in crystal synthesis and characterization by providing financial, personnel, and equipment support to establish the Scintillation Materials Research Center. This relationship continues to expand and has diversified to include governmental support.
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College Research Centers

CURENT Test BedThe college is home to a number of research centers, which reflect our range of partners, our commitment to translational research, and our diversity of funding sources. 

  • CURENT is an NSF/DOE-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) working to improve the continent-wide transmission grid while training the next generation of globally savvy electric power and energy systems engineers. 
  • The Center for Intelligent Systems and Machine Learning (CISML) was formed in 2010 to spur the development of the theory and practice of intelligent systems and machine learning technologies via the active research collaboration of faculty, industry, and national lab researchers.
  • The Center for Materials Processing is a State-funded Center of Excellence pursuing multidisciplinary research in the creation of novel materials through the control of their structure. The CMP heavily emphasizes graduate student involvement.
  • The Center for Transportation Research is the longest running center in the college. Its research emphasis is about improving comprehensive transportation safety through a combination of state and federal funding, such as a recent $5.5 million federal award for the Southeastern Transportation Center (STC).
  • The Institute of Biomedical Engineering, our newest center, focuses on improving medical procedures, medical equipment, and quality of life through a multidisciplinary collaboration across UT combining basic research with device development.
  • The Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment (ISSE) promotes development of policies, technologies, and educational programs in response to pressing environmental issues facing the state, the nation, and the world. The institute's interdisciplinary research includes water resources, environmental security, energy and environmental policy research, education and social perspectives, agriculture and natural resources and environmental sustainability.
  • The Reliability and Maintainability Center is an industry-supported center that provides education, research & development, and information exchange about the application of reliability and maintenance engineering tools and concepts.
  • The Scintillation Materials Research Center is the product of a collaboration with Siemens Medical Solutions that has grown to include the identification and synthesis of novel materials for detecting threats to national security.
  • Dr. Philip Rack with Graduate StudentsThe Joint Institute for Advanced Materials is a joint project of the University and ORNL. JIAM is one of the world's largest and best-equipped centers for advanced materials science and provides a broad, multidisciplinary platform to address an extensive range of challenges confronting today's materials scientists.

Information about other centers outside the college with major participation by Engineering faculty can be found at www.engr.utk.edu/research/centers.html.

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Agency Links

Agency Links Agency opportunities specific to early career faculty and beginning investigators
National Science Foundation (NSF)

NSF BRIGE
NSF CAREER

Department of Defense:
Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)
Army Research Office (ARO)
Office of Naval Research (ONR)
DARPA

Young Investigator Program, AFOSR
Young Investigator Program, ARO
Young Investigator Program, ONR*
Young Faculty Award, DARPA


Department of Energy (DOE)
DOE Basic Energy Sciences

DOE Office of Science Early Career Research Program

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

NIH New and Early Stage Investigator

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)


Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)


*Check the agency website for up-to-date information:
http://www.onr.navy.mil/Contracts-Grants/Funding-Opportunities.aspx.

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