Two Penn Engineering Professors Receive Young Investigator Program Awards from the Office of Naval Research

By Jacob Williamson-Rea

Firooz Aflatouni and James Pikul

Two Penn Engineering professors have received Office of Naval Research 2019 Young Investigator Program Awards: Firooz Aflatouni, Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering, and James Pikul, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics.

The ONR’s Young Investigator Program aims to “identify and support academic scientists and engineers who are in their first or second full-time tenure-track or tenure-track-equivalent academic appointment, who have received their doctorate or equivalent degree on or after 01 January 2011, and who show exceptional promise for doing creative research.”

Aflatouni received an award for his proposal “Deep Networks with Ultra-Fast Photonic Training for Instantaneous Direct Image Classification” in the Division 312 Electro-Optical/Infa-Red Sensors and Sensor Processing program, which has an objective of “developing high-performance, low-cost, next generation electro-optic sensors, devices and autonomous processing to provide real-time detection, tracking, classification, and identification of air, sea-surface, and ground targets in all weather conditions.” This award will provide up to $750,000 in support.

Aflatouni’s proposed research will lead to a faster and more efficient imaging system that directly processes light coming from the object being imaged thanks to an integrated, deep neural network that will surpass the capabilities of today’s digital imaging platforms by cutting out a step in traditional electronic imaging.

Pikul received an award for his proposal “Understanding Electrochemically Induced Surface Evolution and Transport at Metal-Hydrogel Interfaces for Metal-Air Scavenger Power,” and will be provided with $650,000 in support. This research is encompassed by the Division 302 Manufacturing, Maintenance and Logistics program, which aims to improve “additive manufacturing, condition-based maintenance and health system monitoring, efficient energy generation, novel energy harvesting techniques, and solar cell chemistry, physics, and manufacturing.”

Pikul’s research at Penn broadly aims to make advances in energy storage and conversion, as well as in our understanding of and ability to utilize materials at the nanoscale and microscale.

Learn more about the 2019 Young Investigator Award Recipients.