NAE Awards The Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering Grants for Advancement of Interdisciplinary Research


Thu, June 17, 2021

June 17, 2021 —

Two Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering Grants of $30,000 have been awarded to attendees of the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) 2020 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering (FOE) Symposium, which was held virtually in February 2021, after being postponed last year.

Anita Shukla (Brown University) and Arezoo Ardekani (Purdue University) have received a Grainger Grant to broaden research on microbe-responsive antimicrobial hydrogels. Antimicrobial resistance is a global health threat, and new treatments are needed to eradicate infections while maintaining the useful lifetime of existing antimicrobial drugs and not contributing to microbial resistance. Shukla has developed hydrogel platform technologies that exhibit a targeted release and thereby lessen unnecessary exposure to antimicrobial therapeutics. Ardekani will develop a computational model to examine physicochemical behavior and enzyme transport within these hydrogels. Working together, they hope to develop insights that will advance these technologies for use in different infection environments.

The second Grainger Grant has been awarded to Karthish Manthiram (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Suman Khatiwada (Syzygy Plasmonics) for a project titled, “Integrating Light and Voltage-Driven Reactions to Chemical Manufacturing.” Because chemicals alone account for a quarter of industrial emissions, efforts are being made to decarbonize by synthesizing diverse chemicals and materials from the feedstocks of CO2 and water in a single step. While electrochemical routes for reducing CO2 and water to products such as ethylene and carbon monoxide have been widely investigated, production of longer-chain products, such as gasoline, diesel, or kerosene remains elusive.  Working together, Manthiram and Khatiwada will develop a process in which a single reactor can drive conversion of carbon dioxide and water into a three-carbon product, propionaldehyde, using electrochemical and plasmonic catalysts that work in concert. This research could lead to production of a broader range of carbonaceous products from CO2 rather than petroleum, thereby keeping CO2 out of the atmosphere.

“Congratulations to this year’s Grainger Grant recipients,” said NAE President John L.  Anderson. “These recipients are the epitome of what makes the Frontiers of Engineering program so special, innovative solutions sparked in a collaborative environment.”

Frontiers of Engineering is an NAE program that brings together highly accomplished early-career engineers from industry, academia, and government to discuss pioneering technical work and leading-edge research in various engineering fields and industry sectors. The goal is to facilitate interactions and exchange of techniques and approaches across fields and facilitate networking among the next generation of engineering leaders. The Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering Grants provide seed funding for U.S. FOE participants who are at U.S.-based institutions to enable further pursuit of important new interdisciplinary research and projects stimulated by the U.S. FOE symposia.

The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation based in Lake Forest, Illinois, was established in 1949 by William W. Grainger, founder of W.W. Grainger Inc.

Founded in 1964, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. Its mission is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology.

Brandon Green
Brandon Green
Communications/Media Specialist
Janet Hunziker
Janet Hunziker
Director, Frontiers of Engineering