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Engineering Professor Receives ONR’s Young Investigator Program Award for Study of Quantum Dots

Pradeep Sharma, assistant professor of mechanical engineering

Pradeep Sharma, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston, received the Office of Naval Research’s Young Investigator Program (YIP) Award for his proposal on the Novel Size-Effects in the Coupled Mechanical Deformation and Opto-Electronic Behavior of Quantum Dots and Wires. The total award of $262, 471 for three years is intended to further propel Sharma’s research.

“It’s a proposal which will investigate new scaling laws for quantum dots due to mechanical strain,” Sharma said. “Quantum dots are very small clusters of semiconductor material, and they exhibit some unusual and exciting opto-electronic properties. They have tremendous potential in future nanoelectronics.”

The nano-technology project can also have applications such as aiding doctors in detecting and surgically removing cancerous cells in the body.

“Among many other applications, quantum dots are used in lasers and as biological labels,” Sharma said. “For example, one application (that has been demonstrated) is that one can suitably tailor the size and bio-treatment of a dot so that it preferentially seeks and attaches to tumor cells. Then simply by shining light on the body, one may optically detect and pinpoint precise locations of tumors.”

Though Sharma is well aware of the possibly products of his research, he insists that his work is largely fundamental.

The YIP program is designed to support and encourage the teaching and research of outstanding new faculty members in higher education, who have received a graduate degree. Sharma, who began teaching at the Cullen College of Engineering in January 2004, received his doctoral degree from the University of Maryland-College Park in 2000.

“This award is supposed to be a jump start for young professors, and historically, that’s what it’s done,” Sharma said.

Sharma is not the only one who will benefit from this award. Two Ph.D. students will have the opportunity to work with Sharma on his research for the next three years.

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