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Engineering Students Selected as GRaSP Day Finalists

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Natalie Thayer
Peyman Irazijad and Apeksha Awale

The University of Houston’s Graduate Research and Scholarship Projects (GRaSP) Day offers students the opportunity to network and introduce their research to a wide audience through oral and poster presentations. Now in its second year, GRaSP Day celebrates the research, scholarship and creative endeavors of UH graduate and professional students across all disciplines.

This year, two doctoral students from the Cullen College of Engineering were selected as GRaSP Day finalists. Mechanical engineering student Peyman Irazijad and electrical and computer engineering student Apeksha Awale were invited to give oral presentations about their respective research projects to the GRaSP audience on Friday, October 30th.

A member of the NanoTherm Research Group led by his faculty advisor Hadi Ghasemi, Irazijad’s research explores the fields of thermodynamics, heat transfer and nanotechnology. At GRaSP Day, he presented his work on dispensing nano-pico droplets of ferrofluids, which was recently featured on the cover of the November 2015 issue of Applied Physics Letters.

Though the potential benefits of this research are multifaceted, Irazijad said he believes his work has the potential to benefit the medical community in particular.

By combining drugs with ferrofluids, which contain magnetic nanoparticles, medical professionals may be able to more accurately control the delivery of drugs to a specific site in the body. This would provide the potential to decrease the amount of drugs needed and, simultaneously, increase the effectiveness of drug treatments for patients, he said.

Irazijad added that the device he works with is small, inexpensive and lightweight. These factors further contribute to its benefits, making it potentially viable for spacecraft and medical applications.

Awale, a fifth-year doctoral student working under the guidance of faculty advisor Jack Wolfe, presented her research on manufacturing neural probes that can be used to map brain circuits. By mapping neural circuitry, these probes have the potential to play a key role in the development of novel treatments for illnesses such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

While current treatments for neurological diseases and disorders often come with cumbersome or long-lasting side effects, the neural probes developed by Awale have the potential to provide improved treatments for such patients.

Though other researchers have developed similar devices, Awale said the probes developed at UH are unique because of their reliability, flexibility and low manufacturing costs.

“I feel that this research can make a huge difference in the community,” she said, adding that getting the word out about the research is the next important step.

“[GRaSP] is a great platform to share this research with the University and the greater community,” she said.

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