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Marras Awarded Prestigious Presidential Fellowship

Alexander “Alex” Marras, PhD student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE), received the 2016 Presidential Fellowship awarded by The Ohio State University Graduate School for one year beginning in autumn semester.  The Presidential Fellowship is the most prestigious award given by the Graduate School, recognizing outstanding scholarly accomplishments and potential of graduate students entering the final phase of their dissertation research or terminal degree project.

Marras earned BS, and MS degrees in mechanical engineering in 2011 and 2013, respectively from Ohio State.  His research focus is in creating dynamic DNA origami devices with specific motion and mechanical properties and developing robust actuation methods to control their motion.  Marras is advised by Assistant Professor Carlos Castro, whose lab focuses on the development of DNA-based nanomechanical devices and materials for nanomanufacturing, biomedical, and bioengineering applications.

Alexander "Alex" MarrasMarras’ PhD project is focused on developing programmable 1D, 2D, and 3D motion of DNA origami mechanisms and corresponding methods for their rapid actuation and propagated motion.  DNA origami enables the precise fabrication of nanoscale geometries.  The project engineered complex and reversible motion of nanoscale DNA origami machine elements that resemble macroscopic joints and mechanisms.  Rotational and linear joints were designed integrating stiff double-stranded DNA and flexible single-stranded DNA components to constrain motion and demonstrate the ability to tune the flexibility and range of motion.  Multiple joints were then integrated into higher order mechanisms including a crank–slider that couples rotational and linear motion and a Bennett 4-bar linkage that integrates 4 hinges to create a complex 3D motion path.  This approach to fabricating complex controllable dynamic mechanisms lays the foundation for the assembly of DNA origami machines and presents new potential in nanomanufacturing.

Castro noted that Marras has had a tremendous impact both in his research community and in the university community through participation in numerous activities and as an advisor to undergraduate and graduate students.  “Alex has been a key part of our lab’s success so far. He has made important contributions to our research community and has been recognized accordingly with a best poster award and an invited talk at the premier DNA nanotechnology conference. He is a very well-rounded student, and I am confident he will excel in a future faculty position at a top university,” Castro said.

Marras says it’s a great honor to be awarded the Presidential Fellowship.  “Our team has put in a lot of hard work in developing DNA nanomachines and this fellowship will help us achieve our research goals of building an extensive framework for assembling controllable nanomachines,” Marras commented.  “This honor will also help me accomplish my future goals of pursuing a research-oriented career in the mechanical and biomedical engineering fields.”

 “We are very proud of Alex’s research accomplishments and contributions to the field of DNA nanotechnology,” said Vish Subramaniam, MAE Department Chair.  “His success underscores MAE’s focus on developing future faculty scholars.”

The Graduate School awards about 15 Presidential Fellowships each semester for outstanding academic achievement. The fellowship provides financial support so that each Presidential Fellow may devote one year of full-time study to the completion of his or her dissertation or degree project unimpeded by other duties.  Competitions are held autumn and spring semesters.