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Assistant Professors Harne and Song named NSF CAREER Award recipients

Assistant Professors Ryan L. Harne and Jonathan Song have individually been awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award. According to the NSF, the awards are given in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

HarneHarneHarne, who joined Ohio State in 2015 and is director of the department’s Laboratory of Sound and Vibration Research, will be awarded $500,000 over five years. He received the award for his proposal entitled “Adaptive Origami Structures for Acoustic Wave Guiding.” Acoustic wave guiding is widely used in engineering, earth sciences, life sciences, and medicine. Wave guiding concepts are central to a range of applications from cancer treatment to underwater ecosystem monitoring. Current methods of use are by fixed locations of acoustic transducers that are managed by digitally controlled signals. These fixed transducers also limit application potential where space and size are severely constraining.

“This project aims to significantly enhance the state-of-the-art in wave guiding capability by innovative use of origami science,” says Harne. “It is focused on creating reconfigurable and adaptive origami-inspired acoustic transducers that can achieve simple yet highly effective wave guiding.” The portability of these origami-inspired transducer arrays will propel new applications. A key application where the basic research may provide transformative outcomes is for cancer treatments, where future foldable and deployable ultrasound probes may be easily passed through the body to the point of care, and removed once the cancer is ablated by the ultrasound waves. Under Harne’s direction the investigation targets the production of new contributions to the knowledge base in acoustic wave guiding.

Students at all levels—from elementary to graduate—will participate in this research. “By harnessing the technical themes of folding origami structures in an integrated research-education program, my CAREER project will redress waning student exposures and interest in acoustics by a multi-faceted initiative,” says Harne. “The educational outreach goal is to introduce, immerse and instill acoustic principles for student groups at many levels.”

Formal partners in Harne’s research include the Air Force Research Laboratory, Mide Technology and Frederick Davidorf, MD, The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center Havener Eye Institute.

SongSongSong’s proposal, “Probing the Physiochemical Regulators of Tumor Troma Interactions Using Microfluidic Biomimicry,” has been awarded just over $546,000 over five years.

Current knowledge reveals that solid tumors are composed of cancer cells and the tissue surrounding the cancer cells, called the stroma. The stroma, which includes vascular cells, inflammatory/immune cells and connective tissues, has emerged as an important determinant of tumor behavior. This has sparked the emergence for a critical need to identify the tumor-promoting properties of the stroma.

Song’s project will utilize micro-scale engineering technology to construct a microfluidic model of the tumor stroma. The model will include the cellular, extracellular matrix and biomolecular constituents. “This novel model platform will be used to precisely examine the mechanisms by which the cellular components of the tumor stroma promote cancer progression,” says Song. “The successful outcome of this research will remove technical barriers to studying the tumor microenvironment, and it will provide a deeper understanding of the role of tumor stroma in cancer.”

In order to align with the educational mission of the NSF, this research program aims to increase the pipeline of engineering students contributing to interdisciplinary cancer research. “Educational outreach beginning with middle and high school students will be done by promoting awareness of the opportunities for engineering students towards this exciting academic career path at the interface of engineering and cancer,” says Song. “This award is especially gratifying for me because it recognizes the importance of two of my main goals as a faculty member in bridging engineering with cancer research and promoting diversity in engineering,” Song continues. “The funds received from this award will help accelerate these initiatives.”

Song has been with the university since 2014. His Microsystems for Mechanobiology and Medicine Laboratory studies the physical dynamics of tumor and vascular biology using micro-scale engineering technology, principles from tissue engineering and quantitative engineering analysis and imaging.