News & Events

Faculty Achievement Highlights From 2022

New Department of Defense (DOD) Grants

Dr. Tetyana Ignatova and her collaborators received a grant from in the amount of $525,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for a project entitled “Advanced Tunable and Functional Materials for Soldier Protection”.

Dr. Kristen Dellinger, along with a group of colleagues in the Department of Nanoengineering, received a grant in the amount of $525,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for a collaborative project entitled “Advanced Materials for Chemical and Biological Sensor Technology to Protect the Soldier”.

Obare named a 2022 Power Player by Triad Business Journal

Dr. Obare has been named as a regional Power Player for the 4th year by the Triad Business Journal for game changing initiatives in the Piedmont Triad Region.

Aravamudhan named Director of JSIRT

Dr. Shyam Aravamudhan was named Director of the Joint School’s Institute for Research Technologies (JSIRT).

People’s Choice Award for the ISS NL Sustainability Challenge Pitch

Dr. Hemali Rathnayake, Hunter Holden, and Dr. Dennis LaJeunesse won the People’s Choice Award for the ISS NL Sustainability Challenge Pitch.

Dr. Lifeng Zhang honored for Research Excellence                                                             

 Prof. Lifeng Zhang from the Department of Nanoengineering, was honored twice at North Carolina A&T State University’s annual Celebration of Faculty Excellence, as the recipient of the 2022 Senior Researcher of the Year Award and for the U.S. Patent he received titled “Green Epoxy Resin with Biobinder from Swine Manure”.

Support for Research Excellence (SuRE) Award

Dr. Reza Zadegan won a National Institutes of Health Support for Research Excellence (SuRE) Award on a project titled “Developing DNA-Based Molecular Robots”. The award is approximately $600K.


Dr. Suzanne Ahmed received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Launching Early-Career Academic Pathways in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (LEAPS) Award titled “LEAPS-MPS: Investigation of the Mechanism of Emergence of Collective Behavior in Motile Cilia Using Model Artificial Cilia” in the amount of $250,000.

Dr. Shanthi Iyer receives multiple Awards

  • Iyer received an Air Force Research Laboratory ML-RCP grant on “Nanowire based avalanche and high-speed photodiodes for advanced LADAR”
  • She also received a Army Research Office grant on “Dilute Nitride GaAsSbN nanowires based high speed near-infrared photodetectors”.
  • A U.S. Patent No. 11,384,286 titled “GaAs1-xSbx Nanowires on a Graphitic Substrate” was issued on July 12, 2022. The work was done at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering by our very own: Dr. Shanthi Iyer, Dr. Surya Nalamati and Dr. Jia Li.  The patent describes novel approaches for growing the nanowires, their use, and applications.
Schematic representation of the growth process of GaAs1-xSbx nanowires on a monolayer of graphene supported on a SiO2/p-Si(111) substrate (Figure 1 in U.S. Patent No. 11,384,286 issued to Shanthi Iyer, Surya Ratna Kiran Nalamati and Jia Li)

Dr. Rathnayake receives multiple awards and accolades

Journal Cover: Porous materials such as zeolites and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have a variety of applications, including the preparation of ion exchange resins, gas separation agents, and catalysts for the oil industry. In a new research project developed entirely at the JSNN, Associate Professor of Nanoscience Hemali Rathnayake and coworkers have prepared and fully characterized a novel thermally and chemically stable coordination polymer derived from iron (II) ions and tannic acid, a readily available natural polyphenol (Sustain. Chem. 2022, 3, 192-204). Significantly, the new bioinspired material has been used to extract toxic lead (II) ions from aqueous solutions with a 99% removal efficiency, a result that was recognized on the cover of the most recent issue of the aforementioned peer-reviewed journal.

Minerva Lithium is the TechCrunch Disrupt 2022 Winner

Prof. Hemali Rathnayake and Dr. Sheeba Dawood, co-founders of Minerva Lithium LLC (a JSNN/UNCG start-up company) won the Startup Battlefield competition at TechCrunch Disrupt 2022, which took place in San Francisco on October 18-20, 2022.  Their innovative work involves

the use of proprietary membrane technology to selectively (and reversibly) extract lithium ions from various water sources.  The team won $100,000 as the grand prize.

Journal Cover: Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics selected the work of Dr. Hemali Rathnayake and co-workers that demonstrates the synthesis of bioinspired nanoflowers by developing a novel self-assembly approach “coordination and go”, representing a mimicry of nature’s double peony flower. This novel approach could provide deeper understanding in the paradigm of design, synthesis, self-assembly, and fabrication of semi-syn-bio superstructures.

Dr. Rathnayake wins TechConnect Innovation Award

Dr. Hemali Rathnayake has been honored with one of the 2022 TechConnect Innovation Awards given annually at the TechConnect World Innovation Conference and Expo, the world’s largest and longest running nanotechnology event, held on June 13-15, 2022, in Washington, DC. Partnering with Minerva Lithium LLC, a UNCG spinoff company founded in 2020 by Dr. Rathnayake and former JSNN student Sheeba Dawood, the joint project entitled “Bio-Based Solid-State Lithium-Ion Battery Technology” was recognized as one of the top 15% technologies among submitted entries, as judged by the TechConnect Corporate & Investment Partner Committee. The new technology aims to develop a commercially viable and eco-friendly solid-state battery to meet the demand for energy storage in the solid-state battery market.

NC Collaboratory Award 

Dr. Hemali Rathnayake received a NC Collaboratory award in the amount of $75K.

UNCG Junior Excellence Award

Dr. Hemali Rathnayake received the UNCG 2021-2022 Junior Excellence Award. She was honored at the annual UNCG Faculty Award Celebration.

Dr. Eric Josephs Wins Two New NIH Grant Awards 

Dr. Eric Josephs won two grants from the NIH:

  • A R21 from the NIH/National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering for $400,000 to support a research project on making CRISPR gene therapies safer. NIH R21 grant mechanisms are highly competitive and are intended to encourage exploratory research that is considered high risk high reward and break new ground. The funding provides support for project development at the early and conceptual stages.
  • An administrative supplement for equipment purchases in the amount of $82,000 to acquire an Automatic Droplet Generator to support molecular virology work. The NIH provides mechanisms to offer administrative supplement awards toward additional needs that arise on projects that are currently funded. This award was a supplement to a previous award won by Dr. Josephs.

The Josephs lab focuses on research in the areas of nanoscience and molecular biophysics for better biotechnologies. Projects in the group focus on ee-engineering biomolecular systems with novel or enhanced functionalities to improve the ability to detect and treat genetic diseases. The group is also involved in discovering new molecular tools to understand mechanisms that modulate genetic stability in industrially and clinically important species. These recent awards bring the total of grant funds acquired by Dr. Josephs from NIH, NSF, NCBC, UNCG, and the UNC system office, to $2.95M since August 2018 when he joined JSNN.