Xueju “Sophie” Wang has been awarded an Office of Naval Research (ONR) 2024 Young Investigator Award in the category Ocean Battlespace Sensing. The Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department of ONR explores science and technology in the areas of oceanographic and meteorological observations, modeling, and prediction in the battlespace environment; submarine detection and classification (anti-submarine warfare); and mine warfare applications for detecting and neutralizing mines in both the ocean and littoral environment.
One of 24 recipients in various categories, Dr. Wang’s research, entitled A Soft Intelligent Robot for Self-digging, Multi-modal Sensing, and In Situ Marine Sediment Analysis, was recognized by the Littoral Geosciences and subcategory. The Littoral Geosciences and Optics program supports basic and applied research for expeditionary warfare, naval special warfare, mine warfare and antisubmarine warfare in shelf, near-shore, estuarine, riverine, and riparian environments, with a particular emphasis on robust 4D prediction of environmental characteristics in denied, distant or remote environments.
Dr. Wang earned a Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2016. She joined the faculty of the Materials Science and Engineering Department (MSE) in 2020 with an appointment in the Institute of Materials Science (IMS). Since then, she has earned extensive recognition for her research including the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award in 2022; the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Trailblazer Award, also in 2022; and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Orr Early Career Award in 2021 among others.
Wang’s research focuses on soft, stimuli-responsive materials and multifunctional structures; multistability of reconfigurable, magnetically responsive structures, flexible/pressure-tolerant/bio-integrated electronics, soft robotics and intelligent systems; and in-situ/environmental operando experimental techniques. Her research has been published extensively.
After completing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Lanzhou University in Gansu province, China, Zaili Hou became a Polymer Ph.D. student in the UConn IMS Polymer Program. With a desire to focus his research on hybrid functional materials, Zaili joined Dr. Luyi Sun’s research group in 2018.
Hybrid functional materials, which consist of two or more distinct components with unique physical and chemical properties, exhibit synergistic properties, making them highly versatile and suitable for applications in various fields, including energy, healthcare, optics, and electronics. Zaili’s research led him to his dissertation topic, “Hybrid Functional Materials with Multiscale Architecture Design.” He successfully defended his dissertation in March 2023 and earned his doctoral degree as a result.
Reflecting on his time at UConn Zaili noted that he received excellent training and felt a strong sense of community during his time in the UConn IMS Polymer Program, which left him with a very positive overall experience. He says he appreciated access to the numerous core labs in IMS and the training available from the technical staff. He felt that direct access to the instrumentation in those labs gave him a better understanding of the science and contributed to his successful research. He also emphasized that the multi-disciplinary foundation of IMS helped create a community with multiple perspectives on the research. In addition to disciplinary diversity, Zaili also enjoyed the cultural diversity found in IMS. This helped him learn about various religions, philosophies, and cultural practices around the world.
With a desire to contribute to a better planet, Zaili began his career with World Centric, a company dedicated to sustainable products. World Centric is creating compostable and sustainable products to help reduce plastic waste that currently pollutes our planet.
“I’m very excited about making contributions to this important cause and making practical applications of polymer science to real world issues,” Zaili said.