UWM: Two UWM Faculty Receive Prestigious Early Career Awards From NSF


MILWAUKEE — Two faculty members at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) are among some 300 scientists chosen this year for the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Adrian Dumitrescu, assistant professor of computer science, and Prasenjit Guptasarma, assistant professor of physics, were each awarded $500,000 in grant money to support their research, along with additional money to support undergraduate teaching and research opportunities in conjunction with their labs.

CAREER awards are the NSF’s most prestigious grants for younger researchers. They support the early career development of teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. Since 1995, UWM has had 13 CAREER grant winners, mostly in the departments of Physics and Computer Science. Eight have been named since 2000. All 13 are still on the UWM faculty.

Dumitrescu’s work centers on designing computer algorithms for use in robotics. He joined the College of Engineering and Applied Science in 2001. Guptasarma, a condensed matter physicist, became a faculty member in the College of Letters and Science in 2000. He probes the fundamental physics of new classes of materials that are expected to have broad applications in the electronics industry.

Dumitrescu, who earned his Ph.D. from Rutgers, will use the grant to study algorithmic questions from the areas of computational geometry and robotics. Finding better ways for designing transportation networks, and efficient ways for upgrading existing ones are examples of applications of this field of study. Dumitrescu also will study two basic capabilities of metamorphic robotic systems, a relatively new research direction in robotics. Development of such systems is important because of their versatility and high degree of fault tolerance. An important aspect of Dumitrescu’s research is advancing the integration of techniques from different areas of mathematics in the design of geometric algorithms.

Guptasarma’s research has helped provide important clues to understanding unconventional magnetism and superconductivity in materials ranging from tiny nanoparticles to large single crystals. Many of these are called “smart materials” because of their applications in electronic devices such as computers and sensors.

Specifically, Guptasarma will use the grant to study “magnetoelectric” materials, which exhibit both magnetism and ferroelectricity in the same crystalline phase. Ferroelectrics have long been used in devices ranging from quartz watches to ultrasound scanners, but it is unclear how such materials could support magnetism. Guptasarma plans to address this fundamental mystery, an activity expected to generate futuristic materials for faster computers and far-infrared lenses.

Guptasarma, who earned his Ph.D. at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, worked at the CNR Institute for Nanostructured Materials Studies and the Argonne National Laboratory before joining UWM.