Carnegie Mellon Engineering

Investing in the College of Engineering

During the past five years, the College of Engineering Dean's Office has made significant investments in experimental infrastructure to exploit strategic opportunities and Dean's Fellowships for Ph.D. students. The infrastructure investments have taken mainly two forms: (1) matching for equipment and (2) one-off investments. The Dean's fellowship for incoming Ph.D. students has far exceeded expectations, and the college's Ph.D. student population has grown significantly during the last five years.

The goal of these investments is to strengthen the College of Engineering's position in research and academics by supporting cutting-edge research and multidisciplinary education through the College of Engineering. While the College of Engineering's goal always has been, and will continue to be, that research programs should be funded by external grants, it is clear that some strategic investments are necessary.   

The College of Engineering's systemic investments included more than $1.8M investment in 2010 and $1.9M in 2011 for experimental infrastructure. In addition, this year, the college will also invest more than $1.1M to upgrade undergraduate labs and/or develop new laboratories in all the departments.

Learn more about the supported projects below.


High pressure chemisorptions analyzer/reactor for materials characterization and performance testing

AutoChem 2950 HP chemisorption analyzerThe College of Engineering has deep expertise in advanced materials research, including preparation, characterization by microscopic and spectroscopic methods, and computational modeling. Less well-developed is a complementary capability for characterization of the materials' interactions with important probe gases. The High Pressure Chemisorption Analyzer/Reactor instrument will enable surface-activity and performance characterization of advanced materials—at the conditions of their application(s)—in support of their development for a number of critical applications in energy science, including hydrogen-storage materials, nanoparticulate fuels conversion catalysts, oxide catalysts, and solid oxide fuel cells.

Faculty involved: Nisha Shukla (ICES), James Miller (ChemE), Andrew Gellman (ChemE), John Kitchin (ChemE), and Paul Salvador (MSE)


Integrated atomic force and optical microscope

MFP-3D-BIO The study of biological cells as mechanical structures has become increasingly important among engineers and scientists around the world. In the College of Engineering, we have strategic strength in this area from strong fundamental engineering and translational science. We aim to be a world leader in "Cell Mechanics" as a multi-disciplinary group integrating studies of structures within the cell, which has potential impacts on a wide range of areas from cancer to heart disease to aging. At the core of cell mechanics is the study of how cells respond to mechanical forces. Physiologically, the heart pumps, blood flows, muscles, bones and even the brain respond to mechanical forces. However, much more work is required to understand how cell structure, biochemistry, and biology respond to a variety of forces.  The MFP-3D-BIO will be extremely useful to a range of faculty for probing localized mechanical responses of transmembrane proteins, the mechanical response of subcellular elements to whole-cell forces, examining diseases cell types to well-characterized forces, the response of neuronal cells to mechanical stress, and the biomechanics of engineered protein-based materials and their interaction with cells. It will serve as a core piece of equipment toward Cellular Mechanics.

Faculty involved: Kris Dahl (BME/ChemE), Adam Feinberg (MSE/BME), Brooke McCartney (Biological Sciences), Ge Yang (BME), Phil LeDuc (MechE/BME)


Atomic layer disposition system for electronic, optical and electro-optical applications

Several projects in the College of Engineering study or use metallic and/or dielectric thin films for a variety of applications. Accordingly, over the years the College of Engineering faculty have assembled an array of different deposition techniques. These include sputtering, pulsed laser deposition, CVD, and e-beam and thermal evaporation systems. However, none of the current tools have the ability to deposit highly conformal ultrathin layers. This characteristic is becoming increasingly important with the diminishing size of electronic devices and the necessity to deposit uniform films on patterned substrates/media. This equipment will support research in memrisitive materials and devices; MEMS and CMOS MEMS; biocompatible encapsulation coatings; heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR); and heterostructured photocastalysts.

Faculty involved: Marek Skowronski (MSE), Jim Bain (ECE), Paul Salvador (MSE), Gary Fedder (ICES/ECE), Tamal Mukherjee (ECE), Burak Ozdoganlar (MechE), Lee Weiss (BME/MSE), Phil Campbell (BME/ICES/MSE), Ed Schlesinger (ECE), Yi Luo (ECE), and Greg Rohrer (MSE).


Imaging Raman Spectrometer for the characterization of hard materials in reactive environments

LabHR-UV LabRamHR UVSeveral groups within the College of Engineering have active programs to develop hard materials used in harsh environments for applications largely focused on energy. The behavior of these systems is often dominated by the identity and structure of species at their surfaces. Identification of the active surface structure and species, which can be done using vibrational spectroscopies, is essential in identifying materials with superior properties that facilitate chemical conversions and prevent degradation of device components Although the College of Engineering leads in the characterization of hard materials using electron microscopies, it lacks a capability to carry out spatially resolved vibrational spectroscopy of hard materials (oxides, slags, ceramics, catalysts, etc.) in reactive environments such as oxidizing conditions at atmospheric pressure and at high temperature, as well as under electrochemical conditions. Raman vibrational spectroscopy is one method that can be used on a wide range of materials under a wide range of conditions. The vibrational spectra of materials are sensitive to specific compositions and structural phases enabling their identification. This characterization capability is essential to keeping the College of Engineering at the forefront of materials characterization, particularly in reactive environments.

Faculty involved: James Miller (MSE), Eranda Nikolla (ChemE), James Schneider (ChemE), Todd Przybycien (BME), Andrew Gellman (ChemE), Paul Salvador (MSE), Greg Rohrer (MSE), Sridhar Seetharaman (MSE), Jay Whitacre (EPP/MSE), Mohammed Islam (ChemE/MSE), David Dzombak (CEE), Greg Lowry (CEE ), Nisha Shukla (ICES)


Macro-zoom microscope for large volume, 3-D imaging of soft materials and biological systems

Nikon C2 Confocal Imaging SystemThe College of Engineering has already provided strategic investment in laser scanning confocal microscopes and multi-photon scanning microscopes. This has established state-of-the-art imaging capability and fundamentally enabled new research and collaborations. However, there remains a large gap in capability that has only recently been addressed by new imaging modalities. Specifically, the current laser scanning microscopes at CMU are designed for high resolution, limited to small fields-of-view (100s of microns) and limited imaging volumes. A new class of "Macro-Zoom" confocal microscopes addresses this limitation by combining the variable magnification range of high-end stereomicroscopes with laser scanning confocal imaging.  The College of Engineering has been a leader in engineering structure-function relationships in ceramics and metals, and has recently expanded into soft materials and systems. The purchase of this equipment will provide unique analytical and characterization equipment to enable our growth in soft materials and systems research.

Faculty involved: Adam Feinberg (BME/MSE), Michael Bockstaller (MSE), Kerem Pekkan (BME)


Optical microscope and high-speed opto-electronics for thermal, electronic and physiochemical transport studies in the Thermal Sciences Lab

In 2010, funds were awarded to build a frequency domain thermoreflectance (FDTR) setup in the Thermal Sciences Lab,. The FDTR is used to measure thermal conductivity in nanostructured thin films and interfaces. However, the FDTR lacks the ability to resolve each phonon’s contribution to thermal conductivity, which is essential to verify theoretical predictions and advance the understanding of energy transport. The purchase of the optical microscope and high-speed opto-electronics equipment will be used to increase the frequency of the FDTR, creating a novel instrument for phonon mean free path spectroscopy that will amplify the impact of research currently underway.

Faculty involved: Jonathan Malen (MechE), James Bain (ECE), Robert Davis (MSE), Maarten de Boer (MechE), Shawn Lister (MechE), Alan McGaughey (MechE), Sheng Shen (MechE)


Equipment for Bio-Robotics Research and Education

Flapping Wing RobotsThis equipment consists of the first infrastructural equipment for the newly formed Center for Bio-Robotics. Design, manufacturing, and control of robotic locomotion systems that could operate in unstructured environments robustly and efficiently are grand challenges of the mobile robotics community. On the other hand, animals have evolved to have highly robust, dynamic and power-efficient locomotion principles to survive in unstructured and complex environments. Although there has been much progress on bio-inspired robotic locomotion systems recently, highly dynamic animal and robotic locomotion systems are not well understood and not yet available.  This equipment will enable the design, modeling, prototyping and characterization of highly dynamic animal and human inspired robots.

Faculty involved: Metin Sitti (MechE), Steve Collins (MechE), Carmel Majidi (MechE), Donghyun You (MechE), Burak Ozdoganlar (MechE), Kerem Pekkan (BME)


High performance servers for high throughput computing

16-Terabyte NAS TS-809U-RPModern computational technologies for data-driven statistical modeling, model inference and stochastic optimization have contributed significantly to innovative solutions for challenging problems in computational and engineering research. Extending on these approaches, however, requires the use of increasingly extensive and complex statistical models as well as computationally intensive methods for model training and inference. These large, high throughput, computational resources are required for the College of Engineering to advance its research.

Faculty involved: Ian Lane (SV), Joy Zhang (SV), Ole Mengshoel (SV), Jason Lohn (SV), Jon Cagan (MechE), and Jike Chong (SV)


Innovative media and processes for DNA-based vaccine production

Bioflo 310 2.5-14L Fermenter SystemAkta Crossflow systemDNA-based vaccines are so-called "third generation vaccines" that use plasmid DNA (pDNA) to produce pathogen proteins within cells in the body to elicit an immune response for either prophylactic or therapeutic treatment. This approach is widely applicable to viral, bacterial, parasitic diseases, as well as tumors and eliminates the need to inject whole killed/attenuated/live organisms ("first generation vaccines") or correctly assembled protein antigens ("second generation vaccines"). The NAE, NIH and DoD have explicitly recognized the need for rapid vaccine development, particularly with respect to immunization against annual and pandemic flu and for biodefense, with dedicated symposia and funding mechanisms. DNA-based vaccines have the potential to meet the rapid response requirements. Despite the tremendous potential of DNA vaccines, current technology to produce plasmid DNA at the requisite commercial scales is lacking. In College of Engineering, we aim to develop polymer/dendrimer-modified ultrafiltration and chromatographic affinity separations media that will enable pDNA to be processed at commercial scales.

Faculty involved: Todd Przybycien (BME/ChemE), Michael Domach (ChemE), James Schneider (ChemE), Robert Tilton (BME/ChemE)


RF Lab Infrastructure improvements

ETS-Lindgren Model Antenna Measurement SystemA major focus of the Silicon Valley campus is on wireless systems, whether it is approached from the security perspective or involving sensor networks, hardware optimization, antenna design, disaster management networks, or mobile computing. The creation of this RF Lab will be leveraged to further Silicon Valley wireless education and research goals.

Faculty involved: Jason Lohn (SV), Martin Griss (SV), Patrick Tague (SV), Pei Zhang (SV), Joy Zhang (SV)


Material characterization and electrical testing equipment for mLogic development

Spin transfer torque (STT) magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) devices represent a promising nanoscale technology. However, its main application has been limited to memory technology.
Utilizing STT effect to move domain walls in perpendicularly magnetized thin films, we have developed a novel STT device design, referred to as an m-Cell, that can be used to perform logic operations with fanout. This new logic family, referred to as mLogic, is exclusively based on m-Cells without requiring any integrated semiconductors or transistors to implement large scale logic circuits and system-on-chip (SOC) designs. With the nonvolatile nature of the magnetic electrodes, mLogic enables all metallic SOCs with intrinsically integrated nonvolatile memories, low voltage operation, low operating power, and radiation-hardness. This technology is ideal for low-power sensor and portable electronic applications that are required to operate with unregulated power supplies and within noisy environments. Simulations indicate that the logic can operate with supply voltages as small as 10mV with current waveform signals that practically eliminate power dissipation due to interconnect capacitance. In particular, this technology is well suited for space electronics due to its immunity to cosmic radiation. This equipment is necessary to experimentally demonstrate this technology by fabricating and testing the mCells and mLogic devices. Research in the College of Engineering has already experimentally demonstrated pieces of this technology and we are in the process of fabricating the integrated devices.

Faculty involved: Jimmy Zhu (ECE), Larry Pileggi (ECE), David Laughlin (MSE)


3D Data Visualization CAVE from EON for the IBM Smarter Infrastructure Lab

Eon iCube IDAs part of the IBM Smarter Infrastructure Lab, the CAVE will be used for exploring Building Information Modeling and the visualization of infrastructure management data.

Faculty involved: ICES, ECE, CEE, Architecture



2009 - 2010 Investments

Investments in fiscal year 2009 - 2010 totaled more than $1.8 million and included the following.

  • High-speed (600-2000Hz range) light sensitive dual cameras for stereo 3D measurements, triggered with a high repetition, 532nm pulsed laser (100KHz) and continuous wave lasers. (BME)
  • Modular Micro‐Raman Imaging and Spectroscopy System. (BME)
  • State of the art computing cluster that will substantially increase the available computing power for molecular simulation. (ChemE)
  • Single particle soot photometer to provide one of the most specific measurements of black carbon. (ChemE)
  • New sputtering machine for advanced magnetic thin film research. (ECE)
  • Characterization equipment for millimeter-wave Integrated circuits and materials. (ECE)
  • Computers and computing storage. (ECE)
  • A scanning probe microscopy facility to enable solid state materials research and education. (MSE)
  • The ASTAR system, including: the Precession Unit “DigiSTAR;" external optical CCD camera and PC; acquisition, visualization and orientation mapping software for phases with known crystal structures; and the extract, simulator and 3D-electron tomography software packages. (MSE)
  • Surface metrology equipment for characterizing materials used in energy, micro/nanotechnology, and biotechnology systems. (MSE)
  • Optical Measurement of Thermal Conductivity Using Fiber Aligned Frequency Domain Thermoreflectance (FAFDTR). (MSE)
  • Augmenting Microfluidic Detection Capabilities Beyond Imaging. (MSE)