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College of Engineering’s Eni Halilaj and Xi Ren have received National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Awards for their research with CMU’s mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering programs. The NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program awards grants to “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.”

Eni Halilaj, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Lab, has been awarded a five-year grant to study musculoskeletal modeling with wearable sensors and smartphone cameras. Halilaj’s research with the NSF grant will seek to make gait analysis more accessible for rehabilitation research and therapy monitoring. Her work will merge the complementary strengths of artificial intelligence and physics-based modeling into new motion-tracking systems that are low-cost, dynamically robust, and equitably accurate across human demographics and abilities. The project also plans on employing youth outreach programs to educate and inspire the next generation of biomechanical researchers and engineers.

Charlie (Xi) Ren, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, has been awarded a five-year grant for research into the role of the extracellular environment in lung tissue maturation during embryonic development and lung tissue regeneration after surgical procedures. The goal of this research is to aid in the engineering of functional lung cells from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) or human made stem cells used for applications in tissue regeneration and repair or when combating diseases and injuries. Ren seeks to employ a new method of tracking the production of proteins in the extracellular matrix that are key to the regeneration of lung tissue. This new method will provide crucial data in the field of lung regenerative medicine and will address a current bottleneck in the progress of this research.