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Ohio State ADVANCE 2020 Faculty Spotlight: Hanna Cho, PhD

Thu, 19th November, 2020



Hanna Cho, PhD
Associate Professor
Micro/Nano Multiphysical Dynamics Laboratory
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE)
College of Engineering

It has been an outstanding couple of years for you, Hanna.  You recently received an NSF Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) award.  This year alone, you received a Lumley Research Award, your first patent was issued and you were promoted to Associate Professor.  Congratulations all around!

Tell us about your innovative research in the Micro/Nano Multiphysical Dynamics Laboratory.

My lab is interested in various multiphysical problems at micro/nanoscales. We mainly aim to advance the micro/nano technology based on the firm fundamental understanding about micro/nano system’s mechanical characteristics; and also try to address fundamental questions in diverse areas of biology, energy, and materials by applying the advanced micro/nano technology as a tool to facilitate our research.

What are the requirements for the PFI award and how will this award advance your research?

NSF-PFI supports the process of transferring the technology derived from NSF-funded research. Thus, the first requirement is having at least one NSF-funded project (or NSF I-Corps) and the next important requirement is that the new technology developed through the funding has a potential for commercialization.

Fortunately enough, the first grant I was funded after starting my career was from NSF. Through the NSF project, my team successfully invented a new mechanical probe for Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), which can significantly enhance AFM for better material characterizations. For AFM measurements of “multi-physical” properties of a sample, the current design of “single-body” probes is not really ideal. To address this issue, we changed the probe design to a “multi-body” system by integrating a small probe inside the main probe, enabling multi-physical material characterizations with very simple operation by any AFM users. Even though my team successfully demonstrated the efficacy of this new design through this project, the tedious fabrication process was one of the main limiting factors in transferring the technology.

Thus, NSF-PFI has supported to develop a batch manufacturing process, and we recently completed our first batch fabrication. Now, we are working with industry partners and other AFM experts to test our design under their own experimental settings.

What’s next after the PFI?

I am working closely with TCO to license this technology to industry partners. I am also considering options to move on to the second phase of PFI (PFI Research Partnership) or SBIR with an industry partner.

Is this the path that you envisioned for your career?

To be honest, my answer is no. Before working with TCO for the patent disclosure, I was naïve enough to think the patent as another form of journal publication. After my first patent disclosure, I got tremendous support from TCO which made me think about the commercialization of technology. Since then, I have learned about this new pathway by completing three-day Customer Learning Lab run by Rev1 and a semester-long REACH for Commercialization Workshop. Indeed, these programs changed my mindset about the potential of my research outcomes. I really appreciate all the great people involved in organizing these superb programs and would recommend these programs to any researchers (even slightly) interested in the commercialization.

Congratulations on your promotion to Associate Professor!  What advice would you give to your younger self or to other women faculty about career advancement?

Thanks! I am not sure if I could be the person who can give advice to other women faculty including even younger myself. I just wish to give a big hug to all women starting their career, especially in STEM. When I started my career in MAE at OSU in 2015, I was the only woman assistant professor in my big MAE department with over 70 faculty members. You may not even imagine the pressure I felt at that time. I felt as if I had been representing the women in our department, all other people would have been judging my performance for every single detail, and my failure would have resulted in taking opportunities away from other young women. I was really afraid of my failure in any kind. Later, I learned that this feeling is not only for me but is shared with many other women in STEM, even who already have established careers, and knowing it helped me relieved from this pressure. You’re not alone, just be yourself, that is much more than good enough.

Category : General

NAESM Hosts Series of Webinars on The Impact of COVID-19 on Women in STEMM

Fri, 30th October, 2020

The Impact of COVID-19 on Women in STEMM:
Preliminary Results from Commissioned Papers

The NAESM committee on The Potential Impact of COVID-19 on the Careers of Women in Academic STEMM will be holding webinars during the first two weeks of November. Women in academic scientific, engineering, and medical (STEMM) fields face a myriad of systemic inequities that contribute to significant underrepresentation and disproportionate hardship, challenges amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent changes to higher education. To help inform a National Academies fast-track consensus on the Potential Impact of COVID-19 on the Careers of Women in Academic STEMM, the committee commissioned five papers. In this series of public webinars, the authors of the each of the five papers will present their preliminary results to the committee and address public questions.

Registration is requested so that the Academies can tally interest and participation; all of the sessions are free and all are virtual.

Monday, November 2, 1-1:45 pm ET

Impact of COVID-19 on Academic Leadership and Decision-making for Women in STEMM

Presented by: Adriana Kezar (University of Southern California)

    • Discussion will be moderated by committee members Beronda Montgomery (Michigan State University) and Elena Fuentes-Afflick (University of California, San Francisco)

Thursday, November 5, 3-3:45 pm ET

The Impact of COVID-19 on Tenure Clocks, the Evaluation of Productivity, and Academic STEMM Career Trajectories for Women in STEMM

Presented by: Felicia Jefferson (Fort Valley State University)

    • Discussion will be moderated by committee members Leslie Gonzales (Michigan State University) and Erick C. Jones (University of Texas, Arlington).

Friday, November 6, 1-1:45 pm ET

The Impact of COVID-19 on Collaboration, Mentorship and Sponsorship, and the Role of Networks and Professional Organizations for Women in STEMM

Presented by: Rochelle Williams (National Society of Black Engineers) and Misty Heggeness (U.S. Census)

    • Discussion will be moderated by committee members Renetta Tull (University of California, Davis) and Kyle Myers (Harvard Business School).

Friday, November 6, 3:30-4:15 pm ET

The Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health and Wellbeing of Women in STEMM

Presented by: Neill Epperson (University of Colorado School of Medicine)

    • Discussion will be moderated by committee chair Eve Higginbotham (Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania) and committee member Leah Jamieson (Purdue University).

Monday, November 9, 1-1:45 pm ET

The Impact of COVID-19 on Boundary Management, Work/Life Integrations, and Domestic Labor for Women in STEMM

Presented by: Ellen Kossek (Purdue University)

    • Discussion will be moderated by committee members Reshma Jagsi (University of Michigan Medical School) and Jeni Hart (University of Missouri).
Category : General

2019 REACH Alumna Devina Purmessur Earns NIH R21 Award

Tue, 20th October, 2020

Originally posted by the College of Engineering on September 25, 2020

Low back pain study may lead to new treatments for people and pets

Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Devina Purmessur continues to attract attention and funding for her lab’s work on chronic back pain. Following an R61 award from the National Institutes of Health NIH) last year, she recently earned an NIH R21 award to investigate potential treatments for intervertebral disc degeneration.

Purmessur’s team will perform the research on dogs with intervertebral disc disease and on chondrodystrophic canine in vitro cell cultures. Chondrodystrophy refers to the “long and low” body shape characteristic of many dog breeds including dachshunds and corgis. This gene mutation also increases the risk of disc disease in these breeds.

In addition to its effects on quality of life, chronic low back pain in people exerts a significant socioeconomic burden. As many of its sufferers try to manage the pain with prescription drugs, it also has contributed to the growing opioid crisis, which is now a national research priority.

According to Purmessur, director of the Spinal Therapeutics Lab and faculty member of the Spine Research Institute, most current surgical and non-surgical treatments focus on alleviating the pain. “The problem with focusing on just the pain, is that it doesn’t fix the disease,” she explained. “You’re just treating the symptoms.”

Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is highly associated with low back pain, and blood vessel and nerve growth into the disc have been identified in patients with chronic pain. However, the specific pathways propagating the ingrowth and causing pain have yet to be identified. Purmessur believes mast cells play a role. Present in connective tissues throughout the body, mast cells regulate inflammation and pain in musculoskeletal diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. They are considered to be part of the innate immune system.

Her team’s published and supportive work have demonstrated significantly increased levels of mast cell marker tryptase in the IVDs of human and canine patients with painful disc degeneration, suggesting that mast cells function to enhance catabolism, inflammation and pain pathways in discogenic back pain.

The $377,520, two-year grant will fund a low back pain study to determine the role of mast cells and protease-activated receptor 2—a protein that modulates inflammatory responses among other things—and how they can be used for therapeutic effect. According to Purmessur, immune-modulation has never been applied to IVD degeneration as a non-addictive strategy to treat low back pain.

Purmessur said that the chondrodystrophic dog is currently under-utilized as an intermediate animal model of low back pain despite its similarities to disc degeneration in humans. The research also carries veterinary care value.

“A large animal model is a necessary step toward beginning human patient clinical trials,” she added, “but there also is significant potential benefit in reducing pain and suffering of companion animals currently seen in veterinary clinics.”

Collaborators include College of Veterinary Medicine Associate Professor Sarah Moore and Assistant Professors Joelle Fenger and Kara Corps, as well College of Medicine Associate Professor Candice Askwith, Biostatistician Brett Klamer and Dr. Safdar Khan, the Benjamin R. and Helen Slack Wiltberger Endowed Chair in Orthopaedic Spine Surgery.

Category : General

REACH Alumna Jessica Winter Featured in Podcast

Thu, 8th October, 2020

Lisa Friedersdorf, Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office and Jessica Winter, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Core Quantum Technologies, and Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at The Ohio State University discuss Dr. Winter’s experiences with NSF’s I-Corps program, the challenges she faced launching her company, and her advice to new entrepreneurs.

The podcast interview with Prof. Winter is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE_fw_g-Uno

Category : General

Next-Gen Mask Challenge

Thu, 27th August, 2020

The $1M Next-Gen Mask Challenge aims to reimagine protective face masks used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by making them more comfortable, functional, accessible, and even stylish. Visit the challenge website for additional details on how to participate.

Category : General

OSU granted $1.9M to stop GPS hacks

Fri, 14th August, 2020

Originally from The Columbus Dispatch

Technology company Garmin’s aviation database was jammed a week ago, leaving private pilots unable to download navigational updates or plan flights. Hackers using ransom-ware, a form of malware, were responsible for the outage.

Several years ago, a truck driver placed a jamming device on his truck so his boss wouldn’t be able to track his movements. Unbeknownst to him, as he drove near Newark Liberty International Airport he jammed the airport’s entire satellite-based tracking system.

Global Positioning Systems are vulnerable to attack. In an effort to find affordable and accessible technology to combat that, the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded Ohio State University a $1.9 million grant to develop anti-jamming and anti-spoofing technology.

That technology exists, but it is expensive and reserved mostly for military use.

Ohio State, which will lead the project involving other universities, is seeking an affordable solution as more and more people use GPS to navigate in their cars, autonomous vehicles become more popular and drones rely more on pre-programmed destinations.

“It has to be an affordable technology. So what we are trying to find out is what technology at the moment is the best and meets the specifications,“ said Dorota A. Grejner-Brzezinska, associate dean for research at the OSU College of Engineering.

Between 80 million and 140 million automobiles have navigation systems, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That does not include drivers using their cellphones to reach their destination.

“We do not have good standards for the resilience of the GPS receivers. GPS is the invisible utility that a lot of things run on,” said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, deputy assistant secretary for research and technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation. “People are completely unaware of it or how it needs to be protected.”

GPS is susceptible to jamming, which is when the signal is blocked from the receiver, which then causes the system to stop working. Spoofing is when you think you’re navigating toward your destination but a hacker takes you elsewhere.

“You think that you’re going to the drugstore, which is where you want to go, but really you’re heading out to the port outside town,” Furchtgott-Roth said. “It’s being spoofed. And that’s far more dangerous.”

In that case, a spoofer is “sending false signals, which pretends to be actual GPS signals, because their structure is pretty much the same,” Grejner-Brzezinska said. “Your receiver is going to receive the signal and use this for your navigation. This is actually a signal which looks like GPS, but it’s wrong.”

GPS devices initially were not targeted by hackers, just as early computers weren’t susceptible to viruses. But as technology progresses and use becomes more widespread, so do the risks. Antivirus software is now ubiquitous on computers, and GPS will likely have to follow a similar path to fight spoofing and jamming.

In the past few decades, GPS has gone from guiding munitions and troops to within 10 feet of their destination to enabling drivers using their phones to do so with much more precision.

“People are afraid of getting in an autonomous vehicle because they’re worried that it’s going to hit something or get out of control,” Furchtgott-Roth told The Dispatch. “So the resilience of the GPS navigation system is really vital to people’s confidence.”

The Ohio State grant is part of the federal Universities Transportation Centers program, which was established 1987 by Congress with the goal of advancing transportation technology and research in partnership with universities across the country. There are more than 200 centers involved in the program, and OSU is one of 41 lead institutions.

“The team at Ohio State has written extensively on positioning, navigation, timing, and resiliency. It’s conducted pioneering work in the field,” said Furchtgott-Roth. “They’ve conducted tests of interference and spoofing and developed techniques to achieve resilient, accurate and assured positioning navigation and timing in many, many difficult environments. So we were so impressed with them.”

Ohio State also was an ideal fit because of the school’s ties to the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty — the largest test facility in the country — which includes the SMART-Center, the largest autonomous vehicle proving grounds.

Ohio State won out over 12 other schools to secure the two-year project, which will be in partnership with the University of California at Irvine, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Cincinnati. bburger@dispatch.com

Category : General

Karen Dannemiller, REACH 2020, Featured in Architectural Digest

Fri, 17th July, 2020

REACH for Commercialization™ 2020 cohort member, Karen Dannemiller, Assistant Professor in the College of Engineering and the College of Public Health, was featured in a recent issue of Architectural Digest discussing the microbiomes found in our homes. The full article can be found here.

Category : General

Ohio State researchers testing breathalyzer to detect COVID-19

Fri, 5th June, 2020

Originally posted by Ohio State News

One of the most common COVID-19 tests involves a long swab pressed deep into the nasal cavities – and while the test can be administered quickly, it has been described as unpleasant and uncomfortable.

Now researchers at The Ohio State University are working on a testing system that would require a simple exhaled breath. Perena Gouma is the primary investigator of a team developing a breathalyzer device that will sample breath for key biomarkers of the infection. She says it would serve as an alternative to current tests that are expensive, can take a long time to get results and require specialized personnel to do the sampling and to analyze the results.

Pelagia-Irene (Perena) Gouma


Gouma, director of the Advanced Ceramics Research Laboratory and professor in the College of Engineering, is working with co-investigator Andrew Bowman, associate professor of veterinary preventive medicine. The project was awarded a nearly $200,000 National Science Foundation EAGER grant this month under a program supporting exploratory, early-stage research on untested, but potentially transformative, ideas or approaches.

“Breath analysis is not really a technique that is used widely in the medical field yet, so it is considered early-stage work,” Gouma said. “[We] have a sensor device that detects nitric oxide and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in breath and can be used to tell you about the onset of an infectious disease.”

In addition to nitric oxide, the device examines two other metabolites that could specifically indicate the presence of a COVID-19 infection even in asymptomatic patients. Exhaling once in the breathalyzer may help with earlier detection of the onset of the disease, as well as with monitoring of the severity of the infection, which could help reduce the risk for worsening of the symptoms and allow timely therapeutic intervention, she said.

The new project builds upon Gouma’s invention of a hand-held breath monitor that may provide early detection of flu before symptoms appear prior to her arrival at Ohio State. The COVID-19 breathalyzer involves advances on nanomaterials for detecting specific breath gases at the concentrations of interest for making a diagnosis.

The breathalyzer gives results rapidly (15 seconds response time), it is extremely inexpensive, and it is easy to use so that there is no need for trained personnel to perform the test, Gouma said. The results can be viewed directly on the display or they can be transferred to the physician wirelessly.

“We are working on making these hand-held monitors that will be widely distributed and they’re very inexpensive,” she said. “The technology evolved from the sensors used for monitoring gases in an automotive exhaust – that’s how we started on breath analysis 20 years ago.”

Gouma said the NSF-funded project would not have been possible without the collaboration with the College of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Medicine and the Wexner Medical Center. She said these connections make Ohio State very appealing for interdisciplinary research between engineering and medicine (nanomedicine).

“That’s one of the advantages of Ohio State. You don’t find many institutions that have the No. 1 vet med school in the world and also a world-class medical school,” she said. “It’s also serendipity because COVID-19 is a zoonosis, a disease that comes from animals, and the vet med school had years of experience studying coronaviruses and the flu in animals.”

Furthermore, the Wexner Medical Center has been treating COVID-19 patients from the beginning of the pandemic, so it offers unique insights to this project.

Gouma said the collaboration is critical for engineers developing medical diagnostics for humans and animals who need to consult with colleagues who have expertise in medicine to ensure that the ideas have merit and to validate their claims through clinical trials.

If the device proves to be accurate, portable and effective, it could be used to screen travelers before they step on a flight or to test students and teachers before they head back into the classroom. It would also be used in the Medical Intensive Care Units and in every hospital and doctor’s office as a bedside test. Gouma said the breathalyzer technology may become the platform to help detect metabolic problems like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease or diabetes, by choosing the appropriate biomarker.

Chris Booker
Ohio State News
Category : General

Tubbs Cooley awarded R01 from NIH/NICHD for study on NICU nursing care enhancement

Thu, 28th May, 2020

New five-year, $2.8 million grant to study nurses’ workload in relation to NICU patient safety

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Heather Tubbs Cooley, PhD, RN, FAAN at The Ohio State University College of Nursing’s Martha S. Pitzer Center for Women, Children and Youth is the Principal Investigator (PI) for a $2.8 million R01 grant funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

This R01 will fund the study, “Enhancing Nursing Care Reliability in Neonatal Intensive Care Units.” Co-investigators include the College of Nursing’s Rita Pickler, PhD, RN, FAAN; Thomas Bartman, MD, PhD, from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and other co-investigators from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Tubbs Cooley and her team discovered that NICU nurses regularly miss essential care linked to neonatal safety outcomes due to their everyday workloads. With this grant, the team will now replicate this work in a larger and more heterogeneous sample of units, nurses and patients to assess strategies for workload monitoring in this patient population.

“Beyond staffing ratios and infant acuity measures, subjective workload showed the strongest correlation to care reliability,” said Tubbs Cooley. “The goal of our study is to monitor nurse workload and broaden our current understanding of its effects on care reliability.”

The team will enroll up to 210 nurses in five NICUs to report on workload and care reliability for nearly 820 infants over 1,120 shifts.

They will evaluate differential effects of objective and subjective nurse workload on care reliability in NICUs and examine relationships between shift-level factors and nurses’ subjective workload ratings. The validity of aggregating nurses’ subjective workload ratings within a shift to inform real-time measurement strategies will also be evaluated.

Tubbs Cooley and her team hope their research will lead to a better understanding of NICU nurse workloads. If they are successful, they will leverage the knowledge to improve the safety and care of NICU patients by advancing workload measurement, monitoring and intervention.

Originally posted on The Ohio State University’s College of Nursing website on May 14, 2020.

Category : General

REACH Alumna Katrina Cornish Elected to AIMBE College of Fellows

Wed, 27th May, 2020

Katrina Cornish, Ph.D., FNAI, FAAAS, REACH for Commercialization™ alumna and Professor in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences was elected to The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows in recognition of her distinguished and continuing achievements in medical and biological engineering.

The AIMBE announced the 2020 class of fellows in March. More information on AIMBE Fellows and the complete list of 2020 inductees can be found in the official press release.

Category : General