FIRST CUGR Awards 2023-2024

The Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR) has announced the awards for 2023-2024.

2023-24 Academic Year CUGR Research and Creative Activities Fellowship

  • Andrii Obertas, Physics, “Fractional Dimension Avalanches in Magnetic Nanostructures,” advised by Nicholas Bingham

2023-2024 Academic Year MSGC Research Experience

  • Adam Dugre, Engineering Physics, “Development of a Thin-Film Reactor for the Synthesis of Atomically Precise Graphene Nanoribbons,” advised by Tomas Marangoni
  • Madison McCarthy, Chemical Engineering, “Assessment of Nanomaterials for the Removal of Siloxanes from Wastewater in Spacecrafts,” advised by Onur Apul
  • Graham McLaughlin, Chemistry, “A Novel, Wasteless Method for Field Determination of BTEX in Water Samples,” advised by Carl Tripp
  • Sarah Rogers-Pastio, Physics, “Unveiling Cosmic Mysteries: Modeling Early-Universe Magnetic Monopoles with Artificial Spin Ice,” advised by Nicholas Bingham

FIRST researchers recently selected for a Rapid Turnaround Experiment (RTE) award

FIRST researchers have recently been selected for a Rapid Turnaround Experiment (RTE) award from the Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF) program that is part of the Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy.  The NSUF mission is to facilitate the advancement of nuclear science and technology by providing nuclear energy researchers with access to world-class capabilities at no cost to the researcher.  Led by Mauricio Pereira da Cunha, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and member of FIRST, this project will help with the testing and development of advanced sensors and sensor systems for plant monitoring in extreme temperature, radiation and neutron flux environments, thus contributing to the long-term viability and competitiveness of existing and future advanced reactor fleets.  
For more information on the project, please click here.

FIRST Receives New DOE Grant

FIRST is part of a $33 million research initiative from the Department of Energy (DOE) to advance energy research across the U.S. The project, which is led by Mauricio Pereira da Cunha, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, encompasses a total of $1.2 million for UMaine to conduct research in advanced materials, microelectronics and nanotechnology to develop new high-temperature harsh-environment sensors for applications in energy production, advanced manufacturing, and aerospace.

UMaine researchers edit, contribute to special PFAS edition of academic journal Biointerphases

University of Maine researchers edited and contributed to a special collection of studies and perspectives on toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, recently published by the academic journal Biointerphases. Onur Apul, an assistant professor of environmental engineering, served as guest editor of the collection, supported by assistant guest editor and Ph.D. student  Dilara Hatinoglu. Caitlin Howell, associate professor of bioengineering, was the associate editor of the publication. 

The collection features articles authored and co-authored by many students and faculty from the Maine College of Engineering and Computing; the UMaine College of Earth, Life, and Health Sciences; University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, as well as researchers from other organizations.

The collection is available on the Biointerphases website

Choudhary Featured in UMaine News

Manisha Choudhary, a post doctoral research associate with FIRST and the Opul Research Group (led by FIRST Associate Member Dr. Onur Apul) was featured in an article in the UMaine News, L.L.Bean supporting UMaine’s work on eradicating ‘forever chemicals’. Click here to see the story. 

Choudhary Mentioned on WABI

Manisha Choudhary, a post doctoral research associate with FIRST and the Opul Research Group (led by FIRST Associate Member Dr. Onur Apul) was featured in an article on WABI. Click here to see the full story.

FIRST Associate Members Promoted

FIRST associate members Liping Yu (Physics) and Yingchao Yang (Mechanical Engineering) were promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. The annual announcement recognizes outstanding achievement in teaching, scholarship and research, and community engagement.

FIRST Welcomes New Faculty Member

FIRST welcomes Dr. Taher Ghomian, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. His research focuses on studying and tailoring the properties of nanoscale materials; the interaction of nanomaterials with surroundings; and uses this knowledge to fabricate high-performance sensors and energy harvesters. 

Yu Receives NSF Early Career Award

Associate Member Liping Yu received the NSF Early Career Award. For the full news release, please click here.

FIRST Awarded $500K Grant from NRC

Developing new wireless sensors for monitoring the functionality of nuclear power plant equipment is the goal of a new project within the University of Maine’s Frontier Institute for Research in Sensor Technologies (FIRST). For the full news release, click here.

FIRST Welcomes New Faculty

FIRST welcomes the addition of Dr. Tomas Marangoni, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Nicholas Bingham, Assistant Professor of Physics to our department.

Apul Receives $1.1 Million Multi-Insitutional Grant

Onur Apul, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at University of Maine, will lead a $1.1 million multi-institutional investigation backed by NASA to explore whether nanobubbles can support space exploration, including water treatment on spaceships.

Yang Receives Prestigious NSF Early Career Award

Dr. Yingchao Yang, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and an Associate Member of FIRST, was recently awarded the prestigious NSF Early Career Award. The project title is  “Asymmetrical Fracture of Two-dimensional High Entropy Nanomaterials”. The project will start on April 01, 2022 and end on March 31, 2027. The advanced equipment in FIRST and CORE will be used to support the project.

Edalatpour Promoted

Dr. Sheila Edalatpour, Mechanical Engineering and an Associate Member of FIRST, was recently promoted to Associate Professor with tenure.

Job Posting

FIRST has an open position for a Postdoctoral Research Associate or Research Associate. This position will support research and development activities related to projects funded at FIRST in the areas of sensor technology.  To apply or for full details on the job description, please click HERE.

January 4, 2022: Bista wins CUGR award

Bivek Bista, an undergraduate student research assistant with FIRST and a Mechanical Engineering student, has won a CUGR (Center for Undergraduate Research) Award for his work “Hybrid Carbon Nanotube based Catalytic Materials as a Biochemical Sensor,” advised by Sharmila Mukhopadhyay, Director of FIRST.

October 13, 2021: NSF Grant to design a new class of materials for optoelectronics

image of Robert Lad
Robert Lad
Liping Yu
Liping Yu

A University of Maine-led research team, in collaboration with the University of Alabama, will design a new class of materials capable of improving solar cells, lasers and other optoelectronic devices that convert light into energy with a $525,000 collaborative research award from the National Science Foundation.

Liping Yu, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Maine, will lead the project and collaborate with Robert Lad, a professor of physics at UMaine, and Feng Yan, an assistant professor with the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at the University of Alabama.

Three Ph.D. students and six undergraduate students will participate in the three-year project, during which they will obtain extensive training in computational materials science, materials synthesis and characterization, and data analysis. Much of the experimental work will be carried out using facilities within UMaine’s Frontier Institute for Research Sensor Technologies (FIRST).

For the full news release, please click here.

September 16, 2021: Amir Rahmani, People’s Choice Award, Nottingham Prize Competition

Amir Rahmani competed in the Nottingham Prize Competition at the (Virtual) 2021 Physical Electronics Conference, a conference that focuses on new research results in the field of surface science and in the sub-fields of physics and chemistry of interfaces. This year, contestants were asked to create a 10 minute video highlighting their work at a level that can be understood by a broad audience.  Participants in the conference voted on the “People’s Choice Award” and chose the video created by Amir Rahmani Chokanlu, a PhD candidate in Chemistry and FIRST. His video describes the first “Direct Evidence for Sulfur Induced Deep Electron and Hole Traps in Titania” and provides new understanding of electronic states in this important class of photocatalysts.  The video can be viewed here: 

September 15, 2021: Onur Apul, New Associate Member

FIRST would like to welcome Dr. Onur Apul as an associate member. Dr. Apul is an Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Dr. Apul’s research focuses on responsibly harvesting nanotechnology to advance safe and sustainable water treatment. He specifically investigates molecular level interactions at the boundary layers to help tackle emerging environmental concerns (such as PFAS in drinking water sources or microplastics in coastal ecosystems).

September 1, 2021: $2.34M DOE EPSCoR Award

The next generation of harsh environment materials and wireless sensor techniques are the focus of a $2.34 million Department of Energy’s (DOE) EPSCoR award for research led by University of Maine researchers Mauricio Pereira da Cunha and Robert Lad. Their primary goal is to address the pressing need for a new generation of sensor materials, devices and systems that can operate under extreme temperatures (up to 2000° F) and harsh environments that may consist of erosive particles and oxidizing, reducing or corrosive gases. These types of conditions are often found in the rapidly expanding energy sector, such as power plants, gas turbine generators, renewable power generation and advanced manufacturing. For the full news release, please click here.

June 1, 2021: Graduate Student Research Assistant (RA) Positions

The Frontier Institute for Research in Sensor Technologies (FIRST) at the University of Maine has multiple openings for Research Assistant (RA) positions in the High Temperature/Harsh Environment (HT/HE) Sensors research team. Qualified candidates will work closely with multidisciplinary teams of scientists, engineers, and technicians to perform state-of-the-art research on materials, sensors, and sensor systems that function in extreme environments. Please click here for more information.