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2014 Recipients

Congratulations to the 2014 Award Recipients

2014 Outstanding Young Scientists

Jason Benkoski, Ph.D.
Principal Scientist
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

 Jason Benkoski photo

Jason’s work has led to the success of several of the Laboratory’s innovative programs and made significant and novel impacts in several different challenge areas. His efforts have been recognized and funded by government agencies and total more than several million dollars over his career at APL. Jason has the unique ability to apply materials-centric physics solutions to critical challenges from the conceptual stages to hardware in the relevant environment stage.

As an example, corrosion of naval vessels is a $6-8 billion annual problem and limits vessel availability due to frequent dry-docking for repairs and painting. Jason had a vision for a solution that improved upon state-of-the-art paints by adding not only self-healing but also corrosion protection by applying nano and micro-materials innovations. His solution has resulted in paints with corrosion protection four times longer than current state-of-the art, which could lead to an 80% reduction in maintenance costs.

Another of Jason’s accomplishments is in biomedicine and drug delivery, which was recognized by the APL Invention of the Year Award both in 2009 and in 2010. He is working with top cardiologists at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions to develop an implantable heart stent that could eliminate reoccurrence of heart attacks in a large class of patients and thereby revolutionize cardiac disease treatment.

Learn more about Jason’s work in this video.

Marina Leite, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Science
University of Maryland

Marina Leite photo

Dr. Marina Leite has established and now leads a state-of-the-art laboratory and dynamic research group at the University of Maryland that is devoted to the physics of photovoltaics, nanoscale and nanostructured materials, and energy storage. She is developing and using unique nanoscale imaging techniques to study batteries to probe the microscopic properties of photovoltaic materials and devices, including polycrystalline devices that are prevalent in everyday use. A key theme of her research is that by studying, measuring and engineering materials at the nanoscale, one can develop better devices at the macro-scale.

As an example of Marina’s work, traditional silicon photovoltaic devices can only convert about 15% of the incident solar energy into usable electrical energy. She demonstrated, through experiments and simulations, that it’s possible to achieve solar efficiencies exceeding 50%. Marina’s groundbreaking work was featured on the cover of Applied Physics Letters in 2013. Her work is already being recognized by physicists and materials scientists throughout the photovoltaics research community.

Learn more about Marina’s work in this video.

2014 Outstanding Young Engineers

Morgana Trexler, Ph.D.
Senior Materials Scientist and Assistant Group Supervisor
Multifunctional Materials and Nanostructures Group
Research and Exploratory Development Department
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Morgan Trexler photo

Dr. Morgana Trexler is an expert in biomaterials, applied nano-materials, and the computational modeling of mechanical behavior in materials. Her efforts have enabled the success of several of the Laboratory’s innovative programs.

One example is a project known as EyePATCH, an effort to deal with battlefield eye injuries. Eye injuries on battlefields have become more common due to shrapnel and sand particles swirling in the air after explosions occur. Scratches, lacerations and penetrating injuries can impair vision and render a soldier unable to function for several days or longer. In 2009, Morgan and her APL colleagues teamed up with The Johns Hopkins University Biomedical Engineering Department and the Wilmer Eye Institute as part of the EyePATCH project to create three materials that would help repair soldiers’ eye injuries.

The research has gone so well that APL is actively engaged with a small business for further testing. The commercial implications for the EyePATCH-developed materials broaden when considering that eye injuries happen regularly in everyday life. EyePATCH could positively affect people’s lives by preventing secondary infections, reducing scarring, and reducing or even eliminating the dependence on donor corneas.

Morgana is also leading an interdisciplinary team developing an innovative multi-functional ballistic fiber, reinforcing Kevlar with carbon nanotubes in the hopes of improving the ballistic performance of soft armor.

Learn more about Morgana’s work in this video.

Liangbing Hu, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
University of Maryland College Park

Affiliated Faculty – University of Maryland Energy Research Center
Affiliated Faculty – Maryland Nano Center
University of Maryland College Park

Bing Hu photo

Dr. Liangbing (Bing) Hu has had tremendous impact at College Park with numerous awards, high profile journal publications, news stories about his work, and outreach to students.  His work has great promise for revolutionizing areas of energy storage and conversion from batteries to solar cells.

His work on solid state materials for lithium batteries won him the University of Maryland’s Invention of the Year Award in 2013 for the potential of improving safety and reliability coupled with higher energy storage capacity.  He has been a leader in developing a field of diverse applications built on cellulose – or wood – using it as a scaffold for devices from batteries and solar cells to electronics and optics.

Bing is also making major advances in transparent films for non-cellulose, a novel material that has been shown to improve the light collection efficiency of solar cells.  A particularly interesting aspect of his work is using wood fibers as a mechanical buffer to improve the reliability of sodium-based batteries – work which was featured on the NPR program Science Friday.

Many of his discoveries have been submitted to the University of Maryland Office of Technology Commercialization and may end up forming the basis for new Maryland-based start-up companies with the potential for significant economic impact in the State.

Learn more about Liangbing’s work in this video.