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Alumnus Sean Andersson receives NSF CAREER Award

Alumnus Sean Andersson, now an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Boston University, has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for Nonlinear Control for Single Molecule Tracking. The five-year, $430K award will establish a rigorous theoretical and experimental foundation for tracking single nanometer-scale particles and for tracking multiple particles simultaneously.

Andersson earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in 2003. He was advised by Professor P.S. Krishnaprasad (ECE/ISR).

Measurement of nanometer-scale particles often relies on a point-like sensor such as the focal point of a confocal microscope, the tip of a magnetic force microscope, or the probe of a near-field scanning optical microscope. The research approach centers on a nonlinear tracking control law and proceeds from analysis and design of the law to implementation on a scanning confocal microscope and experimental study of the approach using freely diffusing fluorescent nanoparticles.

This research will enable the study of a wealth of dynamic phenomena in nanometer-scale systems, facilitating advances in a wide variety of fields, including molecular biology, medicine, and neurobiology. An example application is the study of the dynamics of ribonucleic acid (RNA) during the transcription process in bacterial cells. A deeper understanding of this process has important practical applications for the development of diagnostic and treatment options for diseases caused by bacterial infections such as dysentery, cholera, and tuberculosis. The project will involve undergraduate and graduate students in interdisciplinary research, ranging from the rigorous mathematics of systems and control theory to imaging and detection methods in molecular biology. Pre-university students in grades 10-12 will be engaged through nanotechnology-based science modules motivated by the project research and developed in collaboration with high school teachers.

At Boston University, Andersson's research interests are focused on bringing systems and control theory to bear in atomic force and confocal laser scanning microscopies with the goal of extending the domain of applicability of these technologies deeper into the realm of dynamic processes.

The NSF CAREER program fosters the career development of outstanding junior faculty, combining the support of research and education of the highest quality and in the broadest sense.

July 2, 2009

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