FAMU Professor Awarded $450K AFOSR Young Investigator Research Program Grant

December 09, 2021
Professor Jamel and students
FAMU Professor Awarded $450K AFOSR Young Investigator Research Program Grant

A Florida A&M University (FAMU) professor has received an Air Force Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) Award.

The award to Jamel Ali, Ph.D., marks the first YIP award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), the agency announced.

An assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, Ali received the $450,000 three-year grant for his proposal, “Self-assembled Swimmers for Nanoscale Actuation and Sensing,” which is at the intersection of microbiology, fluid mechanics, biophysics, nanotechnology, and robotics.

Ali leads the Nanobio Materials and Robotics group, located in the National High Magnetic Field Lab, in Tallahassee. His unit designs small scale biologically-inspired machines – or nanorobots – that can be wirelessly controlled and harness the actuation capabilities of microorganisms.

“As an HBCU alum and former National Defense Science and Engineering graduate fellow, this award has a very special meaning for me,” said Ali, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering from Howard University. Under the AFOSR’s Natural Materials and Systems research portfolio, “this award will support our group’s efforts to develop wireless biohybrid devices for future chemical and biological defense applications,” said Ali.

Ali is one of 36 scientists and engineers from 30 research institutions and businesses who submitted winning research proposals through the Air Force’s Young Investigator Research Program. AFOSR announced $16.2 million in grants on Nov. 5. This year, AFOSR received more than 175 YIP proposals.

The YIP is open to United States citizens and/or permanent residents who are scientists and engineers at United States research institutions who received Ph.D. or equivalent degrees in the last seven years and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research of military interests.

The objective of the program is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and the related challenges in science and engineering.

This is the second major recent award for Professor Ali. He has also received the American Chemical Society (ACS) Petroleum Research Fund (PRF) Doctoral New Investigator (DNI) Award for his proposed topic of “Multiscale Rheology, Structure, and Dynamics of Anisotropic Colloidal Suspensions.” The two-year $110,000 award will enable research exploring the microstructure and mechanics of complex particle mixtures while also offering female and minority engineering students opportunities to conduct hands-on research, Ali said.

The Petroleum Research Fund is an endowed fund, managed by the American Chemical Society that supports fundamental research directly related to petroleum or fossil fuels at nonprofit institutions in the United States. The DNI program is specifically for tenure track faculty within three years of their first appointment.