The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Two College of Engineering Alumni Win Highly Competitive National Defense Fellowships

Lee and Kaiser

Lee and Kaiser (l-r)

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research has awarded 2018 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowships to two recent UMass Amherst College of Engineering (COE) alumni, Ashley Kaiser (B.S., ChE, ’17) and Sanghoon Lee (B.S., EE, ’17). Kaiser and Lee are now first-year graduate students pursuing their Ph.D. degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology, respectively. Kaiser and Lee are among just 69 students selected nationwide to receive these three-year graduate fellowships from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Graduates of both the COE and the Commonwealth Honors College, Kaiser and Lee were highly involved in scientific research, university service, and academics during their undergraduate careers at UMass Amherst.

Kaiser became hooked on nanomaterials research as a first-year student at UMass Amherst, and her passion for nanotechnology grew as she completed summer internships at MIT and 3M. Kaiser worked in Professor of Chemical Engineering Christos Dimitrakopoulos’ research group for four years, and her work culminated in an honors thesis on low-temperature graphene synthesis. In the process, she won a 2017 Rising Researcher Award from UMass Amherst.

Kaiser is now pursuing her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, where she is a research assistant in Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Brian L. Wardle’s necstlab. Her research aims to understand the physical and chemical mechanisms governing the multiscale behavior of carbon nanotube-based materials. As Kaiser explains, “In my work, I develop experimentally validated models to describe how the structure and properties of these materials change, based on their processing history, with the ultimate goal of tuning their performance and manufacturability.”

Her first paper from MIT, which enables lower processing temperatures for carbon nanotube-reinforced ceramic matrix nanocomposites, won Editor’s Pick in the Journal of Materials Science in 2017, and her most recent lead-author paper on carbon nanotube patterning was featured on the front cover of Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

As Kaiser says, “I’m thrilled to win the NDSEG Fellowship this year, and I look forward to continuing this work throughout my graduate career to support the pursuit of materials by-design and on-demand.”

Aside from research, Kaiser was active in mentoring and supporting others at UMass Amherst, serving as a two-year Peer Mentor in the Engineering RAP, a member of the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Advisory Council, and Vice President of the UMass Amherst Club Gymnastics Team. In graduate school, she continues similar activities by mentoring undergraduate researchers in necstlab and training with the MIT Club Gymnastics Team.

At UMass, Lee served as a grader for the Mathematics Department while partaking in Honors Undergraduate Research under Dr. Marinos Vouvakis to study antenna designs and their equivalent circuit models. His interest for antenna electronics and RF systems was inspired during classes ECE333 Fields and Waves and ECE584/585 Microwave Engineering at UMass, as well as summer internships at Systems and Technology Research in Woburn, Massachusetts. Regarding his motivation for these interests, Lee recalls “being astounded yet extremely curious as to how antennas could transform electrical signals to electromagnetic waves that can propagate over great distances.”

Lee is now pursuing his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering at Georgia Tech as a research assistant in Dr. Hua Wang’s Georgia Tech Electronics and Micro-system (GEMS) Lab. His research involves investigating antenna-circuit, co-design techniques for millimeter-wave/terahertz (mm-Wave/THz) frequencies to combine antennas and their back-end electronics. This novel symbiosis of two traditionally distinct areas provides advanced integrated System-on-Chip (SoC) designs to enable a variety of applications, such as the Internet of Things, next generation wireless communications, and even bio-electronics and medical applications.

More specifically, his proposed topic for his NDSEG Fellowship is to explore a fully integrated, full-duplex, THz hyperspectral imaging system to revolutionize future imaging technologies for non-invasive and non-damaging evaluation and material characterization. He envisions his research being a key enabler for high throughput quality and security screening, while paving the way for future electronics research such as full-duplex, high-speed massive Multiple-Input-Multiple-Output wireless communications.

“With the NDSEG’s help, I aspire to journey into and lead a new wave of emerging technologies for high-frequency electronics that can bring about great changes in modern day technology,” Lee says.

Outside of research, Lee enjoys playing the piano and attending music concerts of all genres. As an amateur classical/jazz pianist, he looks forward to exploring many live performance opportunities around Atlanta. He is also a teaching assistant for non-ECE major undergraduate students in a circuits course, providing guidance and mentoring as they learn elementary breadboard circuits.

NDSEG Fellowships last for up to three years, covering full tuition and mandatory fees. Fellows receive a monthly stipend of $3,200 and a yearly medical insurance stipend. The NDSEG Fellowship is sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), the Army Research Office (ARO), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) under the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (OSD) for Research and Engineering. More information about the NDSEG »
(June 2018)