Recent Grants and Funding

Our faculty remains on the cutting edge of their respective areas, addressing topics such as devices to aid the disabled, smart surgical tools, neural computation, robotics, and medical imaging. The following faculty have received recent funding to further pursue their research goals.


Susanna ThonSusanna Thon, assistant professor, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Materials Research (DMR) Grant.

High Mobility Hole Extraction Materials for Colloidal Quantum Dot Solar Cells

Generating inexpensive electricity from sunlight could transform the way society meets its energy needs. Newer materials for solar cells, such as those based on liquid paints, are inexpensive and can be coated on a variety of surfaces; however, their power output is low compared to heavier conventional technology. This project seeks to increase the power output of next-generation solar cells by developing new nanomaterials that more efficiently conduct electricity.


Susanna Thon was also awarded an American Chemical Society (ACS) Petroleum Research Fund (PRF) New Directions Grant.

Photothermal and Charge Transfer Dynamics of Aluminum Nanomaterials for Plasmon-Sensitized Photocatalysis

Brief Project Description: The chemical industry currently accounts for 6% of the U.S. energy demand, so new processes that allow renewable energy sources to be used to process chemicals are an urgent need. This collaborative project will characterize the photophysical properties of earth-abundant aluminum-based plasmonic nanoparticles as light sensitizers for photocatalysis as a potential route to powering chemical processing using the sun.


Muyinatu Bell, assistant professor has been awarded a Johns Hopkins Discovery award.

Photoacoustic Image Guidance of Gynecological Surgeries

Injury to the ureter is one of the most serious complications of gynecological surgery. Up to 70% of ureteral injuries are undetected during surgery, resulting in additional surgery to correct the error, prolonged recovery, kidney failure, and death from complications. Ureteral injuries can occur during necessary clamping, clipping, and cauterizing of the uterine arteries, which are located within millimeters of the ureter and hidden by surrounding tissue. Led by Dr. Muyinatu Bell in collaboration with gynecologic surgeon Dr. Karen Wang, this Discovery Award will support the development and in vivo testing of novel photoacoustic technology to visualize the uterine artery and the ureter during surgery. The ultimate goal is to provide gynecologic surgeons with the technology needed to prevent accidental ureteral injuries. Gynecological surgeries that will benefit from this technology include hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), myomectomies (removal of uterine fibroids), and endometriosis resection.

Initial feasibility of the proposed approach is described in a recent Journal of Medical Imaging publication ( from Dr. Bell’s PULSE Lab, which was most recently featured by Health Data Management News).

Susanna Thon

Susanna Thon, assistant professor, has been awarded an Energy Innovation Seed Grant. This is a collaborative project between NanoDirect LLC and Johns Hopkins University.

Large Area Quantum Dot Solar Cells for Building Integrated Photovoltaics

In the proposed work, NanoDirect will collaborate with Prof. Susanna Thon at Johns Hopkins University to build transparent conductors for quantum dot solar cells that can be used for BIPV. The project will demonstrate the ability to sustain efficiencies achievable for small scale devices for larger, commercially relevant areas. The final proposed prototype represents an MVP (minimal viable product) that can be used to sample and demo with potential customers for commercial development. The proposed work will also include targeted market research and customer discovery within the field to grow our business and commercialization strategy.


Ralph Etienne-CummingsRalph Etienne- Cummings, department chair and professor, and Alena V. Savonenko, associate professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, recently received a Synergy Award grant.

Development of New Generation Phenotyping: Transition from Classical Behavioral Testing to Big Data Science

The goal of this project is to build upon the cross-divisional strengths of JHU and JHMI faculty to develop an innovative technology-based platform for the next generation behavioral phenotyping.


Susanna ThonSusanna Thon, assistant professor, has been awarded a 2017 HEMI Seed grant.

Defect Formation in Optoelectronic Nanoparticle Films Under Extreme Illumination Conditions

Nanoparticle-film-based solar cells and photodetectors are of interest for deployment in a wide variety of extreme environments, both on earth and in space. Specifically, films formed from colloidal quantum dots (CQDs), nanometer-sized semiconductor fragments, have the advantage of inexpensive solution-based processing, mechanical flexibility, and infrared responsivity. However, the stability of CQD film-based materials under high temperatures and illumination levels is known to be a problem. Physical and electronic defects in the films form under extreme conditions that are detrimental and sometimes fatal to device performance; however, the defect formation mechanism and physical nature are not well-understood. We propose to study the formation and evolution of defects under extreme illumination conditions in nanoparticle-based optoelectronic thin films using spatially-resolved photoluminescence and photocurrent measurements. This work will answer fundamental questions about the identity, formation pathways, and consequences of the defects in CQD-based films under high illumination levels and temperatures. Using the results of our studies, we will also develop strategies to improve the stability of CQD-film-based solar cells and photodetectors under extreme conditions.


Photo of Mark Foster

Mark Foster, assistant professor, has been awarded a grant from NIH.

Wide- Field Scan-Less Multi Photon Endoscopy Using Spatio-Temporal Pulse Delivery and Temporal Focusing

The focus of this proposal is to develop a novel, high energy pulse delivery technology by using coherent imaging fiber bundles in conjunction with a two-dimensional spectral disperser at the proximal end of the fiber bundle and demonstrate its application to multi-photon endoscopy. First (Aim 1), we will use a twodimensional spectral disperser in order to decompose high energy laser pulses into 𝑁 spectral slices, each with a fraction (1/𝑁) of the total bandwidth, mapped to 𝑁 different cores in a multi-core fiber. Second (Aim 2), we will investigate design of a miniaturized distal assembly that includes an achromatic micro-objective, a pair of miniaturized tube lenses, and a dichroic prism. Third (Aim 3), we will utilize pseudo-random structured illumination and compressed sensing image recovery in conjunction with the developed technologies in order to reduce the impacts of tissue scatter and thus improve the imaging depth of the micro-endoscope. Ultimately, this technology will enable a compact, temporally focused micro-endoscope for high-speed imaging of neural activity in behaving animals.

Ralph Etienne-Cummings

Ralph Etienne-Cummings, department chair and professor, and Trac Duy Tran, professor, were recently awarded $70,000 from Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV).

Pixel-wise reconfigurable exposure image sensor for automotive advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) and consumer cameras

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures provides seed money to Johns Hopkins faculty members to produce “the proof-of-concept, prototype and commercial feasibility studies necessary to bring their discoveries and innovations out of the laboratory and into the world”. 

Enrique Mallada


Enrique Mallada, assistant professor,  and his colleagues, professor Ben Hobbs of Environmental Health and Engineering and assistant professor Dennice Gayme of Mechanical Engineering, have received  a $350K grant from the National Science Foundation.

An Optimization Decomposition Framework for Principled Multi-Timescale Market Design and Co-Optimization

The project aims to analyze current markets for electricity generation and suggest a principled redesign to more accurately and efficiently account for the influx of renewable energy generation and their varying operational timescales. The project will also build a realistic simulation testbed that will help determine the benefits of the proposed market re-designs. The results of this research will allow current and new energy generation markets to more accurately adapt to the changing energy marketplace.

Susanna Thon

Susanna Thon, assistant professor, has received an NSF EAGER grant.


Finite-Absorption-Bandwidth Materials for Cost-Effective Multijunction Photovoltaics

The project seeks to build a new class of flexible materials that only absorb in the infrared region of the solar spectrum while transmitting visible light by using semiconductor particles with optical properties that depend on their nano- and micro-scale structures. Specifically, the goal is to make photonic crystals, structures in which certain frequency ranges of light cannot propagate, in strongly absorbing colloidal quantum dot films, to be used in color-tuned and transparent solar cells.

Brint Cooper, associate research professor, has received a grant from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Fund.


The grant will fund a “hands-on” course focused on the “Internet of Things” (IoT), the much-discussed but not well-understood collection of Internet devices that offer functions such as home automation, wearables, municipal services, and emerging applications for energy control and transportation, among others.



Muyinatu Bell

Muyinatu Bell, assistant professor, received an NIH R00 grant.


Coherence-Based Photoacoustic Image Guidance of Transsphenoidal Surgeries

The project proposes to eliminate this risk by developing a sophisticated photoacoustic imaging system that visualizes blood vessels located behind bone in real-time during the surgical procedure. This photoacoustic imaging system will be equipped with novel coherence-based beamformers and specialized light delivery systems developed in the PULSE Lab.


Enrique Mallada

Enrique Mallada, assistant professor, has received two new grants:



Working in conjunction with the University of Vermont, Professor Mallada is part of a team that has received a $1.8 million award to research the electric grid’s ability to utilize energy provided from renewable sources. The grant was one of 13 national awards that are all a part of the Enabling Extreme Real-time Grid Integration of Solar Energy (ENERGISE) program. With the prevalence of solar panels, the program seeks to study the ability of the current electric grid to properly manage the often unreliable energy source, while continuing to provide steady and reliable electricity to customers.


The ARO grant will allow Professor Mallada and his team to work on problems at the intersection of algorithms and dynamical systems.



Emad Boctor, assistant professor, has received several grant awards:



  • R21 started July 1st – Involves collaboration with Jin Kang (ECE) and Marty Pomper (Radiology)
  • ATIP started August 1st – Involves collaboration with Radiology, LCSR, Radiology, ACCD, and ECE
  • Peer reviewed industrial grant from Intuitive Surgical starting Jan. 1st 2017 – involves collaboration with Radiology, Urology, ECE

Photo of Amy FosterPhoto of Mark FosterAmy Foster, assistant professor, and Mark Foster, assistant professor, have received an EFRI award for collaborative work with researchers at Columbia University and the Stevens Institute of Technology.



Development of heterogenous platform for chip-based quantum information applications

The past decade has seen numerous promising photonic devices for quantum information in various platforms including bulk geometries, optical fibers, and more recently, photonic chips. To satisfy the scaling, robustness, and cost requirements necessary to enable pervasive implementation of quantum communication technology, a silicon-compatible platform is essential. Nevertheless, it is becoming clear from current advances in chip-based photonic technology that no single material will be able to provide all the functionalities necessary to build a full scale quantum network. To realize this vision a novel three-dimensional heterogeneous photonic platform is proposed in which each material layer or a combination of coupled layers offers optimal performance for a specific functionality such as indistinguishable single-photon sources, quantum frequency conversion, and quantum storage.

Mounya ElhilaliMounya Elhilali, the Charles Renn Faculty Scholar and associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has received a Maryland Innovation Initiative grant.


The use of chest auscultations to “listen” to and diagnose lung infections has been in practice since the invention of the stethoscope in the early 1800s. While it is a versatile tool that is universally used , it remains an outdated technology that has not evolved much beyond its early design. Proposed is the design of a novel, smart stethoscope that will automate diagnosis of chest auscultations; especially for pediatric use. Over 2 million children die every year of acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI), the leading cause of childhood mortality worldwide. The project develops a programmable technology that not only delivers a high-quality signal even in very noisy environments, but can automatically detect lung pathologies; hence providing a triage tool that enhances resource and case management of ALRI, especially in impoverished settings that lack alternative tools or high medical expertise.

Jin KangJin Kang, the Jacob Suter Jammer Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has received a Maryland Innovation Initiative grant.


Contemporary microsurgery is performed by very skilled and highly trained surgeons using binocular operating microscopes, free hand techniques and manually operated micro-surgical instruments. The results are therefore often limited by a surgeon’s skill level and the capabilities of the available tools.  To overcome the “human limitations” an interdisciplinary team led by Professor Kang have developed practical and usable “SMART” vitreoretinal micro-surgical tool technology directed at enhancing the surgeon’s freehand ability to achieve surgical objectives, diminish surgical risk and improve outcomes. This technology could drastically improve surgical performance compared to using free-hand surgical tools.

Mark FosterMark Foster, assistant professor, has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Compressive Imaging Beyond One Trillion Frames Per Second

This research program will develop a video imaging system operating at frame rates beyond one trillion frames per second and that is capable of recording isolated (non-repetitive) events. No current camera technology can operate at these extremely high frame rates and video durations for the observation of isolated events. Such a high-speed single-shot imaging system is an enabling technology for numerous applications throughout engineering and the physical and life sciences. In particular, we plan to leverage the ultrafast single-shot imager developed through this program to better understand the dynamics of materials under extreme conditions.

Ralph Etienne-Cummings

Ralph Etienne-Cummings, professor and chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Professors Ernst Neibur and Rudiger von der Heydt–collaborators in the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine–have been awarded an NSF grant through the Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience program.

Neuronal mechanisms of perceptual organization in the primate visual system

The visual brain infers a three-dimensional world from two-dimensional images and organizes the visual information in terms of objects in three-dimensional space, representing even objects that are partially occluded and appear fragmented in the retinal image. This organization is the basis for attentive selection, action planning and object recognition. A combination of experimental and theoretical studies together with model implementations in neuromorphic hardware will be used to elucidate the interface between visual feature representations and attentive cognitive processes.

Kang III

Jin Kang, the Jacob Suter Jammer Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has received a Coulter Translational Research Award.

Optical Coherence Tomography Image and Sensor Guided Microsurgical Tools with Enhanced Surgical Functions

Contemporary microsurgery is performed by very skilled and highly trained surgeons using binocular operating microscopes, free hand techniques, and manually operated micro-surgical instruments. The results are therefore often limited by a surgeon’s skill level and the capabilities of the available tools. To overcome the “human limitations” an interdisciplinary team led by Professors Kang and Gehlbach have developed practical and usable “SMART” vitreoretinal micro-surgical tool technology directed at enhancing the surgeon’s freehand ability to achieve surgical objectives, diminish surgical risk, and improve outcomes. The principal aim of this work is to validate this novel technology toward communization. The approach is to quantitatively determine whether OCT distal sensor and image guided SMART micro-surgical tools reduce surgical risk and improve outcomes.

Mounya-ElhilaliMounya Elhilali, the Charles Renn Faculty Scholar and associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has received funding from the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Smart Stethoscope For Monitoring and Diagnosis of Lung Diseases

We propose to design a novel smart stethoscope to automate diagnosis of chest auscultations, especially for pediatric use. More than 2 million children die every year of acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI), the leading cause of childhood mortality worldwide. By improving diagnosis capability using a low-cost technology, the proposed smart stethoscope will enhance resource and case management of ALRI, especially in impoverished settings that lack alternative diagnosis tools such as X-rays.

Kang IIIJin Kang, the Jacob Suter Jammer Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is the recipient of a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The project will run from June 2016 to June 2020.

Next Generation of Surgical Imaging and Robotics for Supervised Autonomous Soft Tissue Surgery

Anastomosis is a critical procedure in reconstructive surgeries, particularly in gastrointestinal (GI) surgery. More than a million anastomoses are performed in the US each year for GI, urologic, and gynecologic surgeries. Up to 30% of GI anastomoses are complicated by leakage, strictures, and stenosis. These complications are attributable in part to technical and technologic issues, and they can significantly diminish the quality of life for affected patients and increase patient mortality rates. The long-term goal of this research is to reduce complications and improve functional outcomes of anastomosis by robotically executing best anastomosis techniques. This research has the potential to significantly improve the function and outcome of anastomosis, independent of surgeon experience. Beyond anastomosis, adoption of this approach could be beneficial in all soft tissue MIS and RAS tasks requiring precision and maneuverability due to small working space, including pediatric and complex cardiac surgery.

Khurgin001Jacob Khurgin, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will serve as a co-PI on a MURI project from the US Department of Defense. The project is a collaboration between researchers at four universities: the University of New Mexico (lead institute), the University of Washington, Notre Dame, and Johns Hopkins University.

Multidisciplinary Approaches to Radiation Balanced Lasers (MARBLE): Rare-Earths and Semiconductors in Disks, Fibers, and Microstructures

This research will address critical issues of radiation-balanced lasers (RBL) in rare-earth doped solids and in semiconductor disc lasers. Investigators aim to advance RBL technology at a fundamental level, which will greatly benefit the science of optical refrigeration and all-solid-state cryocoolers. The ability to demonstrate high-power lasers without net internal heat generation will have immense payoffs in key DoD mission applications.

_JHU0158_aPrinceJerry L. Prince, the William B. Kouwenhoven Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has received a grant from the NIH: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication from Disorders.

Tongue Muscle Function After Cancer Surgery Using 4D, MRI, DTI, and MR Tagging

In the case of tongue cancer treatment through glossectomy, there is often significant post-treatment morbidity including difficulties in speech and swallowing and sleep apnea. In this project, we will optimize existing imaging and imaging analysis methods to enable a novel capability for the assessment of surgical outcomes in tongue cancer surgery. Our goal is to better understand the impact of tongue cancer treatment on speech in order to avoid significant morbidity by modifying surgical practice or engaging in specific speech therapies after surgery.

Mounya-ElhilaliMounya Elhilali, the Charles Renn Faculty Scholar and associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has received funding from the Office of Naval Research.

Cognitive Auditory Control in Multisource Soundscapes

In this project, we will investigate the neural underpinnings of the cognitive auditory network using scalp recordings and humans. We will develop a computational model that examines the sensory-cognitive interaction and applies it in deployable systems of complex sound processing.

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