By Marc Mainville
DARTMOUTH – Three University of Massachusetts Dartmouth professors are being recognized by the National Science Foundation for research they are conducting while still being relatively early in their careers.
The National Science Foundation has presented its Early Career Development Awards to Katja Holtta-Otto, Chandra Orrill and Nima Rahbar. The awards are accompanied by grants designed to invest in young professors whose work has the potential to revolutionize their area of research and teach their students the necessary skills to carry that research forward.
Holtta-Otto, a native of Finland, and current resident of Taunton, is a professor of machine design. She will use her $400,000 grant to survey hundreds of large and small companies so she can define a balance between creating an innovative product and one that is too high risk. This balance could help entrepreneurs bridge the gap between an impressive prototype and a finished product on store shelves, and help small businesses compete with larger ones who can afford higher-risk projects.
Orrill, of Fall River, will focus her project on exploring effective mathematics teaching techniques. Using the $270,000 grant she received, Orrill will focus on developing new courses and professional development opportunities for teachers. Her study will specifically support the creation of a new course for middle school educators looking to obtain their professional license.
Rahbar, a native of Iran, and current resident of Dartmouth, will focus his research efforts on bio-design. Rahbar will use his $400,000 grant to try to establish a link between toughening mechanisms in biological materials and the design of robust structural composites using mechanics models, and he will work to teach his civil engineering students about natural materials and design. Rahbar is already accomplished in the field, having built mountain bikes out of bamboo and used the cellular structure of shells to develop an environmentally-friendly, super-strong concrete.
“The CAREER program recognizes and supports teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century,” said Anthony Garro, provost and vice-chancellor for academic and student affairs at the university. “These young faculty members add tremendously to the reputation of UMass Dartmouth as a distinguished regional research university.”