Progress and Major Achievements

CNRE goal is to transform UDC from a conventional undergraduate level teaching university to a 21st century state of the art minority serving Ph.D. granting institution. CNRE will support UDC’s core mission to provide high quality affordable 21st century training to underrepresented and underprivileged students. The following presents our achievements and progress made so far.


CNRE Achievements

Graduate Program Promotion:

To grow newly started Ph.D. program, CNRE reached out to prospective students and worked with the UDC graduate admission office to coordinate the Graduate School Open House and participated in three graduate open houses. Several MS students enrolled at UDC expressed interest in continuing as the Ph.D. students. Seemingly, the UDC MS program is expected to be a suitable feeder into the Ph.D. program. To seamlessly transition UDC BS students into MS, we have started accelerated MS in Civil, Computer Science, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering. UDC BS students will complete the MS program by carrying at least six credits of elective courses from BS. We also submitted a request to seek international graduate student enrollment approval to establish a diverse and competitive Ph.D. program at UDC.


Progress Towards Specific Objectives

Objective-1: Support interconnected three nanotechnology research projects to create an internationally competitive workforce and scientists from underserved communities

  • Tyagi started research on the first project: Magnetic Tunnel Junction-based Molecular Spintronics Device. He engaged two MS students, two Ph.D. students, and two undergraduate students.
  • Klein and Dr. Tyagi started a nanotechnology research enabled additive manufacturing research project. This project involved two MS students and two undergraduate students.
  • Xu started a project on a nano emulsion-based thermal energy management system. This project involved one MS student and one undergraduate student.
  1. Six conference presentations accepted in ASME-IMECE -2020 and, MMM-2020 conferences.
  2. Four journal papers published.
  3. Five peer-reviewed conference papers submitted.

Objective-2: Strengthen newly started Ph.D. program by providing funding to students in high demand nanotechnology research projects. Also provide easily accessible facilities at UDC and collaborating organizations like NIST, NRL, and other partner institutions.

  • NSF-CREST is offering full tuition and up to $22K stipend to qualified students. Started advertising CNRE supported Ph.D. program in Graduate School Open houses and participated in three events.
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) initiated an accelerated MS program to transition UDC undergraduate students into the Ph.D. program.
  • UDC applied to get the Department of Education permission to enable international students to join the Ph.D. program.
  • CNRE Started collaboration with NIST’s Center for Nanoscience and Technology (CNST). UDC students can perform research at CNST.
  • Co-PI Dr. Kate Klein is leading a $7 Million NIST-PREP program to engage UDC undergraduate and graduate students on NIST projects.
  • Tyagi builds partnership with Kansas City Nuclear Security Complex, Missouri, and Y-12 Nuclear Security Campus, Knoxville TN, to expose CNRE students to internship and get industrial research exposure.
  • Co-PI Dr. Jiajun Xu started NASA CAMSTAR center at UDC and collaborates with NASA Scientist to prepare students to be in the workforce. In summer 2020, 10 UDC students were sent to NASA internships. These students are continuing their NASA related research at UDC.

Objective-3: Enhance UDC faculty competitiveness by supporting collaborative research and winning competitive federal grants and contracts and in turn making NSF-CREST CNRE financially sustainable.

  • Beyond the list of core faculty team (PI and co-PIs), CNRE started supporting Dr. Azam Hossain of civil engineering. CNRE promised him to provide partial graduate student stipend and supply. CNRE also began collaborating with newly recruited mechanical engineering faculty Dr. Mohammed Reza Shaeri.
  • CNRE team also supported Dr. Lei Wang of the Civil engineering department to submit NSF-MRI Grant to acquire a highly capable Scanning Electron Microscope for the UDC campus. This NSF-MRI grant is funded. Dr. Xueqing Song is been supported to prepare NSF-MRI grant to acquire X-Ray Diffraction Spectrometer.
  • Tyagi collaborated with multiple UDC faculty to win the NSF-MRI grant to acquire Quantum Design Physical Property Measurement System.
  • Tyagi supported the Howard University team by sharing his NSF-MRI proposal and serving as the senior person in the 2020 award to acquire highly sensitive Physical Property Measurement System (PPMS). This grant is awarded.

Objective-4: Generate revenue by providing research capacity and expertise to enable newly started SEAS Research Center. This Center will support government contracts, industrial projects, start-ups, and will facilitate entrepreneurial mindset to initiate and promote UDC based start-ups companies. CNRE will also support the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) initiatives in nanotechnology area, thus making CNRE financially self-sustainable. CNRE will offer workshops.

  • Progress: No major progress. Limited by COVID-19 pandemic

Objective-5: Provide education and professional development to CNRE affiliates and others in artificial intelligence (AI), emotional intelligence and positive psychology, technical communication, and mentoring for NSF-Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).

  • Two UDC undergraduate students were mentored to submit NSF-Graduate Research Fellowship Application (GRFP) – One student has started a PhD at the University of Maryland, College Park, Fall 2020 and the other student started Ph.D. at Cornell University, Fall 2020.
  • Positive Intelligence (PI) is the science of understanding ourselves and others to make the best of human talents and learned skills. Dr. Tyagi started teaching Positive Intelligence to engineering students by altering the MECH 462 Design of Energy System Course. He taught PI to 21 undergraduates in Spring 2020. Tyagi also started teaching positive intelligence to graduate students enrolled in MECH 500 Research Methods and Technical communication.
  • Tyagi published one peer-reviewed publication ASME-International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, Salt Lake City, Utah, November 2019. He also presented a talk in the same ASME-IMECE conference. Dr. Tyagi also gave an invited talk at Stanford University, on Positive Intelligence education for college students, 2019.
  • Tyagi taught technical communication to graduate student as a module of the MECH 500 Research Method and Technical Communication course to seven students in Fall 2019.
  • Kate Klein, the co-PI of CNRE, also taught technical communication to 16 undergraduate students in the MECH 302 Undergraduate Research experience course in Spring, 2020. Dr. Klein mentored the student teams to work on industry projects suggested by Kansas City Nuclear Security Complex. The student teams presented their results in the form of PowerPoint presentations and were evaluated by the industry advisor and multiple teams.
  • AI education: NIST’s Dr. Jason Hattrick-Simpers and Dr. Kamal Choudhary presented as CNRE seminar speakers during COVID-19 on AI application in materials innovation. Three CNRE graduate students attended a graduate course in Machine Learning and artificial intelligence to implement it in their research project.

Objective-6: Provide research experience to at least 9 undergraduates/year and adopt “student active” teaching methods in CNRE affiliated courses and training to develop highly capable undergraduates.

Name of Student Faculty / Project Location Project
Giancarlo D’Orazio Pawan Tyagi / UDC Designing Electrochemical 3D printer
Joshua Dillard Pawan Tyagi / UDC AM surface modification and nanotechnology
Babacar Ndoye Pawan Tyagi / UDC AM surface stability
Hayden Brown Pawan Tyagi / UDC Electroplating for 3D printing
Samba Gaye Pawan Tyagi / UDC AFM study of thin films
Jana Catuche Kate Klein / UDC Design and Characterization of AM materials
James McLaurin Jiajun Xu / UDC Lattice Structure Printing Using AM Machine
Jelani Guise Jiajun Xu / UDC Lattice Structure Printing Using AM Machine
Cyree Beckett Esther Ososanya / UDC Electrical systems and controls


  • Tyagi adopted Student Presentation Based Effective Teaching (SPET) in MECH 462 Design of Energy Systems, MECH 487 Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal Energy System, and MECH 500 Research Methods and Technical Communication.
  • Xu conducted project-based education of 16 senior students in the mechanical engineering program. He conducted research in additive manufacturing projects in collaboration with NIST, NASA, NAVSEA (Navy Seal).
  • Kate Klein conducted a robotic project-based introduction to engineering in her CVEN101 Introduction to Engineering Course. She taught 30 students in Fall 2019.
  • Shetty conducted project-based education in MECH 467 Advanced Manufacturing Course
  • Hongmei Dang taught ELEC 474/MECH546 Nanotechnology Processes.

Objective-7: Utilize objectives 1-6 as a vehicle to recruit and retain talented underserved students from high schools, UDC-community college, DC-MD-VA community colleges, and non-ABET colleges.

CNRE supported the following outreach activities

  1. Columbia Height High School Visit (12/4/2019, Attendees 20),
  2. Collegiate Public Charter School High School Workshop (12/11/2019, Attendees: 30),
  3. Wilson High School Students Visit (11/20/2019, Attendees: 20)
  4. DCPS STEM Teachers visit (11/5/2019, Attendees: 20)
  5. Lincoln University, Missouri’s 18 students and two faculty visited CNRE (14 February 2020)
  6. Shaping the Human Future with Nanotechnology for high school students (08/25/2020, Attendees: 21)
  7. Supported UDC Community College in the Introduction to Nanotechnology Course in Fall 2020 (09/14/2020, Attendees: 17)


Training and Professional Development Opportunities provided by Project

CNRE is providing training and developing students professionally for industries and national laboratories by conducting collaborative research projects led by students. These research projects are under the supervision of UDC faculty and industry partners. The table presents students, their supervisors/advisors, and their research projects

Name of Student Faculty / Industry Advisor Project Location Research Project
Pius Suh Dr. Pawan Tyagi – UDC

Dr. Vincent Lamberti – Y12


UDC Molecular Device Based Energy and Chemical Sensors.
Wondwossen Demisse Dr. Pawan Tyagi – UDC

Dr. Jiajun Xu – UDC

Dr. Kate Klein – UDC

Dr. Lucas Rice – KCNSC

UDC Chrome plating of AM steel component
Mikelan Scerbo Dr. Pawan Tyagi / UDC

Dr. Jiajun Xu – UDC

Dr. Kate Klein – UDC

UDC 3D printed heat exchanger for pumpless solar air heating
Takele Gemeda Dr. Jiajun Xu / UDC UDC Microchannel Heat Exchangers Printed with metal AM Machine
Saul B. Handerson Dr. Devdas Shetty – UDC

Dr. Amir Shahirinia – UDC


UDC Mechatronics systems and controls
Andrew Grizzle Dr. Kate Klein – UDC UDC Design and Characterization of AM materials
James McLaurin Dr. Pawan Tyagi – UDC

Dr. Amy Elliot – ORNL

UDC Surface Finish of Composite Materials produced by Additive Manufacturing


Institutional Support

  • Management: Meeting the CNRE goal critically depends on setting up effective management. After Award, CNRE has formed the Steering Committee out of faculty team and faculty affiliates to start grass-root level efforts. The first year has been prominent in setting up grants, hiring staff, setting up funding accounts, allocating new lab space with upgrades, recruiting Ph.D. students in the new program, approving new accelerated BS-ME program.
  • Reorganization of Office of Sponsored Program (OSP): To foster NSF-CREST like transformative Center UDC sponsored program has been reorganized. A very experienced person now directs the UDC sponsored program with decades of experience working with funding agencies. OSP also hired several new staff to assist in the post-award process. OSP is currently revising policies and guidelines to ensure the responsible utilization of federally funded grants. NSF-CREST award has been instrumental in justifying the OSP expansion.
  • UDC-Talent Management support in hiring staff: CNRE faculty team also worked with HR to create the CNRE-lab engineer position, CNRE-Grant Coordinator Position, CNRE-Postdoctoral scholar position. C. Working with Human Resource at UDC took time as we developed a systematic mechanism to hire from the funded projects. Before NSF-CREST funding, such hiring was extremely rare. Hence, NSF-CREST has already started impacting the UDC system to adopt for needs to become 21st century needs.
  • Improved UDC-Finance System: Like HR UDC finance system has adopted a systematic approach to managing spend from the grant. UDC Finance has appointed expert analysts to meet with the PI every quarter to go over funding details in the prior three-month period. UDC-Finance department also provides a quarterly report from the finance management database specific to the CNRE spending account to apprise funds used and remaining.
  • Setting up Internal Administrator Board: co-PI and Dean Dr. Devdas Shetty has initiated an Administrator Committee to meet twice a year to update NSF-CREST progress in meeting the goals. Most importantly, this committee will address any urgent need or concern, hindering the performance or execution of proposed activities. This committee comprises of UDC provost, Vice-president of research, Dean, HR director, Finance Director, Procurement director, OSP Director, Facility director, and NSF-CREST Project Director, etc.
  • Contracting External Evaluator Quality Measures: Quality Measures has been contracted to evaluate CNRE performance against goals and objectives. IRB application has been submitted for approval of surveys to be used for the evaluation.
  • Nanotechnology laboratory:
  • UDC administration has awarded permission to move renewable energy laboratory to a different location to free up additional spaces. We have created a Nanoscale Measurement Laboratory (NML) in 42-111A, the newly available space. We also renamed the prior lab to Nanoscale Fabrication Laboratory (NFL) in 42-111B. Dr. Tyagi, the CNRE Director, also moved his office hours in the 42-111A (NML) to be available to interact with CNRE staff and students. CNRE is now comprising of sufficient lab space to support 10-12 research students and staff.
  • Co-PI Dr. Xu has also acquired new lab space to foster CNRE activities and his new NASA-Center at UDC. He has also been managing the EOS-M280 Laser sintering machine to make it available for graduate-level research.
  • Co-PI Dr. Klein has led efforts to develop dedicated Nanoscale Characterization Laboratory in the basement of bldg. 32 (32-CO5). This laboratory will house a highly sensitive and capable Scanning Electron Microscope that we seek through NSF-Major Research Instrumentation Grant in 2020. She is also bringing other states of the microscopy tools such as Keyence Microscope to elevate UDC microscopy capability to help CNRE Ph.D. thesis work and provide undergraduate research experience-based training.