Six CSE faculty named University of Minnesota McKnight Land Grant Professors

Awards recognize early-career researchers’ potential for significant impact 

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (02/13/2023)—Six College of Science and Engineering faculty members are among 12 recipients of the 2024 McKnight Land-Grant Professorship, an award given to early-career faculty who have the potential to make big impacts in their fields. 

Recipients are chosen based on merit, professional promise, quality of publication record, and originality and innovation in research achievements. They hold the designation of “McKnight Land-Grant Professor” for a two-year period and receive a research grant of $25,000 in each year of that appointment.

2024 CSE McKnight Land Grant Professors

Michelle Calabrese is an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. Her research focuses on the characterizing and designing complex fluids for healthcare, sustainability and advanced materials. Her lab employs rheology, soft matter physics, and polymer and nanoparticle synthesis. Calabrese is developing new strategies to shorten treatment time for tuberculosis and chemo-resistant cancer. She is also finding eco-friendly alternatives to current methodologies of chemical synthesis in industries.

Ryan Caverly is an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics. His research interests include dynamic modeling and control systems, with a focus on robotic and aerospace applications, as well as robust and optimal control techniques. Among his work is a NASA-sponsored project—that he was invited to discuss on "Spaceflight Mechanics: The Cornell Space Technology Podcast”—to develop a solar sail attitude control technology, which could enable future science missions for heliophysics and other deep space science.

Michelle Chu is an assistant Professor in the University of Minnesota School of Mathematics. Her research interests include hyperbolic geometry, low-dimensional topology, geometric group theory, and arithmetic groups. Groups in geometry and topology is among her current focus. In her work, Chu studies the relationship between the algebraic properties of groups and geometric properties of spaces for which groups appear as symmetries.

Michael Coughlin is an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy. His research probes astrophysical explosions from merging neutron stars and black holes, which serve to measure the expansion rate of the Universe and properties of matter at the highest densities in the Cosmos. He is leading innovative efforts in both software and hardware development, which will maximize the scientific return on astrophysical explosions. His efforts are placing the University of Minnesota in a leadership position in the flourishing, nascent field of multi-messenger astronomy.

Courtney Roberts is an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry and a recently named 3M Alumni Professor, an endowed professorships in the department that recognizes its most distinguished faculty. Her work uses inorganic and organometallic chemistry and catalysis to solve fundamental problems in organic chemistry related to energy and pharmaceuticals. Research in the Roberts group seeks to mix and match cores of pharmaceutical molecules to improve their efficacy and invent new drugs. 

Judy Yang is an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering and Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory. She is advancing fundamental understanding of the multiscale interactions among fluids, particles/surfaces, and biota. Her work includes flume experiments to study sediment transport and microfluidic experiments to study soil carbon dynamics. Yang and her research group are developing technologies to better predict and mitigate coastal erosion, harmful algal blooms, climate change, and bacterial infections.  

Read more about the work of these CSE professors—and the additional recipients of the 2024 University of Minnesota Distinguished McKnight University Professors