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Three CSE faculty members receive University of Minnesota McKnight Land Grant Professorships

Awards recognize researchers’ potential to make big impacts in their respective fields

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (03/02/2023)—Three College of Science and Engineering faculty members are among 10 recipients of the 2023 University of Minnesota 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.

Each faculty member will receive a research grant of $25,000 in each year of the two-year appointment, to be used for expenditures related to the recipient’s research and scholarly activities.

2023 CSE McKnight Land Grant Professors

Ambika Bhagi-Damodaran

Ambika Bhagi-Damodaran is an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry. Her lab is developing molecular approaches to modulate biological functions of iron enzymes to address long-standing challenges in health and energy. From a therapeutic perspective, she is developing new strategies to shorten treatment time for tuberculosis and chemo-resistant cancer. From a catalysis perspective, she is finding eco-friendly alternatives to current methodologies of chemical synthesis in industries.

Bhagi-Damodaran recently received a Cottrell Scholar Award in recognition of her achievements in research and teaching.

Ognjen Ilic

Ognjen Ilic is an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Mechanical Engineering. He studies the mechanics of how light interacts with materials to enable new technologies for contactless manipulation. Ilic and his lab work at the intersection of optomechanics and wave physics to develop new nanostructured materials that can be actuated by light. Through their exotic optical and mechanical properties, these “metamaterials” are advancing existing applications of optical manipulation in science and engineering as well as enabling entirely new technologies ranging from fuel-free spacecraft to metamaterial robots and optomechanical sensors.

Read about Ilic’s research on using metamaterials and ultrasound to manipulate objects from a distance.

Qi Zhang

Qi Zhang is an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. Zhang’s lab develops computational, data-driven methods for systems-level analysis and optimization that inform decision-making in sustainable engineering applications. The proposed models and algorithms address various complex problems ranging from the effective operation of electrified chemical processes to the design of sustainable energy supply chains. His research particularly focuses on multi-agent systems, which involve multiple self-interested decision makers, and systems with significant uncertainty, especially regarding the performance and cost of new clean technologies and weather-dependent events.

Additional University of Minnesota faculty members receiving 2023 McKnight Land Grant Professorships

  • Christina Camell, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics, Medical School and College of Biological Sciences, Twin Cities
  • Jonathan H. Choi, Law School, Twin Cities
  • Megan Giddings, English, College of Liberal Arts, Twin Cities
  • Rachel L. Hawe, Kinesiology, College of Education & Human Development, Twin Cities
  • Carrie Oelberger, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Twin Cities
  • Sandra E. Safo, School of Public Health, Twin Cities
  • Tiffany Wolf, Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Twin Cities

Read more about the 2023 University of Minnesota McKnight Land-Grant Professors.