Bassiri-Gharb Receives NSF CAREER Award

Dr. Nazanin Bassiri-Gharb, assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, has recently been honored with the Early Faculty Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) ceramics program for her research into the geometric control of flexoelectricity in patterned dielectric thin films.

The CAREER Program offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the effective integration of research and education within the context of the mission of their organizations.

For her CAREER project, Dr. Bassiri-Gharb aims to take advantage of novel physical phenomena, i.e. flexoelectricity (coupling between strain gradients and developed charge), emergent on the nanoscale, to develop novel electromechanical materials systems scalable to nanometer sizes, while allowing for large strains. The electromechanical response scales inversely with the dimensions of flexoelectric composites (and therefore miniaturized samples), a trend opposite to what is observed in currently-available bulk single-crystal or ceramic piezoelectric mterials. The response of flexoelectric composites cannot be thermally or electrically degraded, and Pb-free compositions should offer much larger electromechanical response than current Pb-based piezoelectric materials. Therefore, flexoelectric nano-composites may enable a wider range of miniaturized applications and an environmentally-safe alternative to current bulk sensors and actuators.

Dr. Bill Wepfer, Chair of the Woodruff School, commends Bassiri-Gharb’s research, stating her “activities in the characterization and fabrication of nanoscale ferroic materials for sensors, actuators, miniaturized transducers, and energy harvesting applications are at the forefront of interdisciplinary science and technology and provide a vital contribution to our programs and the research field. Her research is well-aligned with Georgia Tech’s research portfolio.”

An additional and integral part of this project is the recruitment and retention of women in science and engineering. This objective will be achieved through hands-on workshops (focused on smart materials) targeted to groups of girls in grades 5-12, as well as mentorship, research, and education activities targeted at graduate and undergraduate students involved in the project.

Bassiri-Gharb’s award in the amount of $550,000 over five years will provide support for her research.

Bassiri-Gharb is the twenty-sixth Woodruff School faculty member to earn a CAREER Award.