Tech professors to provide leadership, research for ‘LA-SiGMA’ project
Faculty from Louisiana Tech University’s College of Engineering and Science will play important roles in a major transformation of materials science research and education in Louisiana thanks to a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation to the Louisiana Board of Regents’ EPSCoR program. The grant will help create the Louisiana Alliance for Simulation-Guided Materials Applications, or LA-SiGMA, and includes faculty from Louisiana Tech, LSU, Tulane University, University of New Orleans, Southern University, Xavier University, and Grambling State University. Ramu Ramachandran, professor of chemistry and associate dean for research for Tech’s College of Engineering and Science, serves in a leadership capacity as one of four co-principal investigators for the LA-SiGMA project. “One of the great challenges in materials science is to understand how properties like superconductivity emerge from collections of individual atoms and molecules,” Ramachandran said. “Novel computer architectures based on new types of processors, which will have the computing power to address such questions, are becoming available.” “One of the main tasks of LA-SiGMA is to develop the tools for materials simulations that take full advantage of these emerging paradigms in computing.” LA-SiGMA members hope their work will benefit the public in the future through the development of faster and energy-efficient computers, better and cheaper industrial catalysts and energy storage materials, and precisely targeted drug delivery systems. In addition to Ramachandran, the computational modeling experts in Louisiana Tech’s LA-SiGMA contingent include Dr. Weizhong Dai, professor of mathematics and statistics; Dr. Pedro Derosa, associate professor of physics; Dr. Daniela Mainardi, associate professor of chemical engineering; and Dr. Collin Wick, assistant professor of chemistry. Louisiana Tech is also represented by Dr. Box Leangsuksun, associate professor of computer science, who provides expertise in high-performance computing and computer architectures. Dr. Tabbetha Dobbins, associate professor of physics; Dr. Yuri Lvov, professor of chemistry, physics, and nanosystems engineering; and Dr. Upali Siriwardane, associate professor of chemistry, are the experimentalists on Louisiana Tech’s team. Both Derosa and Dobbins hold joint faculty appointments with Grambling State University. “The leaders of this effort have worked very closely for many months and came up with a proposal that received excellent ratings at all levels of the multi-step review process,” said Dr. Les Guice, vice president for research and development at Louisiana Tech. “The recent investments by the State in the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative (LONI) and the Board of Regents in the LONI Institute also played an important role in making LA-SiGMA possible.” LA-SiGMA will also make substantial contributions to the creation of a diverse and technologically sophisticated workforce in Louisiana through summer programs aimed at K-12 and two-year college students and teachers, as well as undergraduate students at participating institutions. A Diversity Advisory Council consisting of nationally-recognized experts in gender and minority issues in STEM education will advise the Alliance leadership in effective recruiting strategies targeting women and under-represented minorities and in creating the environment and mentoring programs to enable their success. Dr. Jenna Carpenter, professor of mathematics and statistics and associate dean for administration and strategic initiatives in Tech’s College of Engineering and Science, will serve as one of those nationally-recognized experts. One long-term goal of the project, according to Ramachandran, is to develop the research collaborations among the scientists and engineers in the State to a level required to compete effectively for Louisiana’s first major research center funded by the National Science Foundation.