Susanna Thon appointed marshal salant faculty scholar

HEMI Fellow Susanna Thon, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been appointed as the Marshal Salant Faculty Scholar. 

The Marshal Salant Faculty Scholar was established by Marshal Salant `80, university trustee and the managing director and global head of Alternative Energy Financing at Citigroup, a multinational investment bank and financial services corporation. 

Thon and her research group at the NanoEnergy Laboratory study nanomaterials engineering for optoelectronic devices with a focus on solar energy conversion and sensing. Her work applies techniques from nanophotonics and scalable fabrication to produce devices and materials with novel optical and electrical functionality. Insights from Thon’s research on photovoltaics are helping to push the boundaries of efficiency and cost-effectiveness using flexible platforms and new materials.  

Thon and her colleagues have recently developed new materials-based methods to increase the power output of next-generation solar cells, as well as a new multimodal characterization technique to accelerate technology development. 

Courtesy of the WSE Marketing and Communications Office


HEMI completes MEDE+ AI-M final technical review

KT Ramesh, the Alonzo G. Decker Professor of Science and Engineering and director of HEMI, recently co-chaired the final technical review of Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments and Artificial Intelligence for Materials (MEDE+ AI-M) projects.  

These projects and their principal investigators include:   


  • Using artificial intelligence to accelerate the iterative materials design cycle by high-throughput microstructural characterization and rapid processing (Mark Foster, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering;) 
  • Acoustic signature and reconstruction of defect avalanches in metals (Jaafar El-Awady, associate professor of mechanical engineering;) 
  • Real-time monitoring of laser-material interactions (Steven Storck, Senior Materials Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory;) 
  • Toward self-repairing devices: Data-directed design of active, hierarchical colloidal assembly and reconfiguration (Rebecca Schulman, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.) 


Researchers involved with each project used AI or machine learning (ML) techniques to examine a particular material and then compare their results with those obtained using  traditional methods. Initial results show that AI/ML techniques can be used to predict select material behavior and characteristics. These initial discoveries are expected to lead to future opportunities as HEMI researchers advance the science in this field.      

The MEDE+ AI-M projects were funded by a cooperative agreement with the DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory which facilitated collaboration. These projects accelerate material development for the Army’s emerging needs and demonstrate HEMI’s continued partnership with DEVCOM ARL.   

For many patients, ultrasounds could be pivotal for early breast cancer diagnosis

Breasts come in all shapes and sizes, as well as various densities—an important consideration when screening for cancer. Nearly half of all patients have dense breasts, which make it more challenging to spot cancer in mammogram images. Ultrasound screening and follow-up can be better at catching breast cancer early in those with dense breast tissue. However, this imaging technique has a high false-positive rate, sometimes resulting in patients undergoing invasive aspiration procedures, unnecessary biopsies, and follow-up monitoring that requires some patients to wait up to two years for a definitive diagnosis.

New research to improve ultrasound techniques for breast cancer screening and diagnosis is on the way. Muyinatu Bell, the John C. Malone Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is leading a project to develop ultrasound technology that can help radiologists detect early-stage breast cancers, regardless of a patient’s breast tissue density. Bell leads the Whiting School of Engineering’s Photoacoustic and Ultrasonic Systems Engineering Lab.

When breast cancer is detected early, the chances of survival are very high; almost 99% of patients diagnosed at the earliest stage live for five years or more, according to the CDC.

“Ultrasound imaging is an important screening and diagnostic tool, particularly for patients with dense breasts for whom mammography is suboptimal,” said Bell, who was awarded a four-year, $1.4 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health for the project. “We are interested in engineering better ultrasound technology to increase early detection and better optimize hospital resource allocations.”

Not all breast lumps are cancerous. In fact, many lumps are fluid-filled masses, or cysts, which are usually benign. Other lumps are solid masses, or tumors that may be cancerous and warrant more analysis.

Bell said the problem with existing ultrasounds is that dense breasts tend to produce lower-quality images, making it difficult to distinguish between the two mass types.

As part of the R01 grant, Bell’s lab will build on recently developed workflows that combine conventional two-dimensional ultrasound imaging with a new technique called robust short-lag spatial coherence, or R-SLSC, imaging. With this approach, solid breast masses produce images that appear distinctly different from those of fluid-filled masses.

The team believes this new methodology will offer increased diagnostic certainty of mass contents. That will in turn help clinicians rule out whether an underlying cancer is present and reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies, needle aspirations, and multi-year follow-ups.

“The studies funded by this grant will provide a real-time, ultrasound-based tool to remove clutter, distinguish solid from fluid breast masses with greater confidence, curb patient anxiety surrounding diagnostic wait times, and offer simpler clinical workflows for the most challenging cases,” said Bell.

This work will be carried out in partnership with Bell’s team of clinical collaborators, including breast radiologists Eniola Oluyemi, Kelly Myers, Lisa Mullen, and Emily Ambinder at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

This story was excerpted from The Hub. You can read the complete story here.

Mark Foster leads team developing a smart in-situ sensor to monitor 3D laser printing in real time

Mark Foster, HEMI fellow and associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has received funding via the Cohen Translational Engineering Fund to continue development of a sensor that will monitor 3D laser printing in real time with a goal of saving manufacturers time and money.

Foster is lead PI for the project, “SmartAM: A Smart In-Situ Sensor for Metal Additive Manufacturing Qualification and Defect Detection”. His team, consisting of Milad Alemohammad, a postdoctoral fellow, and Steven Storck, a senior materials scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, has already created novel, high-speed spectroscopic sensors that can be integrated into laser powder bed fusion printing machines and provide real-time data so operators can correct defective layers as the object is being made.

The sensor was developed at the request of collaborators at JHU APL’s additive manufacturing center. The group also has received $250,000 in seed funding sponsored by the Army Research Laboratory and enabled by the MEDE+ AI-M program at the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute and has taken part in the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program through Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures.

Foster plans to use the award from the Cohen Translational Engineering Fund to continue to refine its sensors as well as develop a user dashboard.


HEMI Fellow Muyinatu “Bisi” Bell Receives 2022 Catalyst Award

Muyinatu “Bisi” Bell, HEMI Fellow and John C. Malone Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Chemical Engineering, has been selected as one of 38 early-career faculty members to receive a 2022 Johns Hopkins Catalyst Award.

The Catalyst Award program offers winners the means and opportunities to pursue a wide range of projects, from disease treatments to environmental studies. Recipients of Catalyst Awards are selected based on their accomplishments to date, creativity and originality, and academic impact. Each awardee will receive a $75,000 grant to support their work over the next year, as well as the opportunity to participate in mentoring sessions and other events. Click here to view the other 2022 awardees.

The program is open to any full-time faculty member appointed to a tenure-track position at least three and no more than 10 years ago. Recipients are celebrated each fall. This is the seventh year of the program, which has now recognized a total of 244 high-potential faculty from all divisions of the institution.

HEMI Fellow Muyinatu ‘Bisi’ Bell elected to the AIMBE College of Fellows

Muyinatu (Bisi) Bell, John C. Malone Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, with joint appointments in Biomedical Engineering and Computer Science, HEMI Fellow, and the director of the PULSE (Photoacoustic & Ultrasonic Systems Engineering) Lab, has been elected to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering’s College of Fellows.

Election to the AIMBE College of Fellows is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to medical and biomedical engineers. It honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering and medicine research, practice, or education. Bisi is being recognized “for pioneering contributions to development of ultrasonic and photoacoustic medical imaging systems, including coherence-based beamforming, photoacoustic-guided surgery, and deep learning applications.”

Her work links light, sound, and robotics to create and deploy next-generation medical imaging systems that produce clearer pictures, enabling more accurate diagnosis and reducing the risk of harm and death during surgery. She was the first to demonstrate the benefits of photoacoustic-guided surgery for neurosurgeries, gynecological surgeries, spinal fusion surgeries, liver surgeries, pancreatic surgeries, cardiac catheter-based interventions, and a multitude of teleoperated robotic surgeries. Her research breaks new ground in the fundamental understanding of technology designs, image quality requirements, and innovative light delivery systems that attach to surgical tools to transmit laser energy directly to the surgical site, generating clearer live views of a patient’s internal anatomy to help surgeons avoid injuring critical features.

Learn more about Professor Bell and her research within HEMI in this short video feature >>

Susanna Thon, Paulette Clancy, and Rama Venkatasubramanian join researchers from Morgan State University to establish innovative materials research center

HEMI Fellows Susanna Thon, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Paulette Clancy, professor and head of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Rama Venkatasubramanian, team leader in Energy and Thermal Management at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, have collaborated with researchers at Morgan State University in an initiative designed to not only advance materials research but also to establish the first center of its kind at any Historically Black College or University.

Ramesh C. Budhani, professor of physics at Morgan State, has recently been awarded a $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to found the Center for Advanced Electro-Photonics with 2D Materials. Thon and Clancy serve as co-PIs on the grant. Other key contributors to the project include Venkatasubramanian and David Shrekenhamer from the JHU Applied Physics Laboratory.

“Johns Hopkins is pleased to be a partner with Morgan State on this initiative. By furthering the relationship between our institutions via the Center for Advanced Electro-Photonics with 2D Materials, we are creating pathways of success for students while increasing our research capacity in the area of next-generation materials for a variety of applications,” said Thon. “We are especially excited about the potential to attract top-notch talent to Baltimore by combining the strengths of our two schools.”

Fundamental to the Center’s research operations will be its mission to train underrepresented diverse students by expanding talent pipelines within the technology workforce and defense sector. The exposure of students to specific technologies, and their accumulated experience attained at the newly created center, will increase proficiencies and marketability within private and public sector industries. The cornerstone of the applied experience made available through the Center’s research will be summer internships for both Morgan and JHU students, co-advising of PhD dissertations, and joint annual workshops. Additional funding from the grant will underwrite internships for 10 to 15 undergraduate students and five students from area high schools and community colleges.

“Through the establishment of this center, STEM students have a space to perform cutting-edge research on an emergent class of quantum materials and technologies for clean energy, electromagnetic sensing and information processing,” says Clancy. “They also have the opportunity to create lasting relationships with researchers outside of their home institution. The impact this center will have on the workforce within the materials research community will be significant.”

The DoD funding will provide vital resources in the realm of scientific research rooted in thin films and nanostructures of refractory metal dichalcogenides and layered materials of a semiconductor and thermoelectric material called bismuth telluride, which is often used as a topological insulator. These layered materials will be synthesized at Morgan. Subsequent highly critical stability calculations and growth kinetics modeling of the 2D materials, along with experimental device development, will be performed by JHU and APL researchers.


HEMI Fellow Muyinatu Bell Named in ISEE’s Black in Robotics Reading List

Congratulations to HEMI Fellow Muyinatu Bell, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and director of the Photoacoustic and Ultrasonic Systems Engineering (PULSE) Lab, who has been named to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (ISEE) Black in Robotics reading list.

Bell’s PULSE Lab uses computer engineering, biomedical optics, and computer science to combine photoacoustic imaging and robotics for improved accuracy in surgery, cancer detection, and women’s health. The list calls her a pioneer for her work in “medical imaging technology, robot-assisted imaging, and machine learning for image formation.”

ISEE created the Black in Robotics reading list to help overcome the systemic dynamics that have led to the underrepresentation of Black faculty members in academia. The list hopes to increase visibility and underscore the projects of these Black academics; the association also hopes to highlight role models for those interested in robotics and to normalize Black scholarship. It focuses on Black members of academia who work in robotics and in related fields.

Learn more about supporting Black scholars in robotics in ISEE’s article.

HEMI Fellow Muyinatu Bell Shines New Light on Photoacoustic Imaging

Muyinatu Bell wants to make surgery safer. A HEMI Fellow, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and director of the Photoacoustic and Ultrasonic Systems Engineering (PULSE) Lab, Bell utilizes her cross-disciplinary training to maximum effect. Her work’s potent combination of computer engineering, biomedical optics, and computer science is innovating photoacoustic imaging for better surgical tools which have a wealth of applications across surgery, cancer detection, and women’s health. These efforts have also won her a slew of recognitions including an MIT Technology Review Top 35 Innovators under 35 honor, and, in 2019, an Outstanding Young Engineer Award from the Maryland Academy of Sciences and the Maryland Science Center. Earlier this year, she was an invited Hot Topics speaker at the BiOS conference during SPIE Photonics West.

“I had a particular interest in integrating photoacoustic and ultrasound imaging systems with robotics,” says Bell who will be discussing her current research during the free webinar on 17 August, hosted by the Journal of Biomedical Optics. “I want to improve robotic surgery and to use robotics in new ways to enhance the type of imaging technology that we can provide. At the moment, we are developing novel signal-processing and beamforming techniques for both ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging, and we take those techniques and design novel prototypes — a specialized light-delivery system that attaches to surgical tools, for example — and we use these prototypes to improve image quality. We then integrate our innovations with commercially available ultrasound, laser, or robotic systems, creating a new system that’s the first of its kind to address a clinical challenge. We are always developing our work with the end goal of impacting patient care.”

Read more about the PULSE Lab and Bell’s research.

This article originally appeared on the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering website.