Best U.S. undergraduate researchers in nanotechnology win awards at Notre Dame

by Arnie Phifer

October 21, 2013

NOTRE DAME, IN – Claire Tran, an undergraduate student majoring in bioengineering at the University of California, Riverside, won first place and a $3,000 prize in the 2013 University of Notre Dame Competition in Nanoscience and Nanoengineering and Campus Tour.

Tran’s research focuses on designing synthetic biological circuits, the future impact of which can range from controlling gene expression to improving nanoscale electronics.

NDConnect group (2013)

"We were impressed with the scope of her research and all the different things she's done,” says Dr. Michael Fresina of RF Micro Devices, one of the competition’s judges. “Ms. Tran made a very good presentation and a had thorough understanding of her experiment.”

Now in its third year, the NDConnect event recognizes the best in undergraduate nanotechnology research from around the country.

“NDConnect was an amazing experience,” Tran notes. “I was able to meet other passionate students, learn about their fields of research, and interact with people in academia and industry. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit Notre Dame.”

Dr. Ram Chelakara from Raytheon, another competition judge, says that the caliber of undergraduate researchers he met “astounds” him.

“I was proud to be a part of the event,” he adds.

Second place, and a $2,000 prize, was awarded to Andrew Rowberg of Northwestern University for his research into using carbon nanotubes as an active layer component of organic photovoltaic devices.

Third place and $1,000 went to Kehao Zhang of Pennsylvania State University for his project entitled, “Understanding the Process-Properties Relationship of Tungsten Tri-Oxide.”

The other top contestants who were invited to Notre Dame’s campus were Aaron Abramowski, Case Western Reserve University (“Treatment of Cancer Using Chain Shaped Nanoparticles”); Mark Cheung, University of Virginia (“Transport Properties of Graphene Nanoribbon-Based Tunnel Field-Effect Transistor [GNRTFET]”); Henka Darsono, Purdue University (“Synthesizing Nanowires in a Large Scale and Investigating Energy Filtering Effect in Nanomaterials for Application in Thermoelectrics”); Natalie Janosik, University of Pittsburgh (“Spin Torque Oscillators for Pattern Recognition”); and Robert Viveros, University of California, San Diego (“500nm Hollow Iron-Doped Silica Particles for Contrast Enhanced Ultrasound Guided Surgery”).

“It was hard for me to believe I was talking to undergraduates,” summarizes Dr. Dana Wheeler of HRL Laboratories. “The other judges and I are looking forward to following their brilliant careers.”

NDConnect was sponsored this year by Traycer, RF Micro Devices, Raytheon, Texas Instruments, Lono LLC (SmarterShade), IBM, and HRL Laboratories, with additional support provided by Notre Dame’s College of Engineering, College of Science, and Graduate School.

For more information, please contact: Alan Seabaugh at or 574-631-4473.