College of Engineering

Ongoing Funded Research Projects

N.C. A&T Awarded NSF Engineering Research Center

North Carolina Agricultural State University has been awarded Engineering Research Center (ERC) funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The ERC is considered the "crown jewel" among NSF awards. In the past 25 years, only about 30 ERCs have been funded by NSF.

In 2008, over 143 proposals were submitted from universities for NSF’s most prestigious award. Of those, only 34 were selected for full proposal submission. A&T’s selection marked the first time ever an HBCU had been invited to submit. Of the 34 full submissions, eight were chosen for sight visits. Five of those eight were selected to receive the award. A&T has made history by becoming the first HBCU ever to receive an ERC.

The ERC at A&T will conduct research in the areas of biomedical engineering and nano bio applications and is in partnership with the Universities of Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. It also has a global technical partner in Germany’s Hannover School of Medicine and a global cultural and outreach partner—the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India. California State University at Los Angeles will serve as an outreach partner in the USA. The funding is approved for 10 years with an amount of almost 20 million dollars over the first 5 years, with the possibility of extension for 10 years.

A&T’s ERC is led by Dr. Jagannathan Sankar, professor of engineering. Dr. William Wagner from the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Mark Schulz, from the University of Cincinnati will serve as co-directors. Dr. Devdas Pai, professor of engineering at A&T will lead the efforts in the educational aspects of the ERC. The ERC deliver's three engineered systems: Craniofacial and Orthopedic Applications; Cardiovascular Devices; and Responsive Biosensor for Implants.

Craniofacial applications will benefit children who are born with birth defects—cleft palettes, congenital heart defects, etc. Currently children with these defects are fitted with devices that are applied with “nuts and bolts” to the face. These fixtures do not have the ability to "grow" with the child and hence have to be removed and refitted every so often. The research done in the ERC will introduce devices made with magnesium alloys to be fitted. These alloys have the ability to adapt to the body and "grow" with the child without refitting. The magnesium alloys can be disposed by the body after their work is done, through the blood stream with no side effects. This will have a tremendous impact in the craniofacial and orthopedic markets. The ERC will introduce new metallic materials, devices and systems that have the potential to exhibit all the necessary attributes of an ideal foundation or "scaffold" and hold the promise to completely transform the field of regenerative medicine. Similar innovations with new metallic materials will be introduced as stents in the treatment of cardiovascular problems. Nano sensors are developed to study the efficacy of these devices as part of this research. More than eight companies in the nanobio market will be associated with the ERC to provide input for the direction of research as well as a conduit to transfer the technology to the real world.

NC A&T has begun degree programs in bioengineering in conjunction with this ERC. The department offers BS and Masters degrees in bioengineering. Both the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Cincinnati will collaborate with A&T in offering these degrees NC A & T expects to offer a PhD degree in Bioengineering.

NSF’s ERC Program stands as a landmark in federal support for university research in partnership with industry. These centers provide an environment where academe and industry together can focus on next-generation advances in complex engineered systems important for the nation's future. Over the past decade this partnership has produced numerous engineered systems technologies, productive new engineering processes, and other innovative products and services, along with a new generation of graduates who have proven to be highly effective in industry. Today the program continues to expand and evolve to address national needs, making important contributions to U.S. industry's long-range ability to compete in global markets.

NC A&T State University is a learner-centered community that develops and preserves intellectual capital through interdisciplinary learning, discovery, engagement, and operational excellence. The university is ranked by the Carnegie Classification System as “high research activity,” and graduates the largest number of African American engineers and accountants in the country.