Project Director

photo: khonsariMichael Khonsari

Dow Chemical Chair and Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Louisiana State University
PhD – University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Khonsari’s research interests include tribology (friction, lubrication, and wear), material fatigue, machinery performance analysis, numerical analysis, and heat transfer. He holds the endowed chair for Dow Chemical in rotating machinery at LSU and is director of LSU’s Center for Rotating Machinery, or CeRoM, which partners with industry for research and development resulting in design solutions for sophisticated engineering systems. He holds several patents, has authored several books, and has published more than 270 academic papers and textbook chapters. His awards and honors include the Mayo D. Hershey Award from the World Tribology Congress, Burt L. Newkirk Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), Presidential Award from the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE), Alcoa Foundation Award, and William Kepler Whiteford Faculty Fellow award from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a fellow of ASME, STLE, and AAAS. He serves as Louisiana EPSCoR Project Director and Associate Commissioner for Sponsored Research and Development at Louisiana Board of Regents.

Principal Investigator

 photo: ditusaJohn F. DiTusa

Professor of Physics
Louisiana State University
PhD 1992 – Cornell University

Dr. DiTusa’s experimental condensed matter physics research program focuses on magnetic semiconductors and related magnetic materials, quantum critical behavior and non-Fermi liquid behavior in carrier doped small band-gap semiconductors, magnetoresistive materials and mechanisms of magnetoresistance, and quantum spin systems. Dr. DiTusa’s awards and honors include a National Science Foundation Career Award (1997), LSU College of Basic Sciences Faculty Research Award (2000), and the Non-tenured Faculty Award in Natural & Physical Sciences (Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society). He is a member of the American Physical Society and serves on the Board of Governors for the Institute of Complex Adaptive Matter (ICAM). Dr. DiTusa has published nearly 60 peer-reviewed papers and has been awarded funding from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Louisiana Board of Regents, Joint Institute for Neutron Scattering, LSU Office of Research, and others. He is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and meetings and has served as a referee for numerous journals including Science, Nature Materials, Physical Review Letters, Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter, and many others.

Co-Principal Investigators

 photo: zhangDonghui Zhang

Associate Professor of Chemistry
Louisiana State University
PhD 2003 – Dartmouth College

Research efforts in Dr. Zhang’s group are focused on bioinspired and biomimetic polymeric systems. She develops synthetic tools to access well-defined polymers and investigate the relevant structure-properties relationship. A combination of polymer synthesis, macromolecular characterization and structure-property analysis are often undertaken in our research. Several inter-related projects are currently in progress, including (1) organo-mediated controlled polymerization catalysis; (2) crystallization driven self-assembly of cyclic and linear block copolypeptoids in dilute and semi-dilute solution; (3) solution self-assembly of sequence-defined peptoid amphiphiles; (4) adaptive polymeric networks with dynamic covalent linkages. Dr. Zhang’s awards and honors include the Phi Kappa Phi Non-tenured faculty award (2013), LSU College of Science Faculty Research Award (2012), NSF Career Award (2010), and Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award (2009). 


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Rongying Jin

Professor of Physics
Louisiana State University
PhD 1997 – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich

Dr.Jin’s research interests are experimental condensed matter physics and materials science. Her research focuses on the development of novel complex materials with intriguing physical properties, such as new phases that exist on the edge of instabilities (unconventional superconductivity, quantum critical phenomena, heavy – Fermion behavior, thermoelectricity etc.). Thus, her research effort is devoted to (1) “science-driven” synthesis and (2) investigation of basic physical properties (charge, spin and heat transport, magnetization, specific heat etc.). Her awards and honors include LSU Mid-Career (Rainmaker) Award (2013), election to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellow, and election to the American Physical Society (APS) fellow for her significant contributions to materials physics. She is an Editor Board Member of the Journal of Materials and Journal of Materials Science and Applications and has served as a panel reviewer for the NSF and DOE. She has also served as a reviewer for a number of academic journals and organized or co-organized several conferences.


 HuJin Hu

Research Assistant Professor of Physics
Tulane University
PhD  – Tulane University
Dr. Hu’s research interests include magnetism, superconductivity, and correlated electrons in quantum materials. Dr. Hu participated in a recent quantum oscillation study on the drastic pressure effects on extremely large magnetoresistance in WTe2. He previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher with the Louisiana Consortium for Neutron Scattering.


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Vijay John

Leo S. Weil Professor in Engineering
Tulane University
D.Eng.Sc 1982 – Columbia University

Vijay John works in the highly interdisciplinary area of chemical self-assembly leading to the development of new nanostructured materials with wide functionalities. The fundamentals of self-assembly and the design of supramolecular structures have significant applications to new technologies in the energy, environment and health related areas. In the energy area, John leads the Consortium for the Molecular Engineering of Dispersant Systems (C-MEDS), funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). He is working on developing a novel class of dispersants using porous nanostructures that stabilize the oil-water interface preventing oil slick formation and facilitating biodegradation. He is also working on technologies for carbon dioxide capture in novel high surface area structures. In the environmental area, John works on self-assembly principles to realize materials that are used in the remediation of toxic chlorinated solvents that have seeped into ground water. This has led to the formation of a start-up company to commercialize the technology. A major project that John is now working on is in the exploitation of lipid self-assembly for drug and vaccine delivery, particularly through novel transcutaneous routes. Vaccine development and needle free vaccine delivery is a grand challenge problem being addressed by researchers at the Medical School and at the Uptown Campus at Tulane, John collaborates extensively with scientists at Tulane’s Main Campus and at the Health Sciences Campus. His work with the health sciences has led to a new polymer drug delivery systems for the treatment of glaucoma. John’s work involves the use of advanced experimental tools such as cryo electron microscopy and neutron scattering. He has helped implement a state of the art cryo electron microscopy facility at Tulane. Additional funding for his research is through the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.


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Revati Kumar

Assistant Professor of Theoretical Chemistry
Louisiana State University
PhD 2007 – University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Kumar’s research focus is towards the development of atomistic models to study chemical reactions in a wide range of systems, from electrolytes relevant to energy storage (e.g. Li-air batteries) to novel catalytic materials (e.g. MOFs). Theoretical chemistry is playing an increasingly important role in the design and application of new materials. Dr. Kumar held postdoctoral positions at Boston University, the University of Pittsburgh, and a joint appointment at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. Her awards include the Physical Chemistry Division Postdoctoral Research Award of the American Chemical Society (2012), NSF Graduate Student/Postdoc Fellowship to attend the Foundation for Discovery and Data meeting (2012), NVIDIA Professor Partnership Program at the University of Pittsburgh (2009), Excellence in Teaching Award at UW-Madison (2004), and McElvain Fellowship at UW-Madison (2002).


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Zhiqiang Mao

Nicholas J. Altiero Professor in Science and Engineering
Tulane University
PhD 1992 – University of Science and Technology of China

Dr. Mao leads the Tulane Quantum Material Lab, where he researches low temperature condensed matter physics, particularly the emergent phenomena of strongly correlated oxides and Fe-based superconductivity. His particular interest in oxides lies in ruthenates, which have attracted tremendous interest due to their fascinating exotic properties, such as spin-triplet superconductivity. Dr. Mao became the first holder of the endowed Nicholas J. Altiero Professorship in Science and Engineering in 2011. He was also honored with the Tulane Presidential Early Career Development (2005), the Cottrell Scholar Award (2005), the National Science Foundation Career Award (2007). He has published over 241 peer-reviewed papers, with the citation h-index of 38. Funding for his research has come from the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Army Research Office, Research Corporation and Louisiana Board of Regents. He is also an elected APS fellow.


photo: nesterov

Evgueni Nesterov

Associate Professor of Organic and Materials Chemistry
Louisiana State University
PhD 1996 – Moscow State University

Dr. Nesterov’s research spans over the development of functional organic materials that may eventually replace traditionally used materials with cheaper and better-performing new ones. The “bottom-up” paradigm which is being pursued in his group starts from a thorough molecular design, followed by transferring the individual molecule’s property into a bulk material or device through a controlled molecular assembly approach, and subsequent detailed studies and characterization of the resulting materials and devices. The individual projects span across various areas such as preparation of molecularly organized nanostructured thin-film electronic materials and devices, design of fluorescent chemosensors, development of synthetic methods to prepare complex conjugated polymers and block copolymers with precisely controlled molecular composition, etc. At the core of his group efforts lies the ability to synthesize complex organic molecules, which allows tackling challenging research problems at the interface of organic and materials chemistry. The fascinating multifaceted properties of extended -conjugated oligomers and polymers make them a unique subject of studies, capable of taking his research to different, often dissimilar areas, and offering breadth of potential practical applications. Although such practical applications are a desirable and welcome target, Dr. Nesterov’s group puts the main emphasis on deciphering the fundamental details of the underlying processes, discovering new phenomena, establishing connections between molecular structure and resulting properties, therefore contributing into better understanding of the basic principles of physical organic chemistry. This multidisciplinary research program combines contemporary and traditional areas of physical organic and synthetic organic chemistry, macromolecular chemistry, photochemistry, and theoretical and computational chemistry. Dr. Nesterov was awarded the NSF Career Award (2006) and Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award (2005).


photo: khonsari

Ward Plummer

Professor of Physics
Louisiana State University
PhD 1968 – Cornell University

Dr. Plummer’s research interests include the coupling of the electronic, magnetic, and structural properties (static and dynamic) at a surface. During his career he has been involved in the development of novel instrumentation, especially for electron spectroscopy, and its use to illuminate new concepts at surfaces. Dr. Plummer came to LSU in 2009 as part of the Multidisciplinary Hiring Initiative in Materials Science and Engineering. At LSU he is the director of the Institute for Advanced Materials. He has previously worked at the National Bureau of Standards (now called the National Institute of Standards and Technology), University of Pennsylvania (director of Laboratory for the Structure of Matter), and University of Tennessee with a joint appointment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (director of Tennessee Advanced Materials Laboratory and the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials). His awards and honors include the Davisson-Germer Prize of the American Physical Society, Medard W. Welch Award of the American Vacuum Society, Humboldt Senior Scientist Award, Guggenheim Award, elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


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Steve Rick

University Research Professor
University of New Orleans
PhD 1985 – University of California – Berkeley

Dr. Rick focuses on physical chemistry. The research in his group uses theoretical and computational approaches to a variety of chemically interesting systems. His work involves the development of more efficient computer simulation methods and better models for molecular interactions. He is applying these methods to the study of liquid water, interfaces, aqueous solutions, proteins, and ion transport through various materials.


 SchnelderGerald Schneider

Associate Professor of Chemistry
Louisiana State University
Dr. Schneider started at LSU in Fall 2015. He previously worked at the Julich Centre for Neutron Science in Garching, Germany where he developed internationally recognized research programs in soft matter using a modular toolbox based on nanoparticles, polymers, and composites. His core interests are dynamics in nanocomposites, polymers with increasingly complex architectures, stimuli responsive polymers, assembly of nanoparticles, polymer translocation through membranes, universal behavior of agglomeration phenomena (in nanocomposites, but also in blood clotting). His research is highly interdisciplinary, involving synthesis, characterization, and theory, from both academic and industrial partners.


William Shelton

William Shelton

Professor of Chemical Engineering
Louisiana State University
PhD 1989 – University of Cincinnati

Dr. Shelton’s research interests include disordered systems in solid-state materials (magnetism, superconductivity, etc.), materials science (alloy theory), surface chemistry, and the development of first principles electronic structure methods. He has served as Associate Director of Computing at the PNNL Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory since 2010. He has also held positions at the Naval Research Laboratory as a National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Post-doctoral fellow, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Physics Department at the University of Bristol (UK). His awards and honors include the IEEE Gordon Bell Award honorable mention (2001), IEEE Gordon Bell Award (1990 and 1998), Computerworld Smithsonian Award (2000), and many others.


 SprungerPhillip Sprunger

Professor of Physics
Louisiana State University
Dr. Sprunger is focused on understanding interconnecting atomic/morphological, electronic/magnetic and chemical/chemisorption properties of various surface/thin-film/nanophase systems using complementary experimental probes. This includes employing synchrotron-based-VUV photoemission (high-resolution and spin-resolved), -IR spectromicroscopy, -x-ray absorption, along with electron energy-loss spectroscopy, and variable-temperature scanning tunneling microscopy and atomic force microscopy. Systems that are currently being investigated include heteroepitaxially grown metal-on-metal (e.g. Ag/Cu, Co/Ag, Ag nanowires/Cu) and metal-on-semiconductor systems (e.g. Ag/GaAs, Be/Si), intermetallic alloy thin-film and surface systems (e.g. FeAl), simple and complex adsorbate and biological overlayers (amino acid/polymers/SiO2 and Au), polymer photo-induced degradation, and metal on metal-oxide nano-structures (e.g. Ag/Al2/O3/FeAl). Research emphasis is on correlating electronic/magnetic/photonic properties (hybridization, band-structure electron-phonon, electron-electron interactions) with atomic structure (STM, AFM, LEED, SEXAFS).


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David Young

Professor of Physics
Louisiana State University
PhD 1998 – Florida State University

Dr. Young’s research focuses on the synthesis and characterization of novel electronic and magnetic materials. Polycrystalline and single crystal samples are made from a variety of synthesis techniques, including: solid-state reactions, arc melting, chemical vapor transport, RF-induction melting, and metallic fluxes. A material's structure and phase purity are then determined by X-ray diffraction and microprobe analysis. Magnetic, electronic, and thermal properties are measured over a broad temperature range from above room temperature to below that of liquid helium. The types of materials we investigate fall under the broad category of strongly correlated electron systems, and include: Kondo insulators, low-carrier density magnets, intermetallic superconductors, and thermoelectrics. Dr. Young has published nearly 200 refereed papers.


photo: zhang

Jiandi Zhang

Professor of Physics
Louisiana State University
PhD 1994 – Syracuse University

Dr. Zhang works on experimental condensed matter physics including exploring novel properties of complex materials like transition-metal oxides by the effects of broken symmetry, reduced dimensionality and spatial confinement, and by controlling lattice strain and chemical composition. Research includes growing artificially structured configurations of complex materials like transition-metal oxides with atomic scale precision and in-situ comprehensive characterization on lattice structure, chemical composition, electronic and magnetic properties. He also works on both elastic and inelastic neutron scattering. He previously worked at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/University of Tennessee, and Florida International University. His memberships include the Chinese Academy of Science, American Physical Society (APS), and American Vacuum Society. He was awarded the NSF Career Award (2004), FIU Excellence in Research Award (2003), FIU Art & Science Summer Research Award (2003), and Outstanding Graduate Student Award of the Sigma Xi Society (1994). He is also an elected APS fellow.

Former Faculty


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