National Science Foundation CAREER Award

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award is the National Science Foundation's most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. 

2020-21 Honorees

Alexey V. Akimov

Department of Chemistry

Assistant professor of chemistry, Alexey Akimov, PhD, is an emerging scholar whose research is focused on the development, implementation and assessment of semiclassical and quantum-classical methodologies for accurate and efficient simulation of nonadiabatic and quantum dynamics. Dr. Akimov received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2021 to support his work to improve quantum dynamics methods used to research and discover novel materials involved in applications such as solar energy and energy storage. His project aims to develop new theoretical frameworks, computational methodologies and open-source software to enable researchers to study new, previously inaccessible, classes of solar energy materials, contributing toward development of sustainable and renewable energy economic sectors.

Souma Chowdhury

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

An expert in multidisciplinary optimization and complex system design, Souma Chowdhury’s, PhD, research lies at the intersection of engineering optimization, evolutionary computing and physics-infused machine learning, with applications to drones, mobile robots and renewable energy. An assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Dr. Chowdhury has authored 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, three book chapters, over 90 full-length conference publications, and has one design patent. Dr. Chowdhury’s 2021 National Science Foundation CAREER Award will support his work to design swarms of robots that can operate collectively in a predictable way and adapt to a variety of environmental conditions, which has implications in an array of fields, including disaster response, environment monitoring, and space exploration.

Elizabeth K. Thomas

Department of Geology

A rising star in her field, assistant professor of geology, Elizabeth Thomas, PhD, is a paleoclimatologist and geochemist. Her research aims to understand how past rapid changes in Earth’s climate affected precipitation in various parts of the world—including the Arctic, areas affected by the Asian Monsoon, and the Great Lakes region. In 2021, Dr. Thomas received a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award to support her research on the ancient climate history of the Great Lakes region. In addition, her project includes an innovative educational program, the Carbon Reduction Challenge, that partners with the UB Office of Sustainability and the Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable to engage teams of UB students in helping local businesses and organizations quantify and reduce their carbon footprint.

Weihang Wang

Department of Computer Science and Engineering

An assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and an emerging scholar in software engineering, computer systems and software security, Weihang Wang, PhD, focuses her research program on creating innovative techniques and systems for improving the reliability and efficiency of software systems. Dr. Wang was awarded a 2021 National Science Foundation CAREER Award to investigate ways to streamline complex web applications—which involve the integration of programs written in diverse programming languages and distributed by multiple parties—and mitigate challenges associated with them. In addition to the NSF CAREER Award, in 2019, Dr. Wang received a Facebook Testing and Verification Research Award and a Mozilla Research Award.

Minghui Zheng

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

An expert on drones, manipulators and mobile robots, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Minghui Zheng’s, PhD, research seeks to improve many aspects of robotics including learning, planning, control and human-robot collaboration. Dr. Zheng is the principal investigator of a $3 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant on human-robot collaboration for the disassembly of end-of-use products. She received the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences early career researcher of the year award in 2020. In 2021, Dr. Zheng received a prestigious NSF CAREER Award to support her research to enable drones to learn from the experience of other drones, despite their different dynamics and platforms, via a novel learning-based control framework.