Research Themes

The Science and Engineering Building seeks to create a world-class environment for multidisciplinary research and education. The building supports innovative research approaches and houses new technologies that are conceived and developed through collaboration among faculty in the sciences, engineering, and allied units on campus. Several of the many research themes being addressed in the SEB are listed below.

Active Materials and Processing Laboratory (AMPL)

The main concentration of this research group is on electroactive materials. Electroactive materials are those that change shape and/or size when an external stimulus is applied. There is interest in these types of materials as actuators and sensors. At AMPL, engineering of interesting materials such as artificial muscles, other biomimetic materials, high performance condenser coatings and membranes for hydrogen fuel cell applications are only some of the research interests of this lab. This research group also has interests in working with private industry to link research to real world application.

Kwang Kim

Applied Geophysics Center

Researchers with the Applied Geophysics Center use various seismologic equipment to gain a better understanding of the tectonic activity and potential hazards of the Southern Nevada area. This research is being used to help mitigate any future seismic activity and better plan for potential seismic events. One of the interesting projects for this research group is the addition of a monitoring system in the SEB to measure vibrations in the building.

Center for Applied Mathematics & Statistics

The Center for Applied Mathematics & Statistics focuses on three main areas: 1. Scientific Computation, 2. Control and Optimization, and 3. Probability & Statistics. Scientific Computation is a field of study concerned with constructing mathematical models and numerical solution techniques and using computers to analyze and solve scientific and engineering problems. Control and Optimization includes inter-disciplinary mathematical and computer modeling efforts, optimization and application of advanced technologies to decision-aiding, scientific and engineering problems from conceptual design through implementation. Finally, Probability & Statistics focuses on the scientific method of decision making in the presence of uncertainty through theoretical and data-driven techniques. This primarily pertains to collection, interpretation, modeling and analysis of data.

Center for Energy Research

The Center for Energy Research (CER) focuses on a broad range of solar and renewable energy projects with the goal of advancing renewable energy technologies, developing concepts that could evolve into commercial products, and working with private partners to refine and improve renewable energy equipment. The researchers focus on such areas as utility scale power generation, building applications, and advanced vehicular systems (hydrogen and fuel cells), utilizing a wide range of techniques and types of analysis. Their research involves several engineering disciplines, environmental studies, business, and architecture. Researchers in this area have received more than $23 million in funding in the last five years.

Center for Materials and Structures

The goal of the research in this area is to develop and analyze new materials and structural components that help optimize the performance of machines, vehicles, manufacturing equipment, and large engineering systems. Most of the research projects in this area involve making materials or components, measuring their physical and mechanical properties, and developing computational simulations of their behavior, including failure analysis under extreme environments such as high temperature, multi-axial loading, impact, and blast loading. The researchers in this group utilize well-equipped labs with sophisticated systems to measure material properties and test their components. They employ sophisticated control and data acquisition systems for tests in tension, compression, bending, fatigue, impact, and high temperature. They also use high-speed cameras and 3-D digital scanners, as well as several different commercial software programs for design and computational simulations. The research team has received more than $11 million in research funding since 2000 from both government agencies and private-sectors sponsors.

Chemical Biology and Proteomics

The goal of the chemical biology and proteomics group focuses on the structure and function of proteins. One aspect of this goal is to look at how proteins interact with each other and how this interaction impacts cells. Knowing how proteins interact gives more insight on cell metabolic pathways, cell division and other cell mechanisms. This knowledge can allow researchers to better understand disease mechanisms such as cancer and how to inhibit or inactivate it. Another aspect of proteomic research focuses on understanding protein structure and how to design specific drug delivery to inactivate protein interactions that lead to disease.

Computer Engineering and Computer Science

This research group concentrates on the design and analysis of all aspects related to hardware, software and operating systems for computers. In this area computer engineering is supplemented by aspects of electrical engineering to gain a broader understanding of how computers function. Another aspect of computer engineering is the design and refining of algorithms to run smoother with fewer errors to accomplish a specific task.

Electro-Energetics Physics and Engineering

Some of the research done by this research theme revolves around a phenomenon known as a Plasma Pinch. This is a compression of conducting filaments (in this case plasma) by magnetic forces. This research looks into applications for nearly equilibrium Plasma Pinch; some of these include, characterizing non-equilibrium Plasma Pinch, designing an auto-triggered plasma shield to mitigate electronic attacks, designing a noisy communication transmitter for camouflaging communication, and increasing the mechanical longevity of diamond dust. Some research related to non-equilibrium Plasma Pinch are studying dense plasma focus pinch physics and designing a plasma cathode for high power microwave devices. Other than Plasma Pinch applications, this group has been working on calibrating the UNLV patented EM-dot for commercial applications and developing means to confound improvised electronic detonators. Some of the work will be done in conjunction with Kyma Technologies and possibly the Remote Sensing Laboratory.

Robert Schill

Entertainment Engineering and Design

This multidisciplinary group strives to give students an education that has a broad knowledge of engineering concepts with a focus on theatrical quality. The group gives students hands on knowledge of creating stages and other aspects of entertainment design that prepares them to work in the entertainment industry, like the one found Las Vegas, with large and spectacular stage shows.

Joe Aldridge

Inorganic Materials and Nanomaterials

The research interests of this research team focus on the use of experimental and theoretical methods to investigate solids, surfaces, and interfaces in a variety of materials systems. This research has applications in a variety of fields, including nanoscale light-emitting devices; renewable energy conversion (e.g., solar cells and hydrogen fuel cells); chemical sensors; nuclear waste management and stockpile stewardship; and combustion science. These investigations cut across several fields of science and engineering, requiring, by their very nature, interdisciplinary research collaborations. This involves chemists and physicists, engineers, spectroscopists, and theoreticians; the team also collaborates with industrial and national laboratory partners, helping to raise the profile of UNLV in the research and business communities.

Integrative Physiology

SEB researchers who focus on integrative physiology take a multi-disciplinary approach to how animals interact with their environment, from the level of individual genes to entire ecosystems. These internationally recognized faculty members investigate how long-term and short-term climatic changes affect a wide variety of animals, and how animals respond to these changes. They study behavioral and physiological responses to environmental stress, working from the whole animal to tissues to cells to specific genes. The animals investigated include species adapted to desert habitats and non-desert model species that are ideally suited to test hypotheses about gene-environment interactions. The IP group is highly collaborative and works closely with other UNLV research groups and scientists at other universities. Their research is funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and other sponsors.

Micro and Nano Fluidics

This research aims to better understand fluid dynamics at very small scales. Understanding how electrostatic forces and how fluids move at the micro and nanometer scale have important implications to the electronics industry, innovations in chemistry, biology, engineering and physics, fabrication of small devices as well as many other applications.

Hui Zhao

Radiochemistry and Health Physics

Radiochemistry and Health Physics focus on radioactive isotopes. The main focus of radiochemistry is overall study of radioactive isotope chemistry and physical properties, the nuclear fuel cycle, waste treatment, and the behavior of radioactive isotope sin the environment, including speciation. Health Physics also concerns radioactive materials but looks more specifically at the impact of radiation to people and the environment but perhaps more importantly how to protect people and the environment from radiation.

Security Science and Engineering

Security Science and Engineering is a vibrant laboratory that studies fundamental and state of the art research to help guard the nation. Looking at a wide range of topics including, lasers and optics, high speed electronics, scientific computing, space instrumentation and nuclear stockpile stewardship, the Security Science and Engineering group collaborates with National Securities Technologies (NSTec), Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, and some National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) research centers. Recently, the main focuses have been regarding Gallium Nitrite (GaN) detectors.

Ke-Xun "Kevin" Sun

Soil Science

Geosciences research in the SEB focuses on two different areas: 1) Petrology and Geochemistry and 2) Climate and Earth Surface Processes. The first group utilizes the disciplines of geology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and engineering to better understand volcanic activity, mountain formation, and mineral resources. They apply their studies to such areas as causes of earthquakes, mining of unique gold deposits, and understanding the forces that create continental super-volcanoes. The Climate and Earth Surface Processes group uses the fields of geology, chemistry, biology, and mathematics to produce records of Earth's changing climate over timeframes from decades to billions of years. They seek to determine the composition and sources of airborne dust in the area and investigate the processes of soil formation, landscape development, and climate change.

Elisabeth Hausrath

Soil/Plant/Water Stress Interactions

This team of researchers focuses on how arid land plants adapt to stressful environments with the goal of advancing crop and landscape water conservation, water reuse for urban applications, breeding crops for tolerance to marginal (desert) lands, and restoration of disturbed desert areas. Researchers conduct studies on a variety of subjects, including utilizing urban reuse water to grow turfgrass and ornamental trees; inserting plant genes that promote stress tolerance into crops to make them more resilient; and restoring the ecology of desert lands after devastating wildfires. Their work involves scientists in the areas of plant physiology, ecology, and soil science. Each of the principal investigators in this group conducts extensive outreach activities associated with their research; they have formed partnerships with such off-campus organizations as the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Nevada Cooperative Extension, Las Vegas Master Gardeners, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Transportation Research Center

This group of researchers seeks to address a wide range of transportation issues, including safety and congestion on the highways and surface streets; traffic flow and incident management; roadway access; and strategies for traffic control, to name a few. The group’s goal is to contribute scientific data and analysis to traffic and pedestrian issues through multi-disciplinary research in order to bring solutions to fundamental and applied transportation problems. This research involves faculty from civil engineering, electrical engineering, statistics, mathematics, finance, and marketing, among others. The team garners approximately $2 million per year in sponsored program funding.

Water Research and Environmental Engineering

Researchers in the Water Research and Environmental Engineering group concentrate on water issues facing arid regions of the world, particularly those in Southern Nevada. Research topics include those related to managing water resources taking into consideration climate change, water recycling, impacts from population increases, the carbon footprint of bringing water from distant locations and impact of conservation programs on water resources.

Sajjad Ahmad