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The Department is pleased to announce that Laxman Saggere, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has been selected to receive the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award for 2005. The NSF’s CAREER Program offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21 st century. CAREER awardees are selected on the basis of creative proposals that effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their university.

Professor Saggere will be awarded $400,000 over five years for his proposal entitled: “A Biomimetic Microsystems Technology towards a Novel Retinal Prosthesis,” an effort to develop a technology that could constitute the basis of a novel chemical-based biomimetic implantable device for those who are blind by degenerative photoreceptor diseases. The technology that Saggere is developing aims to mimic, in principle, the natural photoreceptor’s function of transducing light into a chemical (neurotransmitter) signal via an array of microfluidic dispensers that would be powered and modulated by light naturally reaching the retina. This technology could enable a fundamentally different approach to stimulating retinal neurons biomimetically using chemicals than the more common approach of electrical stimulation. Saggere’s research exploits the enabling technologies of MEMS, microfluidics, and thin-film piezoelectric materials, and may find other applications beyond the retinal implant.

Professor Saggere’s research interests are in the design and development of Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) for biomedical and engineering applications. Besides the implantable retinal prosthesis work, his other ongoing research activities include the development of MEMS-based actuators, mechanisms for micro/nano manipulation, and enhancement of cortical implant technology. Saggere is the recipient of two previous NSF grants as PI, an ONR grant and an NIH grant as a Co-I for his research. He was also the finalist for the Freudenstein/GM Young Investigator Award for his paper presented at the Mechanisms & Robotics conference, part of the 2004 ASME Design Technical Conferences held in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Professor Saggere earned his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Osmania University, India, in 1987, M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Rhode Island in 1993, M.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering and Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, MI in 1997 and 1998 respectively. He served as a Scientist-Engineer in the Indian Space Research Organization from 1987 to 1991, and as a Research Scientist in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, Cambridge, MA from 1999 to 2001. He joined the UIC faculty in Fall 2001.

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