New UF Engineering Faculty Win Young Investigator Awards For Innovating U.S. Security

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Ryan Houim, Kyle Hartig and Yier Jin

Ryan Houim,  Kyle Hartig and Yier Jin

Navy, Air Force and DTRA awards support young investigators’ research

The U.S. Navy is ever vigilant regarding cybersecurity, in particular safeguarding computers and other electronics on ships at sea and in command headquarters around the globe. The Air Force is continuously working on improved accuracy in the payloads they deliver during combat operations. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), an arm of the Department of Defense, is constantly seeking new and improved ways to detect nuclear materials that could portend danger for our country. In all these efforts, engineering faculty from UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering are conducting research to aid U.S. military and defense efforts.

Yier Jin, Ph.D.Yier Jin, Associate Professor and Internet of Things Term Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), has received a $750,000 Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop sensors that can detect malfunctions or malware that becomes active on microprocessors after they are deployed.

ONR selects very few young investigators in the area of cybersecurity each year. In 2019, they chose Dr. Jin to provide basic research on sensors that utilize machine learning and AI to detect problems and allow analysts to initiate counter measures before complications arise. The results of Dr. Jin’s research will offer industry and commerce the opportunity to benefit from this cybersecurity technology as well.

Ryan Houim, Ph.D.

Ryan Houim, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, received a $450,000 Young Investigator Award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research at the end of 2018. Dr. Houim focuses on understanding the dynamics of multiphase and chemically reactive flows using numerical simulation techniques.

His expertise on dust explosions, detonation initiation and propagation, and the combustion of energetic materials and metal particles will support the U.S. Air Force in its efforts to modernize capabilities to address a broad range of important national security needs.

Kyle Hartig, Ph.D.Kyle Hartig, Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, was recognized in 2018 with a $400,000 Young Investigator Award from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Each year DTRA selects engineering and science-based researchers whose work shows promise for the agency’s ongoing mission to counter the development and use of weapons of mass destruction.

Dr. Hartig’s research, aims to provide prompt nuclear forensics information through fundamental understanding of the Radio Frequency (RF) emission generation process associated with nuclear detonations. Hartig’s research illustrates UF’s expertise in novel techniques that can be used to characterize nuclear and conventional weapons detonations, an important component of national security.

These engineering faculty members exemplify the excellence of the talent being recruited and assembled by University of Florida in its position as a preeminent state land grant university. Dr. Hartig was hired in May 2017, Dr. Jin came to UF in June 2017, and Dr. Houim came on board in August 2017. Within two years, each of these young scholars has been recognized with early career awards, an acknowledged indicator of their bright futures in their individual fields of expertise.

Dr. Forrest Masters, Associate Dean of Research for the College, commented, “The competition for these research awards is fierce. That these young investigators won speaks volumes about their vision and talent, and how hard the Department and College work to support and bring out the best in them.”