The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University welcomes five new faculty members, beginning this fall. The incoming researchers, all outstanding scientists in their respective fields, will further extend the already broad reach of the institute’s portfolio, which encompasses human health, national security and environmental sustainability.
Joshua Hihath will be the new director of the Biodesign Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors. He will replace founding director N.J. Tao, whose innovative work had raised the center to one of international prominence in the field of nanotechnology.
In addition to his appointment at the Biodesign Institute, Hihath is a professor with the School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering at ASU. Previously, he was a professor and vice chair for undergraduate studies in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California Davis, having earned his PhD in electrical engineering from ASU in 2008.
Hihath has pursued research at the intersection of engineering, chemistry, biology and physics, and focuses on understanding the electrical and mechanical properties of nanoscale and molecular systems for applications in electronics, sensing and health care.
“I’m excited to return to the Biodesign Institute. ASU has an expansive, dynamic and highly interdisciplinary research environment that spans engineering and the physical, chemical and health sciences,” Hihath says.
“I look forward to a variety of new collaborations aimed at harnessing the unique electronic properties of molecules for new applications in electronics, diagnostics, sensing and health care.”
Navish Wadhwa has joined the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution. He was trained as an engineer and physicist but has long been preoccupied with biological problems as well. His eclectic academic background includes an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering (IIT Delhi), MS in engineering mechanics (Virginia Tech), and a PhD in physics (Technical University of Denmark).
His postdoctoral research brought him to Harvard’s Molecular and Cellular Biology Department, where his love for biophysics was solidified. His work has focused in part on how physical interactions enable or constrain the ways biological organisms move and interact with each other and their surroundings. His research into bacterial motility, guided by tiny rotary motors composed of distinct protein components, is one example.
“I was attracted to Biodesign due to its emphasis on interdisciplinary research and an exceptional group of people, both in scientific and research support roles,” Wadhwa says. “Altogether, Biodesign has created a fantastic environment to do science and I look forward to taking advantage of everything it has to offer as I launch my independent research career.”
Nsa Dada begins her new research position as a Presidential Fellow with the Biodesign Center for Fundamental and Applied Microbiomics. An authority on mosquito pesticide resistance, founder and lead of the Mosquito Microbiome Consortium, she is also the first African American female faculty appointed to the Biodesign Institute and ASU’s School of Life Sciences.
Dada’s research draws on her multidisciplinary background and expertise in entomology, parasitology, microbiology, genomics and bioinformatics. Her research applies a combination of molecular, ‘omics and classical microbiology tools to investigate mosquito populations and their progeny, both in laboratory settings and in the wild.
Having earned her PhD from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, focusing on mosquito-microbe interactions, Dada has been involved in research at the intersection of the microbiology, ecology, evolution and control of parasites and disease vectors at leading research and public health institutions around the world, including the World Health Organization and the Pan-African Mosquito Control Association.
“I joined Biodesign for its focus on finding solutions to global health challenges through research; an essence that encompasses what I do as a scientist,” Dada says. “Being a part of the Biodesign Institute will allow me to explore an intersection of different life science disciplines (vector biology, molecular biology and microbial ecology) that are usually explored independently.”
The newly established Biodesign Center for Health Through Microbiomes, under the direction of Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, welcomes its first new hire. Taichi Suzuki is an evolutionary biologist interested in the role of the microbiome in the health and fitness of animals, including humans.
“My research aims to build a comprehensive picture of host-microbial coevolution in animals that harbor complex microbial communities, ranging from genes to organismal biology to macro-evolutionary patterns,” Suzuki says.
Suzuki comes to ASU via the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Germany, where he has been a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Microbiome Sciences since 2018. His research involves the identification of common genes that mediate host-microbial interactions across populations and species of mammals. Despite an existing body of research on the human gut microbiome, the microbial composition of such communities within wild, non-human populations remains a largely blank slate.
Using populations of wild house mice, Suzuki has explored the complex roles of symbiotic microbial communities in shaping host ecology and evolution. Research into the beneficial effects of the mammalian microbiome in natural populations has deep implications for the study of human health.
Joshua Daymude joins the Biodesign Center for Biocomputing, Security and Society and shares an appointment with ASU’s School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence. He completed his PhD in 2021 at the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering (CIDSE) at ASU. Prior to his professorship, he was a Mistletoe Research Fellow at the Momental Foundation, a three-time ARCS Foundation Johnston Endowment Scholar and a CIDSE Dean’s Fellow.
Daymude’s wide-ranging research connects distributed computing theory to collective and emergent behavior. His work involves areas of computer science such as distributed computing, stochastic processes, swarm intelligence and bio-inspired algorithms. His interdisciplinary approach encompasses theoretical immunology, microbiomic ecology, active matter physics, dynamic networks and programmable matter systems.
The research will explore the potential of distributed computing theory to “help solve unanswered questions about distributed systems in biology and society,” Daymude says.
“The Biodesign Institute offers a perfect interdisciplinary environment to pursue this research, where I can learn from and lend my expertise to biological and social research areas outside of computer science.”
Science writer, Biodesign Institute at ASU
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As part of a global effort to ensure peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region, Australia will become the seventh country in the world to acquire nuclear-powered attack submarines.That move is part of a historic security partnership created a year ago among the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, called AUKUS, intended to strengthen and share advanced defense capabilities, includi…
As part of a global effort to ensure peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region, Australia will become the seventh country in the world to acquire nuclear-powered attack submarines.
That move is part of a historic security partnership created a year ago among the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, called AUKUS, intended to strengthen and share advanced defense capabilities, including helping Australia develop long-range subs powered by nuclear energy.
Now, an alliance of three top universities from those countries has stepped up to become “the intellectual engine” of AUKUS, providing research, educational offerings and events to support the deal.
Six years ago, Arizona State University joined King’s College London and the University of New South Wales to form the PLuS Alliance, a partnership to scale innovations in research and education for maximum public benefit.
The PLuS Alliance’s new initiative — Security & Defence PLuS — aims to be the intellectual engine behind AUKUS, according to Ryan Shaw, managing director of strategic initiatives and senior university advisor at ASU.
Shaw said that in the six years the PLuS Alliance has operated, it’s worked in the fields of public health, engineering and sustainability, but never in security or defense.
“That struck me as a greatly missed opportunity,” said Shaw, who came to ASU in 2019 after a career in the military.
Interest intensified last September when AUKUS was launched.
“The first major initiative of AUKUS was to equip Australia with nuclear subs to counter China in the Indo-Pacific, but it’s meant to be a more broadly scoped diplomatic and military partnership for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.
“And it became clear that we should do what we can to contribute to that space.”
Security & Defence PLuS is launching with a trove of information. The website offers the AUKUS Briefing Book, which includes downloadable official documents and news stories.
The site also includes essays by military and diplomatic experts, including a short history on the thorny twists and turns of the submarine deal.
The AUKUS Briefing Book is based on “The NPT Briefing Book,” a long-running project by the Centre for Science and Security Studies at Kings College London that compiles documents and information about the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
“It’s really well known and respected among those who deal with that,” Shaw said.
“Every year, there’s a nuclear non-proliferation conference and it serves as the read-ahead preparation material.
“We imagine the AUKUS Briefing Book filling the same role.”
On Nov. 14, Security & Defence PLuS will hold the Advancing AUKUS Conference in Canberra with military, diplomatic and policy experts.
The AUKUS focus on providing Australia’s first nuclear-powered submarines is an opportunity, Shaw said.
“We want to position ourselves not just in academic research but at the intersection of industry and policy and academia,” he said.
“We want to provide workforce development and academic research in support of that.
“We can tackle these issues better together than separately and ensure they’re used for good and not for evil.”
Top image courtesy iStock/Getty Images
Reporter , ASU News
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