National Science Foundation funds training of future magnetics researchers

VCU to host the only Magnetics REU site in the country

Ravi Hadimani, Ph.D.
Ravi Hadimani, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) role in educating and training U.S. undergraduate students in magnetics research has been bolstered by a $462,434 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.

“VCU has a critical mass of magnetics researchers, including faculty members and students, and we are in a position to play a key role in increasing the magnetics research output and training future magnetics researchers of the U.S.,” said Ravi Hadimani, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering at the VCU College of Engineering and principal investigator of the research grant.

VCU will be the nation’s only magnetics Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site in the country.

“Our faculty members are working on diverse magnetics topics ranging from developing better magnetic memory to developing better magnets for wind turbines to developing treatments for brain disorders using magnetic stimulation,” said Hadimani, who specializes in non-invasive brain stimulation, biomagnetics, magnetocalorics and energy harvesting research.

Funded by the Division of Materials Research at the NSF, the REU Site in Magnetics at VCU will provide enhanced research experiences for 10 undergraduate students for 10 weeks this summer. Hadimani and co-principal investigator Everett Carpenter, Ph.D., have partnered with 12 faculty members from VCU, Virginia Union University (VUU) and Virginia State University (VSU) to host the students in their labs. 

Students will also spend one week at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Virginia; Harvard University in Boston; and the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) in Petersburg, Virginia, to conduct various experiments ranging from neutron diffraction to brain stimulation. Additionally, REU students will visit Micron Technology in Manassas, Virginia to gain insight into nanofabrication facilities that are used in the computer industry.

Among the topics of research students will undertake are multifunctional magnetic phase change composites for thermal management technologies; development of brain phantoms for validation of transcranial magnetic stimulation protocols; and investigation of the relationship between magnetic properties of dust samples in Richmond City and high asthma rates.

State-of-the-art micro and nanofabrication, bulk materials processing and magnetic characterization facilities at three VCU centers will be used in training the REU students: The Virginia Microelectronics Center (VMC), Material and Manufacturing Research Center (MMRC) and Nanomaterials Core Characterization Facility (NCC). These centers have received several NSF Major Research Instrumentation awards. 

Hadimani will have VCU faculty from the departments of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry and Physics collaborating on the project.

He is also the founder of the IEEE Magnetics Society’s Richmond chapter, which serves as a platform for researchers in the Central Virginia area to organize distinguished lectures, meet regularly and network. The College of Engineering hosts three other NSF REU sites: Mechanobiology, End-User Programming of Cyber-Physical Systems and Pharmaceutical Engineering. There are common social and professional activities between all four sites, involving about 40 REU students, which significantly enhances individual student experiences.

The Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering provides undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to perform real-world research as soon as they enroll. From applying material science to additive manufacturing techniques to optimizing coolant systems for nuclear reactors and more, students gain understanding of many important engineering topics. Browse videos and recent news from the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering to discover how the College of Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University prepares the next generation of scientists and engineers for the challenges of the future.