2023 NSF CAREER Award: Aida Ebrahimi

March 3, 2023

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Aida Ebrahimi, Thomas and Sheila Roell Early Career Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering in the Penn State College of Engineering, earned a five-year, $500,000 NSF CAREER Award for a project titled “Tunable Graphene Microdevices for Multiplexed Detection of Biomolecules Beyond Diffusion Limit.” Ebrahimi holds additional affiliations with biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering.

What do you want to understand or solve through this project? 

Existing and emerging electrochemical biosensors can achieve high sensitivity, specificity, and stability in detecting biochemical molecules. However, label-free and tunable sensors for detecting multiple biomolecules (multiplexed detection) with high sensitivity and short measurement time are still beyond maturity. This CAREER proposal constitutes a five-year integrated research and education program to tackle the fundamental and applied challenges in engineering label-free electroanalytical devices based on graphene for scalable multiplexing, on-demand tunability and rapid response beyond diffusion limit with biogenic amine neurotransmitters as testbed.

How will advances in this area impact society?

This work will create a new paradigm in electrochemical analytical systems by exploring dynamic readout and data-fusion to achieve rapid, multiplexed, accurate and reliable quantification of target molecules, while enabling on-demand tunability. The proposed system can be utilized in neuroscience to understand the role of biogenic amine neurotransmitters in neurological diseases, identify novel inhibitors, investigate efficacy of neurological drugs and elucidate the pathways affecting the gut-brain axis pertaining to diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as aging and autism.

Will undergraduate or graduate students contribute to this research? How? 

Yes. In addition to directly working on the research aspects of this project, undergraduate and graduate students, including minorities and underrepresented groups, will have the opportunity to take on leadership roles and improve teaching skills throughout multiple outreach activities including a summer workshop for teachers.   

The NSF CAREER award not only funds a research project, but it also recognizes the potential of the recipient as a researcher, educator and leader in their field. How do you hope to fulfill that potential?

The NSF CAREER award provides a unique leadership opportunity for me to integrate interdisciplinary research at the intersection of materials, device and system engineering with new and continuing educational and outreach activities to increase public engagement in biosensing science and technology. The activities include creating new laboratory modules for a biosensor-themed course, a summer workshop for teachers from districts underrepresented in STEM and a summer camp for pre-college female students.


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Aida Ebrahimi Credit: Penn State College of Engineering