U of I IGERT students score at NSF competition

6/14/2012 9:43:00 AM

Aadeel Akhtar, a Neuroengineering Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) Trainee, and Jonathan Yen, a Bioengineering Cellular and Molecular Mechanics and BioNanotechnology (CMMB) IGERT Trainee were winners of a $2,000 professional development Judges’ Choice award at the 2012 National Science Foundation Video and Poster Competition. 

Aadeel Akhtar
Aadeel Akhtar
Akhtar’s project, entitled “Playing Checkers with your Mind,” focused on the use of flickering lights to elicit activity in the visual cortex of the brain known as a Steady-State Visually Evoked Potential (SSVEP). The subjects’ SSVEP responses were used as a brain-computer interface to control a robot arm, allowing two subjects to play a game of checkers against each other without touching the board.

Yen’s project, entitled "Human Embryonic Stem Cells: Towards Fate Control Through Gene Delivery and Microenvironment," focuses on developing new polymers for highly efficient gene delivery into hard to transfect hESCs, and developing hydrogel platforms to maintain and differentiate these cells for regenerative medicine applications.

Jonathan Yen
Jonathan Yen
An MD/PhD student in electrical and computer engineering, Akhtar is advised by Timothy Bretl, (aerospace engineering).Yen is graduate student in bioengineering, co-advised by Jianjun Cheng, (materials science and engineering), Fei Wang, (cell and developmental biology), and Ning Wang, mechanical science and engineering).

The 2012 Video and Poster Competition took place on May 22-25, 2012. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and facilitated by, a project was run by TERC, a non-profit located in Cambridge Massachusetts.

This year the competition included both video and poster components, reflecting an expanding interest in using media to promote the understanding and dissemination of scientific ideas. Holding this competition online enabled a greater number of IGERT faculty, trainees, project coordinators, and alumni to participate and to interact with presenters. In addition, members of the general public had the opportunity this year to interact with presenters and to “like” their favorite presentation on Facebook.

The National Science Foundation’s IGERT program has been developed to meet the challenges of educating U.S. PhD scientists and engineers with interdisciplinary backgrounds, deep knowledge in chosen disciplines, and technical, professional, and personal skills. The program is intended to establish new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries. It is also intended to facilitate diversity in student participation and preparation, and to contribute to a world-class, broadly inclusive, and globally engaged science and engineering workforce.

Contact: Laura A. Miller, program manager, NSF CMMB IGERT and NIH M-CNTC, 217/244-7092.

Writer: Emily Morehouse

If you have any questions about the College of Engineering, or other story ideas, contact Rick Kubetz, editor, Engineering Communications Office, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 217/244-7716.