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Holonyak Lab students honored with ECE awards

4/24/2020 10:09:31 AM Allie Arp, CSL

Recently, two Nick Holonyak Jr., Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory students, Nantao Li and Yi-Chia Tsai, received awards from Illinois’ Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department in recognition of their outstanding work as graduate students.

Elsa and Floyd Dunn Award 

Nantao Li
Nantao Li

Holonyak Lab graduate student Nantao Li is this year’s Elsa and Floyd Dunn Award winner. This award is presented to an ECE graduate student who has demonstrated research interest in topics such as biomedical ultrasound, bioengineering, and related fields. Li is in the fourth year of his graduate degree researching optics-based approaches for detecting biomolecules and viruses.

“Ever since Nantao joined my group, he has demonstrated a super-enthusiastic interest in the science of optics-based biosensing,” said Holonyak Lab researcher Brian Cunningham, an ECE professor who is Li’s adviser. “In a short amount of time, he has become deeply knowledgeable about the important scientific literature in the field, and has developed several creative ideas that address important gaps in the current set of technologies. He has already made important contributions to a new method for personalized cancer diagnostics by detection of miRNA.”

Recently Li has been working on a novel platform incorporating nanoparticles into sensitive and selective recognition of the target sequence of prostate cancer with the goal of informing clinicians about the effects of chemotherapy. Li’s work enables detection of cancer-related miRNA with femtomolar detection limits from a single droplet test sample. The duo is also developing a new method for detecting and counting intact SARS-CoV-2 viruses as a rapid point-of-care diagnostic test for COVID-19.

“The award is my first recognition from the department and I really appreciate it,” said Li. “ECE is a very big community and there are a lot of talented graduate students, so I’m sure winning was quite challenging.”

Yi-Chia Tsai
Yi-Chia Tsai
 Shun Lien Chuang Memorial Award for Excellence in Graduate Education
Holonyak Lab second-year graduate student Yi-Chia Tsai is the winner of this year’s Shun Lien Chuang Memorial Award for Excellence in Graduate Education, which is given to a student who has “demonstrated excellence and high scholastic achievement.”

Tsai is working to bridge the computational material science and device engineering fields.

“I think my research focusing on two different areas was a really big difference and distinguished me from other applicants,” said Tsai. “Winning this award is really meaningful because it gives me recognition and supports that what I’m doing right now is going to impact my industry in the future.”

Along with his advisers Can Bayram and Jean-Pierre Leburton, Tsai is working to develop an analytical model to explain the physics behind the LED efficiency droop. They would like this model to eventually allow them to develop higher efficiency devices and laser diodes in the green spectrum.

”I am certain this recognition is one of the very first to come for Yi-Chia,” said Bayram. “He will make all of us prouder with what is to come in the next few years as he delves deeper into his thesis research.”