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To develop new materials using additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing), University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Assistant Professor Tyler Ray has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), its most prestigious honor for junior faculty members.

This highly competitive grant, awarded to about 500 faculty each year across all disciplines, supports early career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models and leaders in research and education. Ray is the first professor in UH Mānoa’s College of Engineering since 2016 to be awarded an NSF CAREER Award.

The five-year, $518,834 grant, will support his project, “Additive Manufacturing with Acoustically Assembled Multi-Scale Composite Materials.” Additive manufacturing has revolutionized a wide range of industries by enabling more complex, cost-effective and efficient production processes. Ray’s research seeks to establish the scientific foundation for using this manufacturing process to create materials with properties that are customized for a given application. These types of materials are critical for addressing the demanding requirements of transformative technologies, including high-capacity energy storage, clean energy and quantum computing.

“I’m honored to be selected for an NSF CAREER Award and the opportunity it affords to explore high-risk scientific questions,” Ray said. “I’ve long been interested in understanding how we can use additive manufacturing to create materials with unique properties that are precisely programmed for a given application. With this support, we seek to develop the methods and techniques necessary to enable engineers to control the properties of a material in the same way an artist can carefully craft a beautiful piece of pottery.”

Educating budding scientists

In alignment with the NSF CAREER program’s commitment to integrating research with education, this project also includes a robust outreach and education component. The project seeks to directly integrate college and K–12 students in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) with research outcomes through initiatives including:

  • An annual additive manufacturing “makeathon” to innovate distributed manufacturing technologies
  • A culture-based engineering outreach program in partnership with the Mālama ʻĀina Foundation to promote careers in STEAM to Native Hawaiian students
  • Mentored undergraduate research opportunities to support STEAM education and workforce development
  • Expanded curriculum innovation in additive manufacturing at the undergraduate and graduate levels

“I’m excited about the educational outreach initiatives we’ll be launching. It’s vital that our research doesn’t just advance scientific knowledge, but also inspires the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians,” Ray said.

These efforts build upon Ray’s consistent dedication to teaching and mentoring at UH. In 2023, Ray was one of six recipients of the UH Mānoa Presidential Citation for Meritorious Teaching, and in 2022, Ray was one of two awardees of the UH Mānoa Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research and Creative Work.

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