Seeing the light: ONR-sponsored Scientist Named One of Popular Science's 'Brilliant 10'


Story Number: NNS131017-09Release Date: 10/17/2013 2:37:00 PM
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By Eric Beidel, ONR Corporate Communications

ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- An assistant professor at the University of Southern California funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), is highlighted as one of this year's "Brilliant 10" young scientists and engineers Popular Science magazine's October issue.

The annual feature highlighted Dr. Andrea Armani, who-with support from ONR-could help the Navy save lives through new understandings of light and biology.

With steady backing from ONR, including both the Young Investigator Award Program and recognition under the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, Armani has invented a range of devices that allow her to explore the nano-world of viruses, bacteria and DNA and their interactions with the environment.

One immediate application of her research is improving detection abilities of pathogens in different environments.

"She's developing the capabilities that will be used in future conflicts to keep Sailors and Marines out of harm's way," said Dr. Timothy Bentley, program officer in ONR's Warfighter Performance Department.

While biosensors like those created by Armani would give warfighters increased protection against biological threats on the battlefield, her research also holds implications for communications, preventative healthcare and more.

"ONR's support allows me to pursue high-risk research that ultimately has benefits in many areas," Armani said. "When you have that kind of encouragement, there's no end to what you can discover, and the next breakthrough could come when you least expect it."

She recently developed a sensor to detect ultra-violet light that could help fend off diseases associated with excessive exposure. Given the simplicity of the detection mechanism, it has many potential applications, including water monitoring.

Now Armani and ONR are embarking on a new project to study the way cells communicate after damage from a blast incident. The findings could help scientists create biomarkers to better understand blast injuries and develop protective methods and therapies for traumatic brain injury, a problem faced by many military service members.

But ONR's research investment in Armani's work is making an impact beyond what happens on the battlefield, Bentley said.

"Dr. Armani attracts some of the brightest young researchers to work in her lab and makes a lot of connections through her work," he said. "This is invaluable as we build up our network of national and international scientists who carry our research from the military and into the world at large."

The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

For more news from Office of Naval Research, visit www.navy.mil/local/onr/.

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