Nanshu Lu in lab

Nanshu Lu
, assistant professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at the Cockrell School of Engineering has been awarded the 2015 Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Program award. She received the award for her work on tattoo-like wearable electronics that continuously and simultaneously monitor human vital and physiological signs.

Highly competitive, the program’s objectives are “to attract outstanding faculty members of Institutions of Higher Education to the Department of Navy's research program, to support their research, and to encourage their teaching and research careers,” according to the ONR website.

Lu is only one of 36 young engineers and scientists selected from across the nation to receive the award. She will receive a total of $510,000, spread out over three years as $170,000 annual research grants for her proposal, “Multiparametric Epidermal Physiological Sensing System (MEPSS).”

The goal for this research is to develop noninvasive and unobstructive sensors that will provide continuous and comprehensive physiological information about the stress level of the wearer. Successful development of MEPSS could provide a more reliable and natural stress assessment for wearers such as field operators, military troops, and even those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Lu and her research group will be building upon the platform technology that they have already developed to produce a free form “cut-and-paste” manufacture process to fabricate long lasting, tattoo-like skin sensors. The most recent version of these wearable electronics include sensors on a stretchable patch the size of a credit card that monitor the electrical activity of the heart, respiratory rate, skin temperature and skin hydration.

Collaborating with UT-Austin professors in the departments of Psychology, Mechanical Engineering, Kinesiology, and Biomedical Engineering, the Lu Research Group proposes to extend this technology to include the development of four new research tasks: 1) develop a brain patch to monitor psychological stress levels; 2) develop an arm patch to detect neuro-musculo-skeletal (NMS) fatigue; 3) extend current chest patch to monitor beat-to-beat blood pressure; 4) develop a soft finger tube to monitor oxygen saturation.

Lu has been recognized for her research in bio-integrated electronics and expandable systems with several awards, including this year’s AFOSR Young Investigator Program award and the 2014 NSF CAREER award. She was also named one of the world’s top 35 innovators under the age of 35 by MIT Technology Review. Her work has been featured in various publications, including Nature Nanotechonology and The Bridge.