Huang wins Johnson & Johnson Women in STEM2D Scholars Award

April 25, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Shengxi Huang, assistant professor of electrical engineering, recently was named a winner of the Johnson & Johnson Women in STEM2D (WiSTEM2D) Scholars Award. She will receive $150,000 in funding and three years of mentorship from Johnson & Johnson toward her research on ubiquitous biosensing platforms.

Launched in June 2017, the Johnson & Johnson WiSTEM2D Scholars Award aims to fuel development of female STEM2D leaders and feed the STEM2D talent pipeline by awarding and sponsoring women at critical points in their careers in each of the STEM2D disciplines: science, technology, engineering, math, manufacturing and design. Only six winners were selected from 450 applicants this year, one for each of the disciplines. Huang was the award recipient in the category of technology.

“The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is very proud of Dr. Shengxi Huang’s recognition,” said Kultegin Aydin, professor and department head of electrical engineering. “She is very deserving of this award.”

This grant will allow Huang to further her development of ubiquitous biosensing platforms, which can help to diagnose diseases earlier, more accurately and more inexpensively, using a method known as Raman spectroscopy. The technique of Raman spectroscopy involves shining a laser onto the molecule that is being examined. The scattered light coming from that molecule is then able to be detected and a spectrum is established which tells the researchers at which frequency there is a vibrational mode for this molecule. This spectrum will be different for each of the molecules.

“The spectrum itself is a fingerprint for the molecules,” explained Huang. “So whenever you see a spectrum, you will immediately know what molecule it is.”

While this method increases accuracy in molecule identification, and therefore disease diagnosis, one limitation that exists is that the signal is very weak. Huang’s solution to this problem with Raman spectroscopy is to develop a new platform that enhances the Raman signals for the molecules.

“The solution is to place a single sheet of atoms, or a very thin two-dimensional material, beneath the analyte,” said Huang. “And then we shine light onto the analyte and you can see a significantly enhanced Raman signal of those molecules.”

“The platform is ubiquitous because it can be useful for a large variety of different molecules," added Huang. "For example, if you have diabetes, potentially the glucose level will be high in the blood, and some glucose will be bound with the hemoglobin. So if you measure Raman at this time, you will see the signal change if this blood is from a patient with diabetes. This will be different from the blood sample of a person without diabetes.”

Huang is looking forward to the opportunities that the WiSTEM2D Scholars Award will provide for her research.

“I hope our technologies will really make some contribution to society and impact the fields of biosensing and medical technology. Through this award we can develop a good platform and demonstrate that it will be useful for diagnosing several types of diseases and will benefit society,” she said.

In addition to working on this research, Huang actively promotes opportunities for women in engineering. Last year, she helped with Penn State’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science’s two summer camps geared toward girls. She also initiated a female graduate mentoring group.

“The goal is to connect graduate female students with previous alumnae so they form a mentoring group and can talk about the issues facing graduate women,” she said. “Currently it’s in the early stages, but I received a lot of very enthusiastic feedback.”

This initiative to help other women in STEM fields fits well with the goal of the Johnson & Johnson WiSTEM2D Scholars Award.

"Through this award and other programs, Johnson & Johnson is hoping to increase the participation of women in STEM2D fields worldwide," said Cat Oyler, vice president, Global Public Health, Tuberculosis, Johnson & Johnson and WiSTEM2D University Sponsor. “We want to nourish the development of women leaders building a larger pool of highly-trained, female researchers so that they can lead STEM2D breakthroughs in the future.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 26, 2019