CCNY Professor Awarded $558K Office of Naval Research Grant

Xi Chen, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at The City College of New York’s Grove School of Engineering and a researcher in the Nanoscience Initiative at the Graduate Center’s Advanced Science Research Center, was awarded a three-year, $558,000 grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

Chen’s research project will focus on gaining a fundamental understanding of how water-responsive materials react through studies on nanoscale levels. Understanding the scientific reasons for how these materials respond to water or humidity levels will lay the foundation for developing new hybrid and synthetic materials with potentially broad applications for underwater robotics, artificial muscles and their evaporation energy harvesting techniques.

“This innovative research by Professor Chen is another example of outside recognition of CUNY’s talented and dedicated faculty,” said CUNY Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz.

“We’re excited that the U.S. Navy sees promise in our work,” said Chen. “This research will provide critical insight into how water in nanoscale structures could contribute to the development of bioinspired materials and devices.”

Though his research is cutting-edge and could lead to pioneering applications, Chen is quick to point out that he and his research team of Ph.D. students are fundamentally  trying to understand the world around them. “We’re learning from nature,” he said. “Nature has already developed amazing materials. All we are doing is studying and imitating what nature does.”

Earlier this year, Chen was awarded a Feliks Gross Award from the CUNY Academy for the Humanities and Sciences and Graduate Research Technology Initiative (GRTI) Equipment Funding from CCNY.

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 23 MacArthur (“Genius”) grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields. The University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 275,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.