U.S. Air Force Research Lab Summer Faculty Fellowship Program

U.S. Air Force Research Lab Summer Faculty Fellowship Program

U.S. Air Force Research Lab Summer Faculty Fellowship Program

AFRL/RH 711TH HPW (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio )

SF.15.21.B10052: Microneedle Platform Development for Enabling Wearable Sensing

Tilly, Trevor - 937-713-5386

Interstitial fluid (ISF) has great promise as a biofluid for minimally invasive wearable sensor deployment. Although other methods exist to access ISF from the skin, microneedles (MNs) have emerged as a leading option to enable human performance biomarker sensing in ISF. There are many materials and variations of MNs used in different applications, however, MNs that are designed for real-time sensing or to interface with sensor modalities for near real-time or post analysis of biomarkers are desired. This research aims to: 1) understand the optimal characteristics of MN/skin interface for sensing in ISF; 2) explore signal transduction methods (electrochemical, optical, and others, for enabling biomarker detection via the MNs or in ISF collected by MNs; 3) design and fabricate MN-sensor devices for human performance biomarkers for multi-hour/day use.

SF.15.21.B10051: Nanomaterials for Brain Function Activation

Chavez Benavides, Jorge - 937-938-3786

Cognitive overload, fatigue and stress affect Airman and Guardians (A/G) in the different environments they operate. These stressors activate different mechanisms that affect brain function and result in compromised performance. Technologies that can sense brain activity and respond to the effects of these stressors would provide an effective means to prevent performance decay and maintain alertness/readiness. This topic is focused on the use of nanomaterials made of soft components (nucleic acids, peptides, etc.) or metals (gold, iron oxide, etc.) or the combination of both to be interfaced with neurons and control their function. Specific challenges to be addressed are: methods to safely deliver the nanomaterials to the brain, control over spatial resolution of the stimulation and the use of non-invasive methods to activate the nanoparticles. The end goal of this topic is to provide a non-invasive means to activate/deactivate or enhance brain function as needed in a closed-loop system.

SF.15.21.B10045: Mitochondrial Health & Organ-Level Effects through Microscopic Imaging and Molecular Analysis

Hussain, Saber - 937-626-0196

Airmen constantly endure an evolving spectrum of operational stress scenarios (e.g. extreme physical exertion, high temperatures, excessive G-Force, pressure changes, low oxygen environments, exposure to chemical or particle contaminants) that induce changes in the structural and functional dynamics of mitochondria. Mitochondria are always in constant flux by changing their morphology and energy production in response to the energy (ATP) needs of the cell. The dynamic nature of the mitochondria allows for rapid detection of physical or cognitive impairment by characterizing the structure and the function of the mitochondria. The incumbent will bring innovative ideas and participate in research to simulate Airmen stress scenarios using advanced cell culture models and evaluate structural and functional dynamics of mitochondria through microscopic imaging, biochemical analysis, and in silico simulations using artificial intelligence-based platforms to rapidly extrapolate Airmen performance outcomes from early stage mitochondrial changes due to operational stress responses. This will bring synergy and collaboration through this fellowship program to shape the growing AFRL core research area of system biology.

SF.15.21.B10043: Investigation of Biophotonic Cellular Communication to Understand Mechanisms of Performance

Hussain, Saber - 937-626-0196

Biophotons, weak light emitted as part of chemical reactions taking place inside each cell during normal or stressed conditions, can be a form of non-molecular cellular communication. However, despite a century of research, little is known about the specific mechanisms of biophoton generation and reception as well as the information encoded in biophoton signaling. The goal of this research is to characterize intracellular biophoton emission and understand how this intracellular emission can control and modulate cellular communication. The participant will bring new innovative ideas and participate in designing experiments to understand the significance, mechanisms for photon generation and detection, and quantification of spectra, intensity, and spatial and temporal distribution. The understanding of biophotons and its molecular and quantum interactions could close the gaps in our knowledge of cell signaling (signal generation, transduction, processing) and lead to the development of non-invasive tools to to detect cell signaling to understand the mechanism of performance. As a communication mechanism that impact cellular function, biophotons can be altered to treat diseases or enhance human performance. This will bring synergy and collaboration through this fellowship program to shape the growing AFRL core research area of system biology.

SF.15.18.B0001: Real-Time Molecular Signature Sensor Development

Kim, Steve - 937-938-3713

Data-driven chemical and biochemical monitoring systems based on real-time biological and environmental probing are the future of human performance monitoring, as well as occupational safety and medicine. In combination with a better understanding of physiology, these advances should lead directly to improved safety and preparedness of the war-fighter. Molecular biomarkers indicative of human physiological and psychological status vary person-to-person and the measurement point of the time. Thus, developing highly sensitive, selective, robust, cost-effective, and miniaturized chemical and biochemical sensors that profile/report biomarkers throughout 8-24hr time frame of individual operators will greatly benefit USAF personnel health and performance. In this research, we aim to 1) probe the governing factors in the molecular affinity of molecular targets to the biomimetic recognition elements at operation-relevant setting, 2) build array based on highly selective sensing elements, 3) design, fabricate, and miniaturize electronic/electrochemical/optical sensors. The sample collection, delivery, signal processing, and device-to-device communication for the miniaturized sensors and devices are being explored as well to ultimately achieve high performance molecular signature sensors that transition to flexible, wearable, and/or body-conformal chemical/biochemical monitors.

SF.15.13.B0915: Sensor Platform Development for Rapid to Real-Time Detection in Biofluids

Kim, Steve - (937) 938-3713

The ultimate goal of performance monitoring is to build sensors capable of continuous, real-time analysis of biomarkers for targets indicating stress, fatigue, vigilance, and overall other physiological conditions. Biomarkers found in biofluids can be extremely indicative of physiological state. Traditionally, these biomarkers are assessed with labor intensive biofluid (blood, saliva, urine) sampling and analysis with complex equipment and assays (HPLC, ELISA etc.). To make biomarker tracking a feasible monitoring system, sensor platforms must be developed for rapid to real time analysis. These can be in handheld form factors such as a lateral flow assays or in a wearable form factor such as a transdermal patch.
The objectives of this research are to develop sensor platforms that are amenable to either rapid or real-time analysis of biofluids. Of particular interest are blood and sweat. Sensor platforms should have a small/portable form factor for handheld assays or flexible/wireless capability for wearable form factors. Platforms should be capable of detecting a wide range of molecule types from small <300 Dalton to proteins >3000 Dalton. Additional interest lies in pre-processing of biofluids to increase sensitivity/selectivity of the sensor platform.

SF.15.12.B0913: Education and Training Design, Delivery, Engagement, and Performance Assessment Research in Blended Digital Environments

Bennett, Winston - 602-418-9513

The U.S. Air Force is investing heavily in commercial-off-the-shelf and specialty developed medium- and high-fidelity contexts for readiness training and rehearsal. The focus is to create and or leverage methods and technologies to securely blend real world and synthetic environments for learning and performance in operational test and training contexts. The environments allow local and distributed, at-distance connection of virtual simulators, computer-generated human-performance models, gaming environments, and relevant live operational systems, such as actual aircraft or other actual combat systems.
This topic focuses on critical research needs across a number of relevant topical areas: (a) Identification of essential knowledge, skills and developmental experiences required for successful task, job, and mission performance. (b) Digital tools that can assist human instructors to design content for scenarios based on "a" above and on the specific mission objectives, using principled instructional approaches. (c) Creation and validation of multi-level data, measures, and metrics to predict, diagnose, monitor and assess the performance of learners as individuals and as members of teams. These methods will assist in the prescription and tailoring of content and remediation to address knowledge and skill gaps as well as help develop new classes of human performance and machine learning-based models. (d) Novel research designs to promote longitudinal explorations and periodic assessments of individual and team performance and proficiency in synthetic environments and in operational settings. (e) Strategies and measures of the appropriateness of instructional and training environments for a given level of readiness or proficiency in training. In other words, how much of what kind of training and remediation or rehearsal is accomplished feasibly in separate and "blended" environments. We are interested in developing and validating criterion measures related to the impact of blended environments on learning, proficiency and readiness that help quantify intervals necessary for refresher training. Research can include:
• Developing training scenario design, delivery and management tools
• Developing synthetic task environments that leverage augmented and virtual-reality environments; game-based systems; intelligent and adaptive training environments; and part-task trainers and job aids that promote and sustain engagement and involvement in the learning as well as improve performance and retention
• Rapid prototyping of novel approaches to more unobtrusive human-performance monitoring, modeling, assessment and feedback
• Developing more precise as well as generalizable ways to manage multi-source "big data" performance measurement and proficiency-tracking data and innovations (i.e. how best to visualize and package feedback data for after-action reviews)
• Evaluating the training necessary for (1) humans and machines as teams to ensure to promote teaming and task/mission success, (2) shared proficiency among human-human and human-machine teams, and (3) overall task and mission performance effectiveness.

AFRL-711th Human Performance Wing

Dr. Zelik, Daniel
Assistant Chief Scientist
711th Human Performance Wing (711 HPW/CL)
Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio 45433
Email: daniel.zelik@us.af.mil

Dr. Sharma, Gaurav
Chief Scientist
711th Human Performance Wing (711 HPW/CL)
Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio 45433
Email: gaurav.sharma@us.af.mil

Ms. Migliozzi, Rebecca
Assistant to the Chief Scientist
711th Human Performance Wing
Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio 45433
Telephone: 937-255-8222
Email: rebecca.migliozzi.ctr@us.af.mil