Engineering professors honored with ECU research awards

Five professors in the East Carolina University College of Engineering and Technology received recognition during the annual Research & Scholarship Awards.

The event honors faculty members throughout the university for originality and excellence in research, and creative activities through sustained high-quality work performed while contributing to the academic success of the university.

Three professors from the Department of Engineering — Drs. Kura Duba, Faete “JT” Filho and Zhen Zhu — were named Outstanding Research Scholars and Artists. The University Research Council selected them based on the impact of their research on the community and students, number of actively mentored students, successful ECU/external research collaboration and number of research awards as principal investigators or co-principal investigators.

Two other engineering professors — Drs. Jason Yao and Sunghan Kim — were recognized as inventors for being members of teams that obtained patents and were inducted into the ECU chapter of the National Academy of Inventors.


Dr. Kura Duba

Duba is an assistant professor of bioprocess engineering. He is serving as the lead principal investigator on the recently funded $1.42 million University of North Carolina System Research Opportunities Initiative grant to develop a no-waste, sustainable water desalination system. His collaborators include Old Dominion University, Duke University and the University of Trento. He has mentored 15 students in his research lab in the last three years, and all lab alumni secured jobs within a month of graduation in a field related to their research.


Dr. Faete “JT” Filho

Filho is an assistant professor of electrical engineering. He is part of the team working on the no-waste desalination system with Duba and is serving on other projects including renewable energy and green manufacturing, and ocean wave energy. He is working with four other universities as well as the U.S. Department of Energy. He’s mentored more than 20 students and has helped give undergraduate students relevant planning and organizational skills while paving the way for future collaboration.


Dr. Zhen Zhu

Zhu is an associate professor of electrical and biomedical engineering. He is involved in six active research grants, including the no-waste desalination system with Duba. In addition to collaborating with ECU faculty from other colleges, including the Brody School of Medicine, he has established strong research collaboration with scientists and researchers from other universities and federal agencies. He continues to find more civilian and scientific applications for technologies that were initially developed for government and military applications, and he has collaborated with local community colleges in the underserved counties in eastern North Carolina to promote STEM education and career development.


Dr. Sunghan Kim

Kim is an associate professor of biomedical engineering. He worked with three professors in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences in developing methods, systems and computer program products to analyze laser speckle images to monitor the degree of transcutaneous blood perfusion, which is the rate at which blood is delivered to tissue. The images are captured through iCertainty, a platform from the Greenville-based medical device company RFPi. The method does not require any radiation or chemical dye like other conventional methods, and the device doesn’t make contact with the patient as the target skin surface is shed with a laser. The U.S. patent number is 10,792,492.


Dr. Jianchu (Jason) Yao

Yao is a professor and the associate dean for academic affairs for the College of Engineering and Technology. He along with Dr. Gregg Givens of the College of Allied Health Sciences invented a system that can diagnose a user’s hearing capability remotely, thus saving trips between a patient’s home and audiology facilities. Diagnostic hearing tests could be done via the internet with very limited equipment needed by the patient. The goal of the cloud-based telemedicine system is to make hearing health care available to individuals regardless of where they live, thus reducing health care discrepancies of underserved populations. The U.S. patent number is 10,368,785.