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UCF Reach for the Stars 2024 Honorees Leading the Charge into the Future

The prestigious Reach for the Stars award recognizes early-career professionals with highly successful research and creative activity that has national or international impact.
By: UCF News | March 28, 2024

The 2024 University of Central Florida Reach for the Stars honorees share a dedication to advancing knowledge and addressing real-world challenges within their respective fields. Each researcher demonstrates a commitment to innovation, whether it’s in clean energy, healthcare, performing arts or manufacturing.

The Reach for the Stars awards highlight their contributions to academia and underscore UCF’s commitment to fostering groundbreaking research. The prestigious award for early-career faculty is second only to Pegasus Professor as UCF’s highest faculty honor. Awardees receive a $10,000 annual research grant for three years.

The UCF community is invited to congratulate the recipients and other faculty being recognized for teaching, research and service from 3 to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3, in the Pegasus Ballroom of the Student Union as part of the annual Founders’ Day Faculty Honors Celebration.

This year’s Reach for the Stars honorees are:

  • Vasileios Anagnostopoulos, assistant professor at UCF’s Department of Chemistry and director of UCF Nuclear Regulatory Commission Fellowships
  • Lauren Bislick Wilson, assistant professor at UCF’s School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, interim director of the UCF Aphasia House, and director of UCF’s Aphasia and Related Conditions (ARC) Research Lab
  • Chloë Rae Edmonson, assistant professor of theater history and dramaturgy at UCF’s School of Performing Arts
  • Hung Nguyen, assistant professor at UCF’s College of Medicine and head of Hung Nguyen Lab at UCF’s Lake Nona Campus
  • Dazhong Wu, assistant professor at UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and director of the Additive Manufacturing and Intelligent Systems Lab at UCF

Learn more about the college’s awardee:

Dazhong Wu

Dazhong Wu and his team are transforming the way manufacturers use artificial intelligence to increase productivity and reduce costs.

At his Additive Manufacturing and Intelligent Systems Lab at UCF, they work to develop real-time process monitoring solutions and machine learning models to prevent defects and errors as well as reveal complex process-structure-property relationships in additive manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing constructs 3D objects layer by layer. For example, 3D printing may be considered an additive manufacturing process.

Wu is working to study the convergence of additive manufacturing and artificial intelligence to make more intelligent and efficient systems that will ultimately make a difference in people’s lives.

“I hope to significantly improve efficiency, increase productivity, as well as reduce costs by integrating artificial intelligence, cloud computing and sensors with manufacturing machines and equipment,” he says.

Wu’s aspirations are even more expansive. He’s also looking to accelerate economic growth for the industry.

“Manufacturing is essential to the economy,” he says. “Every dollar spent on manufacturing adds $2.74 to the U.S. economy, which is the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector.”

Wu is particularly pleased of the great technical accomplishments he and his team have achieved. The integration of artificial intelligence into manufacturing processes and systems is an aspect of his manufacturing research that sets him apart from others in his field.

“I am very proud that my team developed novel data-driven predictive modeling techniques for predicting the complex mechanical behavior of additively manufactured materials such as composites and lattices,” he says. “We are also one of the first research groups that applied deep learning and physics-informed machine learning to solve quality control and process monitoring problems in the field of manufacturing,”

Since joining UCF in 2017, Wu has received great recognition in his emerging field. In 2021, he was honored as one of the 20 Most Influential Academics in Smart Manufacturing by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and in 2023 was recognized as one of the top 2% of the most cited scientists in his field, as identified by Stanford University.

Earning a 2024 Reach for the Stars award reminds Wu of the support UCF provides its promising young researchers.

“UCF is an academic leader in numerous fields such as mechanical and aerospace engineering,” he says. “I feel honored and privileged to be a recipient of the Reach for the Stars award. It’s also made me look back at what my team achieved, as well as reflect on how my research can make bigger societal impacts.”

To learn more about all the awardees, see the story in UCF Today by Eddy Duryea ’13: UCF Reach for the Stars 2024 Honorees Leading the Charge into the Future