Materials Research Advances Reliability Of Faster Smart Sensors

By Letitia Stein, symptoms Times Staff Writer (

University of South Florida leaders said Tuesday they are ready to use $6 million from the federal stimulus bill to hire “e-ambassadors” to help doctors convert to using electronic medical records.

Within about three months, USF hopes to make the first of about 100 hires for its PaperFree Florida initiative to modernize daily medical practice.

“It’s not about the hardware and the software,” said Dr. Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF medical school. “It’s about changing the DNA of health care.”

The federal government is pushing doctors to replace paper charts and prescription pads with electronic records to reduce medical errors and unnecessary testing. But the transition can be difficult for physicians, especially those in solo or small practices.

To assist, the university will train workers to serve doctors much like agricultural extension agents help farmers. These e-ambassadors would educate health professionals about electronic record-keeping systems and aid them in adopting and using the technology.

“We’re not sending out salespeople,” said Jay Wolfson, a USF public health professor who is the project’s director. “We’re sending out a force of extension agents who will be available to clinicians.”

About 1,000 physicians already have expressed interest, he said.

The effort will cover 20 rural and urban counties, including all of the Tampa Bay region. The university is working with community colleges on a training program. Organizers expect to draw job candidates from health-related fields and beyond.

Wolfson said that jobs should pay $40,000 to $50,000. USF hopes to partner with medical groups to develop a model that can continue after the federal grant ends.

“It’s going to save lives,” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, who helped secure the funds. “It’s going to save money, since we can squeeze a lot of efficiencies out of the health care system.”

Letitia Stein can be reached at or (813) 226-3322. For more health news, visit
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The company will use the financing to support ongoing sales and marketing of its onFocus|epmTM “Enterprise Performance Management” or (EPM) software, which is used by executive teams in hospitals and other healthcare settings to ensure accountability and consistently achieve critical business objectives across the organization. onFocus|epm is a one-of-a-kind web-based solution that allows healthcare leaders to integrate business intelligence data from any source with strategic goals, action plans, progress tracking and management accountability to ensure targeted results at all levels of the organization.
In military and security situations, ed a split second can make the difference between life and death, so North Carolina State University’s development of new “smart sensors” that allow for faster response times from military applications is important. Equally important is new research from NC State that will help ensure those sensors will operate under extreme conditions – like those faced in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

“We’ve taken a sensor material called vanadium oxide and integrated it with a silicon chip,” says Dr. Jay Narayan, the John C. Fan Distinguished Chair Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at NC State and co-author of the research. “Normally sensors are hardwired to a computer. But now the sensor is part of the computer chip itself. The advantage is that now you have a smart sensor that can sense, manipulate and respond to information.”

For example, such smart sensors allow for the development of infrared sensors that can respond more quickly in military or security applications.

The creation of these smart sensors is possible due to Narayan’s discovery of “domain matching epitaxy.” This model allows the creation of single, defect-free crystal layers of different materials – which amplify the transmission of electronic signals between those materials.

New findings presented by a team of NC State researchers (published in Applied Physics Letters and Journal of Applied Physics) now describe how vanadium oxide sensors work in conjunction with the silicon chips to which they are attached. Understanding how these sensors function gives researchers the ability to improve the reliability of these smart sensors, and account for variable conditions the sensors may be exposed to,  such as various temperatures and pressures a sensor may face in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The research, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, was co-authored by Narayan, Dr. Roger Narayan, a professor of biomedical engineering at NC State, and NC State Ph.D. students Tsung Han Yang, Ravi Aggarwal, A. Gupta, and H. Zhou. The research was presented April 7 at the 2011 Materials Research Society Spring Meeting in San Francisco. The paper, titled “Mechanism of Semiconductor Metal Transition of Vanadium Oxide Thin Films,” won the First Prize in the MRS Symposium N: Functional Oxide Nanostructures and Heterostructures.

NC State’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering is part of the university’s College of Engineering. The Department of Biomedical Engineering is a joint department under both NC State’s College of Engineering and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.