Category: BME News

Morgan Recognized as One of 100 Inspiring Women in STEM

July 7th, 2015 in BME News

By Mark Dwortzan

Professor Elise Morgan (ME, BME, MSE)

Professor Elise Morgan (ME, BME, MSE)

Professor Elise Morgan (ME, BME, MSE) was selected as a recipient of INSIGHT Into Diversitymagazine’s 100 Inspiring Women in STEM Award. INSIGHT Into Diversity is the oldest and largest diversity magazine and website in higher education.

This award recognizes 100 women whose work and achievements as researchers, teachers and mentors encourages women currently engaged in science, technology, engineering and math fields, and inspires a new generation of young women to consider STEM careers. Boston University recipients Morgan and Cynthia Brossman, director of the Learning Resource Network, will be profiled in the magazine’s September issue along with 98 other Women in Stem honorees.

“I’m extremely honored to receive this recognition, particularly alongside people like Cynthia who exemplify tireless commitment to lighting a spark in the next generation of women in STEM,” said Morgan. “I always hope that I am making an impact through the research that my group does and by connecting with young people. It’s absolutely critical to help everyone around us understand the importance of STEM for society.”

Since joining the College of Engineering faculty in 2003, Morgan has worked to advance understanding of the role of the mechanical function of tissues and organs in skeletal health, repair and development, with the ultimate goal of pinpointing causes and treatments for osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and poor bone healing.

As director of the Orthopaedic and Developmental Biomechanics Laboratory, Morgan studies the interplay among the mechanical behavior, structure and biological function of tissues. Drawing on methods from engineering mechanics, materials science, and cell and molecular biology, and combining experimentation and computational modeling, Morgan’s lab investigates how mechanical factors contribute to the development, adaptation, failure and regeneration of bone and cartilage. Current projects include the use of mechanical stimulation to promote bone regeneration, the biomechanics of spine fractures and bone healing, non-invasive diagnostics of bone healing, and inflammatory bone loss. This work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, private foundations and industry sponsors.

Morgan, who was inducted this year as an American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) Fellow, has received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Senior Fellows from the National Institutes of Health, a Young Investigator Research Award from the International Osteoporosis Foundation and Servier Research Group, the 2013 Kappa Delta Young Investigator Award from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and an Early Career Research Excellence Award and Distinguished Faculty Fellow Award from the College of Engineering. She has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles in major engineering journals and has delivered more than 40 seminars and invited talks. She is also the co-founder of a successful outreach program, Summer Pathways, which engages high school girls in a week-long sequence of activities in science, engineering and math.

Klapperich Interviewed in Futurity

June 25th, 2015 in BME News

Developing Rapid Test for HIV Viral Load

By Barbara Moran, BU Research

t_10-3007-KLAPPERICH-0161Futurity: Research news from top universities has published a Q&A with Professor Catherine Klapperich (BME, ME, MSE) on her innovations in point-of-care diagnostics.

Gauging Newborn Malnutrition, Kidney Disease and More

June 25th, 2015 in BME News

Simple surface tension sensors may allow field, home diagnosis

By Mark Dwortzan

When a droplet of bodily fluid is placed on the surface of the electrospun mesh, it either remains beaded up or (due to surface tension) wicks into the mesh material and rapidly changes color. When it wicks, it dissolves a dye that turns purple.

When a droplet of bodily fluid is placed on the surface of the electrospun mesh, it either remains beaded up or (due to surface tension) wicks into the mesh material and rapidly changes color. When it wicks, it dissolves a dye that turns purple.

A surfactant is a substance that reduces the surface tension of the liquid in which it is dissolved, thus enabling the liquid to disperse more easily when it comes in contact with a wettable material. For instance, laundry detergents help water penetrate through fabric and break up stains. Milkfat also acts as a surfactant, causing droplets of whole milk to wick into a certain class of materials, unlike low-fat or skim, which would bead up like water on a duck’s back.

What makes this more than an intriguing factoid is that one can use it to design a material to evaluate the fat content in breast milk, a critical factor in neonatal health. If the milk fails to penetrate the material, then it contains an inadequate concentration of fat (and calories). Caloric deficiency affects the nearly 10 percent of newborns who fail to thrive due to malnutrition, and the more than 80 percent of mothers who choose formula largely for this reason.

Over the past two years in Professor Mark Grinstaff’s (BME, MSE, Chemistry) lab, BME PhD student Eric Falde has been engineering a polymer sensor that indicates if breast milk has sufficient calories for nursing newborns. He tuned the polymer to switch from non-wetted (the milk beads up) to wetted (the milk wicks through) when there’s an inadequate level of milkfat (too much surface tension in the milk), and to release a purple dye to show when this switch occurs. Intended for home or field use, the sensor provides a far more rapid, affordable, portable, and simple test than today’s standard of care, which relies on a bulky centrifuge or high-pressure liquid chromatography to separate and analyze milk components. 

Grinstaff, Falde and Stephan Yohe (BME, PhD’13) describe their results in the online edition of Advanced Healthcare Materials.

“A facile and rapid measurement of the fat content of breast milk may provide a means for mothers to ensure that their infants are receiving sufficient nutrition and help more than 400,000 infants a year,” said Grinstaff.

Falde created the sensor using a technique called electrospinning which applies a high electric field to a polymer solution and spins the solution into a mesh of fine fibers. The mesh consists of a top layer that responds to small changes in liquid surface tension to resist or absorb a test droplet, and a bottom layer that reveals a color change when wetted.

“When a small droplet of test liquid is deposited on the sensor, it either remains or gets rapidly absorbed and changes color, depending on whether the liquid is above or below the surface tension threshold,“ said Falde, who adjusts the threshold value by tuning how hydrophobic (water-resistant) the polymer will be.

Because it’s designed to switch between wetted and non-wetted states with liquids of a particular surface tension, the sensor could be tuned to detect surface tension changes (corresponding to abnormal levels of fats and proteins) in other biological fluids—blood, urine, saliva and more—that may serve as indicators of a wide range of medical conditions. User-friendly and power-free, such sensors could be deployed at the point of care, including in the home.

“It’s difficult to create a simple test that screens for kidney disease, but a urine sample should show surface tension differences so that we can design a less invasive, faster and more comfortable diagnostic,” said Falde. In the paper, he described two prototype sensor meshes, each tuned to a different surface tension detection range, that he designed, evaluated and tested with human breast milk and urine samples. The latter sensor tested for high bile acid levels, an indicator of kidney disease.

College Announces New Masters Degree Specializations

June 25th, 2015 in BME News

Students Can Amplify Expertise in a High-Value Career Path

By Janet A Smith

shutterstock_128057873Data_Analytics3 shutterstock_138612407_cybersecurity_web Quadrocopter_shutterstock_261695444_CMS300Motivated by emerging economic sectors, the College of Engineering has created new Master’s degree specializations in the high-impact, interdisciplinary fields of Data Analytics, Cybersecurity and Robotics. The specializations are designed to meet the demand for highly skilled professionals in these rapidly expanding fields. 

“The corporate sector has voiced frustration with the shortage of trained engineers in key sectors of the innovation economy,” said Dean Kenneth Lutchen. “By combining a Master’s degree in a foundational engineering discipline with a Specialization in a fast-growing, interdisciplinary field, students will be well positioned to meet this need and impact society. This unique combination should greatly enhance the power of their degrees in the marketplace.” 

Enormous quantities of data are driving rapid growth in the field of data analytics. The College’s approach to data science emphasizes decisions, algorithms, and analytics grounded in engineering application areas. This specialization is intended to yield graduates who will fulfill a variety of innovation needs for applications in finance, healthcare, urban systems, commerce, pharmaceutical and other engineering fields.

“Big Data engineers are critical pioneers and sorely needed in every industry,” said George Anton Papp, vice president for Corporate Development at Teradata, Inc. “The massive amounts of data being collected create enormous opportunities to innovate data architecture and analysis to solve pressing real-world problems.” 

The Cybersecurity field is expanding exponentially, with career paths growing twice as fast as other information technology jobs. This Specialization will foster security-oriented software skills and enable an understanding of cybersecurity applications in software engineering, embedded systems, and networking. It will also provide a context for cybersecurity threats and mitigation strategies ranging from protecting corporate and government systems to home and building automation accessories and medical devices.

“Demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to outstrip supply and is a major concern to organizations in every sector,” noted Proteus Digital Health Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer George Savage. “In our industry, it’s critical to protect the highly personal health data of consumers, providers, and insurers as we enter the digital and personalized health era powered by the smart phone in each of our pockets.”  

The Robotics industry is predicted to grow to $67 billion by 2025 with applications in everything from prosthetics and telemedicine to autonomous vehicles, feedback control systems, brain-machine interfaces, and the Internet of Things. Robotics is inherently interdisciplinary, combining elements of electrical, computer, biomedical, systems, and mechanical engineering. The Specialization will prepare Master’s students for careers in research and development, deployment and operation of advanced individual or multi-coordinated robotic systems. 

“There is enormous need for engineers skilled in robotics and the cross-disciplinary applications of robotics,” said Michael Campbell, executive vice president,
CAD Segment at PTC. “While the field today is very much concerned with applications in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, healthcare, and military uses, we anticipate the field expanding into everything from education to home entertainment.”

Available to all Master’s Degree candidates, the Specialization options have been designed so that students can access from every Master’s degree program. Students who opt to add a Specialization – which is noted on their degree title and transcript – choose at least four of their eight courses from a list specific to each Specialization.

Professor Barbara Shinn-Cunningham Interviewed

June 4th, 2015 in BME News

Professor Barbara Shinn-Cunningham interviewed by Current Biology on a wide range of topics.

Faster, Better, Cheaper–and Closer to Home

June 2nd, 2015 in BME News

How a National BU Research Center is Transforming Cancer Care

By Mark Dwortzan

The wearable probe that Assistant Professor Roblyer (BME) is developing could enable clinicians to detect when a patient's tumor is resisting treatment and it's time to modify treatment.

The wearable probe that Assistant Professor Roblyer (BME) is developing could enable clinicians to detect when a patient’s tumor is resisting treatment and it’s time to modify treatment.

University of Texas-Austin Biochemistry Professor Andrew Ellington and BU School of Medicine Professor and Chair of Dermatology Dr. Rhoda Alani are developing an integrated microfluidic platform called the Paratus SDS(R) cartridge that tests for melanoma biomarkers. Shown here are (A) device design and (B) fabricated device prototype in the open configuration. (Photo courtesy of the University of Texas-Austin and Paratus Diagnostics, LLC)

University of Texas-Austin Biochemistry Professor Andrew Ellington and BU School of Medicine Professor and Chair of Dermatology Dr. Rhoda Alani are developing an integrated microfluidic platform called the Paratus SDS(R) cartridge that tests for melanoma biomarkers. Shown here are (A) device design and (B) fabricated device prototype in the open configuration. (Photo courtesy of the University of Texas-Austin and Paratus Diagnostics, LLC)

Care plan screen for Personal Health Network mobile app that enables cancer patients and their family members to communicate more effectively with care coordination nurses, oncologists and other specialists. The project’s principal investigator is Dr. Katherine Kim, assistant professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at University of California-Davis (Photo courtesy of UC Davis.)

In the 1980s computing shifted from room-sized mainframes to personal computers that could easily fit on the desktop. For most users, there was no more need to submit batch jobs to a queue, wait hours for a printout, and walk down the hall to pick it up. All of that could now be done in short order from the comfort of one’s swivel chair. Today cancer care is undergoing a similar transformation, as researchers advance new technologies designed to shift the action away from large, specialized facilities and toward smaller, local clinics and patients’ homes—and return test results within minutes rather than days. It’s a trend that promises to considerably reduce the costs, complexities and inconveniences of cancer care, make treatment available to more patients in low-resource settings, and achieve better health outcomes for patients in the US and around the world.

To effect this transformation will require a deft combination of biomedical engineering and clinical expertise, and that’s exactly what the Center for Future Technologies in Cancer Care (CFTCC) at Boston University brings to the table. Launched in July 2012 through a five-year, $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Center identifies, prototypes and provides early clinical assessment of innovative point-of-care technologies designed to treat, screen, diagnose and monitor cancers. One of three institutions within the NIH/National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) Point-of-Care Technologies Research Network (POCTRN), CFTCC is the only POCTRN cancer center and one of the only engineering-focused cancer research centers in the nation.

Largely a virtual center that supports researchers around the country in the development and clinical assessment of emerging point-of-care (POC) technologies and the training of clinicians and other potential stakeholders in their use, CFTCC operates two prototyping facilities on the BU campus. One, located on the fifth floor of theBU Photonics Center, is used for early-stage prototyping; the other, housed at the Fraunhofer Center for Manufacturing Innovation, produces more advanced prototypes. As they draw upon these prototyping facilities and the Engineering Product Innovation Center to advance technologies from the lab bench to the marketplace, Center researchers are guided by the NIH’s ultimate aim of lowering healthcare costs while improving the quality of care.

“We’d like to see a shift from a lot of high-cost imaging studies and resource-intensive, late-stage cancer care to early care, smarter care and prevention. In the future, we hope that the kinds of technologies our researchers are developing will become the standard of care,” says ProfessorCatherine Klapperich (BME, ME, MSE), who directs the CFTCC. “We’re trying to give inventors—scientists, engineers and clinicians—a springboard to get their technologies to a place where they can become marketable products.”

 

Accelerating Innovation from Bench to Bedside

In its first three years, the Center has funded 12 projects, two of which have produced devices that are now being commercialized. Among the most promising new POC technologies to emerge from the Center are a noninvasive chemotherapy monitoring device, a mobile app that provides cancer patients with easy access to medical information and support, and a screening test for melanoma.

Assistant Professor Darren Roblyer (BME) has used CFTCC funding and prototyping facilities to advance a noninvasive optical device that monitors the effectiveness of chemotherapy at the point of care for breast cancer patients. Wearable by the patient or handheld by a clinician, the tumor-tracking “imaging pad” that Roblyer is developing transmits near-infrared light that penetrates deep inside cancer tissue. Some of the light is absorbed within cancer tumors and some is scattered back to a detector on the pad. Based on the pad’s continuous optical measurements of the absorption and scattering of light within a tumor, a clinician could, in real time, determine rapid changes in the tumor’s structure and metabolism that indicate its resistance to current treatment. A new course of treatment could then be implemented.

Now in production at the Fraunhofer Center and suitable for clinical testing, Roblyer’s device sharply reduces the size, cost and response time of existing chemotherapy monitoring technology so it can be more easily applied at the point of care.

“This is a technology that used to be the size of a refrigerator just about a decade ago,” says Roblyer. “Because we’re using new digital technologies to both synthesize our signal and to measure, we can reduce the size of the device to that of a briefcase and the cost by an order of magnitude.”

Another CFTCC-funded project that’s poised to enter the marketplace is the Personal Health Network, a mobile app that enables cancer patients and their family members to communicate more effectively withcare coordination nurses, oncologists and other specialists. Spearheaded by Dr. Katherine Kim, assistant professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at University of California-Davis, in collaboration with Tiatros, a digital health technology company based in San Francisco, the app functions like a confidentialsocial network. Once logged onto that network, patients can interact with health providers through video chat and email, and view their plans of care, appointment schedules and a library of medical and self-management information.

“Support from the Center makes possible the optimization of this technology for patients,” says Kim. “We hope to be part of the growing movement that asks how technology can fill the gaps patients experience in the coordination of complex care. Our goal is to bend the cost curve and at the same time improve health.”

University of Texas-Austin Biochemistry Professor Andrew Ellington and BU School of Medicine Professor and Chair of Dermatology Dr. Rhoda Alani used their CFTCC grant to develop an integrated microfluidic platform that tests for cancer biomarkers (it functions like a diagnostic paper test-strip), and a handheld electronic reader that can wirelessly transmit test results. Focusing initially on detecting the recurrence of melanoma, the researchers designed the platform to detect cancer biomarkers in circulating nucleic acid (CNA), which consists of extracellular genetic material (DNA and RNA) that moves freely in the blood. These information-rich molecules could be used to indicate the status of remote tumors, possibly circumventing the need for costly tissue biopsies. Through their novel platform, currently contained within a plastic cartridge, Ellington and Alani aim to transition molecular diagnostic testing to the point-of-care setting.

“The beauty of this is that it’s extremely cheap and easy to use,” says Klapperich. “In three years, it’s gone from Andy and Rhoda meeting through the Center to a working device that’s being prototyped by a commercial entity.”

 

Streamlining Cancer Care

The melanoma biomarker test is one of a number of CFTCC projects that may enable a clinician—and, ultimately, the patient—to administer a rapid test and report the results via the Internet. With that goal in mind, Klapperich is currently working on a microfluidic test that screens for HPV (human papillomavirus, which can lead to cervical cancer) and returns results within minutes rather than days. Other projects, including an app Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE) is co-developing, aim to boost the numbers of people in high-risk, low-compliance populations who get screened for colon and other cancers.

One of the greatest potential benefits of POC screening is to enable clinicians and patients to quickly and easily distinguish between nonaggressive cancers and those likely to spread rapidly and cause illness. Using molecular diagnostics to accurately detect cancer biomarkers in body fluids, such tests could do everything from eliminating unnecessary surgery for nonaggressive tumors to replacing the mammogram with a blood test.

“What are the early molecular changes, and how can we detect them most efficiently? Those are the kinds of questions we try to focus on at the Center,” says Klapperich. “How can we assist clinicians not just in identifying tumors, but by querying the cancer and quantifying the level of risk to the patient? In the last 10 years, exciting tools have emerged that allow us to quantify biomarkers in blood in new ways.”

Even as researchers develop faster, better and cheaper screening technologies, they must also find ways to sell those disruptive technologies to the clinical community.

To overcome potential resistance to the innovations they’re advancing, CFTCC engineers, clinicians, public health practitioners and technology transfer experts spend considerable time on assessing clinical needs. Their collective goal is to determine what technologies will have the biggest impact on improving the healthcare delivery experience for both physicians and patients. 

“When you get a diagnosis of cancer, you’re basically entering a years-long healthcare odyssey where you see an array of different providers, take an insane number of tests and endure uncomfortable procedures,” says Klapperich. “If we can mitigate some of those stress points along the way, that’s really our goal.”

 

Remembering Arthur Thompson

May 21st, 2015 in BME News

First ENG Dean Put College on Path to Prominence

By Mark Dwortzan

Opening of the College of Engineering Building at 110 Cummington Street in February, 1964. Left to right are, Merritt A. Williamson, dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture at Penn State, BU President Harold C. Case and BU College of Engineering Dean Arthur T. Thompson. Williamson gave the Convocation Address at the inaugural ceremony of the College. (Photo by BU Photography)

Opening of the College of Engineering Building at 110 Cummington Street in February, 1964. Left to right are, Merritt A. Williamson, dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture at Penn State, BU President Harold C. Case and BU College of Engineering Dean Arthur T. Thompson. Williamson gave the Convocation Address at the inaugural ceremony of the College. (Photo by BU Photography)

College of Engineering students in a typical lab setting on Cummington Street in 1964 (Photo by BU Photography)

College of Engineering students in a typical lab setting on Cummington Street in 1964 (Photo by BU Photography)

Arthur T. Thompson, the first dean of Boston University College of Engineering, died on May 9 at the age of 96.

Serving with distinction from 1964 to 1974, Thompson laid the foundation for the College’s accreditation, instituted novel degree programs and considerably expanded the College’s undergraduate and graduate offerings. His achievements helped pave the way for the College to become one of the world’s finest training grounds for future engineers and platforms for innovation in synthetic biology, nanotechnology, photonics and other engineering fields. Since 1964, the College’s position in the US News & World Report’s annual survey of US engineering graduate programs has surged from unranked to the top 20 percent nationally.

In 1963, Boston University hired Thompson, then a longtime associate dean of engineering at Penn State University, to become dean of the College of Industrial Technology (CIT). At the time, CIT offered only three degree programs—in technology, aeronautics and management—and occupied a single, four-story building, but Thompson was bullish about CIT’s future. Reflecting on that time during an interview conducted last year in advance of the College’s50th anniversary, Thompson noted that “the soil was rich for this little technical school to grow.”

He pledged to develop engineers with “the capacity for responsible and effective action as members of our society” at dedication ceremonies on February 27, 1964, when CIT was officially renamed as the Boston University College of Engineering. His primary mission was to transform CIT into an accredited engineering program.

During his deanship, the new Aerospace, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering departments received accreditation. The College also instituted the nation’s first BS degree program in bioengineering and expanded to five BS and three MS programs in five fields.

“Dean Thompson took some major risks and took on the responsibility of starting a small engineering college in the shadow of a very large, world-class college across the river, and did it successfully,” said Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen.

“Art had defined the College—he recruited people willing to start with nothing,” recalled Professor John Baillieul (ME, SE). Key appointments included Richard F. Vidale, who would later head the Systems Engineering program, and Merrill Ebner, who headed the Manufacturing Engineering program.

“Thompson and [Ebner] came up with this idea of manufacturing engineering,” said Louis Padulo, who served as dean from 1975 to 1985. “They had the two first accredited programs in the country in systems engineering and manufacturing engineering—way ahead of their time. The real strength, almost like in any startup, is to do something innovative.”

Thompson left the College in 1974 having accomplished the mission he had signed up for a decade earlier. “I felt I had completed my job because the school had taken off, we were accredited and applications were coming in,” he said.

After serving Boston University as engineering dean, associate vice president and professor of engineering, Thompson became provost at Wentworth Institute of Technology.

He was a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education and of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and a Registered Professional Engineer. In addition, he was a trustee emeritus at Colby College and Wentworth and served on the Academic Board of the US Merchant Marine Academy and as a trustee of Norwich University. His honors include the Education Award of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal of the US Army, in which he served during World War II.

Thompson received an arts degree from Colby College, an engineering degree from Penn State, amaster’s degrees in engineering from Harvard University and a master of business administration degree from the University of Chicago. He was also awarded honorary doctorates from Colby, Norwich and Wentworth.

Most recently residing in Newton, Thompson was predeceased by his wife of 70 years, Virginia (Deringer) Thompson, and survived by daughters Deborah A. and Harriet T. Thompson of Newton; granddaughter Ashima Scripp and husband Robert Bloomfield of Windham, NH; and great grandson Thatcher Bloomfield.

A memorial service will be held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 79 Denton Road, Wellesley on Friday, June 12 at 11 a.m. For tributes and guest book, visit www.duckett-waterman.com.

More information about Dean Thompson’s role in launching the College of Engineering can be found in the brochure ENG @ 50: Moving Society Forward.

The BEST Time to Be an Engineer is Now!

May 21st, 2015 in BME News

College of Engineering Celebrates New Graduates

By Janet A Smith

Graduate Convocation speaker Farzad Kamalabadi (ECE, MS'94, PhD'01) professor of ECE and Statistics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), exhorted the new masters and PhD graduates to combine science with policy work.

Graduate Convocation speaker Farzad Kamalabadi (ECE, MS’94, PhD’01) professor of ECE and Statistics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), exhorted the new masters and PhD graduates to combine science with policy work.

The College of Engineering awarded 268 undergraduate degrees on May 16th. At a separate ceremony in the afternoon, Dean Ken Lutchen presented 68 Master of Science and 60 Master of Engineering degrees, and presided over the hooding of 37 PhD students.

The College of Engineering awarded 268 undergraduate degrees on May 16th. At a separate ceremony in the afternoon, Dean Ken Lutchen presented 68 Master of Science and 60 Master of Engineering degrees, and presided over the hooding of 37 PhD students.

There has never been a better time to be an engineer, because society has never needed these skills more urgently. This was the overarching message in speeches delivered at the College of Engineering’s undergraduate and graduate Commencement ceremonies on May 16.

In the morning, Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen welcomed the 268 graduating seniors and their families by acknowledging their accomplishment in completing what he described as the most challenging curriculum at Boston University. 

“The single most important skill in life is the ability to work really hard,” he said. “There isn’t a student in any other college on this campus who has worked as hard as you to earn your place at today’s commencement. Now begins the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned and move society forward.”


Atri Raychowdhury (ECE’15), past Class of 2015 president and this year’s BU IEEE student chapter vice president, echoed this sentiment in his student address. He exhorted all to keep their passion for engineering strong. “Let us use our education to solve the Grand Challenges of society. This truly is our responsibility as Societal Engineers,” he noted to resounding cheers. “The end of our time here marks the beginning of a new journey.”

“Now is the best and most exciting time to be an engineer,” said Commencement speaker Dr. Angela M. Belcher, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy at MIT’s Biological Engineering Laboratory and leader of a research team that engineers viruses to grow and assemble materials for energy, electronics and medicine. “From clean energy and the environment to healthcare, education, food and water, there has never been a time when we have had more opportunities to make an impact.”  

Belcher, who founded Cambros Technologies and Siluria Technologies, has been cited by Rolling Stone, Time and Scientific American for her work’s impact on society. 
 
Dean Lutchen presented Department Awards for Teaching Excellence to asst. professor Ahmad Khalil (BME), lecturer Osama Alshaykh (ECE) and assoc. professor Raymond Nagem (ME), who also received Outstanding Professor of the Year Award. The Faculty Service Award went to professor Joyce Wong (BME). 

Later in the day, Lutchen presented 68 Master of Science and 60 Master of Engineering degrees, and presided over the hooding of 37 PhD students. 

Farzad Kamalabadi (ECE, MS’94, PhD’01) professor of ECE and Statistics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), exhorted the new masters and PhD graduates to combine science with policy work. “The world faces multiple problems of diminishing resources, which are all intertwined with social and economic stability,” he said. “You are poised to address these vital questions from a fresh, solutions-oriented perspective. But you can’t do it from within the scientific community alone. We need more engineers in Washington, Brussels, and the other policy centers of the world. It is crucial that the engineering leaders of the future – you – play central roles in social policy.”

 

Dean’s Catalyst Awards Fund Promising, Early-Stage Projects

May 19th, 2015 in BME News

By Mark Dwortzan

Picture of a hoarder's room. With Dean's Catalyst Award funding, Professor Janusz Konrad (ECE) and Associate Professor Jordana Muroff (SSW) plan to develop an objective, automatic, image-based, real-time hoarding assessment algorithm running on a smartphone or tablet.

Picture of a hoarder’s room. With Dean’s Catalyst Award funding, Professor Janusz Konrad (ECE) and Associate Professor Jordana Muroff (SSW) plan to develop an objective, automatic, image-based, real-time hoarding assessment algorithm running on a smartphone or tablet.

Early result of automatic detection of clutter in the same room (red stars denote clutter; blue circles denote non-clutter). The severity of hoarding disorder is judged based on clutter.

Early result of automatic detection of clutter in the same room (red stars denote clutter; blue circles denote non-clutter). The severity of hoarding disorder is judged based on clutter.

The College of Engineering has funded four new projects through the Dean’s Catalyst Award (DCA) grant program, each focused on technologies that promise to make a significant impact on society. ENG and collaborating faculty will receive $40,000 per project to develop novel techniques to advance these technologies.

Established by Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen in 2007 and organized by a faculty committee, the annual DCA program encourages early-stage, innovative, interdisciplinary projects that could spark new advances in a variety of engineering fields. By providing each project with seed funding, the awards give full-time faculty the opportunity to develop collaborations and generate initial proof-of-concept results that could help secure external funding.

This year’s DCA-winning projects could yield new applications in healthcare and energy.

Professor Janusz Konrad (ECE) and Associate Professor Jordana Muroff (SSW) will explore ways to automate the assessment of hoarding, a complex psychiatric disorder and public health problem characterized by persistent difficulty and distress associated with discarding of possessions. Current assessment methods of hoarding are subjective and time-consuming, as they require patients and/or clinicians to complete questionnaires or select images. To overcome these drawbacks, Konrad and Muroff plan to develop an objective, automatic, image-based, real-time hoarding assessment algorithm running on a smartphone or tablet. Such technology could enable cost-effective, precisely-targeted mental healthcare for hoarding disorder patients.

Professors Elise Morgan (ME, BME, MSE), Katya Ravid (MED) and Louis Gerstenfeld (MED) will test whether blocking a metabolic receptor associated with the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) can help mitigate the destructive progression of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a debilitating disease characterized by joint pain and stiffness. In patients with RA, angiogenesis occurs in the membrane surrounding the joint in an uncontrolled way, thus advancing the destruction of joint tissues. If blocking this receptor proves successful, this research could lead to the development of a new class of pharmacological therapies for RA patients that, unlike current treatments, do not lose their effectiveness over time.

Associate Professor Srikanth Gopalan and Assistant Professor Emily Ryan (both ME, MSE) observe that power generation and energy storage devices such as fuel cells and lithium ion batteries have not found more widespread applications because the micro-structured electrodes they typically use do not provide sufficient energy capacity and power density to make these devices commercially attractive in a broader class of applications. To overcome this shortcoming, the researchers plan to develop a novel molten salt-based fabrication technique for nanostructured electrodes, which have the potential for unprecedented improvements in both energy capacity and power densities.

Professor Joyce Wong (BME, MSE) and Associate Professor Glynn Holt (ME) aim to perform a definitive proof-of-concept experiment to establish the potential for the use of microbubbles and ultrasound to noninvasively break blood clots. Clots are a major problem in the medical device industry because they can form on device surfaces, which can then lead to pulmonary embolisms if the clots end up in the lung or a stroke in the brain. Building on past studies by Wong, the researchers will conduct experiments aimed at developing a commercial “clot-busting” microbubble that binds to clots and breaks them in the presence of focused ultrasound.

Three ECE Faculty Among 22 Charles River Campus Promotions

May 14th, 2015 in BME News

By Joel Brown, BU Today

The University has promoted 18 faculty members to associate professor with tenure and raised the status of several others on the Charles River Campus. Photo by Mike Spencer

The University has promoted 18 faculty members to associate professor with tenure and raised the status of several others on the Charles River Campus. Photo by Mike Spencer

College students who have lived through a sexual assault may not seek traditional counseling on campus for a number of reasons, including privacy fears. An online intervention program that they can access at any time from the privacy of their dorm room might reach more women, says School of Education counseling and human development faculty member Amie Grills.

“There seems to be something comforting about being able to work through your experience when you have a program that nobody knows about but you,” says Grills, coinvestigator on a project funded by the National Institute of Mental Health examining a therapist-facilitated intervention program for those students.

“It’s taking years of working with victims of sexual assault and women who’ve had negative sexual encounters—taking what we learned from all that clinical study and applying it to this online intervention,” says Grills, whose research is focused on childhood anxiety and differential responses to traumatic experiences across age groups.

The women can visit the site at any time to work through modules where they discuss their experience and learn coping skills. A therapist reviews their posts and responds with written and video feedback within 48 hours. “We tried to incorporate what might typically happen in a therapeutic setting with the feedback women receive,” Grills says.

The three-site study concluded this spring. Its findings will be presented at the American Psychological Association annual convention in August and published this summer. Grills and collaborator Heather Littleton of East Carolina University are working on securing funding to expand the project to reach even more women.

Grills is among 18 faculty members on the Charles River Campus promoted to associate professor with tenure. Also promoted are two School of Law faculty, to the rank of full professor with tenure, a current associate professor awarded tenure, and a non–tenure track faculty member promoted to associate professor.

“Through foundational scholarship and groundbreaking exploration, these talented faculty members are emerging as leaders in their fields and demonstrating why Boston University continues to be a global destination for research,” says Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer. “We are enormously proud of what they have been able to accomplish and excited that they will continue their careers at Boston University.”

The faculty promoted come from a diverse range of fields, from the sciences, business, and law to the humanities and the performing arts.

Anna Henchman, a newly minted College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of English with tenure, specializes in 19th-century British literature, with an emphasis on the relationship between literature, art, and epistemology. She is the author ofThe Starry Sky Within: Astronomy and the Reach of the Mind in Victorian Literaturewhich examines how four Victorian authors, Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Thomas De Quincey, and Alfred Tennyson, looked at Earth through the prism of the stars.

“A lot of what I’m interested in is how we as human beings can use our imagination to get outside the constraints of human perception,” says Henchman. “To see how the writers were using optics to pull their readers way out into space, and then back onto the surface of the Earth.”

In her latest project, she’s going in another direction entirely, exploring how Charles Darwin, Hardy, and other Victorians depicted tiny creatures such as snails and worms, creatures who experience the world primarily through touch. “It’s really about how writers were trying to imagine how consciousness could have evolved over time,” she says.

As well as Amie Grills and Anna Henchman, the additional faculty promoted to associate professor with tenure are:

Ayse Coskun, College of Engineering associate professor of electrical and computer engineering

 

Recognized internationally for her novel methods to increase energy efficiency, power, and temperature management of computer systems, Coskun is an NSF CAREER Award winner and holder of six patents. She has been recognized for her algorithmic advances that synchronize software performance, hardware activity, and thermal balance to optimize system performances.

Douglas Densmore, ENG associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, biomedical engineering and bioinformatics

Densmore specializes in design automation, using electronic design techniques along with synthetic biology to build synthetic biological systems, primarily expressed as software packages. He is an NSF CAREER Award winner and past recipient of ENG’s Early Career Research Excellence Award and BU’s Reidy Family Career Development Professorship. His computational research has generated a patent, two textbooks, and numerous journal and conference papers.

Vivek Goyal, ENG associate professor of electrical and computer engineering

Goyal is known for his work in modern signal processing, specializing in wavelet coding techniques. The author of six books, he holds 18 patents and is permanent cochair of the wavelets conference series of SPIE, the international professional society for optics and photonics. He is the recipient of numerous NSF grants, including a CAREER Award, and is an elected fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Amy Appleford, CAS associate professor of English

Appleford studies the literature and culture of late medieval England, as well as medieval women’s visionary writing and mysticism. Her recent book, Learning to Die in London, 1380-1540 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), examines how attitudes toward death and dying shaped civic life just a generation after the Black Death. She is currently at work on a forthcoming volume.

Margaret Beck (GRS’06), CAS associate professor of mathematics and statistics

Beck is noted for her research in dynamical systems and applied mathematics. A pioneer in bringing techniques from invariant manifold theory to the study of partial differential equations, she has developed new computational methods that are considered major theoretical advances in mathematical theory. She has received National Science Foundation funding to support her work.

Tulika Bose, CAS associate professor of physics

Bose studies high-energy particle physics, seeking to better understand nature’s most fundamental forces. Recently appointed trigger coordinator for the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland,Bose is internationally recognized for her work in experimental physics. She is a past recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship.

Michael Dietze, CAS associate professor of earth and environment

Dietze studies forest ecosystems and community dynamics from the local to the global scale. His research topics include climate-fire-vegetation relationships in the Alaskan tundra and the development of ecoinformatics tools for integrating field data and modeling. His research has been funded by numerous NSF awards and a NASA grant.

Horacio Frydman, CAS associate professor of biology

Frydman focuses on understanding how microorganisms and their hosts interact. His groundbreaking research on Wolbachia bacteria in insects, both as a means of manipulating a host’s reproduction and as a possible tool in preventing the spread of diseases like malaria and dengue fever, has earned significant funding from both the NSF and the National Institutes of Health.

Sharon Goldberg, CAS associate professor of computer science

Goldberg uses tools from theory and networking, including cryptography and game theory, to solve practical problems relating to computer and internet security. Considered a leading authority in the field of network security, she is the recipient of numerous NSF grants, including a CAREER Award, and a Sloan Research Fellowship.

Lucy Hutyra, CAS associate professor of earth and environment

Hutyra combines principles from different fields to better understand Earth’s carbon cycle. She is a recognized leader in the nascent field of carbon dynamics, and her research has been supported by a grant from IBM’s Smarter Cities Program, as well as from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the NSF, including a CAREER Award.

Mark Kramer, CAS associate professor of mathematics and statistics

Specializing in mathematical neuroscience, Kramer uses techniques from differential equations, dynamical systems theory, and statistics, among other fields, to produce new discoveries in the study of epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. He is the recipient of a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award  and has received significant funding from the NIH.

Ashley Mears, CAS associate professor of sociology

Mears, whose research focuses on gender studies and economic sociology, explores commodification of beauty and glamor and the intersection of culture and economic markets. Her 2011 book Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Modelexamines the creation of value in modeling.

Andrew West, CAS associate professor of astronomy

West studies M- and L-type dwarf stars, the smallest yet most numerous stars in the Milky Way, with a focus on their magnetic activity and using them to understand the structure of our galaxy. The recipient of numerous NSF grants, including a CAREER Award, he has published more than 100 articles and papers exploring the properties, formation, and aging of stars. He designed and taught one of the first four massive open online courses (MOOCs) developed at BU, Alien Worlds: The Science of Exoplanet Discovery and Characterization, which launched last fall.

Ana Albuquerque, Questrom School of Business associate professor of accounting

Albuquerque specializes in research on executive compensation, with a special emphasis on comparative studies of pay based on productivity. Her work in relative performance evaluation has been the basis of a number of highly regarded papers. She is a past recipient of Questrom’s Broderick Award for Outstanding Research.

Kira Fabrizio, Questrom associate professor of strategy and innovation

Fabrizio specializes in innovation, knowledge exploitation, and intellectual property rights, with an emphasis on energy and environmental policy. A past winner of the Broderick Award for Outstanding Research, she cocreated a new MBA concentration in energy and environmental sustainability. She also is advisory editor for Research Policy.

Rady Roldán-Figueroa (STH’05), School of Theology associate professor of the history of Christianity

Roldán-Figueroa studies the early modern period and the history of Christian spirituality, focusing on the Protestant and Roman Catholic Reformations in the Spanish-speaking world. His specific research into the Spanish Bible’s influence on the King James Bible has led to new discoveries about understudied figures, religious movements, and spiritual practices. He is the author of The Ascetic Spirituality of Juan de Avila (1499-1569).

The other promotions:

Adrian Whitty, CAS associate professor of chemistry

Whitty studies protein-protein interactions with the aim of understanding the activation and signaling of growth-factor receptor systems and advancing the pursuit of drugs that inhibit protein-protein interactions. Prior to joining BU in 2008, he worked for 14 years at Biogen Idec, where he participated in and led multiple drug discovery teams and directed the company’s postdoctoral program. Whitty has been granted tenure.

Shiela Kibbe-Hodgkins, College of Fine Arts associate professor of music

Kibbe-Hodgkins chairs the School of Music department of piano performance. She specializes in musical collaboration and voice coaching. She has taught as visiting faculty at Juilliard and produced three CDs, including this year’s Modern Fairy Tales, and has earned international recognition for her solo and ensemble work.She has been promoted to associate professor.

Khiara Bridges, School of Law professor of law

Bridges specializes in interdisciplinary research on the intersection of race, class, and reproductive rights, and is the author of Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization, the result of her research in the obstetrics clinic of a New York public hospital. Last year she received LAW’s Michael Melton Award for Excellence in Teaching. She has been promoted to professor with tenure.

Anna di Robilant, LAW professor of law

Di Robilant studies property law and theory, legal history, and comparative law between the United States and Europe. Her research has focused largely on common and civil law and the design of property law institutions in free and democratic societies. Her unique focus led to her appointment as chair of the Property Law section of the Common Core of European Private Law. She has been promoted to professor with tenure.