Category: BME News
By Mark Dwortzan
Historically the domain of doctors and public health professionals, the field of global health is becoming more inclusive of technology, innovation and engineering. In a move reflective of this change, the Consortium of Universities of Global Health (CUGH), the most prestigious professional organization in global health, has elected Associate Professor Muhammad Zaman (BME, MSE) to its Board of Directors. Zaman is one of a small but growing number of non-physicians—and only the second engineer—to achieve this status.
“I am deeply honored to be on the board with some of the biggest names in the world in global health,” he said. “These world leaders have the vision, passion, knowledge, experience and expertise, and a track record of making the world a better place. I’m sure I will learn a lot from their input and experience.”
“This is a testament to the very high regard in which you are held within the global health community,” said CUGH Executive Director Keith Martin, MD, in a letter notifying Zaman of his election. Founded by leading North American university global health programs, CUGH sets standards for global health curricula, competencies and field placements, and coordinates collaborative global health projects among resource-rich universities and resource-limited nations and institutions.
As a CUGH board member, Zaman looks forward to bringing his perspective as an engineering researcher and educator to conversations, policy and practices shaping the future of global health. He is especially excited about getting more engineering undergraduates involved in the field.
“Historically, undergrad engineering students have not been a part of the activities in global health, but there is tremendous interest amongst them,” he said. “This opportunity will allow me to get them more engaged and provide a platform for them to make an impact on the world.”
A BU faculty member since 2009, Zaman heads the Cellular and Molecular Dynamics Lab, which engineers new experimental and computational technologies for major healthcare problems in both the developing and developed world, including probing the mechanisms of cancer metastasis. The lab focuses on how physical and mechanical properties of cancer cells impact their growth and movement, modeling this behavior in computer programs.
Meanwhile, Zaman is developing robust, cheap, portable and user-friendly diagnostics and analysis toolkits to address global health challenges. As director of the Laboratory for Engineering Education and Development (LEED), he works with BU students to advance technologies to detect counterfeit drugs, preserve biological reagents used in diagnostic tests and provide other in-demand healthcare solutions targeting the specific needs of resource-limited countries. He is also co-director of the Africa Biomedical Engineering Initiative, which was funded by UN Economic Commission for Africa to improve biomedical engineering education, innovation and practice in Africa.
Zaman’s achievements in cancer and global health research have earned him funding from USAID, the Saving Lives at Birth Consortium, U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and many private foundations, as well as several invitations to participate in U.S. National Academy of Engineering research and education symposia. The 2013 recipient of the Early Career Achievement Award from the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS)—the world’s largest international society of biomedical engineers—Zaman has served as keynote or plenary speaker at major national and international conferences and published dozens of highly-cited papers in leading biomedical journals.
Finding Could Open Up New Drug Discovery Opportunities
By Mark Dwortzan
Over the past six years, an interdisciplinary team of College of Engineering faculty members—Professor Sandor Vajda (BME, SE), Research Assistant Professor Dima Kozakov (BME), Professor Yannis Paschalidis (ECE, SE) and Associate Professor Pirooz Vakili (ME, SE)—have been developing a set of powerful optimization algorithms for predicting the structures of complexes that form when two proteins bind together—structures that, in some cases, generate erroneous cell signaling pathways that can trigger cancer and other inflammatory diseases.
Incorporated into Vajda’s and Kozakov’s protein-protein docking server ClusPro—a website to which any user can submit the three-dimensional coordinates of two proteins and receive a supercomputer-calculated prediction of the structure of the complex formed by those proteins—these algorithms have enabled more than 3,000 research groups across the globe to better understand the inner-workings of the cell and explore potential drug targets without having to run expensive, time-consuming lab experiments.
Now the research team behind these algorithms has, through lab experiments and computational analysis, obtained a sharper understanding of how two proteins come together to form a complex, and plans to apply that knowledge to boost the speed and accuracy of ClusPro’s predictions. They and collaborators from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report on this new development in a new article in eLife, an open source journal for outstanding biomedical research.
A joint effort of Boston University’s Center for Information and Systems Engineering and Biomolecular Engineering Research Center supported by a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the NIH, the project combines Paschalidis’ and Vakili’s expertise in optimization and systems theory with Vajda and Kozakov’s knowledge of biophysics and bioinformatics.
“The research was a beautiful combination of physics with mathematics,” said Paschalidis. “We leveraged techniques popular in control systems developed to describe movement of complex 3-D objects, such as a robot arm, as well as machine learning methods used to analyze large data sets.”
“Preventing proteins from binding to the wrong partners is an increasingly prominent concept in drug design,” said Janna Wehrle, PhD, of the NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which partially funded the research. “These new computational methods developed by the Boston University team will help researchers quickly discover both healthy protein pairs and disease-causing pairs that we might want to break up.”
Until now, scientists were unable to characterize how protein-protein complexes form from two individual proteins—each analogous to a distinctly-shaped Lego block—because their interactions from the moment they come in contact to the moment they “snap into place” were too fast to detect. But an emerging nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technique has made it possible to track their rapidly changing configurations from rendezvous to docking using radio waves.
Applying this technique, the College of Engineering team determined that its protein-protein docking algorithms were already generating these exact transitional states, but labelling them as “false positives” alongside the correctly identified final protein-protein complex.
“What we have so far been calling false positives are ‘transient encounter complexes,’ temporary structures the proteins form as they ‘search’ for the one orientation that will enable them to bind successfully,” said Paschalidis.
All protein-protein encounter complexes are characterized by low energy, with the lowest energy expected to occur at the final, stable complex. By systematically analyzing the energy values corresponding to the transient complexes, the researchers found that with each successive interaction, the intersecting proteins have fewer and fewer ways to twist and turn, thereby accelerating their path to binding. This explains how two proteins can dock very quickly despite the many nooks and crannies that must line up to seal the deal.
The College of Engineering team next aims to exploit its findings to make its docking algorithms faster and more accurate. The researchers also plan to examine the implications of their work for protein-DNA and protein-small molecule interactions that are important in genetic regulation and drug discovery, respectively.
See movie of transient protein-protein encounter complexes.
By Mark Dwortzan
Associate Professor Catherine Klapperich (BME, MSE) was selected as the inaugural holder of the Dorf-Ebner Distinguished Faculty Fellow award, which honors a mid-career College of Engineering faculty member who has demonstrated exceptional performance and impact in research, teaching and service to the College, and is on track to become an outstanding senior leader in his or her field. Issued once every five years, the award provides each recipient with $100,000 in funding over a five-year period for discretionary initiatives in research and/or education.
The Dorf-Ebner Distinguished Faculty Fellow award is made possible by the generous philanthropy of Roger Dorf (MS, MFG’70), who serves on the College of Engineering’s Leadership Advisory Board. The award was named in memory of Professor Merrill Ebner (MFG), Dorf’s mentor and pioneer of the field of manufacturing engineering, who established the College of Engineering as a leader in the US in the late 1960s.
Klapperich was chosen from a highly competitive slate of nominees in a rigorous selection process.
“I am extremely grateful for this recognition, and especially pleased that the fellowship is in honor of Dr. Merrill Ebner, one of my first mentors at Boston University,” said Klapperich. “Merrill made me feel like a member of the College of Engineering community from day one, and I have fond memories of our talks.”
Klapperich, the director of the NIH Center for Future Technologies in Cancer Care at BU, develops robust, inexpensive, handheld, microfluidic plastic chips and devices that extract nucleic acids from complex human samples—technologies that could enable rapid, point-of-care diagnostics for infectious diseases and cancer without the need for electricity or refrigeration. These minimally instrumented systems could be a major step forward in facilitating the use of molecular diagnostics in developing countries. Klapperich is also working on the design and deployment of devices to more efficiently apply systems biology techniques to improve understanding of TB and other complex diseases.
A recently elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and Kern Innovation Faculty Fellow, Klapperich directs the Laboratory for Diagnostics and Global Healthcare Technologies and is a member of the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. Widely published in peer-reviewed journals, her work has garnered more than 1,100 citations in research literature. She serves on the editorial board of Biomedical Microdevices and is an active participant in both national and international research conferences. In 2010, she was an invited participant in the National Academies of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering conference. A member of the College of Engineering faculty since 2003, she earned her PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 2000 from the University of California, Berkeley.
Klapperich is also a widely sought-after educator and mentor who has created and taught in some of the most popular design and manufacture courses at the College. She recently took over the BME Senior Project course with resounding success.
“Cathie is a wonderful first choice for this award,” said Dorf. “Her academic credentials and accomplishments speak for themselves, but what makes her selection really special is that she and I were both mentored by Merrill Ebner.”
Chair of the ENG Campaign Steering Committee, and co-chair of the BU Texas Regional Campaign Committee, Dorf is a recipient of both the ENG and BU Distinguished Alumni Awards. He served for more than 40 years in executive and engineering leadership before retiring from his position as vice president of Cisco Systems in 2009. He previously served as president and CEO of Navini Networks, and in leadership positions at Celite Systems, Nortel Network, Synch Research, AT&T, Cullinet Software and IBM.
Based in Dallas, Texas, Dorf is active in several organizations including the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley in Gunnison, Colorado, the US Chamber of Commerce, and Missouri University of Science & Technology.
By Michael G Seele
Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen has received the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering’s (AIMBE) highest honor, the Pierre Galletti Award, in recognition of his contributions to the public awareness of medical and biological engineering, and to the promotion of the national interest in science, engineering and education.
AIMBE selected Lutchen based on his “seminal contributions to quantitative understanding and treatment of respiratory disease, providing a role model for national growth of the biomedical engineering discipline, mentoring a generation of students, elevating the stature and visibility of AIMBE with key federal agencies and lawmakers, and promoting public awareness of the field through a national engineering school and professional society leadership,” according to the award citation. He received the award and presented a lecture at AIMBE’s annual meeting on March 23 in Washington, DC.
“This award from my peers is a great personal honor,” Lutchen said. “But I hope that it can also serve to raise awareness among policymakers and future engineers about the importance of biomedical engineering in our healthcare and our economy.”
Lutchen is one of the world’s leading biomedical engineers in the field of pulmonary physiology. He has published more than 130 peer-reviewed journal articles and has advanced novel experimental, imaging, and computational-based methods for probing the structure-function relations governing lung disease. His papers have been cited more than 5,000 times.
While the Awards Committee noted his research, it also recognized his extraordinary contributions to teaching and education. Prior to being appointed dean, Lutchen served as chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department, where he provided the leadership to advance the department’s ranking in US News and World Report from 18th to sixth and was the chief architect of a $14 million Leadership Award from the Whitaker Foundation and a $5 million Translational Research Partnership Award from the Coulter Foundation. The committee also noted the Distinguished Fellowship Program bearing his name that annually awards $100,000 to 10 undergraduate engineer students to fund summer research projects.
AIMBE represents approximately 50,000 individuals, of which only two percent are admitted to the organization as fellows. In addition to being a fellow, Lutchen is a past AIMBE president and has served as secretary/treasurer, and chair of the Academic Council. In addition, he has served on the board of directors of the Biomedical Engineering Society, of which he is a founding fellow. He also has served on scientific advisory boards, review panels and study sections for the Whitaker Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and several bioengineering departments and engineering colleges nationwide.
By Mark Dwortzan
Assistant professors James C. Bird (ME, MSE),Ahmad (“Mo”) Khalil (BME) and Mac Schwager(ME, SE) have each received the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award in recognition of their outstanding research and teaching capabilities. Collectively, they will receive more than $1.5 million over the next five years to pursue high-impact projects that combine research and educational objectives.
Bird intends to apply his CAREER award to explore how submicron aerosol droplets are formed from small bursting bubbles. Using direct, high-speed observations, numerical simulations and experimental models, he will seek out the primary mechanism behind this phenomenon. Because these droplets can persist in the atmosphere for weeks, pinpointing this mechanism is important in engineering applications ranging from turbine corrosion to the dispersion of respiratory diseases.
Bird’s research may also improve models used to predict the progression of global climate change.
“On a global scale, a better understanding of aerosol production is necessary to reduce uncertainty in global climate models,” said Bird, “and will allow policy makers to better assess the risks and rewards of geoengineering mitigation strategies, such as deliberately injecting large amounts of sulfur particulates into the atmosphere in hopes of countering the warming effects of greenhouse gases.”
Khalil will use his CAREER award to better understand the mechanisms underlying how organisms adapt to changing environments, a classic problem in evolutionary biology. The goal of his project will be to test a theory that prions—proteins that can switch between multiple conformational states or shapes—equip microbes with an enhanced capability to survive under fluctuating environmental conditions. Khalil will develop microfluidic systems to study prion behavior and synthetic biology methods to optimize their adaptive properties.
“This work will have broad implications for our basic understanding of evolution, development and cellular systems,” said Khalil. “The project will also shed light on the diverse roles of prions, unique elements that are emerging to be common in the microbial world, and have a transformative impact on synthetic biology, enabling new schemes for rationally engineering a wide array of cellular functions.”
Khalil also aims to inspire and train students to explore how engineering approaches can be applied to better understand how life works, through a “systems & synthetic biology boot camp” for high school students, related high school design challenges to be facilitated by College of Engineering Inspiration Ambassadors, undergraduate research opportunities through the International Genetically Engineered Machine (IGEM) synthetic biology competition, a new integrated course on quantitative systems biology, and other educational activities.
Schwager’s CAREER award will support his efforts to develop algorithms enabling groups of robots to control harmful ecological phenomena such as forest fires, oil spills and agricultural pest infestations. Schwager’s research aims to use a group of robots not only to sense an environment (a passive operation typical of most of today’s research on multi-robot coordination), but also to control the evolution of processes in the environment. He plans to demonstrate the viability of his control strategies through laboratory and outdoor experiments with a network of quadrotor aerial robots.
“Ultimately, the project seeks to alleviate the economic, societal and ecological damage caused by destructive environmental phenomena by laying the foundations of a new robotic technology,” said Schwager.
He also plans to bring quadrotor robots into the classroom to illustrate the principles of feedback control by partnering with the Technology Innovation Scholars Program (TISP). The goal is to engage students from diverse backgrounds at all grade levels and to stimulate their interest in robotic solutions to environmental stewardship.
To date, 37 College of Engineering faculty members have received NSF CAREER awards during their service to the College.
By Michael G Seele
The College of Engineering is expanding its suite of master’s degree programs to give students more flexibility in choosing a program best suited to their career aspirations. Anticipated to be fully in place for the fall 2014 semester, these programs emphasize advanced technical coursework and include an individual or team-based practicum design project. Students will be able to choose among Master of Science and Master of Engineering programs.
“We’ve added new dimensions to our master’s degree programs that speak to the career paths of prospective graduate students,” said College of Engineering Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen. “Whether students want a strictly technical program, one that includes some leadership training or one that prepares them for doctoral work, all options will be available to them.”
All Master of Science programs emphasize advanced technical coursework and include an individual or team-based practicum design project, as well as a range of opportunities to gain practical experience, including company or research internships. MS programs are available in Computer, Electrical, Mechanical, Manufacturing, Systems and Photonics engineering. Programs in Biomedical and Materials Science & Engineering are expected to be available in the fall.
Master of Engineering programs include advanced technical coursework, as well as the option to take elective courses in Project Management and Product Design, some of which are offerred in the School of Management. The programs—offered in Biomedical, Computer, Electrical, Manufacturing, Mechanical, Systems, Photonics, and Materials Science & Engineering—also include a practicum requirement.
All programs can be completed in one or two years. The application deadline for the fall 2014 semester is March 15.
Cultivating Excellence, Transforming Society
By Mark Dwortzan
In 1963, the College of Industrial Technology (CIT) offered only three degree programs—in technology, aeronautics and management—and occupied a single, four-story building, but the former aviation school’s new dean, Arthur T. Thompson, was bullish about CIT’s future. He aspired to do no less than transform this dot on the Boston University map into an accredited engineering program, and to develop engineers with “the capacity for responsible and effective action as members of our society.”
Thompson began to work this transformation on February 27, 1964—50 years ago today—when CIT was officially renamed as the Boston University College of Engineering. Since then the College has grown 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, attracting record levels of student applications, research funding and philanthropic support.
Between 1964 and 2013, the number of degrees conferred annually has increased from zero to 281 bachelors, 184 masters and 53 PhDs; enrollment from around 100 to 1416 undergraduate, zero to 394 masters and zero to 349 PhDs; faculty from 10 to more than 120; advanced degree programs offered from zero to nine masters and six PhDs; and annual sponsored research dollars from zero to $52 million. Meanwhile, the College’s position in the annualUS News & World Report’s annual survey of US engineering graduate programs has surged from unranked to the top 20 percent nationally.
At the same time, the College’s faculty, students and alumni have significantly advanced their fields and spearheaded major innovations in healthcare, energy, information and communication, transportation, security and other domains.
Building a World Class Institution
The infrastructure for the world class research and education taking place at today’s College of Engineering was built in stages.
During Thompson’s deanship from 1964 to 1974, the new Aerospace, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering departments received accreditation, with the Manufacturing Engineering program the ﬁrst of its kind to be accredited in the US. 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. Between 1975 and 1985, when Louis Padulo was dean, the College’s student body grew from 250 to 2481; minority and female enrollments skyrocketed; degree offerings rose to 24 BS, MS and PhD programs in eight fields; full-time faculty increased to 67; and sponsored research exceeded $3 million.
When Professor Charles DeLisi (BME) became the new dean in 1990, he recruited many leading researchers in biomedical, manufacturing, aerospace, mechanical, photonics and other engineering fields, establishing a research infrastructure that ultimately propelled the College to its ranking in US News & World Report’s top 50 engineering graduate schools (realized in 2003). A case in point is the BME Department, which DeLisi turned into the world’s foremost biomolecular engineering research hub, paving the way for his successor, Professor David K. Campbell (Physics, ECE), to oversee the department’s receipt in 2001 of a $14 million Whitaker Foundation Leadership Award and discussions leading to additional support from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. Between 1990 and 2005, as the number of full-time faculty rose to 120, research centers to eight, and PhD programs to seven, the College’s external research funding surpassed $26 million.
When Professor Kenneth R. Lutchen (BME) took over as dean in 2006, he aligned the curriculum with undergraduates’ growing interest in impacting society, redefining the educational mission of the College to create Societal Engineers, who “use the grounded and creative skills of an engineer to improve the quality of life.”
Lutchen rolled out several programs to advance this agenda, ranging from the Technology Innovation Scholars Program, which sends ENG students to K-12 schools to show how engineering impacts society, to the new Engineering Product Innovation Center (EPIC), a unique, hands-on facility, that will educate all ENG students on product design-to-deployment-to-sustainability. He also ushered in a new era of multidisciplinary education and research collaboration by establishing the Systems Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering divisions along with several new minors and concentrations. Meanwhile, professional education opportunities surged on campus with the introduction of eight new Master of Engineering programs and four new certificate programs.
Moving On to the Next 50 Years
That said, what do the next 50 years hold for the College of Engineering? For starters, upcoming educational initiatives include increased integration of digital technologies in courses; new programs with the schools of Management, Education and Public Health; continued efforts to build the engineering pipeline through outreach to K-12 students; and the Summer Institute for Innovation and Technology Leadership, which recruits companies to host teams of ENG and SMG students to tackle targeted problems.
BU also plans to construct the Center for Integrated Life Sciences and Engineering Building—a seven-story, 150,000-square-foot facility that will include interdisciplinary research space for faculty and students in systems and synthetic biology (expanding the College’s recently launched Center of Synthetic Biology(CoSBi))—within the next 10 years, as well as a 165,000-square-foot science and engineering research building. By 2016, ENG expects to add about 61,500 square feet of new lab and classroom space.
In its first half-century, the College of Engineering—through its students, faculty and alumni—has made its mark on several fields while improving the quality of life around the globe. If its rich history of high-impact education and innovation is any guide, the College can expect many more life-enhancing achievements in the coming 50 years.
Boston University’s Global App Initiative hosted a fair Saturday showcasing mobile applications its members have spent a year developing for 12 nonprofit organizations.
GAI president Habib Khan, a College of Engineering senior, said the event was intended to celebrate the innovation of GAI’s student volunteers who are learning new skills to build apps for nonprofits.
“GAI chooses the nonprofit organizations we work with based on several factors, including their communicative ability, their mission and whether there is truly potential for a mobile app that helps them in a meaningful way,” Khan said.
“These nonprofits must work with the student team throughout the year, guiding them toward a sensible solution that they will end up using.”
Teams of BU students developed apps for organizations such as Engineers Without Borders, Peer Health Exchange and Students Helping Honduras.
Peer Health Exchange is an organization that provides health education in communities where students do not have access to public health programs. One team designed an app for the organization’s BU chapter that contains an anonymous message board allowing students to submit questions to teachers in the program.
The app also contains sex education resources and allows teachers to coordinate classes and provide lesson plans. Santiago Beltran, an ENG freshman, is BU’s team leader for the Peer Health Exchange app.
“It was a really interesting challenge,” he said. “It was nice to develop an app for an organization with an important mission.”
Global Brigades is a student-led global health and sustainable development organization. One team developed an app for the BU chapter that will allow members to view updates, check their fundraising progress and keep track of what documentation and medical shots they will need before their trip.
The app also offers an offline mode, which contains a Spanish dictionary and a list of frequently asked questions for to aid students on the ground in another country without Internet access.
Bobby Palladino, a freshman in ENG, is the app’s design leader. He said although the team was assembled four weeks ago, the positive feedback they have received has been encouraging.
“We’re also communicating with [the Global Brigades] organization and it’s really helpful and rewarding to work with them,” he said. “They give us feedback on what they want to see, and it’s really helpful and nice to know that our app is actually going to be making a difference.”
FeelGood BU is a student-run volunteer organization that operates grilled cheese delis and donates all proceeds to groups that fight global hunger.
Chris Yip, a Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences freshman, heads the organization’s app development team. The app makes it convenient for students to order grilled cheese sandwiches by allowing them to place their orders before walking to Marciano Commons’ Late Night Kitchen, he said.
“I’m not your average computer science or engineering student,” Yip said, “but working with people to improve a cause, to get a project out, was something that I really liked in high school and something I wanted to find here.”
Nabin Kim, a School of Management junior, said she attended the fair to see what kind of apps students were working on.
“It’s a really good idea to make apps for nonprofits for free, because you can build experience and it’s for a good cause,” Kim said.
Claire Richer, a College of Arts and Sciences junior, said she enjoyed the event and was impressed by the apps students developed.
“More people should know about this,” she said. “It’s something BU can be really proud of.”
Khan said the GAI decided to showcase students’ apps to raise awareness about the importance of developing technology for nonprofits.
“Anyone who is passionate and dedicated has the ability to make mobile apps that help people,” he said. “I want people to see that students who had no prior background in computer science are able to apply themselves and develop an awesome mobile app.”
Article taken from The Daily Free Press.
By Mark Dwortzan
The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has elected four BME faculty members—Professors Jerome Mertz, Barbara Shinn-Cunningham and Sandor Vajda (SE) and Associate Professor Catherine Klapperich (MSE)—to the AIMBE College of Fellows. They join more than 1,500 outstanding biomedical engineers in academia, industry and government who have distinguished themselves through significant contributions in research, industrial practice and/or education.
According to the AIMBE, election to the College of Fellows is reserved for the top two percent of the medical and biological engineering community. The induction of Mertz, Shinn-Cunningham, Vajda and Klapperich on March 24 at the AIMBE’s 2014 Annual Event at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., will bring the number of primary BME faculty elected to this prestigious body to 22, or nearly 60 percent.
“We are extraordinarily proud of the four new Fellows who have been elected this year from our department,” said Professor Sol Eisenberg, who heads the BME Department. “These are well-deserved and prestigious honors that are important to the College and the BME Department as we continue to project excellence.”
AIMBE Fellows have helped to revolutionize medicine, engineering and related fields that enhance and extend the lives of people all over the world, and Boston University’s four new members are no exception.
Mertz, principal investigator of BU’s Biomicroscopy Lab, is developing low-cost, high-resolution, imaging techniques using light to image inside thick tissue in the brain, colon and other organs. A technique he’s developed called HiLo microscopy “numerically rejects” out-of-focus haze that appears alongside what’s in focus in an image of tissue, resulting in a higher-contrast image. Using a normal image and one made noisy by using structured illumination, one can infer what is out of focus in the normal image, and then numerically subtract it out.
Shinn-Cunningham, the founding director of the BU Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology, uses behavioral, neuroimaging and computational methods to understand auditory attention. Her research introduces more precise measures of auditory processing impairments than are in use in today’s audiologists’ offices—measures that could lead to improved hearing diagnostics and hearing aid technology.
Vajda, director of the BU BioMolecular Engineering Research Center, has developed algorithms to predict the structure of complexes formed by protein-protein interactions involved in metabolic control, signal transduction, gene regulation and other critical processes. Incorporated in software used by more than 3,000 research groups worldwide, these algorithms could uncover new targets for drugs that combat cancer and inflammatory diseases.
Klapperich, the director of the NIH Center for Future Technologies in Cancer Care at BU, develops robust, inexpensive, handheld, microfluidic plastic chips and devices that extract nucleic acids from complex human samples—technologies that could enable rapid, point-of-care diagnostics for infectious diseases and cancer without the need for electricity or refrigeration. These minimally instrumented systems could be a major step forward in facilitating molecular diagnostics in developing countries.
The mission of the AIMBE is to advance public understanding of medical and biological engineering, and honor significant achievements in the field. Representing university programs in medical and biological engineering, corporations and professional societies engaged in advancing medical and biological engineering, the organization advocates for public policies that facilitate progress in medical and biological research, and for the development of products and services that benefit the public.
By Mark Dwortzan
Recognizing senior and junior faculty for major contributions to their fields and to society at large, the College of Engineering has bestowed its annual Distinguished Scholar Award on ProfessorChristos Cassandras (ECE, SE), and its annual Early Career Excellence Award on Assistant Professor Xue Han (BME).
The Distinguished Scholar Award honors senior faculty members who have helped move their field and society forward through outstanding, high-impact research, and provides the recipient with a public forum to discuss his or her work before the Boston University academic community. The Early Career Research Excellence Award celebrates the significant, recent, high-impact research achievements of exemplary tenure-track faculty who are within 10 years of receiving their PhD.
In conjunction with his award, Cassandras will deliver a public lecture, “Complexity Made Simple (at a Small Price),” on March 19 at 4 p.m. in the Photonics Center Auditorium (room 206). Cassandras plans to highlight methods he’s developed to solve difficult problems by exploiting their specific structure, asking the “right” questions and challenging some conventional engineering approaches—and show how these methods have resulted in energy savings, enhanced security and other benefits.
Distinguished Scholar Award
The Distinguished Scholar Award recognizes Cassandras as “one of the pioneers of an emerging field, discrete event dynamical systems, that is used extensively in the modeling, analysis and design of dynamical systems in diverse applications such as manufacturing systems, communications, transportation networks and cyber-physical systems,” said Electrical and Computer Engineering Chair and Professor David Castañón.
“I am honored to be selected as the 2014 College of Engineering Distinguished Lecturer,” said Cassandras, who also specializes in hybrid systems, stochastic optimization and computer simulation. “I have always enjoyed research which involves new, relatively unexplored areas and unusual ways to tackle ‘real world’ problems, from contributing to the establishment of the field of discrete event dynamic systems to envisioning new ways to design and manage complex systems such as ‘smart cities.’”
A member of the BU faculty since 1996, head of the College’s Division of Systems Engineering and cofounder of BU’s Center for Information and Systems Engineering (CISE), Cassandras has published five books and more than 300 refereed papers. He was editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control from 1998 through 2009, and the 2012 president of the IEEE Control Systems Society (CSS). He has chaired several technical conferences and served as plenary speaker at various international conferences, including the American Control Conference in 2001 and the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control in 2002, and Distinguished Lecturer for the CSS.
Cassandras’s numerous awards include a 2012 Kern Fellowship, a 2011 prize for the IBM/IEEE Smarter Planet Challenge competition, the 2011 IEEE Control Systems Technology Award, the Distinguished Member Award of the IEEE Control Systems Society (2006), the 1999 Harold Chestnut Prize (International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) Best Control Engineering Textbook) for Discrete Event Systems: Modeling and Performance Analysis, and a 1991 Lilly Fellowship. He is also a Fellow of the IEEE and IFAC.
Early Career Research Excellence Award
A member of the BU faculty since 2010, Han develops and applies high-precision genetic, molecular, optical and electrical tools and other nanotechnologies to study neural circuits in the brain. By using these novel neurotechnologies to control and monitor a selected population of brain cells, she and her research team seek to identify connections between neural circuit dynamics and behavioral pathologies. Establishing such connections could improve our understanding of neurological and psychiatric diseases, and lead to new treatments.
In recognition of her innovative research on developing novel neurotechnologies using light sensitive nanoparticles to sense neurons’ cellular environment and to deliver drugs directly to the brain, Han was named by President Obama in January as one of 102 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the US government on science and engineering researchers in the early stages of their careers. Han has also received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award and recognition as a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, Sloan Research Fellow and Peter Paul Fellow.
“We are delighted that the College of Engineering has chosen to celebrate Xue’s remarkable achievements with this award, and I can think of no one more deserving,” said Professor Sol Eisenberg, who heads the BME Department.