Leading Engineers Visit BU as Part of the ECE Distinguished Lecture Series to Discuss Research with Students and Faculty
By Rebecca Jahnke, COM ’17
BU’s Electrical & Computer Engineering department draws renowned leaders of the field to present as part of the ECE Distinguished Lecture Series. The topics presented are always changing, but consistently span diverse research areas. The Fall 2015 lineup included academics Daniel Fleetwood, Kevin Skadron and Ralph Etienne-Cummings.
Despite Fleetwood, Skadron and Etienne-Cummings’ varying research focuses, the trio has much in common. All are highly decorated IEEE Fellows with many accolades to their names. They hold a collective ten patents between them. Through the groundbreaking publications they’ve authored, the group has effectively written the science today’s students are learning. Work conducted at posts throughout the country – and for some, on sabbatical abroad – further reflects the breadth of their influence.
Fleetwood kicked off this season’s series with a lecture entitled “Moore’s Law and Radiation Effects on Microelectronics” in September. Fleetwood is the Chair of Vanderbilt University’s Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science as well as the university’s Olin H. Landreth Professor of Engineering. His lecture examining the effects of Moore’s Law Size and voltage scaling followed his research in nano science and technology as well as risk and reliability. A Fellow of the American Physical Society and an IEEE Fellow, Fleetwood also received the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society’s Merit Award. Having authored over 380 publications, Fleetwood received ten Outstanding Paper Awards and has his research cited upwards of 7000 times.
The series continued with a lecture by Kevin Skadron, University of Virginia Department of Computer Science Chair and Harry Douglas Forsyth Professor. His October presentation, “Automata Processing: Massively-Parallel Acceleration for Approximate Pattern Matching,” provided an overview of the AP architecture and observations from accelerating its applications. Skadron cites his research as exploring processor design techniques for managing power, thermal and reliability constraints, all with a focus on manycore and heterogeneous architectures. He has achieved two patents of his own and over 100 peer-reviewed publications and counting since his college summers spent interning for Microsoft and Intel.
Ralph Etienne-Cummings, Professor and Chair of Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, closed out this semester’s series in December. This final presentation – “I, Robot: Blurring the lines between Mind, Body and Robotics” – suggested new approaches to brain-machine interfaces (BMI). Etienne-Cummings’ research interests include systems and algorithms for biologically inspired and low-power processing, biomorphic robots, applied neuroscience, neutral prosthetics and computer integrated surgical systems and technologies. His high level of curiosity has been evident since he was a child and repaired his own short wave radio to listen to a soccer match. Now the holder of seven patents, Etienne-Cummings is known to make time for diversity and mentoring initiatives intended to awaken a similar curiosity in others.
By Gabriella McNevin
On August 14, 2003, traffic lights in New York City went black. People lost electricity in cities and towns spanning from the northeastern part of the United States to Ontario, Canada. That month, the Head of the North American Electric Reliability Council Michehl R. Gent echoed a common question, “How could this happen? (CNN)”
Today, answers to that question are available in Dr. Kenneth Loparo’s research.
On Wednesday, March 4th, Dr. Kenneth Loparo gave a lecture at Boston University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. His lecture was part of the ECE Distinguished Lecture Series that brings the country’s leading researchers to the department to share their novel contributions to the field. At the conclusion of his talk, hands flew up in the air with participants eager to engage with the speaker. Loparo’s audience of professors, researchers, and students, were riddled with questions and comments on his work.
Loparo had the crowd’s inquisitive attention after relating how his research can provide further insights into how a complex dynamical system can fail, using the events of the 2003 blackout as an exemplar. He explained that his research in “Modeling, Stability, and Security in Cyber-Physical Systems: Challenges, Opportunities & Future Directions”; can be applied to manage critical infrastructure, such as those involved in energy and transportation. A topic of particular interest to Loparo’s audience was the development of modeling and analytical tools that can be used to study how disturbances can affect system response through complex interactions that can lead to “cascading” events.
Professor Loparo was visiting from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. He is a Nord Professor of Engineering and A.L. Parker Chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Loparo’s talk was the first of a three part Distinguished Lecture Series. The Spring 2015 series will feature a lecture from Professor Luke Lester from Virginia Tech on March 18, 2015. The title of his lecture is “Quantum Dot Laser Diodes and Mode-Locking.”
Vanderbilt University Dean Philippe Fauchet Visits BU to join the ECE Distinguished Lecture Series
By Gabriella McNevin
“Aside from oxygen, silicon is the most abundant material on earth’s crust,” stated Professor Philippe Fauchet while speaking as part of the ECE Distinguished Lecture Series at Boston University.
On Wednesday, October 29th, Fauchet’s lecture audience sat waiting to learn how silicon has evolved in the last 20 years to become an almost universal material outside electronics. He answered their anticipation with a disclaimer.
“I will not cover the details of the extensive research. I will give a tour.”
Thus, Fauchet began a lecture, entitled ‘Nanoscale Silicon as an Optical Material,’ to share a big picture view of a wide-ranging subject. He provided an overview on the history of silicon research, and insight on how it may be practically applied for mass-market consumption. He reviewed properties of bulk silicon and techniques by which is may be exploited in research.
In the last 20 years, researchers have expanded and repurposed silicon for use in new industries. Professor Fauchet elaborated on breakthrough silicon biosensor technology that can lead to Ebola detection equipment. Early work was considered to be a success, but was not adapted for wide-use in the health care sector. Its detection capacity was not considered sensitive enough.
Currently, Professor Fauchet is working to advance research on silicon biosensors for the detection of viruses such as Ebola. Fauchet and his team are developing technology with increasing sensitivity, and the ability to concentrate affected Ebola viruses.
Professor Philippe Fauchet has been the Dean of the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University since 2012. He has founded a successful startup, has over 400 publications, and is a Fellow of SPIE, OSA, IEEE, APS, and MRS.
Professor Fauchet concluded the 2014 Fall ECE Distinguished Lecture Series. The 2015 Spring ECE Distinguished Lecture Series will include Professor Ken Loparo (3/4), Professor Luke Lester (3/18), and Professor John Lach (4/1).
“Computable Performance Analysis of Sparsity Recovery”
Crime investigation TV shows, such as CSI, commonly feature a digital forensics laboratory capable of recognizing faces and vehicle license plates from extremely blurry shots. Photo and video evidence is displayed on a large projection screen while a recognition system attempts to identify the perpetrator’s identity.
This technology exists in research labs today thanks to advanced signal processing. Various developments in signal processing, particularly in sparsity-based image reconstruction, have recently emerged with the potential to dramatically improve system performance.
Prof. Arye Nehorai is a leader in this research area, and recently delivered a lecture on the “Computable Performance Analysis of Sparsity Recovery,” as part of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Distinguished Lecture Series. Nehorai is the Eugene and Martha Lohman Professor and Chair of the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.
As part of his lecture, Prof. Nehorai discussed a movement within the signal processing community to update the classical framework based on the Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem using a new approach known as compressive sensing. Compressive sensing makes it possible to acquire and represent signals using fewer samples than classical sampling methods, under the key assumption that the signal itself is sparse with respect to some basis. For instance, although a facial image is comprised of many, many pixels, it can still be accurately represented using just a few key features. Indeed, identification of a criminal based on a low-resolution, blurry image, while unthinkable a decade ago, is becoming increasingly viable in part due to modern image processing techniques based on compressed sensing. Other important applications include hyperspectral imaging and anomaly detection.
Prof. Nehorai’s recent work has focused on a challenging and important compressive sensing problem. In particular, while it is known that dramatic savings are possible via compressive sensing, it is often difficult to say exactly how many samples are required for a specific sampling scheme (or sensing matrix). Prof. Nehorai and his collaborators have developed a suite of efficient algorithms, based on convex programming that can rapidly ascertain the number of samples needed under a particular scheme. These algorithms can in turn be used to guide the development of better sensing schemes.
Nehorai’s talk was the first in the three-part Fall 2014 Distinguished Lecture Series. The next talk features Philippe Fauchet, Professor of Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering of Vanderbilt University. He will speak on the topic, “Nanoscale Silicon as an Optical Material.” His lecture will be held October 28, 2014 at 4 pm in PHO 210.
By Gabriella McNevin
What do environmental monitoring, food testing, homeland security and drug discovery have in common? Each market segment relies on biosensors to analyze chemicals.
Dr. Filbert Bartoli, a leader in biosensor advancement, is working to produce an alternative commercial biosensor that is optimized for modern performance needs. His goal is to eliminate molecule labeling, decrease sensor interference with target molecules, and lessen sensor-manufacturing costs.
Bartoli is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Chandler Weaver Chair and Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Chair at Lehigh University, and Director of the Biophotonics and Optoelectronics Lab at Lehigh University. While visiting Boston University on April 9th, Professor Bartoli presented the work he collaborated on with Professor Xuanhong Cheng and student Bu Wang. The lecture was part of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Distinguished Lecture Series.
During the talk, Professor Bartoli disclosed his sensor proposal, which is technically referred to as a plasmonic interferometric sensor. He demonstrated how the instrument operates on principles established by preexisting SPR biosensors, but differs by utilizing a simple optical setup. Essentially, the proposed device works by first controlling the plasmon line shape, which is made possible by structurally tuning the phase and amplitude of interfering surface plasmon polarities. The control allows the chemical’s molecules to be altered for testing. The surface area of the device is then measured for protein surface coverage in a process that minimally disturbs the targeted molecules.
“The successful transformation of SPR technique from prism-coupling to this far simple optical setup would lead to major advances in low-cost, portable biomedical devices as well as in other high- throughput sensing applications including proteomics, diagnostics, drug discovery, and fundamental cell biology research.”
Biosensors are increasingly used in medical and non-medical applications. Business Wire offered examples of the rising use of biosensors by pointing to the formation of the biodefense industry, the growing diabetic population, and an increase in home health care in 2013 Report on the International Biosensors Market- Trends and Forecast to 2018.
To view the PDF presentation, titled “Nanostructured Plasmonic Interferometers for ultrasensitive Label-Free Biosensing”: http://www.bu.edu/ece/files/2014/04/Bartoli-Slides.pdf
Fall 2014 Distinguished Lecture Series speakers will be announced this summer. Please contact email@example.com with inquires or comments regarding the upcoming series.
Simplification and Customization
Chelsea Hermond (SMG ’15)
“I wanted to do something that would impact the world,” exclaimed Professor C.V. Hollot, Department Head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Hollot appeared as part of Boston University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Distinguished Lecture Series in early March. His forum focused on the regulation of cell populations in individuals using feedback-based drug-dosing protocols.
Dr. Hollot explained the drug protocol that he promotes by comparing it to the current drug-dosing system. Currently, a doctor guides the drug-dosage that is administered to a patient through a manual protocol. If one cell population is irregular, a doctor will use a chart to determine the specific drug dose to prescribe. In other words, if the cell count is between A and B, the doctor will administer the corresponding dose as is it shown on the chart.
In contrast to current standards, Dr. Hollot’s research suggests a more efficient drug-dosing process: automatic regulation of cell populations through feedback mechanisms. Dr. Hollot lectured that feedback-based mechanisms could potentially replace doctors using the feedback loop. The automatic dosing protocol is supported by Dr. Hollot’s research on real patients that were prescribed a drug named EPO, which regulates red blood cells in individuals with chronic kidney disease.
In summary, Hollot touted simplification and customization; “we need to be able to individualize protocol for each patient.”
To see a PDF file of Dr. Hollot’s slideshow, click here.
ECE will host Dr. Filbert Bartoli, Chandler Weaver Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Lehigh University as the next distinguished lecturer:
- Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 4:00 pm
- Photonics Center, 8 Saint Mary’s Street, Room 211
- Topic: Interferometric Plasmonic Biosensor Arrays for High-Performance Label-Free Biomolecular Detection.
- To learn more, please see the event flyer.
When a bug in Pentium processors was discovered that gave rise to incorrect solutions of scientific and mathematical calculations, the company was forced to take action. The result? Public outcry and the loss of $475 million worth of earnings.
It’s been almost two decades since the Pentium FDIV bug made headlines, but its discovery led to a new research thrust in computer science and engineering – one that Professor Sharad Malik, Chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering at Princeton University, knows quite well.
“It’s an instance of how real practical concerns have driven solutions to real, fundamental problems,” said Malik.
The incident brought the examination of Boolean Satisfiability or SAT, the challenge of determining if a logic formula will ever evaluate to true, to the forefront. In proving the correctness, this problem has a direct application to hardware and software and more specifically, avoiding costly bugs. SAT was already well known in computer science, but theoretical analysis deemed it to be too difficult to be applied in practice.
Malik is one of the nation’s experts on the topic, and his group has made several critical contributions to the field of SAT solvers that are now widely used in practice. On January 29, he visited Boston University to share his findings during the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering Distinguished Lecture Series, which brings groundbreaking engineers to campus.
Currently, there is a strong motivation to discover useful SAT solvers thanks to all of the potential practical uses, such as in applications in artificial intelligence, circuit synthesis, and malware analysis.
“It’s already very widely used in hardware verification and we’re seeing an increasing use of the theory in software verification,” added Malik.
Though the SAT problem may be relatively unknown outside computer science and engineering, a very active community of researchers exists and can be found sharing their research and questions on the website, SAT Live!
Malik notes that the biggest change he’s noticed with SAT studies over the years is a revolution in how the topic is approached.
“There has been a significant shift from theoretical interest in SAT to how it can have a practical impact,” he said. What was once considered practically impossible due to its theoretical hardness is now within reach thanks to challenge-driven algorithmic and experimental research.
Malik’s talk was the first in the three-part Spring 2014 Distinguished Lecture Series. The next talk features Professor C. V. Hollot of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who will speak on the topic, “Regulation of Cell Populations in Individuals Using Feedback-Based Drug-Dosing Protocols.” Hear him on March 5, 2014, at 4 p.m. in Room 211 of the Photonics Center, located at 8 Saint Mary’s St.
-Rachel Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Boston University students have big ideas – whether they’re aiming to prevent cyber attacks or using GPS data to improve cattle herding. As good as their work is though, they don’t always know the best way to present their research.
Ph.D. students, Yasaman Khazaeni, Greg Castanon, and Jing Wang, initially came up with the idea for the event last semester and hoped it would give their classmates a chance to practice speaking in front of a large audience.
“One of the main issues we have as students becomes clear at conferences,” said Khazaeni. “We’ve done great research but don’t present it well.”
Often times, she added, engineering students come from international backgrounds and don’t have enough confidence to present in English.
“By speaking in front of a friendly audience, as opposed to a conference where you’d know few people in the audience, your classmates and professors can offer feedback and really help you smooth out your final presentation,” said Khazaeni.
Khazaeni, who helped choose 14 students to present out of a pool of 23 applicants, said that the event also allowed CISE students to learn from classmates and discover more about the projects they’ve been working on.
Among those she learned from were Ph.D. students, Morteza Hashemi and Delaram Motamedvaziri, who took home the Best CISE Presenter awards.
Hashemi, who is advised by Professor Ari Trachtenberg (ECE, SE), spoke about his project, Coded Data Sharing in Intra-Car Wireless Sensor Networks. He has been working with Trachtenberg, Professor David Starobinski (ECE, SE), Ph.D. student, Wei Si, and General Motors Research to determine if using wireless sensor networks (WSN) might allow for a greener way to construct tomorrow’s vehicles. The work previously won the Center for Reliable Information Systems and Cybersecurity Award as well as the Provost’s Award at Scholars Day last year.
Advised by Professor Venkatesh Saligrama (ECE, SE), Motamedvaziri spoke about her work, “Poisson Statistics and the Future of Internet Marketing.”
“The effectiveness of search engine marketing is dropping while the power of social media marketing is rising,” she explained. “Mathematics would suggest that social media is now the better advertising strategy.”
She said that though her research focused on total hits advertisements received, she’d like to expand her work in the future by looking at data concerning how long a person stayed on a website.
“Ultimately, we’re more interested in seeing transactions occur as opposed to clicks,” said Motamedvaziri.
Also honored at a reception at the BU Castle following the presentations were Setareh Ariafar, the Most Attentive CISE Student, and Professor David Castañón (ECE, SE), awarded for his contributions to CISE. Because 20 students attended all fourteen presentations, the most attentive of them was chosen by raffle.
In case any students left the workshop having doubts about their speaking skills, Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE) closed the day by offering some advice, including “never overestimate the intelligence of your audience” and “the maximum pieces of information that should appear on a slide is two.”
“Giving a good talk is a difficult thing,” he said. “It’s as much of an art as a science.”
-Rachel Harrington (email@example.com)
Telecommunications companies – those that allow us to talk on the phone, communicate over the Internet and watch cable television – used to operate under the notion that there was an infinite amount of fiber bandwidth available to transmit these signals. Then we moved into the Y2K era.
“There was a big explosion of data around the year 2000,” said Larry A. Coldren, the Fred Kavli Professor of Optoelectronics and Sensors at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Computers were also getting faster and faster at this time and the demand for bandwidth was rising quickly.”
Coldren and his team had started looking at photonic integrated circuits (PICs), devices that allow signals to travel on optical waves on semiconductor chips, back in the 1980s and discovered that they could viably be produced much like analogous electronic integrated circuits (ICs) that generally use electrical wires for transferring data.
Last month, he spoke about his research during Boston University’s Electrical & Computer Engineering Distinguished Lecture Series. He suggested that PICs could be the key component in the future of telecommunications.
Just a couple of decades ago, wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) was introduced to meet the demand for more fiber bandwidth. This method allowed a number of signals to be simultaneously transferred on a single optical fiber. However, at the terminals where the WDM channels must be either combined or separated, the optical and electronic equipment became more and more complex as the channel count and signal speed increased. That’s where Coldren’s research comes into play.
“PICs have the potential of improved performance, reliability and cost while also reducing the size, weight and power of the equipment,” said Coldren.
PICs for various applications have been made using indium phosphide, silica on silicon, polymer technologies, and silicon photonics. Electronic ICs, however, usually use silicon as a dominant ingredient. Coldren’s team currently focuses on a monolithic indium phosphide integration platform.
“Ultimately, we may find that the best results will come from a hybrid solution using more than one of these materials,” said Coldren.
Today, PICs are widely deployed commercially and outperform many discrete device approaches, but Coldren is optimistic that they can work even better in the future and hopefully result in more environmentally friendly supercomputers and data centers.
“Our efforts have always been focused on making PICs very efficient and very fast,” said Coldren. “Now we need to look at how they can be used to create more green data centers.”
Assistant Professor Jonathan Klamkin (ECE), who introduced Coldren at the lecture, previously had an opportunity to study with Coldren while earning his Ph.D. at UC Santa Barbara.
“I benefitted immensely from his guidance and even use his books in my class here,” Klamkin said. “It’s a pleasure having him on our campus.”
Prior to teaching, Coldren worked at Bell Labs, where he studied surface-acoustic-wave signal processing devices and tunable coupled-cavity lasers. He continued his work at UC Santa Barbara, where he has developed more widely-tunable DBR lasers and efficient, high-speed vertical-cavity-surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) in addition to his PIC research.
Coldren is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Optical Society (OSA) and the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE).
Coldren’s talk was the third in the three-part Fall 2013 Distinguished Lecture Series. The seminars will resume in Spring 2014.
-Rachel Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Each day, we find ourselves sharing our personal information across the internet – whether it’s to pay a bill or buy a gift on Amazon.
As we send more of our data through these channels, there is a growing concern about privacy. Earlier this month, a breach at Adobe, for example, impacted more than 38 million users. Cases like this are not uncommon and as a result, cyber security has become a major area of research for electrical and computer engineers.
Last week, Professor George J. Pappas, the Chair of the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, visited Boston University and shared his own work on the topic.
Pappas is looking at how differential privacy, a method that aims to maximize the accuracy of information extracted from databases while also minimizing the chance of records being identified, can be applied to systems like smart grids and intelligent transportation systems.
“Privacy breaches are generally due to side information that a company collects,” Pappas explained. He believes that by using a differentially private mechanism to transfer information, it’ll be possible to hide secure data.
“You’re trying to hide in the noise and make it hard to know who’s who,” he said.
Pappas believes that one of the greatest challenges is figuring out how to give companies like Google and eBay the information they need without the sensitive data they don’t.
An advantage of differential privacy, he said, is that once you indicate a particular segment of information is private, it stays private even after the data is sent to another system. Pappas believes that by adding noise during the streaming process, secure information can be blocked. The trick is figuring out how much noise should be added.
Pappas is a Fellow of IEEE and has received several awards including the Antonio Ruberti Young Research Prize, the George S. Axelby Award, and the National Science Foundation PECASE. In addition to differential privacy, his research focuses on control theory and, in particular, hybrid systems, embedded systems, hierarchical and distributed control systems, with application to unmanned aerial vehicles, distributed robotics, green buildings, and biomolecular networks.
Pappas’s talk was the second in the three-part Fall 2013 Distinguished Lecture Series. The next talk will feature Professor Larry A. Coldren, University of California, Santa Barbara, who will speak on the topic, “Photonic Integrated Circuits as Key Enablers for Coherent Sensor and Communication Systems.” Hear him on Wednesday, November 20, at 4 p.m. in PHO 211.
-Rachel Harrington (email@example.com)