Category: Recognition

Downtyme Wins Beantown Throwdown Business Competition

November 24th, 2014 in Awards, Recognition, Students

Startup Founded by CE Juniors Wows Innovation District Audience 

By Mark Dwortzan


Downtyme team members Barron Roth (ENG’16), Luke Sorenson (ENG’16), John Moore (ENG’15), Nick Sorensen (SMG’14), Darryl Johnson (ENG’17), Ben Pusey (CAS’16) and Tufts University senior Nikki Dahan placed first in the Beantown Throwdown. The team’s trophy will be etched with their names and passed on to winners of future competitions. (Photo by Sonia Su COM’15)

Downtyme, a startup co-founded by Barron Roth and Luke Sorenson (both CE ’16) based on their final project in ENG EC 327, Introduction to Software Engineering, won the second annual Beantown Throwdown entrepreneurial business pitch competition. Held on November 18 at Boston’s District Hall before a sellout audience of more than 200 and organized by the MIT Enterprise Forum, the competition featured three-minute pitches from local college student entrepreneurs. Edging out teams from Harvard, MIT, Northeastern and five other Boston-area colleges and universities vying for votes from a sellout audience of more than 400 students, sponsors and investors, Downtyme received more than $20,000 in in-kind legal and marketing services, mentoring and office space.

Roth gave the pitch for Downtyme, representing a cross-functional team that includes Sorenson, John Moore (CE ’15), Nick Sorensen (SMG ’14), Darryl Johnson (CE ’17), Ben Pusey (CAS ’16) and Tufts University senior Nikki Dahan. The Downtyme app enables users to meet up with other users who are available and nearby. Users identify their friends by linking the app to their Facebook account and indicate their availability by entering or importing their calendars. To bring up a list of nearby Facebook friends, they may either press “Now” or “Later,” depending on when they want to get together. Launched in beta mode last March, a full version of the app will be released in January.

After a panel discussion on entrepreneurship moderated by Boston Globe Innovation Economy columnist Scott Kirsner, representatives from each team were given three minutes to pitch their startups and one minute to field questions from the panelists. Afterwards, audience members received $3 million in fake cash to “invest” in one or more of the startups. After all pitches were completed, attendees were invited to “invest” in their top three picks with the $3 million in play money they received upon arrival. Downtyme emerged with $68 million, $2.5 million more than the closest competitor.

“My competitors encompassed such a wide variety of industries, from biotech to advertising startups. It was really a tossup as to who would walk away with the trophy,” said Roth, who was subsequently featured in Foley Hoag’s 2014 MVPs of Boston Tech event, a panel discussion among finalists from Boston-area business competitions. “We’re confident this win is more validation that our product is something people want, even beyond the student spectrum. Many attendees came up to me after the pitch requesting an enterprise version, and it’s certainly something my team is considering.”

The second place winner, Nonspec, is a University of Massachusetts-Lowell startup seeking to produce low-cost, long-lasting prosthetic devices for resource-limited countries. Placing third was Gentoo Inc., a Wentworth Institute of Technology startup that’s developed a vest to simplify outpatient treatment involving intravenous medicines.

“Downtyme’s presentation was engaging and compelling, addressing a problem that many of the students and young professionals in the audience recognized,” said Ian Mashiter, Boston University director of Entrepreneurship Activities and lecturer in the School of Management. “Downtyme is the first app that uses mobile devices as a way of facilitating face to face interaction rather than substituting for it.”

Downtyme earned its opportunity to enter the competition by placing first in an earlier competition for Boston University startups hosted by the BUzz Lab, BU’s new student center for entrepreneurship that Mashiter runs.

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Vision Quest

November 24th, 2014 in Alumni, Graduate Programs, Recognition

Two BU grads seek to revolutionize the eye exam

By Barbara Moran, BU Research

The SVOne shines light into the eye and instantly calculates an eyeglass prescription. “All you have to do is look straight,” says co-creator Marc Albanese. Photos by Conor Doherty.

The SVOne shines light into the eye and instantly calculates an eyeglass prescription. “All you have to do is look straight,” says co-creator Marc Albanese. Photos by Conor Doherty.

Imagine that you’re nearsighted. For many Americans, that’s not hard to do. Around 30 percent of people in the United States are nearsighted, and for most of them, the solution is simple: go to the eye doctor and get some glasses or contact lenses. That way, they can drive, read street signs, and recognize friends walking down the street.

For most of the world, it’s not so easy. About 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired people live in low-income settings, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And often, there are no eye doctors or eyeglasses available. In Rwanda, for example, there are about 10.5 million people—and 14 vision specialists. Without access to an eye exam or glasses, simple nearsightedness becomes debilitating.

BU graduates Marc Albanese (left) and Yaopeng Zhou, founders of Smart Vision Labs.

BU graduates Marc Albanese (left) and Yaopeng Zhou, founders of Smart Vision Labs.

Now two Boston University College of Engineering graduates, Yaopeng Zhou and Marc Albanese, are trying to change those statistics. They’ve invented a handheld device called Smart Vision One (SVOne) that scans a person’s eyes, instantly determines whether he or she needs glasses, and decides what their prescription should be. Bolstered by a $1 million 2013 Powerful Answers award from Verizon, their company, Smart Vision Labs, is poised to start manufacturing and delivering SVOne devices in early 2015.

“This could be big,” says Thomas Bifano, director of BU’s Photonics Center, who advised both Zhou and Albanese on their theses at BU and now serves on their board of directors. “If this caught on, it could be so cheap that everyone has one, like a thermometer. It has the potential to be hugely disruptive.”

The device is a small block of plastic, a little larger than a deck of playing cards, which slips over an iPhone. To perform an exam, one person holds the device (technically known as a “wavefront aberrometer”) up to a patient’s eye, and presses a button. Light shines into the patient’s eye, bouncing off the retina and back out the front of the eye. Curves and imperfections in a patient’s eye will cause beams of light to bend, bouncing out of the front at slightly different angles. A sensor collects this information, the computer in the iPhone interprets it, and the result is a prescription specific to that eye. (Unless, of course, the person has perfect vision.)

Traditionally, optometrists have determined eyeglass prescriptions by asking patients to look through a phoropter, a bulky device on a swivel arm containing multiple lenses. A patient looks through lenses of different strengths and reports which ones make his or her vision the sharpest. “It’s a big, clunky, subjective measure,” says Albanese. “What we have is a small, portable device that offers you an objective number. It just gives you the answer! All you have to do is look straight.”

Albanese also says that the device could work well for young children, who are generally not known for their cooperation during eye exams.

The genesis for the device came over a decade ago, when both Zhou and Albanese were working on their graduate degrees in electrical engineering at BU’s College of Engineering. Bifano, a mechanical engineering professor, had worked for years developing “adaptive optics”—tiny, adjustable telescope mirrors that could help astronomers correct for atmospheric haze and see distant objects more distinctly. Then the technology took a twist. Bifano was invited to join a team from Schepens Eye Research Institute that was working with a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use adaptive optics for a different application: taking better resolution photos of the mouse retina.

“All the major eye diseases affect the cells in the retina,” says Bifano. “If you have a disease like, say, diabetic retinopathy, your capillaries get clogged up, and you get little microaneurysms and new, leaky vessels forming in the retina. Seeing these in the early stage of disease would help diagnosis and treatment. But because your eye is misshapen, the physician can’t see the cellular structures in your eye. They just see a gray mishmash.”

In the summer of 2002, Bifano chose Zhou and Albanese to join the team at Schepens and help develop the technology in mice. “The eye is a window into all these health issues,” says Albanese. “Our goal was to see the blood flow in the retina, but it’s not a clear optical path.”

Eventually Zhou and Albanese wrapped up their work on the project and went their separate ways. They got jobs and then each landed separately at New York University (NYU), at different times, to work on their MBAs. In early 2012, Zhou started thinking again of his work at Schepens. He had read an article about billions of people worldwide suffering with poor vision, with no access to an optometrist. He met up with his old friend Marc Albanese at a bar in Union Square, and they discussed the problem over beers. “And Yaopeng said, ‘Why not use the same optical measurements that we used at Schepens to give people prescriptions?’” says Albanese.

In the intervening years, technology had changed to their advantage. During their work under Bifano, they had used a Dell computer costing $5,000 and a camera costing the same. “Now a $500 iPhone has basically the same camera and processing ability,” says Albanese. “You have a computer and a camera in your pocket that can do most of the work for you. It just all came together.”

The two decided to work on the project together, and formed a company. While they worked on optical problems (like finding the perfect light source and screening out unwanted reflections from the front of the eye), they also started raising money. In 2013, they won $75,000 in the NYU business plan competition. That was followed by a $100,000 grant from, and then, in January 2014, the $1 million award from Verizon.

“That helped a lot,” says Albanese. “Yaopeng had been working on a prototype, but nothing helps a prototype like a million dollars.” The money allowed them to buy a 3D printer, hire a full-time mechanical engineer and a software engineer, and also a “director of social venture” (and director of sales) to help them bring the device to the developing world.

They now have 11 working devices—all handmade—and they will soon start production in Boston for 100 more. They are now accepting preorders for the SVOne and expect the first orders to ship out in early 2015. The device costs $3,950 with an iPhone, compared to other similar devices on the market, which cost between $15,000 and $40,000.

While their primary market is American optometrists (they made their first sale to one running a Pearle Vision center in Philadelphia), their ultimate goal is to make the device widely available in less-affluent countries. Albanese and Greg Van Kirk, the company’s director of social venture, envision a fleet of “optometrist entrepreneurs” who use the device to prescribe and sell glasses in the developing world, creating jobs and saving sight.

“I’m really excited to see this thing go,” says Bifano. “These two guys took what we taught them at BU and just ran with it. It’s been a thrill for me to see them build something from scratch. They just buckled down and made it happen.”

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Electrical Engineering Student Marissa Petersile Wins IEEE Power & Energy Society Scholarship

November 18th, 2014 in Awards, Recognition, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students

By Donald Rock (COM 17)

Marissa Petersile (EE '15)

Marissa Petersile (EE ’15)

Marissa Petersile (EE ’15) is among a small percentage of students to be recognized by the IEEE Power and Energy Society (PES) Scholarship Plus Initiative™. PES is the world’s largest forum for technological developments in the electric power industry.

The scholarship program recognizes undergraduate electrical engineering students. To receive the award, applicants must demonstrate high academic achievement, strong GPAs, distinctive accomplishments in extracurricular activities, and commitment to exploring the power and energy field. The scholarship is listed at $2,000 and recipients are able to receive funding for up to 3 years.

“I was motivated to apply when I recognized that many of the goals described for IEEE PES scholars aligned with my own,” Petersile elaborated. “I am interested in a career in the power and energy field, and I am hoping to make a positive impact on the role of clean energy sources on the grid.”

Petersile spent the past year conducting research in the Applied Electromagnetics Lab at BU. She worked on a team that addressed the buildup of dust and sand on large-scale solar panel arrays in arid, desert regions. Although there is ample sunlight in those regions, the collection of dust on the solar panels can trigger major efficiency losses. Petersile worked on a custom power system for self-cleaning electrodynamic screens that induce electrical waves across the surface of solar panels, cleaning them off in a fast, lower-power way. This research received international press coverage and was featured in esteemed publications like The New York Times.

Currently, Petersile is working on her team Senior Design Project entitled, “Smart Grid Test Facility.” She is designing an educational tool for undergraduate students that research power electronics and grid networks. The grid test she is developing would allow students to connect designed loads and generators to a small-scale grid to examine how the grid reacts to their designs.

Petersile’s resume boasts well-rounded experiences from around the university. She serves as a Dean’s Host for BU’s College of Arts and Sciences where she welcomes high school students to Boston University at Open House events, meets with distinguished alumni of the university, and conducts information sessions for prospective students at the undergraduate admissions office. Additionally, she serves as a tutor at the engineering tutoring center. She also runs half marathons and triathlons in her free time.

“I truly appreciate this scholarship award, not just because it will financially assist my college tuition, but because it makes me feel supported by IEEE PES—a group of motivated, distinguished, and hardworking engineers and scientists,” Marissa explained. “This support encourages me to continue my efforts in clean energy technologies and power grid improvements. I am so thrilled to be a member of this inspiring group, and I’m proud to say that this scholarship will not only help me financially, but also academically, career-wise, and beyond.”

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CE Assistant Professor Densmore Joins the Ranks of IEEE Senior Members

November 7th, 2014 in Awards, Faculty, News-CE, Recognition, Research, Research-CE

By Gabriella McNevin

Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE, BME, Bioinformatics). Photo by Mike Pecci for Boston University Photography.

Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE, BME, Bioinformatics). Photo by Mike Pecci for Boston University Photography.

Douglas Densmore (ECE) was selected to be elevated to the grade of IEEE Senior Member, which is bestowed on those who have made significant contributions to the profession.

As a Senior Member, Densmore has the ability to hold executive IEEE positions and serve as a reference for other applicants for senior membership. To be eligible one must have shown significant performance in at least ten years in professional practice. Additionally, three references must be submitted on behalf of the applicant.

Densmore’s research is focused on bio-design automation.  He elaborated, “my work uses principles from computer engineering like abstraction, modularity, and standardization to design living systems. Computer software is going to be vital to not only store large amounts of biological material but also to implement algorithms for its specification, design, and assembly.”

Densmore is pleased to receive IEEE validation for interdisciplinary research.  “It is great that IEEE is realizing that those working in interdisciplinary fields have an important role to play in the organization and serve as ambassadors for IEEE.”

Douglas Densmore is an Affiliated Investigator in the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), an Affiliate Faculty Member of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Bioinformatics faculty member. Densmore participated in the 2013 National Academy of Engineering (NAE) U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium and received a National Science Foundation CAREER award.

In regards to recognition received from Boston University’s internal programs, Densmore received a 2013 Ignition Award, 2013 College of Engineer Early Career Excellence Award, and was named 2012-2014 Hariri Institute Junior Faculty Fellow. A list of Densmore’s awards, research interest, and selected publications are available on the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering website.

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CISE Hosts International Symposium on Control of Network Systems

November 4th, 2014 in Faculty, Publications, Recognition, Research

Attendees Celebrate New IEEE Journal Edited by ENG’s Paschalidis

By Mark Dwortzan

Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE) describing a strategy to maximize battery lifetimes in wireless sensor networks at SCONES, held October 27-28 in the Photonics Center Colloquium Room (Photos by Dave Green)

Microbes are all around us—even inside us—and that’s a good thing. Left alone, these tiny organisms have a huge impact on everything from human health to wastewater treatment. But with a little engineering, they could do even more. In certain environments, their metabolic processes could be exploited to make biofuels, vaccines and other useful products and services. To tap their potential, Associate Professor Daniel Segrè (Biology, BME, Bioinformatics) and collaborators have developed mathematical models to predict the metabolic interactions that occur among different microbial species under varying environmental conditions, and to design new microbial networks with desired properties.

TCNS Editor-in-Chief Professor Yannis Paschalidis (ECE, SE, BME) (center) with MIT PhD student Andras Gyorgy (left) and another SCONES participant (right) during a poster session.

Segrè presented his research at the first Symposium on the Control of Network Systems (SCONES), held on October 27-28 in the Photonics Center Colloquium Room.

Sponsored by the IEEE Control Systems Society and the Center for Information and Systems Engineering at Boston University, SCONES celebrated the inaugural March 2014 issue of theIEEE Transactions on Control of Network Systems(TCNS), a new IEEE Transactions journal edited by Professor Yannis Paschalidis (ECE, BME, SE) focused on problems related to the control, design, study, engineering, optimization and emerging behavior of network systems.

“We live in a world that is extremely interconnected,” said Paschalidis, the journal’s editor-in-chief. “This is also true of systems, biological or manmade, that support our modern way of life. Networks, which both connect system components and influence how they function as a whole, are increasingly the focus of leading edge research, and this is the impetus forTCNS and SCONES.”

One author of each paper in the inaugural issue presented at the symposium, along with talks and posters from several other researchers in the field.
Representing major research institutions from around the world, SCONES presenters explored the analysis, control and optimization of electric power, computer, communication, transportation, biological, cyber-physical, social and economic networks. As if bringing the TCNS journal to life, the 23 featured speakers illustrated complex concepts with a flurry of equations, algorithms, graphs and diagrams.

“TCNS aspires to become the premiere destination for mathematically rigorous work in network systems,” said Magnus Egerstedt, an ECE Professor at Georgia Tech and the TCNS deputy editor-in-chief—and the SCONES presenters lived up to that promise.

In addition to Segrè, two other Boston University researchers shared highlights of papers they co-authored in the inaugural issue of TCNS on resource allocation and routing, the selection of optimal path by which to transmit information across the nodes of a network.

Professor Michael Caramanis (ME, SE) (second from right), who chaired the symposium’s first session on control and optimization of electric power networks, with University of Maryland Professor John Baras (ECE) (left), BU Systems Engineering PhD student Bowen Zhang (second from left) and California Institute of Technology Professor Steven Low (ECE) (right) during a break.

Professor Lev Levitin (ECE, SE) presented an alternative to wormhole routing, a widely used routing technique that’s prone to deadlock—multiple messages getting blocked by one another in a vicious cycle—under heavy computer network traffic. Levitin described a series of new, high-performance algorithms that he, Professor Mark Karpovsky (ECE) and ECE Visiting Researcher Mehmet Mustafa developed to break such cycles and prevent deadlock formation during routing and thus preserve network connectivity.

Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE) presented an optimal control strategy that he, Tao Wang (SE, PhD’13) and Sepideh Pourazarm (SE, PhD candidate) devised to maximize the lifetime of sensor batteries deployed at each node of a wireless sensor network for surveillance, environmental monitoring or other applications where human intervention may be inconvenient or costly.

“Because every node has limited energy, you have to worry about the battery dying and the network ceasing to function,” said Cassandras, “so you need to focus on battery lifetime.”

Modeling each battery as a dynamic system in which energy does not dissipate in a linear fashion, the strategy uses an algorithm to determine the routing scheme that will minimize that energy loss.

The symposium, which was well-attended and featured many fruitful exchanges between speakers and attendees, signified how well the TCNS journal has been received by the international research community, Paschalidis observed.

BU Systems Engineering PhD student Tingting Xu and ECE PhD student Theodora Brisimi during a poster session.

“In the first three TCNS issues published in 2014, we have seen papers covering many types of network systems, from networked control and multi-agent systems, to communication, transportation, electric power, biological and social networks,” he noted. “SCONES is playing a key role in coalescing a community of researchers around the journal.”

Science Gets a Front Door on Comm Ave

October 22nd, 2014 in Faculty, Recognition, Students, Undergraduate Students

Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering will bridge disciplines

By Barbara Moran and Sara Rimer, BU Research

This story was originally published on the BU Research website.

CILSE will contain lab space for approximately 160 researchers, postdoctoral students, and staff, 270 graduate students and additional space for future faculty.

CILSE will contain lab space for approximately 160 researchers, postdoctoral students, and staff, 270 graduate students and additional space for future faculty.

For decades, some of the most exciting research at Boston University has been unfolding in a row of buildings hidden on Cummington Mall, designed originally for making carriages instead of studying the life sciences.

Now University President Robert A. Brown is giving science a more prominent address on the University’s main thoroughfare. In late May or early summer 2015, at what is now a parking lot at 610 Commonwealth Avenue, BU will break ground for its new Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering (CILSE), a $140 million, state-of-the-art, nine-story research facility that will bring together life scientists, engineers, and physicians from the Medical and Charles River Campuses. The building will be dedicated to systems neuroscience, cognitive neuroimaging, and biological design. With shared, flexible lab spaces, meeting rooms, and other common areas, it is being designed to encourage the kind of collaborative, interdisciplinary research that will be the hallmark of 21st-century science.

“Today, many of the outstanding challenges in science lie at the boundaries between traditional disciplines or the unchartered spaces between them,” says Brown. These unchartered spaces will be explored at CILSE, a place he says will foster “major interdisciplinary research efforts led by faculty from many departments and schools, but with common interests.”

Professor Barbara Shinn-Cunningham (BME). Photo by Vernon Doucette

Professor Barbara Shinn-Cunningham (BME). Photo by Vernon Doucette

CILSE will be built adjacent to historic Morse Auditorium and is expected to be finished in late 2016 or early 2017. It will contain lab space for approximately 160 researchers, postdoctoral students, and staff, 270 graduate students, and additional space for future faculty. The architects are from Payette, a Boston firm that has built prizewinning science buildings for major research universities and other institutions around the world.

The 170,000-square-foot building will house the Center for Systems Neuroscience, the Biological Design Center, the Center for Sensory Communication and Neuroengineering Technology, and the Cognitive Neuroimaging Center, with a 3 Tesla fMRI—a fundamental tool for studying the brain’s trillions of neural connections and how they relate to human behavior. The imaging technology will serve faculty from schools and departments across BU’s sprawling neuroscience community—and from other universities around Boston—who study brain topics from how we learn, think, and remember to traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease.

“In the life sciences and engineering, we have world-class faculty. We need facilities to match,” says Gloria Waters, vice president and associate provost for research. “We decided to invest in better lab space that would bring faculty together in a very unique and interdisciplinary environment.”

The new Center for Sensory Communication and Neuroengineering Technology will be directed by Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, a College of Engineering professor of biomedical engineering, and will bring together neuroscientists and sensory physiologists who study hearing, speech, and language, as well as mathematicians who investigate neural coding. The center will connect scientists in these areas to enhance technological innovation and develop technologies such as neural prosthetics and brain-computer interfaces.

Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE, BME, Bioinformatics). Photo by Jessica Scranton

Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE, BME, Bioinformatics). Photo by Jessica Scranton

Chantal Stern, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of psychological and brain sciences and the director of the Brain, Behavior and Cognition program, will direct the Cognitive Neuroimaging Center. She says the building—and especially the new imaging technology—signals the administration’s commitment to first-class research at BU.

The University boasts one of the nation’s largest clusters of researchers in the emerging fields of systems neuroscience, which examines brain function at the cellular, molecular, and cognitive levels, and biological design, which seeks to build new biological systems with the tools and techniques of engineering. These interdisciplinary fields tackle some of the thorniest problems in science and medicine, like the detection and treatment of infectious diseases, treatments for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, how memory works, and the root causes of autism. These problems draw researchers from diverse fields who are currently spread across both campuses.

“One of the great things about BU is that we have spectacular faculty from many different disciplines,” says Waters. “This building will allow us to bring them together in ways that wouldn’t happen if they occupied space in their individual school or college. By placing new groups in proximity to one another, we are hoping to develop collaborations that would not happen otherwise, and ultimately some unique areas of excellence.”

Like many scientists working across disciplines, Douglas Densmore, an ENG assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and of biomedical engineering and a primary investigator in the young field of biological design, has multiple offices and students scattered in buildings across campus. CILSE will allow him to gather his various research projects, and his students, under one roof. “I want students to be able to see each other,” says Densmore. “It will be great to be in a welcoming environment that facilitates collaboration.”

Ask other researchers what tops their wish list for the new building and many of them echo Densmore. Their number-one priority is simple: finally having a place to bring their colleagues together.

“You find neuroscientists and people who define themselves as neuroscientists on both campuses—in psychological and brain sciences, biomedical engineering, biology, at Sargent College, in mathematics, physics, radiology, psychiatry, anatomy, neurobiology, pharmacology—and they’re all in different buildings,” Stern says. She is looking forward to the collaborative projects these researchers might be inspired to undertake once they’re under the same roof.

So how do you encourage biologists to talk to engineers? One way to do that, says principal architect Charles Klee, is by creating lab spaces large enough—the plan for CILSE is 17,000 to 20,000 square feet per research floor—to put two or three principal investigators on each floor. “With people in the same space, you can say, ‘I’m having a problem with my protein sequencer; have you ever seen this?’ Another person can answer, ‘Sure—someone over here can help you with that,’” says Klee.

Scientists from different disciplines may also share lab space on the same floor in some instances. In addition to the abundance of other common spaces, there will be kitchenettes on each research floor and—one of Klee’s favorite ideas for promoting serendipitous, cross-disciplinary encounters—an inviting, open stairway connecting the kitchenettes.

“We understand you’ll talk to someone when you have to,” says Klee. “What we’re looking for is the chance discussion that happens just because you bump into someone. It jars something loose in your mind, causes you to think about something in a new way—that’s very much what this kind of a building is trying to do.”

As science has evolved, so has the design of science buildings. “When I was beginning my career, most buildings were designed to function within single disciplines,” says Brown. “I have seen this change dramatically over the last two decades. Now, almost all universities are focused on allocating quality space to strategically important interdisciplinary research.”

“Whenever they ask if we want a wall or not, we say no wall,” says Densmore. “You need this flexibility or you’re going to paint yourself into a corner.” Densmore imagines a futuristic lab space for his work in biological design, with multiple microfluidic devices, 3-D printers creating custom equipment, and RFID-enabled name tags to track students’ experiments. “When people walk in, they’ll say, ‘Something different is going on here,’” he says.

Other scientists have different ambitions for the building, especially for the Cognitive Neuroimaging Center. “We want to have room to put in an exercise bike, in case we want to study exercise and the brain,” says Tyler Perrachione, a Sargent College assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences and a Peter Paul Career Development Professor. “Or beds, so we can study sleep and the brain. We’ll have the ability to study the biology of the brain in action.”

Perrachione, who plans to use the Cognitive Neuroimaging Center primarily for pediatric imaging, has been working with the architect to make sure it will be welcoming for children. “It turns out when you set up a center that’s friendly for kids,” he says, “it’s friendly for adults, too.”

Perrachione notes that the neuroimaging facility will also include a “mock scanner” (“kind of like a scanner play set,” he says) that will allow special populations—children, people with autism or anxiety, the elderly—to become familiar with the MRI before entering the actual scanner.

Another critically important feature for neuroscientists at CILSE will be the sophisticated testing rooms that will minimize vibrations and shield experiments from electrical noise and electromagnetic interference. These factors can hinder research, whether it involves interviewing human subjects or the painstaking work of recording signals from individual neurons. Some of the lab space will have special floors that minimize everyday vibrations—from, say, footsteps—that could get in the way of research.

“It’s very different than setting up an office building—it’s not just a computer and desk,” says Michael Hasselmo, director of the Center for Systems Neuroscience and a CAS professor of psychological and brain sciences. “A person walking past your lab can ruin your whole experiment.”

When it comes to the exterior, says Klee, the new science building will be “airy, transparent, beautiful.” He says his team is mindful that CILSE should not overshadow iconic Morse Auditorium, which is eligible for historic landmark status. “This will be a quiet building,” he says. “It won’t shout.”

And that, the architect says, seems to suit the researchers. They just want to get inside and do their work. “Research is much more than a job; it’s not a 9-to-5 activity,” he says.

“There’s this kind of passion. They want a facility that will let them do what they want to do. Come hell or high water, it has to function.”

Brown has emphasized that the research inside the building be reflected in its exterior, says Klee. Just as EPIC (the new Engineering Product Innovation Center on Commonwealth Avenue) allows the public to see the hands-on nature of engineering, CILSE’s glass-walled exterior will provide a window onto basic science research at BU.

“This is not a building that wants to be ashamed that it’s a research building,” Klee says. “You’ll be able to see the exhaust fans on the roof, for example. It’s transparent. You can see life in it. A lot of buildings are opaque—you have no idea whether it’s a dorm, an office building, or a bank. We’re giving science a front door on Commonwealth Avenue.”

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ENG Selects Inaugural Term Distinguished Professors of Engineering

October 8th, 2014 in Awards, Faculty, Recognition

Baillieul, Cassandras, Chen, Unlu and Wong Honored

By Mark Dwortzan

Five College of Engineering professors—John Baillieul (ME, SE), Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE), Christopher Chen (BME), Selim Ünlü (ECE, BME, MSE) and Joyce Wong (BME, MSE)—have been selected as the inaugural set of Term Distinguished Professors of Engineering. Each will carry the title of “Distinguished Professor of Engineering” and receive a stipend of discretionary funds throughout their term. Thereafter, the title will be retained throughout their career at Boston University.

“Each of these faculty members has had a lengthy distinguished record of impact in research and in service to the College of Engineering and their profession,” said Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen.

Professor John Baillieul (ME, SE)

Professor John Baillieul (ME, SE)

John Baillieul

Baillieul’s research focuses on robotics, the control of mechanical systems, and mathematical system theory. He is currently working to extend and apply principles from nonlinear control theory to complex mechanical systems composed of interconnected rigid and elastic components.

Baillieul has published more than 160 peer-reviewed papers, is Fellow of the IEEE, International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) and Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and has received the IEEE Control Systems Society Distinguished Member Award and IEEE

Third Millennium Medal. He served as the Chinese Academy of Sciences T.S. Tsien International Outstanding Lecturer and as a distinguished lecturer at other institutions. His service to the profession includes editor-in-chief of IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, president and member of the board of governors of the IEEE Control Systems Society, and member of the board of directors of the IEEE.

At the College of Engineering, Baillieul has been chair of both the Manufacturing Engineering and Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering departments, the associate dean for Academic Programs, the director for the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a founding member of the Center for Information and Systems Engineering. He was the College’s inaugural Distinguished Lecturer.

Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE)

Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE)

Christos Cassandras

Cassandras’ research centers on discrete event and hybrid systems, cooperative control, stochastic optimization and computer simulation, with applications to computer and sensor networks, manufacturing systems and transportation systems.

The author of more than 350 peer-reviewed journal articles and proceedings, five books, Cassandras is a Fellow of the IEEE and IFAC. He has served as the president, vice president for publications, and member of the board of governors of the IEEE Control Systems Society, and on the board of directors

of the American Automatic Control Council. His awards include the IEEE Control Systems Technology Award, the Distinguished Member Award of the IEEE Control Systems Society, the Harold Chestnut Prize, the IEEE Distinguished Lecturer Award, a prize for the IBM/IEEE Smarter Planet Challenge competition, a Lilly Fellowship and a Kern Fellowship. A chair or plenary/keynote speaker at several conferences and guest editor of many technical journal issues, he has served as editor-in-chief (1998-2009) and earlier as editor of the IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, and is the senior editor for the Journal of Control and Decision. He has worked extensively with industrial organizations on various systems integration and simulation projects.

At the College of Engineering, Cassandras is Head of the Systems Engineering Division and a co-founder of the Center for Information and Systems Engineering, and was a Distinguished Lecturer.

Professor Christopher Chen (BME)

Professor Christopher Chen (BME)

Christopher Chen

Chen is widely recognized as a world leader in tissue engineering and mechanobiology—the study of how physical forces and changes in cell or tissue mechanics contribute to development, physiology and disease. His research seeks to identify underlying mechanisms by which cells interact with materials and other cells to build tissues, and to apply this knowledge to better understand the biology of stem cells, tissue vascularization and cancer.

The author of more than 130 peer-reviewed publications, Chen is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and a member of the Faculty of 1000 Biology, the board of trustees for the Society for BioMEMS and Biomedical Nanotechnology, and the Defense Sciences Study Group. He is on the editorial board for Science Translational Medicine, Annuals Reviews of Cell, Developmental Biology, and Developmental Cell, and an editor for Journal of Cell Science, BioInterphases, Technology, and Molecular and Cellular Bioengineering.

His many honors include the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the Angiogenesis Foundation Fellowship, the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, the Mary Hulman George Award for Biomedical Research and the Herbert W. Dickerman Award for Outstanding Contribution to Science.

Professor (ECE, BME, MSE)

Professor Selim Ünlü (ECE, BME, MSE)

Selim Ünlü

Ünlü’s research is concerned with the development of photonic materials, devices and systems focused on the design, processing, characterization and modeling of semiconductor optoelectronic devices, and high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy of semiconductor and biological materials.

The author of 163 peer-reviewed journal articles and an IEEE Fellow, he has served as editor-in-chief of the IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics and as former chair of Photodetectors and Imaging, founding chair of Nanophotonics and current chair of Biophotonics technical committees for the IEEE Photonics Society. His awards include the IEEE Lasers and Electro-optics Society Distinguished Lecturer, the Photonics Society Distinguished Lecturer, the Australian Research Council Nanotechnology Network Distinguished Lecturer, the Turkish Scientific Foundation Science Award, and the National Science Foundation CAREER and Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Awards.

At the College, Ünlü has served as the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs and is now the Associate Dean for Research and Technology Development.

Professor Joyce Wong (BME, MSE)

Professor Joyce Wong (BME, MSE)

Joyce Wong

Wong’s research focuses on elucidating fundamental molecular, cellular and interfacial processes, and applying these principles to guide tissue engineering and develop in vitro engineered model systems to study disease progression.

The author of more than 80 peer- reviewed journal articles, she is a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. She is also the recipient of the Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award, the Japan-American Frontiers in Engineering Award, the Dupont Young Professor Award, the NAS Frontiers in Engineering Award and the NSF CAREER Award. She was elected and served on the board of directors of the Biomedical Engineering Society and served on the Beckman Foundation Scholars Advisory Panel. She also serves on the editorial boards of Regenerative Therapy, Biomatter and Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering.

Wong’s roles at the University includes director of the Provost’s Initiative to Advance Women in STEM, co-director of the Affinity Research Collaborative in Nanotheranostics, and former associate director for the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology.

BU President Robert A. Brown Honored by Fellow Engineers

October 3rd, 2014 in Awards, Faculty, Recognition

National Academy of Engineering recognizes research, leadership

By Rich Barlow, BU Today

At the NAE award ceremony honoring BU President Robert A. Brown September 26: Pallab K. Bhattacharya, a University of Michigan professor, Charles O. Holliday, Jr., retired chairman and CEO of E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., Brown, and C. D. Mote, Jr., NAE president. (Photo by Risdon Photography)

At the NAE award ceremony honoring BU President Robert A. Brown September 26: Pallab K. Bhattacharya, a University of Michigan professor, Charles O. Holliday, Jr., retired chairman and CEO of E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., Brown, and C. D. Mote, Jr., NAE president. (Photo by Risdon Photography)

Before he was an accomplished university president, with even dour bond raters applauding his helmsmanship of BU, Robert A. Brown was an accomplished chemical engineer. His research involved mathematical models that helped produce materials from polymer plastics to the silicon ingredients in microelectronic devices.

Both careers have earned BU’s top executive and professor of electrical engineering and computer science an award from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Brown received the NAE’s Simon Ramo Founders Award Sunday in Washington, D.C. The award confers a commemorative medal on recipients whose achievements better society.

“I am very honored by this award,” says Brown. The award recognizes his leadership at BU and MIT, where he was provost before becoming president of Boston University in 2005. “I am proudest of my influence on the direction of Boston University and our progress, as we have seen very rapid emergence as a major private research university,” Brown says. “In this sense, the award is shared by the entire Boston University community, as they have embraced and led the significant advances we have made in education and research.”

Brown, an NAE member since 1991, “has exemplified the ideals of the NAE,” says C. D. Mote, Jr., NAE president. “His contributions in chemical engineering research, service to the profession, and his academic leadership are stellar. He is the personification of the Simon Ramo Founders Award.”

Among Brown’s accomplishments, the NAE cited his launch of the University’s strategic plan, drawing “world-class faculty members,” and support for research.

It also applauded his pre-administration life as a scholar. “The underpinning of almost all my research was to use applied mathematics and advanced numerical simulation to explore models of very complex processes,” Brown says. He notes that he is best known for two applications of his work. One is the simulation of viscoelastic liquid flows (“these are liquids composed of very large molecules, such as molten plastics and polymeric coating solutions”). The other is simulating the growth of semiconductor crystals, such as silicon, from the melt.

He attributes his induction into the NAE at the unusually young age of 40, and his 1999 induction into the National Academy of Sciences, to this research.

Before BU, Texas-born Brown spent 25 years at MIT. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering at the University of Texas and a PhD at the University of Minnesota. He was one of two scholars to receive an award from the NAE this year. Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford University professor, was given the Arthur M. Bueche Award.

CISE Graduate Students at “Women in Computing Conference”

October 2nd, 2014 in Events, Recognition, Research, Students

By Christina Polyzos

Theodora Brisimi, Yasaman Khazaeni, and Sepideh Pourazarm will represent the Center for Information and Systems Engineering (CISE) at the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) Of Women In Computing Conference on October 8-10, 2014, in Phoenix, AZ. These women will have the opportunity to network, increase visibility in their respective disciplines, engage in discourse with other professionals, and more importantly, learn and be inspired by prominent women who transform the course of technology. CISE encourages and embraces talented individuals by organizing events and workshops to support their research and by sponsoring their participation in conferences such as GHC.

Theodora, whose advisor is Professor Ioannis Paschalidis, will be presenting a poster, “Modeling and Prediction of Heart-Related Hospitalization Using Electronic Health Records” at the conference this year. “I want to better the world by improving the incorporation of data analytics in city and societal general projects,” said Theodora, which is indicative of where her interests lie in the development and application of new techniques in machine learning, optimization, and decision theory. “CISE has been a great source of information and an excellent opportunity to meet with other researchers. Attending CISE seminars, along with CISE’s Women’s Networking Forum and Student Presentation Practice Sessions, has helped me develop my presentation and professional development skills”.

Yasaman, a CISE student working with Professor Christos Cassandras, will be attending the GHC because she anticipates meeting “the women who have made it to the top tier of engineering and computer science field which has been historically dominated by men. I believe I can learn a lot from their experience and achievements”. Yasaman’s work focuses on the development of algorithms and optimization problems that can be utilized in many real world problems such as disaster evacuation and resource allocation.

Sepideh, who also works under the guidance of Professor Cassandras, is currently working in the CODES lab developing an optimal control approach to solve the routing problem in sensor networks and electric vehicles with energy constraints. She believes that CISE has contributed to her education especially with “the weekly seminars, which explore different areas of engineering from diverse majors and schools as well as with the BU Scholars Day.” She will be attending this conference primarily to network and meet the professional women who have contributed to the advancement of technology.

In 1994, Anita Borg and Dr. Telle Whitney co-founded this conference with the vision of bringing women technologists together to celebrate achievements, discuss career interests, and present research. Two decades later, attendees exceed 4,500 participants from 53 countries, 1,900 students from 400 academic institutions, and 2,850 industry professionals. GHC is notably the world’s largest conference for women in technology.

The Grace Hopper Celebration incorporates career sessions with technical sessions, including proposal presentations, mentoring workshops, papers, a PhD forum, panel discussions, and a Poster Session. Conference keynote speakers and presenters are leaders in their respective discipline from academia, government and industry such as DARPA and Microsoft.

This year’s presenters include:

  • Shafi Goldwasser – keynote speaker – (RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT, winner of the 2012 ACM Turing Award),
  • Maria Klawe (President, Harvey Mudd College)
  • Satya Nadella (CEO Microsoft),
  • Dr. Arati Prabhakar (Director of DARPA).

Full list of speakers at Grace Hopper Celebration.  Event Program

Moustakas Named Distinguished Professor of Photonics and Optoelectronics

October 2nd, 2014 in Awards, Faculty, Recognition

Holds ENG’s First Endowed Professorship

By Mark Dwortzan

Professor Theodore Moustakas (ECE, MSE)

Professor Theodore Moustakas (ECE, MSE)

Boston University Provost Jean Morrison has named Professor Theodore Moustakas (ECE, MSE, Physics) as the inaugural Distinguished Professor of Photonics and Optoelectronics, the College of Engineering’s first fully funded, named endowed professorship. Intended to honor and support a BU faculty member with outstanding achievements in research, teaching and service in the fields of photonics and optoelectronics, the professorship will be jointly funded by the College of Engineering, the Boston University Office of the Provost, and the BU Photonics Center.

Upon Moustakas’ retirement, the professorship will be renamed as the Theodore Moustakas Professorship of Photonics and Optoelectronics.The College has begun an unprecedented international search for a senior faculty member in this area of engineering science who will be selected as the inaugural holder of the Moustakas Professorship.

“I am very pleased that Boston University named me as the inaugural Distinguished Professor of Photonics and Optoelectronics,” said Moustakas, who has developed a wide range of  novel optoelectronic materials and devices ranging from diamond thin films to nitride semiconductors. “Photonics and optoelectronics form the backbone of today’s information technology, and the College of Engineering and the BU Photonics Center are world leaders in both domains. The establishment of this Distinguished Professorship will help the University in maintaining its leadership role in these areas.”

Since Moustakas joined BU in 1987, the primary focus of his research has been the development of nitride semiconductors for high-performance optoelectronic devices covering the spectral region from the deep ultraviolet (UV) to terahertz. Such devices include light-emitting diodes (LEDs), photo-detectors and solar cells. He is well known for the development of the nucleation steps for the growth of blue/green LEDs, widely used in flat panel displays on smartphones and televisions as well as for general illumination. He has also developed highly-efficient, deep UV LEDs, which are expected to provide environmentally friendly water and air purification as well as food sterilization and various medical applications.

Moustakas has had a significant impact on his field through 31 US patents, hundreds of invited talks, 350 journal papers, eight co-edited books and more than 11,000 citations in research literature. Selected as the 2010 Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) Innovator Award winner, he has been named a Fellow of the American Physical Society, Electrochemical Society, National Academy of Inventors and IEEE. Intellectual property resulting from his work has been licensed to a number of companies, including major manufacturers and users of blue LEDs and lasers. Moustakas is the co-founder of RayVio Corp., a venture-backed company that makes UV LEDs.

A professor of electrical and computer engineering since 1987, professor of physics since 1991, and the current associate head of the Division of Materials Science & Engineering, Moustakas took a leading role in propelling the ECE Department’s PhD program into the nation’s top-ranked programs, putting the MSE Division on the national map and helping establish BU as a national center of photonics research. He was the 2011 College of Engineering Distinguished Scholar Lecturer and winner of Boston University’s 2013 Innovator of the Year award.

Prior to joining the BU faculty, Moustakas worked at Harvard University as a research fellow and Exxon Research Corporate Research Laboratories as a senior scientist. He received a BS in Physics from Aristotle University (Greece) and a PhD in Solid State Science and Engineering from Columbia University.