Category: Research-ISS

ECE Distinguished Lecturer Discusses Movement Towards New Signal Processing Theories

October 16th, 2014 in Events, Lectures, News-ISS, Research, Research-ISS

“Computable Performance Analysis of Sparsity Recovery”

lecture picture

Arye 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.

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

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

BU-Brigham & Women’s Hospital Partnership Celebrates First Year

September 16th, 2014 in Faculty, Graduate Student Opportunities, News-ISS, Research, Research-ISS

Joint Research Focused on Medical Imaging and Image-Guided Interventions

By Mark Dwortzan

Researchers from Boston University and Brigham & Women's Hospital are collaborating to improve medical imaging and image-guided interventions. (Images courtesy of Brigham & Women's Hospital)

Researchers from Boston University and Brigham & Women’s Hospital are collaborating to improve medical imaging and image-guided interventions. (Images courtesy of Brigham & Women’s Hospital)

Boston University College of Engineering Assistant Professor Darren Roblyer (BME) and Brigham & Women’s Hospital radiologist Srinivisan Mukundan are exploring a strategy that combines a new optical imaging device developed by Roblyer with emerging magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to probe malignant brain tumors during chemotherapy treatment. Their research could enable clinicians to monitor the effectiveness of chemotherapy over the course of treatment and implement changes to chemotherapy drugs and dose levels as needed.Sept. 12 present_ 2_WEB_READY

The project is one of five now receiving funding through an ongoing partnership between Boston University and Brigham & Women’s Hospital. On September 12 at the BU Photonics Center, Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen and Dr. Steven Seltzer, Chair of the BWH Department of Radiology, announced the second year of the partnership, which has already provided one year of seed funding to projects ranging from image-guided cancer drug delivery to early detection of heart disease.

“The goal is to leverage synergies between Brigham & Women’s Hospital’s Radiology Department in imaging and image-guided interventions with the College of Engineering’s strengths in developing new materials and technologies as well as novel techniques for processing images and large data sets,” said Associate Professor Tyrone Porter (ME, BME, MSE), who is coordinating the partnership. “The hope is to stimulate research collaborations between the two campuses and develop a National Institutes of Health training program in clinical imaging and image-guided interventions.”

The brainchild of Lutchen and Seltzer, the BU-BWH partnership brings together world-class expertise and equipment from Boston University entities such as the BU Photonics Center and the BU Center for Nanoscience & Nanobiotechnology, and from the BWH Department of Radiology, home to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Image-Guided Therapy and the Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating Suite (AMIGO). Joint research between the two campuses could result in less invasive, more accurate medical imaging and image-guided interventions.

“There’s no question that in so many dimensions, imaging is at the foundation of a tremendous amount of potential breakthroughs in medical discoveries and practice, but there are huge challenges from a scientific and technical point of view,” said Lutchen. “We’ve got tons of interested students and faculty here that need and want to use imaging technologies to address interesting and important questions.”

First-round projects include the engineering of a new “molecular imaging” MRI contrast agent for detecting early calcification of the aortic valve; the combination of ultrasound and MR data to evaluate the elastic properties of tissues, which are associated with pathological indicators of disease; a clinical decision support system for patient-specific cancer diagnosis and management; and ultrasound-guided delivery of chemotherapy drug-laden nanoparticles to metastasized lung cancer cells in the brain. Applications for second-round projects are now underway.

All projects involve at least one principal investigator from each of the partnering institutions, who jointly advise a doctoral student on a project that could positively impact clinical practice. Participating ENG faculty include Professors Joyce Wong (BME, MSE), Paul Barbone (ME, MSE), Venkatesh Saligrama (ECE, SE) and Yannis Paschalidis (ECE, SE); Associate Professor Porter; and Assistant Professor Roblyer.

“The fields of biomedical imaging and bioengineering have been converging and collaborating for decades, and that collaboration continues to get closer and closer,” said Seltzer, noting a burgeoning clinical need for advanced technologies in functional and molecular imaging; information technologies ranging from data mining to image processing; and minimally-invasive diagnostic and therapeutic procedures guided by high-technology imaging techniques.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

ENG@50

February 27th, 2014 in Faculty, Graduate Programs, Graduate Students, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Research, Research-CE, Research-EP, Research-ISS, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Students

Cultivating Excellence, Transforming Society

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

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

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 annual US 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

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

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

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.

-Mark Dwortzan

Engineering in the Alps

February 25th, 2014 in Alumni, Courses, Faculty, Graduate Programs, Graduate Students, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Research, Research-EP, Research-ISS, Senior Design, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Students

Kevin Mader (ECE '08, MS '08, who is teaching at ETH Zürich, bikes in one of the side valleys of Engadin in the Swiss Alps.

Kevin Mader (ECE ’08, MS ’08), who is teaching at ETH Zürich, bikes in one of the side valleys of Engadin in the Swiss Alps.

As a master’s candidate studying Photonics at Boston University, Kevin Mader (ECE ’08, MS ’08) decided to become an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow, a position that allowed him to work with students and help them master difficult concepts.

“I felt like I could help students because I had just struggled with learning the concepts a year before and could relate well to what they were going through,” he said.

The experience made Mader realize he wanted to become a teacher and today, he is a lecturer at ETH Zürich in Switzerland, where he is hoping to inspire the next generation to get excited about engineering.

“I think that a lot of students lose interest in science and engineering early on because it becomes too technical before it gets interesting,” he said. “I hope to try and make it exciting without watering it down too much.”

Prior to living in Switzerland, Mader’s roots were in the United States, where he lived in California, Ohio, Oregon, and Massachusetts. Still, moving abroad wasn’t quite the challenge you might expect.

“For some things it is no adjustment at all – there are Starbucks and McDonald’s restaurants on nearly every street corner – but for other aspects getting used to a new language and a different culture can take some time,” he explained. “Luckily, students seem to be pretty similar all around the world and Zürich is a very international city so it’s never a problem finding interesting people and somewhere to fit in.”

As an undergraduate studying Electrical Engineering at BU, Mader worked closely with Senior Lecturer, Babak Kia, on his senior design project. Like in Switzerland, Mader never had any problems finding other researchers he could collaborate with effortlessly.

“He was a very effective team player, espousing a humble leadership style and patiently sharing his thoughts and ideas with his team,” said Kia, who served as Mader’s customer during senior design.

Mader’s team, Esplanade Runner, was tasked with enabling a robot to navigate a Google Maps route while avoiding obstacles in its path. Known as autonomous navigation, the project was assigned a few years before Google Street View cars were popularized.

Calling the research one of his “most valuable experiences at BU,” Mader said, “Our project was particularly cool since it was tangible: make a little car follow a route and avoid obstacles. It was also deceptively simple, and I learned how difficult it is to make timelines and get everything running on time. We spent a few nights in the lab banging our heads against the wall trying to synchronize our vehicle, compass, sensors, and GPS.”

The hard work ultimately paid off and their team won the ECE Day Best Presentation Award that year.

“Kevin could hardly contain his drive and enthusiasm throughout the project,” said Kia. “He has such a natural ability and curious mind for exploring the unknown that is just a joy to witness.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Mader decided to continue his studies by pursuing a master’s in Photonics at BU.

“Initially I was intrigued by Photonics because I had no idea what it really was and had studied in the building by that name for years,” said Mader. “After taking the introductory class I was surprised by how complicated imaging really is – iPhones make it so easy – and how much potential there was in the field.”

Mader had completed a summer internship at the Center for Biophotonics at the University of California, Davis, where he looked at how cellular spectroscopy and imaging could be used to detect cancer. Upon returning to BU, he decided to build upon what he learned by taking a course on imaging and microscopy with Professor Jerome Mertz (BME).

“What struck me about Professor Mertz from my first interaction with him was how much interest and passion he had for the science he was working on,” explained Mader. “He seemed like one of those people who would continue to do the exact same thing even after winning the lottery because he enjoyed it so much.”

Mader went on to work on his master’s thesis in Mertz’s laboratory, where he worked on improving bioluminescence imaging so that a small group of cells, like a tumor, could be detected without using lasers or X-rays.

“Kevin was great to work with – really creative,” said Mertz. “He could always look at things from different and unexpected perspectives that were really intriguing. I think he’ll make a great professor someday.”

Since completing his master’s, Mader has taken more steps toward eventually becoming a professor, including earning a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Biomechanics from ETH Zürich.

He has also earned a Pioneer Fellowship from the university, which will allow him to work toward pairing microscopes, MRIs and CT-scanners with tools that will turn pictures into meaningful statistics.

“There seems to be sufficient industrial interest. The real challenge will be connecting with the right people at the right times,” he said.

As Mader balances research with teaching, he continues to give his all in both.

“I think one of the best ways to really understand a topic is to have to disseminate it to other people,” he said. “In particular, I enjoy trying to connect abstract concepts like parallel computing to everyday ones like card games with friends.”

Truly committed to being the best teacher he can be, Mader can often be found tweaking his lecture slides minutes before a talk, even though he’d finished preparing weeks before.

Said Kia: “I have no doubt, not even for a second, that he will become a highly effective professor and that his deep passion for research and discovery will be surpassed only by his immense passion for his students.”

Learn more about Mader’s new company, 4Quant.

-Rachel Harrington (rachelah@bu.edu)

Call for 2014 Institute Research Proposals

February 21st, 2014 in Awards, Faculty, Grants, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Research, Research-CE, Research-EP, Research-ISS

banner21In pursuit of the Hariri Institute’s mission to catalyze and propel collaborative, interdisciplinary research through the use of computational and data-driven approaches, the Institute supports a portfolio of ambitious computational research projects, as well as forward-looking educational and outreach initiatives at Boston University.

In line with this mission, we are pleased to announce the Call for selecting and funding 2014 Institute portfolio projects. The process is designed to be fairly lightweight, imposing minimal overhead on proposing investigators, while ensuring that the process itself acts as a catalyst for the exchange and development of research ideas among Institute affiliates.

The process for exploring and developing projects to be sponsored by the Institute encourages principal investigators to involve the Institute in shaping and refining their research ideas, suggesting potential collaborations, identifying additional or alternative sources of funding, and finding other creative ways to help support the project.

Eligibility: Faculty affiliates of the Hariri Institute are eligible to submit proposals for support from the Institute for research and other activities by completing the Research Funding Application.

Process: For details, please check the project proposal development, submission, and evaluation process and complete the Research Funding Application.

Deadline: April 4, 2014 is the deadline for Summer/Fall start dates. There will be a November 2014 deadline for Spring 2015 start date projects.

For more information: please contact Linda Grosser, Director, Program & Project Development, of the Hariri Institute, by email at lgrosser@bu.edu.

Looking Beyond the Lab

February 11th, 2014 in Awards, Courses, Events, Faculty, Graduate Programs, Graduate Student Opportunities, Graduate Students, Grants, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Research, Research-CE, Research-EP, Research-ISS, Students

Postdoctoral associate, George Daaboul; research associate, David Freedman; and lecturer and entrepreneur, Rana Gupta (SMG) were among the Boston University participants of the NSF I-Corps program.

Postdoctoral associate, George Daaboul; research associate, David Freedman; and lecturer and entrepreneur, Rana Gupta (SMG) were among those participating from Boston University in the NSF I-Corps program.

Many engineers have great ideas for products, but unfortunately, they don’t often have a background in business that will allow them to bring their designs to market.

To help with this problem, two Boston University research teams recently participated in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps), a program that encourages scientists and engineers to broaden their focus beyond lab work through entrepreneurship training.

“We had been trying to bring some of our ideas to a commercial state when we heard about the program,” said David Freedman, a BU research associate in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. “It seemed like a great fit for us.”

Freedman and postdoctoral associate, George Daaboul, had been working closely with Professor Selim Ünlü’s (ECE, BME, MSE) research group trying to determine how their technology, IRIS, used to detect viruses and pathogens, might be applied in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and emergency care centers. They soon decided that forming an I-Corps team would allow them to evaluate the commercial potential.

Teams receive $50K in grant money and consist of an Entrepreneurial Lead (Daaboul), a Principal Investigator (Freedman), and a business mentor. The researchers asked BU lecturer and entrepreneur, Rana Gupta (SMG), to take on the latter role.

Also participating from BU were Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE) and Research Assistant Professor Swapnil Bhatia (ECE). They pitched Lattice Automation, technology that will allow technology by the Cross-disciplinary Integration of Design Automation Research (CIDAR) group to transition into commercial products. Ultimately, they hope to create software that will help synthetic biologists work more efficiently.

“Our technology is building upon state-of-the-art techniques in computer science, electrical engineering, and bioengineering,” explained Densmore.

Conceptual illustration of SP-IRIS technology used for pathogen diagnostics.

Conceptual illustration of SP-IRIS technology used for pathogen diagnostics.

Over eight weeks in the fall, participants attended workshops in Atlanta, Ga., met with researchers from the 21 teams, followed an online curriculum, and spoke with up to 100 different potential consumers of their technology – a process known as “customer discovery.”

Through this experience, Freedman and Daaboul quickly learned that introducing a new technology to customers might not be the right approach for their research.

“We decided instead to focus on the pains customers had with existing technologies and hone in on how we could alleviate those,” said Freedman.

Added Daaboul: “Finding out what people really needed before developing a technology really allowed for a much different perspective than what I’m used to.”

Much of the knowledge gained through I-Corps will be used to advance science and engineering research. Some products tested during the workshops even show immediate market potential by the conclusion of the curriculum.

“I would recommend this program to anyone working in science or industry,” said Freedman. “Not only did this change how we think about our research, we also learned how to better tell our narrative.”

-Rachel Harrington (rachelah@bu.edu)

Cassandras, Han Win Faculty Awards

February 11th, 2014 in Awards, Events, Faculty, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Recognition, Research, Research-ISS

Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE) speaking at the Smarter Cities conference in 2013 (Photo by Kalman Zabarsky)

Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE) speaking at the Smarter Cities conference in 2013 (Photo by Kalman Zabarsky)

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 Professor Christos 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

Assistant Professor Xue Han (BME) recently won a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Assistant Professor Xue Han (BME) recently won a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

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.

-Mark Dwortzan

Fourth Annual ECE Fair Offers Research Opportunities

February 10th, 2014 in Events, Faculty, Graduate Students, Jobs in ECE@BU, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Research-CE, Research-EP, Research-ISS, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students

Associate Professor Kotiuga talks with a student discussing his research project at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering's annual fair.

Associate Professor Robert Kotiuga (ECE) discusses his research project at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s annual fair.

It’s been a bitter winter in Boston, but that didn’t keep students and faculty from making their way toward the Photonics Building Colloquium Room on January 22. Anxious undergraduate students looking for research opportunities mingled among the 28 tables of Boston University researchers at the recent ECE Undergraduate Research and Lab Job Fair hoping to find opportunities to gain hands-on engineering experience.

The story of the research fair goes back four years ago when Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen spoke to matriculating freshman about the importance of research. While listening to the talk, Professor Mark Horenstein (ECE) realized that while entering students were being encouraged to engage in research, no one was telling them how.

In response, Horenstein started the annual ECE Undergraduate Research and Lab Job Fair as a way for undergraduates and faculty to explore mutual interests related to research and for students to ask about available research positions. The event also provides a public forum in which faculty can showcase what is happening in their laboratories. “This is a get-to-know-you meet-and-greet event,” says Horenstein.

View photos of the event on Facebook.

Watching presentations and submitting resumes to BU faculty and graduate students, about 75 students attended this year. Two sophomores, Dean De Carli (EE ’16) and Matthew Owney (EE ’16), were scouting for summer and fall positions.

“Even though I didn’t get any research jobs, I was able to connect with the faculty,” said second-time attendee, De Carli. Owney added that he is looking for any opportunity since it’s his first time attending the fair.

Friends Dean De Carli (EE ’16) and Matthew Owney (EE ’16) travel from table to table together.

Friends Dean De Carli (EE ’16) and Matthew Owney (EE ’16) travel from table to table together.

Horenstein tells younger attendees, such as Alexandra Miller-Browne (CE ’17), that it’s important to “build up your skills as time goes on; don’t get discouraged.”

People on the other side of the table have a similar thought process. Dr. Traci Haddock, Executive Director of the Center for Synthetic Biology at BU, says, “Most students have no experience, but we will take anyone who is interested.” For example, she is looking for students to help develop the iGEM team’s website and build genetic devices this summer.

Third-time veteran, Associate Professor Robert Kotiuga, changes his presentation every year but remains steadfast in his belief that though people will always possess different areas of expertise, “it is important to be passionate about the project.”

Every year since the program’s initiation, the event has turned out eager attendees, and 2014 was no exception. Students continue to return each year, hoping to gain experience and take advantage of the department’s available opportunities.

-Chelsea Hermond (SMG ’15)

ECE Welcomes Three New Faculty

January 29th, 2014 in Faculty, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Research, Research-CE, Research-EP, Research-ISS

Research Professor Robert Gray (ECE)

Research Professor Robert Gray (ECE)

Several new faces are walking the halls of Boston University’s Photonics Center this year after the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering welcomed three new faculty members in 2013-14.

While Research Professor Robert Gray and Research Assistant Professor Swapnil Bhatia started in the fall, Assistant Professor Vivek Goyal officially began in January.

Gray, who specializes in information theory, statistical signal processing, and quantization theory and algorithms, has received a long list of accolades since earning his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1969.

Among his honors, Gray is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and a Fellow of the Institute for Mathematical Statistics and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He has also received the IEEE Jack S. Kilby Signal Processing Medal, the IEEE Information Theory Society Claude E. Shannon Award, and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM).

In addition to his post at BU, Gray holds the title of Emeritus Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, where he authored more than a dozen textbooks.

Like Gray, Goyal also specializes in statistical signal processing and holds the title of IEEE Fellow after being recognized last year.

Goyal’s additional research interests include computational imaging, information representation, quantization, and human decision making and perception.

Assistant Professor Vivek Goyal (ECE)

Assistant Professor Vivek Goyal (ECE)

Though he is new to BU, Goyal is familiar with Boston, having previously taught at MIT just across the river.

“I’m excited to join BU because it is a perfect place to work at the intersection of information sciences and photonics. Both are great strengths of BU ECE,” he said.

Goyal believes that a central focus of future information processing research will be on addressing problems that exist outside of engineering, and he is eager to work across department boundaries.

“For such pursuits, it is a privilege to be part of a university with world-class programs ranging from economics to health,” he said.

A previous winner of the NSF CAREER Award, Goyal is already off and running at BU. Research he conducted with colleagues at MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics on imaging methods that could potentially improve remote sensing and microscopy was recently published in the journal, Science.

Also new to the department is Bhatia, a familiar figure in BU ECE since he started as a postdoctoral associate, working closely with Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE). Bhatia was drawn to BU instead of a career in industry because of both the university’s emphasis on student learning and the prospect of working on synthetic biology research.

Research Assistant Professor Swapnil Bhatia (ECE)

Research Assistant Professor Swapnil Bhatia (ECE)

“When Doug talked to me about the postdoc position, he also pointed me to people in the field, and I saw some of [BU Biomedical Engineering Professor] Jim Collins‘s talks on YouTube,” said Bhatia. “It was all fascinating and I could see the potential impact of the field and the role of computer science in making it happen.”

Currently, Bhatia specializes in algorithms in biology, discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science, and network and storage systems.

Prior to working at BU, Bhatia, who earned his Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire in 2010, received their Richard Lyczak Memorial Teaching Award and Teaching Achievement Award.

Now that class is back in session, look for Gray, Goyal and Bhatia – plus the rest of the ECE faculty – this semester.

Interested in teaching at Boston University? Learn more about our Faculty and Teaching Faculty searches.

-Rachel Harrington (rachelah@bu.edu)

Imaging Method Promises to Upgrade Remote Sensing and Microscopy

January 27th, 2014 in Faculty, Grants, News-ISS, Publications, Recognition, Research, Research-ISS

Emulating a conventional LIDAR system, Assistant Professor Vivek Goyal's (ECE) team used pulses from a focused laser source to illuminate one scene patch at a time. (Image by Dheera Venkatraman, MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics)

Emulating a conventional LIDAR system, Assistant Professor Vivek Goyal’s (ECE) team used pulses from a focused laser source to illuminate one scene patch at a time. (Image by Dheera Venkatraman, MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics)

Imagine two hiring managers sizing up an applicant. The first gathers all the information she can before forming a first impression. The second collects the bare minimum but does so strategically, arriving at virtually the same impression with far less effort and in far less time.

It turns out that the latter approach can be taken to produce reasonably accurate photos of objects under low lighting conditions using a remote sensing technology such as LIDAR, which bounces pulsed laser light off of a targeted object to form an image. Rather than waiting to collect and compare hundreds of reflected photons to generate each pixel of the image, as is typically done, you can instead count the number of laser pulses it takes to detect the first photon at each pixel. The lower the number, the greater the intensity of the light reflected off the object’s surface — and thus, the brighter the pixel.

Assistant Professor Vivek Goyal (ECE), who joined the College of Engineering faculty in January, and who, along with former colleagues at MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics, demonstrated the concept in a recent issue of the journal Science, calls his method “first-photon imaging.”

“The project started out as a thought experiment,” said Goyal, whose research was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Information in a Photon Program, and the National Science Foundation. “We wondered what we could infer about a scene from detecting only one photon from each pixel location, and eventually realized that when the intensity of light is very low, the amount of time until you detect the photon gives you information about the intensity of the light at each pixel.”

First-photon imaging may ultimately improve night vision and low-light remote sensing technologies by extending the distance at which images may be taken. The new method may also dramatically increase the speed of biological imaging and the variety of samples — many of which degrade when subjected to higher-intensity lighting — that can be photographed.

To produce a high-quality image from the raw, single-photon-per-pixel data, Goyal’s method applies a computer model of surfaces and edges typically encountered in three-dimensional, real-world objects, correcting the intensity and depth of neighboring pixels as needed to fit the model; and filters out noise coming from ambient light sources.

While many researchers are pursuing new techniques to boost remote sensing and microscopy capabilities, most focus on building more effective detectors. Goyal is working to significantly enhance existing detectors by incorporating accurate physical models in signal processing, and to further explore the potential impact of first-photon imaging on remote sensing and microscopy.

-Mark Dwortzan