Category: Research

ENG Grad Students Win Awards at Premier Materials Research Conference

December 11th, 2014 in Awards, Graduate Student Opportunities, Graduate Students, Recognition, Research

By Mark Dwortzan

Second-place poster author Steven Scherr (ME, PhD'16) (second from left) with 2014 MRS Fall Meeting Chairs

Second-place poster author Steven Scherr (ME, PhD’16) (second from left) with 2014 MRS Fall Meeting Chairs

Vying with nearly 3,000 entries in the Poster Session competition at the 2014 Materials Research Society (MRS) Fall Meeting and Exhibit on December 3, a Boston University College of Engineering entry won second place honors. In addition, another ENG poster received the award for the MRS University Chapters Program’s “Sustainability @ My School” competition highlighting leading-edge sustainability research.

Attended by up to 6,000 materials researchers from around the world, the MRS Fall Meeting is the preeminent annual event for those in the field.

Former LEAP student Steven Scherr’s (ME, PhD’16) second-place-winning poster, “Real-Time Digital Virus Detection for Diagnosis of Ebola Virus Disease,” describes an optical detection system he developed for real-time, highly sensitive, label-free virus detection. The system, which combines an optical interference reflectance imaging biosensor(SP-IRIS) with a microfluidics cartridge, could be used for early detection of the Ebola virus at the point of care.

Working with a sample of bovine blood serum, Scherr recently used the system to digitally detect individual 100 nanometer-diameter vesicular stomatitis viruses—safe-for-human models of Ebola—as they adhered to an antibody microarray. Completed within 10 minutes, this lab test demonstrates the potential of SP-IRIS as the core technology for field-ready, point-of-care viral diagnostic tests that’s fast, sensitive, cheap and easy to implement, and requires minimal sample preparation.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the research was a collaboration between Scherr, who designed the microfluidics components, and ECE postdoc George Daaboul (BME, PhD’13), Professor Bennett Goldberg (Physics, ECE, BME, MSE), Professor John H. Connor (MED) and Professor Selim Ünlü (ECE, BME, MSE, Physics), who developed SP-IRIS.

Shizhao Su and Yihong Jiang (both MSE, PhD'15) with their first place award in the "Sustainability @ My School" poster contest

Shizhao Su and Yihong Jiang (both MSE, PhD’15) with their first place award in the “Sustainability @ My School” poster contest

“I think we have the potential to make a big impact in the world of diagnostics and controlling future outbreaks like the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa,” said Scherr, who is continuing to develop the microfluidic cartridge.

Shizhao Su and Yihong Jiang’s (both MSE, PhD’15) winning entry in the MRS university chapter’s “Sustainability @ My School” contest, “Carbon-free Solid Oxide Membrane (SOM) Based Electrolysis for Metals Production and Sustainable Energy Applications,” showcases SOM electrolysis, an environmentally friendly, low-cost metals production technology.  Developed by Professor Uday Pal (ME, MSE) over the past 15 years, it requires far less energy than existing methods to extract pure magnesium, silicon, aluminum and other metals from their oxides. Poster co-author Abhishek Patnaik, who is also an MSE doctoral candidate, is exploring adapting SOM electrolysis for waste-to-energy conversion.

Conducted with guidance from Pal, Professor Soumendra Basu (ME, MSE) and Assistant Professor Jillian Goldfarb (ME, MSE), the research was funded by the National Science Foundation and US Department of Energy.

“I was delighted when Boston University was announced as the first place winner,” said Su. “It was an honor to present our work in front of peers in the MRS community, including some of the world’s leading experts in sustainable research and development. I was glad to see our lab’s many years of hard work recognized and appreciated by the community.”

The Materials Research Society comprises more than 16,000 researchers from academia, industry and government in more than 80 countries, and is a recognized leader in the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research.

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Silicon: The Material That Fueled Technological Revolutions

November 17th, 2014 in Events, Faculty, Lectures, News-EP, Research, Research-EP

Vanderbilt University Dean Philippe Fauchet Visits BU to join the ECE Distinguished Lecture Series

By Gabriella McNevin

Mechanical Engineering Department Chair of Mechanical Engineering, Professor Alice White (left) and Dean of the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University, Professor Philippe Fauchet (right) paused for a photo after the lecture. White and Fauchet met while she was working at Bell Labs.

Mechanical Engineering Department Chair of Mechanical Engineering, Professor Alice White (left) and Dean of the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University, Professor Philippe Fauchet (right) paused for a photo after the lecture. White and Fauchet met while she was working at Bell Labs.

“Aside from oxygen, silicon is the most abundant material on earth’s crust,” stated Professor Philippe Fauchet while speaking as part of the ECE Distinguished Lecture Series at Boston University.

On Wednesday, October 29th, Fauchet’s lecture audience sat waiting to learn how silicon has evolved in the last 20 years to become an almost universal material outside electronics. He answered their anticipation with a disclaimer.

“I will not cover the details of the extensive research. I will give a tour.”

Thus, Fauchet began a lecture, entitled ‘Nanoscale Silicon as an Optical Material,’ to share a big picture view of a wide-ranging subject. He provided an overview on the history of silicon research, and insight on how it may be practically applied for mass-market consumption. He reviewed properties of bulk silicon and techniques by which is may be exploited in research.

In the last 20 years, researchers have expanded and repurposed silicon for use in new industries. Professor Fauchet elaborated on breakthrough silicon biosensor technology that can lead to Ebola detection equipment. Early work was considered to be a success, but was not adapted for wide-use in the health care sector. Its detection capacity was not considered sensitive enough.

Currently, Professor Fauchet is working to advance research on silicon biosensors for the detection of viruses such as Ebola. Fauchet and his team are developing technology with increasing sensitivity, and the ability to concentrate affected Ebola viruses.

Professor Philippe Fauchet has been the Dean of the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University since 2012. He has founded a successful startup, has over 400 publications, and is a Fellow of SPIE, OSA, IEEE, APS, and MRS.

Professor Fauchet concluded the 2014 Fall ECE Distinguished Lecture Series. The 2015 Spring ECE Distinguished Lecture Series will include Professor Ken Loparo (3/4), Professor Luke Lester (3/18), and Professor John Lach (4/1).

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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.”

Designing an Intelligent Urban Ecosystem

October 20th, 2014 in Faculty, Research

BU leads collaboration to make public services “smarter”

By Rich Barlow, BU Today

Boston could benefit from "smart" traffic lights moving traffic efficiently, safer bike paths and other improved services that BU is hoping to develop through a new online platform. Graphic by Rob Colonna

Boston could benefit from “smart” traffic lights moving traffic efficiently, safer bike paths and other improved services that BU is hoping to develop through a new online platform. Graphic by Rob Colonna

Boston could benefit from “smart” traffic lights moving traffic efficiently, safer bike paths and other improved services that BU is hoping to develop through a new online platform. Graphic by Rob Colonna

BU faculty, with help from business and government partners, will develop cloud computing–based services and products to solve urban problems ranging from traffic congestion to dirty air with a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The effort, called SCOPE (Smart-city Cloud-based Open Platform & Ecosystem), will be coordinated by the Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering and led by faculty investigators from several disciplines—computer science, electrical and computer engineering, earth and environment, strategy and innovation, and city planning and urban affairs. The NSF has funded SCOPE with a three-year, $850,000 grant. With contributions from the partners, its total budget exceeds $1 million.

SCOPE principal investigator Azer Bestavros, a College of Arts & Sciences computer science professor and the Hariri Institute’s founding director, says BU and its SCOPE partners—an array of Massachusetts businesses, city and state agencies, and planning groups—could have their first products available within the grant’s three-year life. A product or service could be offered for free or for a price, depending on which partner—business, public agency, or university—is offering it.

The NSF is banking on SCOPE to solve problems, Bestavros says. “Why is it that there is incredible technology developed in universities and industry, but it doesn’t find its way to everyday use by the average citizen?” he asks. “You want to go get a driver’s license or renew it, but it’s a pain. Or services like snowplowing and picking up kids from school are not coordinated—you end up with a plow behind a school bus.” Collaboration among businesses, municipalities, and academia—the “ecosystem” in SCOPE’s name—leverages each group’s incentives to improve those services, Bestavros says. Businesses might make a profit, academics find a platform for their research, and cities provide smarter services.

The products and services offered through SCOPE’s platform will be available via the Massachusetts Open Cloud (MOC), the uniquely designed cloud run by BU and partners at the Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computing Center in Holyoke, Mass. In cloud computing, users rent remotely located computational power and services.

Several BU research projects exemplify the kinds of services that SCOPE hopes to offer to municipalities. Christos Cassandras, a College of Engineering professor of electrical & computer engineering and systems engineering, is researching “smart” traffic lights, which would sense when there’s no cross-street traffic and stay green for motorists on a main thoroughfare.

Lucy Hutyra, a CAS assistant professor of earth and environment, is researching improved ways to measure the mileage racked up by all private motor vehicles in Boston, now measured by live traffic cameras and underground sensors. But current technology doesn’t record vehicle miles traveled with the precision necessary to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from traffic, a goal of the city’s government. So Hutyra is developing an online data portal and a visualization system for recording miles traveled along specific blocks and neighborhoods in real time.

Evimaria Terzi, a CAS associate professor of computer science, has examined better ways to tap data from multiple sources to map bike routes for the city of Pittsburgh. She’s also using multisource data to schedule public works projects and map the safest optimal routes for various types of vehicles, research that could be applied to Boston through SCOPE.

All of these projects involve traffic flow, and that’s no coincidence, Bestavros says. “Studying and mitigating traffic congestion is one of the top areas of interest,” he says, for both researchers and public agencies.

Linda Grosser (GSM’12,’14), director of program and project management at the Hariri Institute, says the project’s industrial partners are a key advantage of SCOPE’s organization.

“Often, research just never leaves the lab,” she says. “It was an imperative that there are industrial partners at the table,” since the NSF’s purpose is to ensure that anything SCOPE develops is adopted beyond the lab. Business partners will “help do the job of carrying it out into the marketplace.”

While SCOPE’s products and services will be offered through the MOC, Grosser says the University is the sole academic partner running SCOPE. The partners are all based in Massachusetts, but any municipality would be able to use SCOPE’s template to develop its own locally relevant services, she says.

SCOPE’s ability to muster multiple academic disciplines at BU is also key, she says: “It’s not a common thing to have a computer scientist, an engineer, and an environmental scientist all really collaboratively working on something.”

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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

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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

Containing Ebola With Nanotechnology

October 2nd, 2014 in Faculty, Recognition, Research

BU Team’s Device Detects Virus Quickly and On Site

By Mark Dwortzan

NexGen Arrays prototype of SP-IRIS. (Image courtesy of NexGen Arrays)

NexGen Arrays prototype of SP-IRIS. (Image courtesy of NexGen Arrays)

By late January, 1.4 million people in Liberia and Sierra Leone could be infected with the Ebola virus. That’s the worst-case scenario of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa recently offered by scientists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC warns that those countries could now have 21,000 cases of the virus, which kills 70 percent of people infected.

One of the big problems hindering containment of Ebola is the cost and difficulty of diagnosing the disease when a patient is first seen. Conventional fluorescent label-based virus detection methods require expensive lab equipment, significant sample preparation, transport and processing times, and extensive training to use. One potential solution may come from researchers at the College of Engineering and the School of Medicine, who have spent the past five years advancing a rapid, label-free, chip-scale photonic device that can provide affordable, simple, and accurate on-site detection. The device could be used to diagnose Ebola and other hemorrhagic fever diseases in resource-limited countries.

The first demonstration of the concept, described in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters in 2010 and developed by Professor Selim Ünlü’s (ECE, BME, MSE) research group in collaboration with Professor Bennett Goldberg (Physics, BME, ECE), showed the ability to pinpoint and size single H1N1 virus particles. Now, after four years of refining the instrumentation in collaboration with Associate Professor John Connor (MED) and other hemorrhagic fever disease researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch, the team has demonstrated the simultaneous detection of multiple viruses in blood serum samples—including viruses genetically modified to mimic the behavior of Ebola and the Marburg virus.

Mentioned in Forbes magazine as a potentially game-changing technology for the containment of

In a multiplexed detection configuration, Ebola, Marburg and Lassa antibodies on the SP-IRIS surface capture corresponding viruses specifically. As shown in the images produced by the device, SP-IRIS then identifies and counts each virus particle and classifies it based on its size.

In a multiplexed detection configuration, Ebola, Marburg and Lassa antibodies on the SP-IRIS surface capture corresponding viruses specifically. As shown in the images produced by the device, SP-IRIS then identifies and counts each virus particle and classifies it based on its size.

Ebola, the device identifies individual viruses based on size variations due to distinct genome lengths and other factors. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the research is showcased in ACS Nano.

“Others have developed different label-free systems, but none have been nearly as successful in detecting nanoscale viral particles in complex media,” said Ünlü, referring to typical biological samples in which a mix of viruses, bacteria and proteins may be present. “Leveraging expertise in optical biosensors and hemorrhagic fever diseases, our collaborative research effort has produced a highly sensitive device with the potential to perform rapid diagnostics in clinical settings.”

Whereas conventional methods can require up to an hour for sample preparation and two hours or more for processing, the current Boston University prototype requires little to no sample preparation time and delivers answers in about an hour.

“By minimizing sample preparation and handling, our system can reduce potential exposure to healthcare workers,” said Connor. “And by looking for multiple viruses at the same time, patients can be diagnosed much more effectively.”

Professor Selim Unlu (ECE, BME, MSE) (left) and Associate Professor John Connor (MED) have developed a rapid, chip-scale photonic device that can detect viruses, including Ebola, on site. (Photo by Steve Prue)

Professor Selim Unlu (ECE, BME, MSE) (left) and Associate Professor John Connor (MED) have developed a rapid, chip-scale photonic device that can detect viruses, including Ebola, on site. (Photo by Steve Prue)

The shoebox-sized, prototype diagnostic device, known as the Single Particle Interferometric Reflectance Imaging Sensor (SP-IRIS), detects pathogens by shining light from multi-color LED sources on viral nanoparticles bound to the sensor surface by a coating of virus-specific antibodies. Interference of light reflected from the surface is modified by the presence of the particles, producing a distinct signal that reveals the size and shape of each particle. The sensor surface is very large and can capture the telltale responses of up to a million nanoparticles.

In collaboration with BD Technologies and NexGen Arrays, a BU Photonics Center-based startup run by longtime SP-IRIS developers David Freedman (EE10) and postdoctoral fellow George Daaboul (BME’13), the research team is now working on making IRIS more robust, field-ready and fast—ideally delivering answers within 30 minutes—through further technology development and preclinical trials.

SP-IRIS devices are now being tested in multiple labs, including a Biosafety Level-4 (BSL-4) lab at the University of Texas Medical Branch that’s equipped to work with hemorrhagic viruses. Other tests will be conducted at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) once the facility is approved for BSL-4 research. Based on the team’s current rate of progress, a field-ready instrument could be ready to enter the medical marketplace in five years.

Find out more about SP-IRIS in this National Academy of Engineering radio clip.


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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.

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ENG Prof Wins NASA Early Career Faculty Award

September 12th, 2014 in Alumni, Awards, Faculty, Grants, News-EP, Recognition, Research

Given for developing deep space communication technology

By Amy Laskowski, BU Today

Jonathan Klamkin, an ENG assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, says photonic integrated circuits will “soon fly into deep space and send large amounts of data back to Earth.” Photos by Cydney Scott

Jonathan Klamkin, an ENG assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, says photonic integrated circuits will “soon fly into deep space and send large amounts of data back to Earth.” Photos by Cydney Scott

Ready to view deep space in high-def?

Jonathan Klamkin is working to make it possible. A College of Engineering assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and a member of the ENG Division of Materials Science & Engineering, Klamkin was recently awarded a NASA Early Career Faculty Space Tech Research Grant for his work developing new and faster ways to send data using integrated laser transmitter technology, which could aid NASA in sending high-definition video of space back to Earth. The grant is given to “outstanding researchers early in their careers” engaged in the development of space technology that has been deemed of high priority for NASA.

Last October, NASA completed the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration, the first mission to demonstrate two-way, high-rate laser communication from lunar orbit aboard the Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). Using traditional methods, it would take the NASA spacecraft 639 hours to download an average-length high-definition movie. But using this new technology, downloading takes fewer than eight minutes. As NASA prepares future trips to Mars, it has granted Klamkin up to $600,000 over three years to develop technologies that can be used in future space missions.

“Technology drives exploration, and these researchers will provide fuel for NASA’s innovation engine,” says Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, of this year’s NASA early career grant winners. “Sustained investments must be made to mature the capabilities required to reach the challenging destinations that await exploration, such as an asteroid, Mars, and outer planets. These investments help to assure a robust university research community dedicated to advanced space technology development.”

Klamkin says he was thrilled to learn he had been selected for the honor, which was awarded to only seven university-based researchers nationwide. “This grant not only allows my research group to interact with NASA and develop technologies for future space missions,” he says, “but will also assist us in developing relationships with leading research institutions conducting optical communications research for NASA, including the MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.”

Klamkin leads BU’s Integrated Photonics Laboratory, where he and his team research how to consolidate several photonic functions onto a single chip.
Klamkin leads BU’s Integrated Photonics Laboratory, where he and his team research how to consolidate several photonic functions onto a single chip.

“These NASA early career awards are incredibly competitive,” says Kenneth Lutchen, dean of ENG. “Professor Klamkin is advancing highly creative photonic principles and technologies that can transform our ability to communicate efficiently into deep space. It is wonderful to have such a creative young faculty member impacting these challenging problems.”

Klamkin came to BU last year from the Scuola Superiore Sant’ Anna in Pisa, Italy, where he was an assistant professor and director of the Integrated Photonic Technologies Center. Prior to that, he was a member of the technical staff at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. In 2013 he received an ENG Dean’s Catalyst Award, granted to faculty to support promising early-stage projects, and he was recently named a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

At BU, Klamkin heads up the Integrated Photonics Laboratory, where his team researches optical communications, microwave photonics, and sensing. Photonic integration consolidates several photonic functions onto a single chip. Klamkin’s research focuses specifically on specialized data delivery that relies on laser transmitters.

Thinking of new and faster ways to transmit data is critical, he says, because existing radio frequency systems have low data rates. Laser transmitters are able to send data to Earth through space, similar to how internet traffic is sent over fiber-optic cables.

“Deep space communication requires very high performance, but there is less space and power available on spacecraft,” and thus traditional lasers aren’t practical, he says. “Photonic integration, therefore, could be an enabler for reducing the size, weight, and power of laser transmitters for future missions.” The hope is that the photonic integrated circuits will “soon fly into deep space and send large amounts of data back to Earth.”


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