Category: Undergraduate Students
One of Six Teams Selected
By Gabriella McNevin
ANDESITE, a task force within Boston University’s Small Satellite Program, qualified to launch a self-designed satellite into orbit. The ANDERSITE team is one of six that qualified for the final round of the US Air Force University Nanosat Program competition.
The ANDESITE satellite is on the forefront of an international movement to advance our understanding of “space weather” and its effects on society. Space weather arises from interactions between the Earth’s plasma environment and the impinging solar wind. These interactions can damage satellites, harm astronauts in space, render GPS information erratic and unreliable, disrupt ground-space communications, and even cause electricity blackouts on Earth. In 2013, the White House raised inadequate space weather forecasting to the global agenda, citing the significant “threat to modern systems posed by space weather events” and “the potential for “significant societal, economic, national security, and health impacts.”
The ANDESITE satellite has been designed to deploy a network of magnetic sensors from a central mother ship. The ejected sensors will operate collectively as a space-based wireless mesh network with the aim of studying fine-scale variations in Earth’s geomagnetic environment caused by space weather events. The ANDESITE satellite’s scientific and technological innovations place it at the cutting edge of the burgeoning cubesat movement.
ANDESITE is a unique interdisciplinary university-wide collaboration. The team of 16 students is comprised of Astronomy, Electrical, Computer, and Mechanical Engineering scholars. The group is under the guidance of two faculty advisors, Joshua Semeter (ECE/Photonics) and Ray Nagem (ME). Research Engineer Aleks Zosuls also provides support and acts as a liaison with the Engineering Product Innovation Center (EPIC).
The qualifying competition took place in the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico in February 2015. Now, the qualifiers must shift their focus from satellite fabrication to implementation. The University Nanosat Program will provide Air Force technical guidance and $110,000 to support each of the remaining six competitors.
After returning to Boston from New Mexico, ANDESITE advisor Professor Semeter recalled, “it was a stressful experience for the students with an exciting outcome.”
The University Nanosat Program provides hands-on experience for graduate and undergraduate students and an opportunity to create and launch a satellite with a specific research capacity. The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate, Air Force Office of Scientific Research and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics developed the program in 1999.
Master’s students can now specialize in these fast-growing fields
By Janet A. Smith (ENG) and Amy Laskowski (BU Today)
In an effort to train its graduate students in rapidly expanding fields, this fall the College of Engineering will begin offering three new master’s degree specializations in the fields of data analytics, cybersecurity, and robotics.
“The corporate sector has voiced frustration with the shortage of trained engineers in key sectors of the innovation economy,” says Kenneth Lutchen, dean of ENG. “By combining a master’s degree in a foundational engineering discipline with a specialization in a fast-growing, interdisciplinary field, students will be well positioned to meet this need and impact society. This unique combination should greatly enhance the power of their degrees in the marketplace.”
The specialization programs are open to all master’s degree candidates in ENG. Students who opt to add a specialization will select at least four of their eight required courses from a list specific to that field. Specializations will be noted with the degree title on students’ final transcripts.
Classes for the fall 2015 semester begin September 2, and master’s degree students who are interested in focusing on one of the three fields should contact the Graduate Programs Office for more information.
Two years ago, the Harvard Business Review noted that jobs in the field of data analytics are expected to continue to increase. Glassdoor.com reports that the average data scientist salary is currently $118,700. ENG’s new data analytics specialization will emphasize decisions, algorithms, and analytics grounded in engineering application areas. Students choosing to specialize in data analytics can expect to find jobs in finance, health care, urban systems, commerce, pharmaceuticals, and other engineering fields.
Recent, brazen cyber attacks on companies such as Target and Sony Pictures as well as the data breach thought to originate in China that compromised the records of 21.5 million Americans who had applied for government security clearances over the past 15 years highlight the growing importance of cybersecurity.
ENG’s cybersecurity specialization will teach students security-oriented theory and train them in practical cybersecurity applications including software engineering, embedded systems, and networking. It will also provide a context for cybersecurity threats and mitigation strategies ranging from protecting corporate and government systems, to home and building automation accessories and medical devices.
Global spending on robotics is predicted to increase to $67 billion by 2025 from just $15 billion in 2010. Today, robotics are used in everything from prosthetics and telemedicine to autonomous vehicles, feedback control systems, and brain-machine interface. The new ENG specialization will prepare master’s students for careers in research and development and deployment and operation of advanced individual or multi-coordinated robotic systems.
Tom Little, an ENG professor of electrical and computer engineering and systems engineering and associate dean of educational initiatives, says these new specializations are meant to be complementary to the numerous existing master’s degree programs. Come fall, someone getting a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, for instance, could specialize in cybersecurity, and learn how to prevent a car’s computer system from being hacked.
“These are all very exciting areas that are emerging,” Little says. “ENG is active in doing research, but also active in developing the next generation of scientists and engineers who can contribute to companies who want to build applications that have an impact.”
Students Can Amplify Expertise in a High-Value Career Path
By Jan A. Smith
Motivated by emerging economic sectors, the College of Engineering has created new Master’s degree specializations in the high-impact, interdisciplinary fields of Data Analytics, Cybersecurity and Robotics. The specializations are designed to meet the demand for highly skilled professionals in these rapidly expanding fields.
“The corporate sector has voiced frustration with the shortage of trained engineers in key sectors of the innovation economy,” said Dean Kenneth Lutchen. “By combining a Master’s degree in a foundational engineering discipline with a Specialization in a fast-growing, interdisciplinary field, students will be well positioned to meet this need and impact society. This unique combination should greatly enhance the power of their degrees in the marketplace.”
Enormous quantities of data are driving rapid growth in the field of data analytics. The College’s approach to data science emphasizes decisions, algorithms, and analytics grounded in engineering application areas. This specialization is intended to yield graduates who will fulfill a variety of innovation needs for applications in finance, healthcare, urban systems, commerce, pharmaceutical and other engineering fields.
“Big Data engineers are critical pioneers and sorely needed in every industry,” said George Anton Papp, vice president for Corporate Development at Teradata, Inc. “The massive amounts of data being collected create enormous opportunities to innovate data architecture and analysis to solve pressing real-world problems.”
The Cybersecurity field is expanding exponentially, with career paths growing twice as fast as other information technology jobs. This Specialization will foster security-oriented software skills and enable an understanding of cybersecurity applications in software engineering, embedded systems, and networking. It will also provide a context for cybersecurity threats and mitigation strategies ranging from protecting corporate and government systems to home and building automation accessories and medical devices.
“Demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to outstrip supply and is a major concern to organizations in every sector,” noted Proteus Digital Health Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer George Savage. “In our industry, it’s critical to protect the highly personal health data of consumers, providers, and insurers as we enter the digital and personalized health era powered by the smart phone in each of our pockets.”
The Robotics industry is predicted to grow to $67 billion by 2025 with applications in everything from prosthetics and telemedicine to autonomous vehicles, feedback control systems, brain-machine interfaces, and the Internet of Things. Robotics is inherently interdisciplinary, combining elements of electrical, computer, biomedical, systems, and mechanical engineering. The Specialization will prepare Master’s students for careers in research and development, deployment and operation of advanced individual or multi-coordinated robotic systems.
“There is enormous need for engineers skilled in robotics and the cross-disciplinary applications of robotics,” said Michael Campbell, executive vice president, CAD Segment at PTC. “While the field today is very much concerned with applications in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, healthcare, and military uses, we anticipate the field expanding into everything from education to home entertainment.”
Available to all Master’s Degree candidates, the Specialization options have been designed so that students can access from every Master’s degree program. Students who opt to add a Specialization – which is noted on their degree title and transcript – choose at least four of their eight courses from a list specific to each Specialization.
By Gabriella McNevin
One hundred and fifty-one teams from 6 continents were admitted into the preliminary round of the ASC 15 (ASC15) Student Supercomputer Challenge, which was held in Taiyuan City, China. Sixteen teams were accepted into the final round, only one of which was from a university in the United States.
A group of five Boston University students specializing in supercomputing, entered the competition as The Boston Green Team. The students- Winston Chen (CE ’16), Nicolas Hinderling (CS ‘17), Huy Le (CS ’16 ), Quentin Li (CE ‘15), and Scott Woods (CS ‘16)- met through a student organization, BUILDS, which serves as the Association of Computer Machinery local university chapter. Boston University Professor Martin Herbordt (ECE) and MIT Professor Kurt Keville advise the team.
The preliminary round of the competition, involving a remote cluster located in Japan, consisted of a three-tier challenge. To advance, the teams were measured by performance metrics like LINPACK testing, NAMD, and their input on the Square Kilometre Array project.
On April 10 the Boston Green Team was notified that they were invited to the ASC15 Finals, held at Taiyuan University of Technology. The teams were given four days to solve six supercomputing application challenges. Ultimately, the top prize went to the Tsinghua University team, and Nanyang Technological University from Singapore broke the world record for their performance on LINPACK.
The ASC Student Supercomputer Challenge is organized by Asia Supercomputer Community, Inspur Group, and the Taiyuan University of Technology. The competition began four years ago, and has since become the world’s largest supercomputer contest.
The ASC Student Supercomputer Challenge is organized by Asia Supercomputer Community, Inspur Group and the Taiyuan University of Technology. Initiated four years ago, the competition has since become the world’s largest supercomputer contest.
“ASC15 has encouraged more and more college students to learn, understand and love the cutting-edge technology of supercomputers,” said Lv Ming, president of Taiyuan University of Technology. “[It] will significantly boost interdisciplinary academic study and talent cultivation in universities, sparking creativity and innovation in students.”
The next student cluster competitions will take place on November 15-20 in Austin, Texas. Students interested in BUILDS are encouraged to subscribe to the mailing list and follow the group on Facebook.
By Jan Smith
Six graduates of the Masters programs at College of Engineering returned to campus in February to help 29 current graduate students with their job searches. For many of the attendees of the latest Professional Development Series event, it was a needed boost.
“I’m always trying to look for ways to give back because I had a great experience at BU,” said Carolyn Gaut (BME Meng ’14), Study Manager for InviCRO LLC. “Talking to students, encouraging them, and giving them some advice makes my struggles when I was looking for a job worth it.”
Even for the strongest students, the job search process can be stressful. In today’s competitive marketplace, employers want to see candidates who offer both professional experience and advanced education. Students don’t always recognize how to present the value of their experiences in the classroom, practicum, work-study, or workplace internships or coops. And many lack the confidence or know-how to network effectively.
The Professional Development Series are tailored to the needs of graduate students. Dr. Jonathan Rosen, Director, Technology Innovation and Senior Lecturer in the BME Department, co-designed the series with Director of Professional Education and Corporate Relations Kirstie Miller to “prepare and successfully launch our professional graduate engineers onto challenging and rewarding career paths.” Many of the evening’s panelists noted that the workshops and Dr. Rosen’s help during their own job search had been invaluable.
Real-World Experience, Practical Advice
In presentations and roundtable discussions, all six of the recent graduates shared their job-search experiences and what their day-to-day responsibilities and opportunities are in their new jobs. They were eager to “pay it forward,” offering inspiration and advice on how to stay motivated and to be most effective.
Yuval Harel (BME MEng ’12), and Quality Engineer for DePuy Synthes spine, a division of J&J, stressed the importance of using all of the College’s workforce resources. “I started my job search the day I arrived at BU,” he explained. “I asked for help from Dr. Rosen to choose the right courses and to know how to network and what to do.”
Havel advised students to have confidence and sell themselves. “Even graduate students can think that they don’t have value for industry because they are students. You need to be very confident in who you are. Look at what you really have to offer – you’re a master. Now is the time to show your expertise.”
All of the panelists emphasized networking, which Dr. Rosen also stresses throughout the Professional Development Series. Havel added that while social media can help students find critical connections and gain introductions, maintaining those connections is key “When I got out of BU I worked for another company for a year before coming to J&J,” he explained. “One of the only reasons I got my current job is because I had previously met someone at a networking event at BU, and I maintained that connection. When a position arose at J&J, I contacted that individual to say that I was applying and had the experience required. That connection was invaluable.”
Stressing Networking, Internships, Self-Confidence
Bhavesh Patel (ME MEng ‘14), R&D Engineer with Medtronic, relished the opportunity to share his experience through the Alumni Panel.
“Just one year ago, I was in the same shoes as these students,” he explained. “The Professional Development Seminars I attended definitely helped me mentally prepare for the job search process. I learned important tips and tricks from the alumni and professionals that were invited to speak at the events. Hearing about the speakers’ experiences gave me a different and unique perspective of the process and was tremendously helpful.
Internships and co-ops were also front and center in the discussion. Carolyn Gaut’s management position at her current company came about through two prior internships with the company, which helped her to hone her career goals and even her coursework as a Masters student.
“The internship was what opened my career and helped many of my friends find jobs,” she said. “so I really encouraged the students to take advantage of any opportunity they have. Work the network you establish for yourself. If you start off in an internship, a lot of times they’ll hire you.”
By the end of the evening, the mood was decidedly upbeat. Even students who had been feeling discouraged in their own job search said they came away with new energy. “The alumni panelists re-energized me and gave me new ideas and inspiration,” said Manya Chen (ECE MS ’14). Manya switched from a PhD track to the Masters program this semester and seeking a position as a quality engineer or software quality assurance engineer in a technology company. “ They all had different approaches to finding their dream job. I’m taking their suggestions into my search for professional happiness.”
By Gabriella McNevin
On August 14, 2003, traffic lights in New York City went black. People lost electricity in cities and towns spanning from the northeastern part of the United States to Ontario, Canada. That month, the Head of the North American Electric Reliability Council Michehl R. Gent echoed a common question, “How could this happen? (CNN)”
Today, answers to that question are available in Dr. Kenneth Loparo’s research.
On Wednesday, March 4th, Dr. Kenneth Loparo gave a lecture at Boston University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. His lecture was part of the ECE Distinguished Lecture Series that brings the country’s leading researchers to the department to share their novel contributions to the field. At the conclusion of his talk, hands flew up in the air with participants eager to engage with the speaker. Loparo’s audience of professors, researchers, and students, were riddled with questions and comments on his work.
Loparo had the crowd’s inquisitive attention after relating how his research can provide further insights into how a complex dynamical system can fail, using the events of the 2003 blackout as an exemplar. He explained that his research in “Modeling, Stability, and Security in Cyber-Physical Systems: Challenges, Opportunities & Future Directions”; can be applied to manage critical infrastructure, such as those involved in energy and transportation. A topic of particular interest to Loparo’s audience was the development of modeling and analytical tools that can be used to study how disturbances can affect system response through complex interactions that can lead to “cascading” events.
Professor Loparo was visiting from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. He is a Nord Professor of Engineering and A.L. Parker Chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Loparo’s talk was the first of a three part Distinguished Lecture Series. The Spring 2015 series will feature a lecture from Professor Luke Lester from Virginia Tech on March 18, 2015. The title of his lecture is “Quantum Dot Laser Diodes and Mode-Locking.”
Projects Address Everyday Problems with Embedded Technology
By Mark Dwortzan
Two Electrical & Computer Engineering senior design teams have been named finalists in the Intel-Cornell Cup 2015 competition, which challenges science and engineering college students to conceive of, design and demonstrate the next great embedded technology application. One team’s project, C.A.R.R. System (Cyclist Alert Real-time Response), notifies drivers of potential collisions with approaching cyclists. The other, GrowBox, is an automated hydroponic device that enables users to grow an edible plant, virtually carefree.
The C.A.R.R. System and GrowBox teams will attend talks, network with leading engineering firms and showcase their work along with 20 other finalists from across the country on May 1-2 at NASA Kennedy Space Center. They’ll vie for the competition’s grand prize, $10,000 or one of up
to seven $2,500 awards, all of which include an invitation to exhibit in Intel’s booth at the Maker Fair in New York City or San Mateo, California.
Having survived an hour-long, online semifinal round in February to make it to the finals, both teams subsequently received
$1,500, Intel Atom boards and other equipment, and access to technical experts at Intel and other sponsoring companies to develop their systems.
“Both teams are passionate about their projects and are dedicated to using their engineering skills for the betterment of society,” said Associate Professor of the Practice Alan Pisano(ECE), the lead faculty member for the ECE Senior Design Project course. “They are continually seeking ways to improve their designs, and it’s rare not to see them in the lab working on aspects of their projects.”
Concerned about the rising number of annual bicycle accidents in Boston and other metropolitan areas, the C.A.R.R. System team aims to equip motorists with a bike detection system that consists of cameras attached to both side-view mirrors and a real-time image-processing algorithm. When the system pinpoints a potential or impending collision through the algorithm, it displays and announces a warning on an alerting device that’s easily mountable on the dashboard. Issued within about 200 milliseconds from the moment of detection, the warning indicates which side of the vehicle is on a collision course with an approaching cyclist. In a recent test producing one hour of sample footage, the system successfully identified 92.55 percent of cyclists present, with an overall accuracy of 83.65 percent.
Testing out several designs and detection algorithms, the team settled on a dual camera system with a single, centralized alert hub, and an algorithm that provided the most accuracy and fastest response time.
“After living in Boston for four years, we are very aware of the dangers that exist on the road for drivers and cyclists alike,” said C.A.R.R. team member Omar Rana (CE). “We wanted to create a product that could fit both old and new vehicles, be easy to install and remove, and theoretically reach the market at an affordable price.”
Seeking to help would-be vegetable gardeners who lack the space, time or requisite green thumb to grow their own food, the GrowBox team has designed an automated system that can see to a plant’s needs and report on its status through a combination of sensors, actuators and image processing software. If human intervention is required, an iOS app will notify the user with instructions. GrowBox consists of a hydroponic subsystem that periodically floods the plant with water and nutrients; red, white and blue LEDs tuned to provide optimal lighting conditions for the plant; a backend subsystem that controls all sensors, actuators and lights; and a cloud-based database that backs up all sensor and image data. GrowBoxes are designed to be stackable so a user could grow a column of vegetables in a compact space.
The team’s biggest challenge has been to create and maintain the water/nutrient solution that’s needed to sustain the plant. To solve the problem, they found a nutrient mixture that keeps pH, electrical conductivity and other essential GrowBox parameters constant.
“Together, we developed ideas for the GrowBox and the reduction of the user’s role in the growth of a plant,” said Sasha Rosca (CE), who came up with the idea for the project. “Once the automation technology is developed, it can be implemented in large grow houses around the world to provide people with food year-round.”
By Donald Rock (COM 17)
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
The Digital Design Industry & ECE Evolve with New Programing Techniques; Verilog and FPGA
By Gabriella McNevin
Video created by Donald Rock (COM ’17 ) and Paloma Parikh (COM ’15)
Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE) organizes the course around fundamental computer aided design techniques, the hardware description language Verilog, and finally introduces lessons on “synthesizing” the Verilog to a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA), which is technology similar to a microprocessor but is programmable at the hardware level.
FPGA technology is important because it gives the engineer an opportunity to reprogram and reconfigure the digital design after manufacturing. By using FPGAs, engineers do not have to fabricate a new chip for every design. This allows for rapid prototyping of designs quickly and at a low cost.
Student projects are evaluated on their success in creating an FPGA design of their choosing for their final project. Teaching assistants like Prashant Vaidyanathan mentor the students and provide help with the design tools. For example, in Spring 2014, four students submitted a digital design video game which performed like an improved version of the game Flappy Bird by allowing multiplayer game mode, and cell phone integration via Bluetooth.
A student rendition of the 1993 game Super Bomberman was submitted in Fall 2012. The game included standard functions of Super Bomberman, including display engine, character movement, and graphics. Additionally, the team programmed multi-screen display modes, an operating scoreboard, and character blocking.
Producing a functioning FPGA prototype provides a student experience that is essential in developing an overall, hands on proficiency with the technology. With the support of Prof. Densmore and ECE resources, students can conclude EC551 with skills that have the potential to jump-start their careers.