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Battle remains. A team of archaeology students led by CAS Associate Professors Kenneth Kvamme, Paul Goldberg, and Ricardo Elia will spend a month on an intensive geophysical survey of the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, Mass.

"We hope to discover the exact location of the earthen redoubt, possible burial pits, and any subsequent British fortifications," says Kvamme. He notes that there are no contemporary illustrations of the fortified hill, only drawings made in the 1800s.

Using noninvasive ground-penetrating radar and electrical resistivity methods, the team plans to reconstruct in detail the hill's historic archaeological features. The work will be funded by the National Park Service, which oversees the monument.

Preliminary results have suggested the location of historic ditches in the area so far tested. "The next step is a complete survey of the entire park, focusing on areas outside of standing structures and pavement," Kvamme reports.

The Battle of Bunker Hill was critical to the American Revolution. During the blockade and occupation of Boston by the British, the rebel army fortified one of Boston's two high points, Bunker Hill -- actually nearby Breed's Hill, which was renamed after the war -- literally under the gun.

The Americans ultimately lost the June 17, 1775, battle, but caused heavy casualties that severely demoralized the occupying troops, who were amazed at the tenacity of the "rebels." The British commander's lack of follow-through after the Battle of Bunker Hill gave George Washington time to fortify Dorchester Heights, the town's other high point, which eventually drove the British to evacuate Boston.

Not with a bang, but with a nudge. Recent research by James Collins, ENG professor of biomedical engineering and codirector of the Center for Biodynamics, indicates that small implantable devices that produce tiny surges of electrical stimulation to the heart may someday be able to replace current implantable defibrillators that deliver large jolts of current to stablize an erratic heart rhythm. Although current devices undoubtedly save lives, users report that the effect is "like being kicked in the chest by a horse."

In 1995 Collins and graduate student David Christini showed that a nonchaotic dynamical system, such as heart rate, could be brought under control by taking advantage of the particular mathematical structure that describes the pattern of heart rhythms. In 1996, they tested this control technique on a computer simulation of alternans, a cardiac condition characterized by fluctuations in heart rate, which often precedes more serious cardiac arrhythmias.

The most recent research, undertaken in conjunction with Professor Leon Glass and a team at McGill University and the University of Montreal, demonstrates that the control technique could be used to suppress an alternans rhythm in rabbit hearts. Their findings were recently published in Physical Review Letters.

"The technology exists to monitor the heart rate continually with an implantable device," says Collins. "If we can identify an irregularity at the alternans stage, we may be able to use small electrical stimulations to tweak the system back to a normal rhythm, and thereby avoid an escalating rate of cardiac instability into fibrillation."

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
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