By Cheryl R Stewart

Pardee Center Hosts BU Conference on Sustainability Research

May 31st, 2016 in News, SE

The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future co-sponsored the BU Conference on Sustainability Research on Monday, May 9. Approximately 100 people attended the one-day conference that featured presentations by Boston University faculty with a diverse range of expertise on their research related to sustainability issues (a full list of presenters can be viewed below). Each of the four sessions — which focused on measuring sustainability, modeling sustainability, human dimensions of sustainability, and future sustainability — took an interdisciplinary approach, and the discussion throughout the day explored sustainability challenges and solutions through ecological, economic, societal, and technological lenses, among others. The conference was webcast and can be viewed here.

Sustainability Research Conference panel members

From left: Lucy Hutyra, Nathan Phillips, Pam Templer, Michael Gevelber, and Thomas Little

Following opening remarks by Pardee Center Director Anthony Janetos and College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ann Cudd, Prof. Lucy Hutyra (Earth and Environment) moderated the first session on measuring sustainability. Panelists included Prof. Nathan Phillips (Earth and Environment, Systems Engineering), Prof. Pam Templer (Biology), Prof. Michael Gevelber (Mechanical Engineering, Systems Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering), and Prof. Thomas Little (Electrical and Computer Engineering, Systems Engineering). Topics included measuring local and regional energy use, carbon storage, commercial buildings energy use, and smart lighting technology.

The second session, moderated by BU Sustainability Director Dennis Carlberg, focused on modeling sustainability. Prof. Peter Fox-Penner (Questrom) gave an overview of his newly created Institute for Sustainable Energy and Prof. Kevin Gallagher (Global Development Policy) spoke about his research on climate change, trade, and finance conducted at the Global Economic Governance Initiative (GEGI), of which he is the Co-Director. Conor Gately (Earth and Environment) and Prof. Jonathan Levy (Environmental Health) discussed methods to improve greenhouse gas emissions inventories and the public health benefits of clean energy.

The third session on the human dimensions of sustainability was moderated by Initiative on Cities Executive Director Katharine Lusk and featured Prof. Cutler Cleveland (Earth and Environment), Prof. Henrik Selin (International Relations) and Prof. Anne Short (Earth and Environment). Topics included energy end use and energy transitions, efforts to reduce hazardous substances, and social and ecological aspects of sustainable development.

The final session of the conference focused on the future of sustainability. Pardee Center Director Anthony Janetos set the stage by explaining the importance of prediction, adaptation, and risk management and tolerance. Prof. Les Kaufman (Biology), Prof. James McCann (History), and Prof. Madhu Dutta-Koehler (City Planning and Urban Affairs) followed with a wide-ranging discussion that explored the future of sustainability for marine ecosystems, urban areas, and the interface between human and natural systems.

The BU Conference on Sustainability Research was co-sponsored by the Pardee Center, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Earth and Environment, the Pardee School of Global Studies, and the Institute for Sustainable Energy.

An edited version of the full conference video will be available soon in the Pardee Center’s Multimedia Library.

Bowen Zhang Is Honored With SE Outstanding PhD Dissertation Award

May 17th, 2016 in News, SE

Bowen ZhangCongratulations to Bowen Zhang, recipient of the 2016 SE Outstanding PhD Dissertation Award for his dissertation:

Role of Control, Communication, and Markets in Smart Building Operation

Advisor: John Ballieul

Zhang’s research recognized that fundamentally new power distribution concepts will be necessary to meet the emerging challenges of intermittent renewable energy resources (wind turbines and solar) combined with rapidly increasing intermittent load demands from electric vehicle charging. After introducing a revolutionary new concept of packetized electric power distribution, the thesis showed how internet-inspired concepts of fairness with guaranteed quality of service can be used to guide the implementation of control protocols for smart-building micrograms.

Tsinghua University and the BU Division of Systems Engineering Agreement

May 16th, 2016 in News, SE

BU President Dr. Robert A. Brown and Tsinghua President Dr. Qiu Yong sign the agreement

BU President Dr. Robert A. Brown and Tsinghua President Dr. Qiu Yong sign the agreement

The College of Engineering, in particular, the Division of Systems Engineering, initiated the discussions with Tsinghua, with Dean Kenneth Lutchen of the College of Engineering, Professor Christos Cassandras, Head of the Division of Systems Engineering, and Professor Hua Wang, Associate Head of the Division of Systems Engineering leading negotiations on behalf of Boston University.In the current spirit of promoting scientific and educational collaborations across departments, campuses, and universities, Boston University has reached out transnationally by signing a significant agreement on Friday, May 6, 2016 with Tsinghua University, Beijing, China for the establishment of a dual degree program. The agreement was signed by Boston University President, Dr. Robert A. Brown and Tsinghua President, Dr. Qiu Yong.

“Tsinghua University is one of the premier universities in China with well-established educational and research activities in Systems Engineering. Several members of the Center for Information and Systems Engineering (CISE) and the Division of Systems Engineering, have existing collaborations with Tsinghua faculty members. We expect that this agreement will build on those existing collaborative relationships by further advancing joint graduate degree programs, as well as strengthen research collaborations involving faculty and students,” stated Professor Cassandras.


BU President Dr. Robert A. Brown and Tsinghua President Dr. Qiu Yong with representatives from the two institutions at the signing ceremony.

BU President Dr. Robert A. Brown and Tsinghua President Dr. Qiu Yong with representatives from the two institutions at the signing ceremony.

Designed by the Department of Automation at Tsinghua and the Division of Systems Engineering, the dual degree program will attract exceptional undergraduate students from Tsinghua to the M.S. program in Systems Engineering at Boston University. In some cases, admitted students completing two semesters of course work at BU will return to Tsinghua and complete a final practicum requirement in Beijing. Professor Hua Wang, enthusiastic about the new program, stated that “with this agreement, we not only can enhance our research collaborations with our colleagues at Tsinghua, but we are particularly excited to work with Tsinghua students selected through a rigorous evaluation and admissions process. We have designed a curriculum featuring the best courses and projects to take advantage of the synergistic relationship between the two institutions.  This collaboration will add an exciting dimension to the academic programs of both sides.”

A previous collaboration with China was established in October 2014 when BU signed an agreement with Zhejiang University, setting a  precedent for a successful international collaboration with a Chinese institution of higher education. That agreement was spearheaded by Professor Ioannis Paschalidis, Director of the Center for Information and Systems Engineering (CISE) and established a framework of cooperation between the College of Engineering at BU through CISE and the Faculty of Information Technology at Zhejiang through its State Key Laboratory of Industrial Control Technology.

Chasing the facts about e-cigarette health risks

May 12th, 2016 in News, SE

By Sara Rimer – Photos by Cydney Scott

Original story at BU RESEARCH

Less than a decade ago, thee-cigarette was an obscure product marketed as a safe, tobacco-free alternative to conventional cigarettes by a single company in China. Seven years ago, the electronic nicotine delivery device entered the US market. Today, health officials, policy makers, and researchers are all scrambling to keep up with a rapidly expanding, wildly controversial, and largely unregulated $3 billion global industry that has, at last count, 466 brands, 7,764 flavors (bubblegum, cherry crush, bacon, java jolt, menthol), and slick, youth-oriented Big Tobacco marketing designed to create the perception that e-cigarettes are not only safe, but cool.

With the public health community sharply divided over the potential benefit and harm of the popular device—and with conclusive scientific evidence in short supply—the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report in August 2014 that raised serious questions about the health impact of e-cigarettes and called for a ban on indoor use and sales to minors. The report expressed “grave concern” over the growing role of multinational tobacco companies, warning that they could turn e-cigarettes into a gateway for a new generation of smokers at a time when a decades-long public health campaign has successfully reduced smoking rates in the US and other developed countries.

Also in August 2014, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that more than a quarter million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used e-cigarettes in 2013, three times the number of users since 2011. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed bringing e-cigarettes under its control alongside tobacco in the spring of 2014, but that proposal is enmeshed in debate and lawsuits. Dozens of states and cities across the country, including Boston, have already banned the use of e-cigarettes indoors.

At Boston University, Avrum Spira (ENG’02), a pulmonary care physician and School of Medicine professor of medicine and pathology and bioinformatics, and College of Engineering professor of systems engineering, who studies genomics and lung cancer, was one of the first scientists to receive funding from the FDA to investigate the health effects of e-cigarettes. “In theory—and how they’re marketed—e-cigarettes are a safer product because they don’t have tobacco, which has known carcinogens,” Spira says. “The question is: does safer mean safe?”

Across BU’s Medical Campus from Spira, Michael Siegel, a physician and professor of community health sciences at the School of Public Health, has emerged as perhaps the country’s most high-profile public health advocate for e-cigarettes. Siegel, who is not currently researching e-cigarettes, says he believes that the device could potentially help large numbers of smokers quit, or drastically decrease, a habit that is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the US. He points out that despite all the existing smoking cessation products on the market, only a small fraction of cigarette smokers manage to quit. Only 4 to 7 percent break the habit without some nicotine replacement or medication, according to the American Cancer Society. At the same time, Siegel says, more research is needed on the health effects of e-cigarettes as well as their effectiveness in helping people quit smoking.


v_12-4791-SPIRA-010Arum Spira is a Boston University School of Medicine professor of medicine and pathology and bioinformatics and College of Engineering professor of systems engineering, the Alexander Graham Bell Professor of Healthcare Entrepreneurship, and chief of the Division of Computational Biomedicine. He is a pulmonologist at Boston Medical Center. With funding from the National Institutes of Health and, more recently, the Department of Defense, he has been working to develop molecular tests for early detection of lung cancer. Spira talked with BU Research about his research into the health effects of e-cigarettes, which is being funded by the FDA.
BU Research: You’re a pulmonary researcher who has done groundbreaking work on early-stage lung cancer detection. You’re also a pulmonary care physician and you’ve spent years treating patients with advanced lung cancer who had been heavy smokers. What are your concerns about e-cigarettes?
Spira: It took decades after cigarettes were introduced to sort out the health effects, which were devastating. Many people got addicted and they couldn’t quit once the health effects became clear. The devastation is truly hard to imagine; according to the 2014 Surgeon General’s report, more than 20 million deaths have been attributed to smoking in the US since the 1960s. The tobacco companies have recognized for many years that their product is hurting their customers, which also impacts their sales. So they have recently started to develop “safer” products. There is a lot of controversy around this. How do we know a “safer” product is really safer?
But before the big tobacco companies got involved, weren’t e-cigarettes introduced and produced by independent companies as a way to get a nicotine hit without the tobacco and carcinogenic tar—as a safe alternative to cigarettes?
Yes, we could say that e-cigarette products have exploded in the marketplace, specifically in terms of brands, delivery devices, flavors, nicotine concentrations, as well as the delivery liquids. It’s a complicated, fascinating, and rapidly moving space. There are currently a myriad of ingredients that can be combined in different ways to produce the vapor. This does present a challenge for researchers looking to identify the agents that are harmful, as each e-cigarette product is potentially different than the next. The FDA is trying to get a handle on standardization and potential risks of e-cigarette products by funding groups like ours to develop systems to rapidly assess these factors. But the research community is still scrambling to keep up with the rapid and unanticipated changes in this field.
Can you explain how e-cigarettes work?
E-cigarettes are a device that delivers nicotine—which is one of the addictive substances in cigarettes—without any actual tobacco, or tar. Tar has hundreds of known carcinogens. E-cigarettes have a battery-powered cartridge that heats a liquid containing nicotine and potentially a flavoring, which creates an aerosol that is inhaled. The e-cigarette community refers to this as “vaping,” where traditionally we’d call it “smoking.” Now, when you heat a liquid, it changes the chemical composition of that liquid and additional chemicals can form (e.g., formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein), which are then inhaled by the user. The question is: are those other chemicals harmful or not?
What do you think about the public health argument Professor Michael Siegel (of the School of Public Health) and others make, that e-cigarettes are an important tool for helping cigarette smokers quit who might not otherwise be able to?
I understand his perspective and don’t entirely disagree. If there’s a smoker who can’t quit but who can use this product instead, that has a health benefit. This is almost certainly better than smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes. If this is a vehicle for quitting or a better alternative to traditional cigarettes, it could have a huge public health benefit. There are 45 million current smokers, adults in the US, who are unable or unwilling to quit. It’s still a major public health problem. The other side of the debate is that this normalizes smoking behavior, that it’s an entry point for younger people. A 15-year-old, an 18-year-old, says, “Okay, this is safe product,” and gets addicted and it becomes a gateway to other products, including traditional cigarettes.
Our group was one of the first, in collaboration with Dr. Steve Dubinett (a pulmonologist at UCLA) to get funding from the FDA to study the health consequences of vaping. Our approach to evaluating e-cigarettes is based on what we’ve done with tobacco cigarettes, where we’ve developed genomic signals of exposure and, to take that a step further, signals of disease risk (e.g., lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD).The question is: Does exposure to e-cigarettes create the same genomic changes in the airway as tobacco cigarettes do? Our prior work, over the past decade, has characterized a large number of genomic changes that traditional cigarette smoke causes in epithelial cells that line the upper airway (e.g., the windpipe) and has identified a smaller subset of changes that are associated with development of lung cancer and/or COPD among smokers. We are currently evaluating whether e-cigarettes produce similar gene expression changes as traditional cigarettes. In addition, we can correlate these genomic signatures to signatures of disease risk and begin to assess the chronic potential harmful impact of these products.We decided to do our research in two phases. We started off with cells in culture. We took human bronchial epithelial cells that contained some mutations found in smokers at risk of lung cancer and cultured them with media that contains everything that comes out of an e-cigarette. The idea is that you’re “smoking” the cells.We found that the electronic cigarette was able to cause cells to become more cancer-like—they grew more quickly than a cell should be able to. That is one of the things that cancer cells do. That is the only thing we found—that it did change their growth rate significantly, more than smoking nothing and similar to smoking regular tobacco. That raised concerns on our end. Then we looked at the cells’ genome and found that many of the same genes turned off and on by tobacco cigarette smoke are being turned on and off by e-cigarettes.

And you’re now in Phase Two of your study? Can you tell us about that?
Our ultimate objective in Phase Two is to take people who smoke tobacco cigarettes, have them switch to e-cigarettes for at least two months, and sample the cells in their windpipe and their nose both before and after they switch. We would then perform genomic profiling on these samples. This entails measuring the activity of all 20,000 genes in your cells, which we can do in 24 to 48 hours. This produces a large amount data, so this is where computation comes in.We are able to compile all of the data for all of the people we profiled and ask general questions, such as: when individuals switch to e-cigarettes, do their gene expression patterns or profiles resemble that of a former smoker? This would suggest that the product is potentially safer. Alternatively, does your genetic profile continue to look abnormal? And in that case, we would argue that e-cigarettes aren’t necessarily safer.With regard to disease, some smokers’ genes turn on differently and that puts them at risk for cancer. So we can also look and see whether electronic cigarette exposure produces similar genomic changes that are associated with lung cancer.
Should e-cigarette users be concerned? Should they stop vaping?
We’re not saying that e-cigarettes cause cancer. We can’t say that based on this data. What we’re saying is that we have evidence from cells in culture that e-cigarettes could have effects that are similar to tobacco smoking and that many more studies are needed before we can say this is a much safer product. That’s where this fits into the whole public health debate. The FDA wants the academic community to come to the table with new approaches. That is what we responded to. The FDA has made a significant investment in our group and many other groups across the country to help study this in far greater depth. While it will likely take years via longitudinal studies to be absolutely certain of the safety of this new product, we’re in the process of getting more data in the short term that will give us some more insight into the potential risks of e-cigarettes, so that potential users have that information.
What about the public health history in terms of cigarette smoking and the lessons learned there?
We don’t want to go down the road we did with cigarette smoking. It took 20, 30 years until the epidemiologic data came out convincingly that cigarettes cause cancer and other diseases. For many people, it was too late, as they were unable to quit and/or had already developed disease.The genomic technology we have today—these approaches weren’t available back then. It took long-term epidemiologic data before risks of exposure became clear.We are in a new era of science and technology and medicine where we can do new types of translational studies. This type of science can potentially be done very quickly. We’re not there yet and we won’t be in a few months. Maybe in a couple years…but it need not be decades. We don’t have to repeat the past. More science needs to be done as quickly as possible. We need to take a very careful look at this product and come to some preliminary conclusions. It’s going to be very difficult to put the genie back in the bottle—the longer people use it, the more difficult it becomes to stop.
Why do you care so much about this research?
My passion is to care for patients with diseases. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Most people start smoking when they’re young. I take care of them many years later when they become a patient. I wish I could go back and stop them from starting smoking. I feel like this is my opportunity with a different product to perhaps prevent young folks from engaging in a behavior that could be harmful—so at least they’re armed with information. E-cigarettes are, in theory, a safer product. They don’t have a lot of the components found in tobacco. It’s just—they may be safer, but they may not be safe. We need to clarify and I think it’s important the public have that information. Even if e-cigarettes are not as bad as tobacco, it’s important that we know what their health impacts are.When I became a lung doctor, I was seeing a huge population of smokers who were getting diagnosed with lung cancer at this institution at an advanced stage where I couldn’t offer them any effective treatment. We need to detect this disease earlier and prevent it. Once you’re diagnosed with lung cancer, your survival rate is very poor.
What do you think about people who smoke cigarettes?
I’m okay with someone eating wrong, not exercising, smoking—as long as they know about the consequences of that behavior. I take care of a lot of people who smoke. A lot of them started when they didn’t know it was bad to smoke. Smoking was a cultural phenomenon. People didn’t know the health effects—and it’s addictive. Later you can say, “Now we know,” but if you’re doing an addictive behavior for 20, 30 years, it’s really hard to stop.I don’t judge smoking at all. I take care of patients unable to quit. That’s why I see Siegel’s argument. I know how hard it is to quit. Even some patients with lung cancer still can’t quit.

New Tool to Diagnose Zika – Researchers introduce freeze-dried, paper-based prototype in journal Cell

May 12th, 2016 in News, SE

Dana Braff, BU PhD candidate in biomedical engineering, is co-lead author on a Cell paper along with senior author James Collins (BME, SE, MSE)  that describes a prototype for a new Zika diagnostic.

Dana Braff, BU PhD candidate in biomedical engineering, is co-lead author on a Cell paper along with senior author James Collins (BME, SE, MSE) that describes a prototype for a new Zika diagnostic.

Zika grabbed the world’s attention in late 2015, when scientists in Brazil began to suspect a connection between the virus and fetal microcephaly—a syndrome in which babies are born with small heads and neurological deficits—and also Zika’s possible link to Guillain-Barré, a neurological syndrome which can cause weakness and temporary paralysis. Despite the efforts of health officials, 66 countries and territories have reported transmission of Zika virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In late April 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first death attributed to Zika in the United States: a man in Puerto Rico, which as of April 14, 2016, had 683 confirmed Zika infections.

One of the most vexing challenges of Zika is that it is so difficult to diagnose. Many symptoms of the virus—like fever, headache, fatigue, and malaise—overlap with dengue fever and chikungunya, and an estimated 80 percent of people infected with Zika show no symptoms at all.

Now, a team of researchers has developed a prototype for a simple, inexpensive Zika test using RNA sensors embedded in tiny discs of paper, which turn from yellow to purple in the presence of the virus. The prototype, reported online in the May 6, 2016, issue of Cell, successfully detected live Zika virus in blood plasma from an infected macaque in just over three hours. It was also able to differentiate between Zika and dengue, and between two different strains of Zika. The new technology offers a method for deploying sensitive molecular diagnostics to the field and may also demonstrate a path to quickly develop diagnostic tools for global health crises.

“This shows how we can use synthetic biology in a rapid, inexpensive way to respond to emerging outbreaks,” says James Collins (Research Professor in BME, SE, MSE), Termeer Professor of Bioengineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an affiliate of Harvard’s Wyss Institute, who is senior author on the Cell paper. Collins notes that his interdisciplinary research team, working at seven different universities, built and tested the diagnostic in about six weeks. “We’re a group of academics who are not set up to do this, but we dropped everything and pulled it together,” he adds. “A team from industry or a government lab, set up to do this, could have this going in less than a week. That’s the potential of this synthetic biology platform.”

(Top) A new tool to diagnose Zika. The sensors turn from yellow to purple in the presence of the virus. (Bottom) A prototype “reader.” Although a positive Zika test is visible to the naked eye, the team also built a portable reader for about $250 to provide faster, more sensitive detection.

(Top) A new tool to diagnose Zika. The sensors turn from yellow to purple in the presence of the virus. (Bottom) A prototype “reader.” Although a positive Zika test is visible to the naked eye, the team also built a portable reader for about $250 to provide faster, more sensitive detection.

Blood tests for Zika already exist but are problematic. One type of test looks for antibodies that people produce when they are exposed to Zika, but the results can be difficult to interpret because similar viruses, like dengue, prompt patients to produce similar antibodies. The prototype diagnostic described in Cell uses a different type of analysis, called a nucleic acid-based test, which looks for RNA sequences specific to Zika. These tests are more accurate, but existing versions are costly and time-consuming, according to Dana Braff, a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering (ENG expected 2017) at Boston University and co-lead author on the Cell paper. “These tests require expensive equipment, and someone has to be trained to use it. Many countries have very few centers where you can send the test for analysis,” says Braff, adding that the reagents alone for existing tests can cost $5–$20 per test, while the paper-disc prototype only costs about $1 per test.

The new Zika diagnostic lowers costs by taking advantage of two recently developed technologies. The first, developed by former BU postdoctoral fellow Alexander Green, co-lead author on theCell paper and now at Arizona State University, are programmable sensors called “toehold switches” that scientists can design to sense virtually any RNA sequence. The second technology, created by another former BU postdoctoral fellow, Keith Pardee, also co-lead author on the Cell paper and now at the University of Toronto, is a disc of filter paper holding an RNA sensor and the cellular components that make it work. By freeze-drying the sensor-embedded paper, the research team created a paper gene circuit—a sterile, portable diagnostic that can be stored and distributed at room temperature.

The new diagnostic also contains a new molecular tool to differentiate between two Zika strains, using a CRISPR/Cas9-based gene-editing technique that recognizes the American strain of Zika but not the African strain. The American strain, found in Brazil, is of special concern because only it has been connected to higher incidences of fetal microcephaly and Guillain-Barré.

Although a positive Zika test produces a color change that is visible to the naked eye, the team also built a portable handheld “reader” for about $250 to provide faster, more sensitive detection.

The team found that the first-generation technology had a serious limitation: it could detect virus in solution at a concentration of 30 nanoMolar, but Zika appears in much lower concentrations in human blood, saliva, and urine. The highest concentration of Zika has been reported in urine, at 365 femtoMolar, roughly a million times more dilute than the technology could detect.

“Zika is a little unique because it exists in bodily fluids at exceptionally low levels,” says Braff. “To make the technology clinically relevant, we knew we’d need to make it sensitive to much lower concentrations.”

To do this, the team added an existing molecular tool to the device, called NASBA, that amplifies—increases the number of copies of—the DNA or RNA in a given sample. Braff says that the team is now trying to modify the molecular tools in the diagnostic to all run at the same temperature in a “one-pot“ reaction for amplification and detection. They are also building a new reader that can incubate reactions on-chip.

“One of the most exciting things about this platform is that we can take what we’ve done and apply it to any pathogen or virus,” says Braff, who is currently working on a test to determine the susceptibility of different strains of bacteria to particular antibiotics. “Whatever comes up, this will give us the ability to respond rapidly to it.”

CISE@BU Graduate Research Symposium Winners

April 19th, 2016 in News, SE

Congratulations to CISE prize and honorable mention winners for the CISE@BU Graduate Research Symposium!  
Thank you to all students who participated! Your efforts are greatly appreciated. 
See more photos on our facebook page:
The winners are:
CISE prize
Julia Lima-Fleck:
A Mixed Integer Linear Program (MILP) Approach for Integrating Mutation and Gene Expression Cross-Sectional Data to Infer Cancer Progression
Advisor: Christos G. Cassandras (ECE, SE)
CISE 2nd prize 
Shahrooz Zarbafian:
Cluster Discrimination and a Natural Manifold Metric for Protein Docking
Advisors: Pirooz Vakili (ME, SE), Yannis Paschalidis (ECE, SE)
Honorable  mentions
Elli Ntakou:
The value of information in electricity pricing
Advisor: Michael Caramanis (ME, SE)
Joshua Rapp:
Unmixing Signal and Background Noise for Photon-Efficient Active Imaging
Advisor: Vivek Goyal (ECE)
Xinmiao Sun:
Optimal Dynamic Formation Control of Multi-Agent Systems in Environments with Obstacles
Advisor: Christos G. Cassandras (ECE, SE)


  • Dimitar Baronov, Chief Technology Officer, Etiometry Inc.
  • Mark Kon, Professor, Dept of Mathematics & Statistics, BU
  • Wai Lai, Senior Investment Manager, Fidelity Investments
  • Lester McCoy, Raytheon
  • Roberto Tron, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering, BU
  • Brenda Zhuang, Principal Software Engineer, Development Manager, MathWorks Inc.

Research on Tap – Drug Repurposing and Reformulation: Opportunities, Risks, and Challenges – hosted by Avi Spira

January 22nd, 2016 in News, SE

Monday, February 22, 2016 | 4:00 – 6:00 pm
River Room, Florence & Chafetz Hillel House
231 Bay State Road

Drug Repurposing and Reformulation: Opportunities, Risks, and Challenges

v_12-4791-SPIRA-010Hosted by Avi Spira (MED SE), Professor of Medicine, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, and Bioinformatics; Chief, Division of Computational Biomedicine; and Director, Boston University Cancer Center

Discoveries about the molecular basis of disease and infection provide unprecedented opportunities to translate research into new medicines. However, developing a new drug is a costly, complex, and time-consuming process. Drug repurposing, the application of one compound or agent already used to treat a disease or condition to treat other illnesses, is gaining popularity as a potential solution to the barriers of medicine innovation. Likewise, compounds discovered previously and not pursed due to formulation issues are shelved and not explored. Recent advances in nanotechnology, genomics, and polymers are providing new opportunities to reposition these agents for clinical use. However, complex issues such as intellectual property rights for repurposed and re-discovered drugs, fear of discovery of adverse side effects, and others continue to deter many drug manufacturers and researchers. In this session, faculty from across the University will talk about their work in this area.


ENG Announces Student Photo Contest

October 8th, 2015 in News, SE

Open to All Current College of Engineering Students: Undergrad/Masters/PhD

The College of Engineering is looking for great high resolution images that can help us convey the richness of our students’ involvement in engineering research, field work, academics, careers, and campus and student life.

To enter the contest, go here:


Eligibility: We invite all current undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students to submit up to 3 photos between now and November 23rd, 2015.

Prizes: Your submission will be first judged by your own department or division, which will award one 1st prize of $100, one 2nd prize of $75, and one 3rd prize of $50.

These winners will then be eligible to win the College’s Grand Prize of $250.

All prize winners will be announced on December 14th. Winners will be asked to pick up their prizes at the Office of Communications, 200 Cummington Mall, Boston, MA 02115 before leaving for the semester.

Judges: All photos will be evaluated by the College’s Communications Team, made up of the Communications Liaisons for each Department and Division and by the Dean’s Office of Communications. The decisions of the judges are final.

Deadlines: Submissions are due by November 23rd, 2015

Submission Requirements

  1. You must be a current student submitting your own work.
  2. Limit of 3 photo submissions per student.
  3. Images must be your own original content and free of any copyright obligations. The winning photos and any of the photos submitted will be the property of the BU College of Engineering and its departments and divisions, which will retain all rights of usage.
  4. All photos submitted must be horizontal format. They must be high resolution .jpeg or .png files of a minimum of 1MB in size (i.e., suitable for printing at 300 dpi or greater).
  5. If you take a photo in a laboratory of students working, everyone must be wearing the appropriate safety equipment (for example, safety glasses).
  6. If other people are included in your photograph, you must include the names and affiliations of each person in the photograph in your submission form.

College Announces New Masters Degree Specializations

June 25th, 2015 in SE, Uncategorized

Students Can Amplify Expertise in a High-Value Career Path
By Janet 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.”

shutterstock_128057873Data_Analytics_CMSEnormous 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.”

shutterstock_138612407_cybersecurity_CMSThe 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.”

Quadrocopter_shutterstock_261695444_CMS300The 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.

Announcing the Winners of the SE Division Student Photo Contest!

May 7th, 2015 in News, SE

Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 SE Division Student Photo Contest!

First Place: Alyssa Pierson (Advisor: Mac Schwager)


This photograph shows an experiment in progress. Armin Ataei and Alyssa Pierson are working on multi-robot pursuit and monitoring. Here, Alyssa is driving the m3pi ground robot using a joystick behind the netting, and the three KMEL nano quads are tracking the robot autonomously. The grey shapes projected on the floor represent obstacles the quadrotors must navigate around when pursuing the ground robot. (Photographer: Alyssa Pierson)


Second Place: Sepideh Pourazarm (Advisor: Christos Cassandras)


This photo shows Yue Zhang working with VISSIM, a traffic simulator. You can see the BU campus area in the background of the simulator. (Photographer: Sepideh Pourazarm)


Third Place: Yasaman Khazaeni (Advisor: Christos Cassandras)


In this photo, Armin Ataei and Alyssa Pierson are preparing the quad-rotors in Boston University’s Multi-Robot Systems Lab for a test run. (Photographer: Yasaman Khazaeni)