By Cheryl R Stewart
Congratulations to our First, Second and Third place winners!
First Place: Igor Cizelj
Four m3pi Robots equipped with a color sensor, an IMU, and three infrared sensors.
Photo credit: Igor Cizelj
Second Place: Sepideh Pourazarm
BU Scholar Day: Xinmiao Sun (SE PhD Candidate) presenting her poster.
Photo credit: Sepideh Pourazarm
Third Place: Yasaman Khazaeni
A simple webcam used in robotic projects. Photo credit: Yasaman Khazaeni
Congratulations to the Award winners!
The Hariri Award for Innovative Computing Models, Algorithms, and Systems
Student: Eran Simhon
Advisor: David Starobinski
Title: Advance Reservation Games
Center for Information and Systems Engineering Award
Student: Qi Zhao
Adviser: Ioannis Paschalidis
Title: Turning Constraint-Based Modeling on Its Head: Learning Cellular Objectives from Fluxes
CISE Second prize:
Student: Jing Conan Wang
Advisor: Ioannis Paschalidis
Title: Robust Anomaly Detection in Dynamic Networks
College of Engineering Dean’s Award
Student: Mohammad Moghadasi
Advisor: Ioannis Paschalidis
Title: A multi-stage Monte Carlo minimization-based approach to protein docking refinement problem
Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology Award
Student: Erin Roberts
Advisor: Xin Zhang
Title: Measurement of Cardiac Side Population Cellular Forces during Differentiation into Cardiomyocytes Using Micropillar Arrays
Photonics Center Herbert J. Berman Future of Light Prize
Student: Alket Mirtiri
Advisor: Shyam Erramilli
Title: Nonlinear mid-infrared imaging on brain tissue pathology: A new label-free imaging technique using quantum cascade lasers
Office of Technology Development Award
Student: Emily Nelson
Advisor: Elke Muhlberger
Title: Post Transcriptional RNA Regulation During Ebola Virus Infection
Goldman School of Dental Medicine Dean’s Award
Student: Yi Zhong
Advisor: Eva Helmerhorst
Title: Isolation and Purification of a Gluten-Degrading Enzyme from Human Gastrointestinal Tract-Derived Bacteria
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award
Student: Tracy Meehan
Advisor: Dr. Kimberly McCall
Title: Cell Corpse Engulfment and Processing is mediated by Apical localization of the Integrin Heterodimer αPS3βPS in the Drosophila Ovary
Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Dean’s Award
Student: Tony Gao
Advisor: Kathleen Morgan
Title: Aging Impairs Smooth Muscle Mediated Regulation of Aortic Stiffness
Student: Sarah Villard
Advisor: Swathi Kiran
Title: Inter- and Intra-Individual Variability in Non-Linguistic Attention in Aphasia
School of Medicine
MED Dean’s Award to
Student: Kaitlin Sawatzki
Advisor: Thomas Kepler
Title: Examination of antibody dynamics after vaccination against anthrax
GMS Master’s Award to
Student: Joseph Brazzo
Advisor: David Gunther
Title: Partial or Complete Coverage of Experimental Spina Bifida by Simple Intra-Amniotic Injection of Concentrated Amniotic Mesenchymal Stem Cells
School of Public Health Dean’s Award
Student: James Watt
Advisor: Jennifer Schlezinger
Title: Emerging toxicants induce adiptogenesis and suppress osteogenesis in mouse mesenchymal stromal cells
MET Award for Applied Science
Student: Steve Scherr
Adviser: Selim Unlu
Title: Real-Time Digital Virus Detection
Student: Colin Pang
Adviser: James Uden
Title: Notions of Masculinity in Catullus and Eminem
The Hariri Award for Transformative Computational Science Research
Student: Sarah Adel Bargal
Advisor: Stan Sclarloff
Title: A Study of Spatial Exploration Patterns of Children
The new IEEE journal Transactions on Control of Network Systems has released its inaugural issue. This publication is available on the IEEE Xplore site. View the table of contents and list of authors.
Congratulations to Ioannis Paschalidis (SE, ECE), Editor-in-chief, and Magnus Egerstedt, Deputy Editor-in-Chief!
Included in this inaugural issue is a paper by Christos G. Cassandras (SE, ECE), Tao (Reno) Wang (SE PhD, 2013), and Sepideh Pourazarm (SE PhD graduate student), Optimal Routing and Energy Allocation for Lifetime Maximization of Wireless Sensor Networks with Non-ideal Batteries. Congratulations to all!
SE Faculty Search: Tenure track faculty position at the rank of Professor in the area of Network Systems
The Division of Systems Engineering (SE) at Boston University (BU) is seeking candidates for a tenured faculty position at the rank of Professor in the area of Network Systems. The Division of Systems Engineering is seeking a proven accomplished researcher to provide leadership in the area of network systems and to bring together a number of already existing related activities which span the ECE and ME Departments. The Division, in conjunction with the Center for Information and Systems Engineering (CISE), has established world-class research excellence in areas such as Sensor Networks, Multi-Agent Systems, and Mobile Robotics. These and other areas where Division faculty are active represent instances of a broader emerging class of network systems. Beyond traditional computer and communication networks, this new class is characterized by network structures whose nodes are complex dynamic systems in themselves (wireless physical devices, robots, power supply centers in a smart grid, vehicles in smart cities, factories/warehouse in supply chains, etc). Candidates with research interests that transcend the traditional boundaries of SE are strongly encouraged to apply. The candidate would be given a primary appointment in our Mechanical Engineering or Electrical and Computer Engineering departments as applicable. Additional appointments with other BU departments and the Division of Materials Science and Engineering are available for candidates with appropriate experience and interests.
Qualified candidates must possess a relevant, earned PhD, and have a demonstrable ability to teach effectively and contribute to the graduate program in SE, develop funded research programs in their area of expertise, and contribute to the tradition of excellence in research that is characteristic of SE at BU. Self-motivated individuals who thrive on challenge and are eager to utilize their expertise to strengthen an ambitious program of divisional enhancement are desired. Women, minorities, and candidates from other underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply.
SE at BU is a world-class Division with excellent resources, including the Center for Information and Systems Engineering (CISE), that is steadily gaining national and international prominence for its exceptional research and education record. SE is part of BU’s rapidly growing and innovative College of Engineering. The College of Engineering is comprised of three departments (Biomedical, Electrical & Computer, and Mechanical) and two graduate divisions (Systems and Materials Science & Engineering) consisting of 120 faculty, 75 staff, 1350 undergraduates and 700 graduate students. The College of Engineering has risen rapidly in distinction over the past decade and is currently ranked 38th and in the top 20 in research dollars per faculty member. Significant investments in the SE area by the College and University are significant and will continue. Outstanding collaboration opportunities are available with nationally recognized medical centers and universities/colleges, nearby research centers, and industry throughout the Boston area.
Beyond its research and academic activities, BU has a lively, urban campus situated along the banks of the Charles River in Boston’s historic Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood. The campus and surrounding areas offer limitless opportunities for recreational activities, from world-class art and performances to sporting events and fine dining.
Please visit http://www.bu.edu/SE/ for more information about the SE Division. To apply, please visit and follow application instructions online at https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/3207. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Preferred deadline for full consideration is December 31, 2013. Therefore, applicants are encouraged to apply early. Boston University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
By Cheryl Stewart
Reno (Tao) Wang (SE, PhD, 2013) was selected as one of the New Faces of Engineering 2014. New Faces of Engineering recognizes the outstanding abilities young engineers (age 30 or younger) have shown on projects that significantly impact public welfare or further professional development and growth.
The award is based on the evaluation of the candidates’ background and their contribution to the community. Wang’s achievements during his PhD study at Boston University with adviser Professor Christos G. Cassandras (SE, ECE), played a vital role in the nomination.
Wang, 30, is a senior operations research developer, developing Sabre AirCenter products for crew management systems including pairing optimizer and crew control/manager, serving 20+ airlines. His work focuses on adding novel features to the products and improving the efficiency of scheduling algorithms. Wang holds a BS from Shanghai Jiaotong University (China), a master’s from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a PhD from Boston University.
Federal Funding Critical in Supporting New Technologies: Four ENG Faculty, Alums Among Startups Cited as Fruits of Research Grants
By Amy Laskowski, BU Today
One company developed genomic tests to diagnose and manage lung cancer. Another created a technology that can quickly detect harmful and unwanted bacteria in food and health care products. And the third invented a tiny chip-like timing device that can function as a clock.
These three start-ups—all launched at BU—are featured in the Science Coalition report Sparking Economic Growth 2.0: Companies Created from Federally Funded Research, Fueling American Innovation, and Economic Growth, released yesterday. The report from the nonprofit organization of more than 50 public and private research universities, including BU, highlights the achievements of 100 companies, all born of federally funded research, that are bringing cutting-edge innovations to the marketplace and creating new jobs.
BU start-ups in the fold are Allegro Diagnostics, founded by Jerome Brody, a School of Medicine professor of medicine, and Professor Avrum Spira (Medicine, Pathology, Bioinformatics; ENG’02), the Alexander Graham Bell Professor in Health Care Entrepreneurship and chief of computational biomedicine at MED; Sample6 Technologies, started by Professor James Collins (BME, MSE, SE), a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, Michael Koeris (ENG’09), and Timothy Lu (ENG’09); and Sand9, begun by Matthew Crowley, former director of venture capital in the Office of Technology Development, and Raj Mohanty, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of physics.
Vinit Nijhawan, managing director of the Office of Technology Development, says BU helps about half a dozen companies get off the ground each year.
Gloria Waters, vice president and associate provost for research for both the Charles River and the Medical Campus, says one of the University’s goals is to translate its research into things that benefit society. “We are delighted that the Sparking Economic Growth report highlights the success of several of our faculty in moving their work from basic research to practical applications,” Waters says. “The support which these faculty members received from federally funded research was essential to their ability to develop the technologies that have now been spun off into companies. They are a prime example of the importance of federal research funding to innovation and job creation.”
The report points out that federal funding for research and development has been on a downward trend for the past decade, with 2013 funding levels at historic lows. Sequestration, which started last March when Congress and the White House failed to agree on how to reduce the budget deficit, is set to run through 2021 and could wring an additional $95 billion from federal research and development budgets. The report warns that the confluence of cuts—sequestration coupled with tight caps on discretionary spending already put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011—could have a “devastating impact” on America’s research enterprise.
Jennifer Grodsky, the University’s vice president for federal relations, says the report is intended to give lawmakers “concrete examples of how federal investments in basic research can lead to breakthrough innovations, new companies, and, ultimately, jobs.”
The report argues that because only 20 percent of the research in this country is conducted by industry, the work being done at research universities is essential to the nation’s industry and its ability to compete worldwide. Among the 50 schools participating in the report are Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of California, Berkeley. Each school chose a few start-ups to highlight in the report, which will be distributed to the media and to Congress in the coming weeks.
One of the young companies spun out of BU and highlighted in the report, Allegro Diagnostics Corp., launched in 2008 and was built on research conducted by Spira and Brody, who were looking for ways to spot lung cancer in its earliest stages. The company, which now has six employees, has developed a molecular testing platform that is based on the discovery of a genomic biomarker for lung cancer. The technology analyzes changes in gene expression in the airway’s epithelial cells, changes that are associated with the development in lung cancer in current or former tobacco smokers.
The initial research and development behind Allegro was conducted at BU with a $300,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), through theNational Cancer Institute. Since then, the company has raised about $10 million in venture capital funding and $3 million from nondilutive sources, which is financing that doesn’t require the sale of a company’s shares and so does not cause dilution of the existing shareholders.
“In our case, my initial funding—when I was a junior faculty member—was from the NIH,” Spira says. “It gave me the start-up funds to protect our intellectual property and start our company at BU, and then commercialize the test. We finished clinical trials and we’re about to launch the test.”
Sand9 evolved when Mohanty found a way to use silicon to make chip-like devices, known as resonators, that oscillate at extremely high frequencies. He knew the device could be put to work as a clock, replacing the much larger quartz crystal timepieces used in radio transmitters for the last century. Since it launched in 2007, Sand9 has raised $50 million in venture capital funding. It has 34 full-time employees.
“After five years of hard work, the company has secured design wins with major industry players,” Mohanty says. “Fundamental research is even more important at times of economic crisis.”
Sample6 Technologies came about when Lu and Koeris, as graduate students in Collins’ synthetic biology lab, won several national business plan competitions with a new way to develop antibiotics for drug-resistant infections. They also won a $5.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, enough to give life to Sample6, which now has 16 employees. The company uses a proprietary Bioillumination Platform that allows for the rapid engineering of bioparticles that cause bacteria to illuminate when a specific bacterium is identified, a phenomenon that is useful in food safety and in health care products.
Collins says that it would have been impossible to start Sample6 without support from the NIH and the National Science Foundation. “I think investing in science is one of the best ways we can impact the economy,” he says. “We create new technology, we create new jobs, we train the next generation. I think dollar-for-dollar it’s one of the best things this country can do.”
The full report can be found here.
If Boston Were Smart – Imagining intelligent traffic lights, parking spaces, buildings and appliances
By Leslie Friday (Videos by Joe Chan), BU Today
Last year, the Daily Beast named Boston the country’s smartest metropolitan area. The website was referring to the people of Boston, of course, not the city itself. But what if the city itself were smart? What if technology, designed by the smart people who work in Boston, could help us save time and energy and spare us from daily frustrations? We talked to some BU researchers who are studying, designing, and building the technology for a more enlightened city.
Because the cost of electricity fluctuates throughout the day, depending on demand, smart meters that are currently available tell homeowners exactly how much energy they use and at what cost, encouraging them to delay energy-intensive activities until a time of day when demand and costs are low. Supported by a $2 million National Science Foundation grant, Professor Michael Caramanis (ME, SE), Professor John Baillieul (ME, SE) and two MIT faculty members are collaborating on a study of how these and larger-scale measures could result in a smarter electricity grid. In the United States, we lose about 8 percent of energy because it travels long distances between points of generation to use. Caramanis thinks the loss could be greatly reduced if we got our energy from closer and cleaner sources. A smarter grid could help us do that.
Security officers could sort through billions of hours of video footage and spot unusual events, such as someone attempting to enter a building in the middle of the night, using specially designed cameras with embedded algorithms. Professor Janusz Konrad (ECE) and Venkatesh Saligrama (ECE, SE) have developed the technology, supported by more than $800,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies.
BU engineers have designed software that, once uploaded to a building’s HVAC system, would measure airflow room by room and revise it to meet minimum standards, decreasing energy costs while keeping occupants happy. The invention earned Associate Professor Michael Gevelber (ME, SE), Adjunct Research Professor Donald Wroblewski (ME) and ENG and School of Management students first prize and $20,000 in this year’s MIT Clean Energy Competition. The team plans to develop and market the software through its newly formed company, Aeolus Building Efficiency.
Smarter Traffic Lights
A smart traffic lighting system would mine GPS information from cars and smartphones and count the number of vehicles waiting at red lights. If there is no approaching traffic, it would switch lights from red to green. Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE) is testing this system on a model mini-city in his lab.
Cassandras, working with research assistant Yanfeng Geng (PhD, SE’13), has developed the BU Smart Parking application, which can be downloaded to a smartphone from the iPhone App Store by searching “BU smartparking.” Drivers tell the app when and where they want to park, prioritizing price and location, and the app searches for available spaces, all of which are networked to the device. When the app identifies a spot that meets the search criteria, it tells the driver where to go. At the same time, a light installed above the spot turns from green to red. When the driver who made the reservations approaches, the light turns yellow. The catch? At the moment the system works only in BU’s 730 Commonwealth Avenue garage, but Cassandras hopes to expand it to private parking facilities throughout Boston.
The next-generation lightbulb could enhance sleep quality, send data like a Wi-Fi hotspot does, or help visitors navigate large buildings through a network of visible cues, while operating more efficiently. This technology is made possible by combining LEDs, sensors, and other control systems within a single hybrid bulb that needs 40 to 70 percent less energy than existing compact fluorescent lights or LED lightbulbs. It is being developed by Professor Thomas Little (ECE, SE), associate director of the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center, working with researchers at the center under an $18.5 million National Science Foundation grant. Little is collaborating with colleagues from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of New Mexico.
Refrigerators and hot water heaters are duty-cycle appliances, meaning they need to run only two to three times each hour. Caramanis thinks they could be designed to communicate with the electricity grid and run when electrical demand is lowest during that time period. Alternatively, if either of these appliances is connected to a home photovoltaic unit, it could be programmed to detect when a passing cloud blocks the sun and choose to cycle at a later time. Caramanis says this technology is mostly being tested in pilot settings. A New Jersey–based company called FirstEnergy has installed temperature sensors and communication controllers that turn on and off the hot water heaters of thousands of consumers in relation to low or high energy costs in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland region.
Smarter Central Control
Imagine a network of sensors that would collect and send data to a centralized processor, which could order a garbage pickup or warn drivers of traffic jams. Cassandras, Professor Yannis Paschalidis (ECE, SE), codirector of the Center for Information & Systems Engineering, and Professor Assaf Kfoury (CS), are testing a miniature version of this network in Cassandras’ lab, with help from a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
By Rachel Harrington
ENG researchers’ intelligent information management methods will aid in archaeological field work. Archaeological surveys, such as the site in western Turkey shown here, can be scanned by a team of sensor-carrying UAVs (top) to create topographical maps (center) and determine features of potential interest for later excavation. Potential features of interest include Tumuli (bottom), or burial mounds, which have a higher likelihood of containing archaeological artifacts than surrounding areas.
Enhancing the functionality of cyber-physical systems—those that integrate physical processes with networked computing—could significantly improve our quality of life, from reducing car collisions to upgrading robotic surgeries to mounting more effective search and rescue missions.
Recognizing Boston University as a key contributor to this effort, the National Science Foundation has awarded Professors Venkatesh Saligrama (ECE, SE) and David Castañón (ECE, SE), and Assistant Professor Mac Schwager (ME, SE), nearly $1 million for their project, “CPS: Synergy: Data Driven Intelligent Controlled Sensing for Cyber Physical Systems.”
Drawing on earlier work by Saligrama and Castañón investigating machine learning under cost and budget constraints, the researchers will focus on improving sensors that collect data in transportation, security and manufacturing applications. A key challenge in such applications is to choose the most effective physical sensors from the vast amount available and develop systems that can efficiently process large quantities of collected data.
“Many of these systems are energy hungry,” Saligrama explained. “The goal is to use such sensors only when they are needed by using feedback control of the sensing actions to obtain the best information possible given energy budget constraints.”
Castañón, who has developed some of the leading theories used in controlled sensing studies, sees the project as “an opportunity to extend that theory to big data environments with high-dimensional measurements.”
The team plans to validate its techniques through archaeological surveying, working with Associate Professor Chris Roosevelt (Archaeology). Determining where to deploy the sensors on a smaller scale—for example, finding where best to dig—could lead to far-reaching solutions for deep-sea exploration, firefighting and traffic monitoring.
Top-Tier Faculty to Advance High-Impact Field
By Mark Dwortzan
Synthetic biology brings together engineers, biologists and other life science researchers to conceive, design and build molecular biological systems that rewire and reprogram organisms to perform specified tasks. The field promises not only to yield new insights into biology but also to spark new technologies that could revolutionize healthcare, energy and the environment, food production, materials and global security. Recognizing the wide-ranging potential of synthetic biology and the trailblazing efforts of many of its faculty, the College of Engineering has launched the BU Center of Synthetic Biology (CoSBi) to advance this emerging discipline.
Poised to take a nationally preeminent role in advancing synthetic biology research, CoSBi unites core engineering faculty members that bridge diverse research interests, including microbial and metabolic engineering, immuno-engineering, cell reprogramming, computer-aided design and automation, single-cell analyses and systems modeling. In addition, the center involves leading researchers across the university with expertise in systems biology, leveraging their ability to reverse-engineer natural biological networks to help in the modeling, design and forward-engineering of synthetic biological networks with novel functions.
“We envision that CoSBI will serve as a focal point for activities in synthetic biology at Boston University and the larger Boston area, and help to advance the field toward applications in biomedical research, healthcare and other areas,” said Professor James J. Collins (BME, MSE, SE), one of the pioneers of synthetic biology, who directs the center.
CoSBi is located at 36 Cummington Mall, taking advantage of the newly renovated wet and dry facilities on the second floor and computational space on the third floor. Core faculty include Collins; Assistant Professor Ahmad “Mo” Khalil (BME), the center’s associate director; Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE, BME, Bioinformatics); and Assistant Professor Wilson Wong (BME), with 11 associate faculty members drawn from the College of Engineering, College of Arts & Sciences, and School of Medicine, including Calin Belta (ME, SE).
To advance its research agenda, CoSBi is expected to attract substantial government funding, major industrial collaborators and top-notch graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The center will develop and support large-scale, collaborative projects, organize an annual symposium on synthetic biology featuring prominent researchers from around the world, and host a regular seminar series showcasing research leaders in the field.
To enable students of all levels to learn about the fundamentals and practice of synthetic biology and explore their interests in the intersection of engineering and molecular biology, the center will play an active role in supporting research training, education and outreach activities. Center administrators aim to appoint new research faculty and staff; develop new fellowships for and facilitate mentoring of graduate students and postdoctoral associates; design new courses and produce educational videos; run international synthetic biology competition teams and summer workshops; and build community for undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students studying synthetic biology.
“Synthetic biology is reshaping the discipline of biology, and attracting students and researchers with a diverse set of backgrounds,” said Khalil. “A central goal of CoSBi will be to prepare the next generation of synthetic biologists for this multidisciplinary type of research at an early stage, and to challenge them to think conceptually and creatively about how engineering can help in understanding life.”
Several SE Division faculty, including Professors Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE), Michael Gevelber (ME, SE, MSE), Michael Caramanis (ME, SE), Thomas Little (ECE, SE), and Venkatesh Saligrama (ECE, SE), are featured in the Fall 2013 Bostonia article If Boston Were Smart by Leslie Friday.
Christos Cassandras, College of Engineering professor of electrical and computer engineering and head of the Division of Systems Engineering, also narrates two videos in the Fall 2013 Bostonia. Smarter Cities: Parking and Smarter Cities: Traffic Control videos by Joe Chan may be viewed at Bostonia or the Division of Systems Engineering.