By Allison Kleber
2020 has been a year of unusual challenges, both for our community and the world at large, but that isn’t stopping our hardworking ECE PhD students! Here are just a few examples of their recent achievements and honors.
In addition to his contributions to ECE Professor Doug Densmore’s interdisciplinary lab group, CIDAR, fifth-year PhD student Radhakrishna Sanka serves on Innovate@BU’s Student Leadership Council, working to create entrepreneurship programs aimed at BU PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. A profile published on the International Genetically Engineered Machine Foundation (iGEM)’s Entrepreneurial Committee blog this month lauds his dedication to creating such resources, which dates back to his undergraduate days at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science. Click here to read the full article at the iGEM EPIC blog.
Meanwhile, on the research side of things, Mr. Sanka’s paper “3DμF – Interactive Design Environment for Continuous Flow Microfluidic Devices,” co-authored with fellow CIDAR lab members and ECE students Joshua Lippai, Dinithi Samarasekara, and Sarah Nemsick, along with Professor Densmore, was featured in the top 100 papers downloaded from Nature’s Scientific Reports in Chemistry in March 2020. 3DμF is an open-source interactive design tool for engineering microfluidic devices. Click here to read the paper on Nature.com.
Four rising second-year PhD students in BU ECE have been selected for a prestigious National Science Foundation trainee program, NSF NRT UtB: Neurophotonics. Each trainee is awarded a fellowship covering two years of graduate study, along with numerous benefits including communications training, participation in seminars and symposia in the area of neurophotonics, and a vast array of collaboration and research resources and opportunities through the BU Neurophotonics Center. All four students are pursuing groundbreaking research relevant to the trainee program’s titular goal of “Understanding the Brain,” utilizing various imaging techniques to track and measure neural activity in mice.
Joseph Greene’s research, in concert with his advisor, BU ECE Professor Lei Tian, seeks to develop advanced tools for investigating neural circuits that increase accuracy and reduce interference using advanced computational imaging techniques. The project’s goal is the creation of a wearable microscope that can capture neural activity of the entire cortical area.
Multiphoton microscopy (MPM) is a valuable tool for three-dimensional deep imaging into organic tissue. Shutao Xu’s research, under the mentorship of BU ECE Professor Michelle Sander, aims at developing high power ultrafast fiber laser system operating at a novel wavelength, which can generate efficient fluorescence excitation for MPM and enable the real-time observation of neural activities on a millimeter scale.
Shuqi Zheng, working under the supervision of Professor Jerome Mertz of the Biomicroscopy Lab, is conducting research towards the development of a light field microscopic technique for high-speed fluorescent imaging. This technique will be used to capture and measure neuronal network activity by volume.
In collaboration with her advisor, BU BME Professor David Boas, Binxue Liu’s research explores the use of various biomedical imaging methods to create more functional brain imaging. She intends to integrate multispectral photoacoustic tomography with ultrafast ultrasound imaging in order to quantitatively measure oxygen saturation and cerebral blood flow.
With the support and resources of the National Science Foundation and BU’s Neurophotonics Center, all four newly-minted trainees’ research will cast fresh and invaluable illumination onto the elusive workings of the brain.
And speaking of research awards, BU’s own Rafik B. Hariri Institute has selected two more ECE PhD students for their Graduate Student Fellows Program: Yunzhe Li and Anil Kag. Hariri Fellowships recognize PhD students who are carrying out outstanding computational and data-driven research, and provide a generous grant to support their ongoing doctoral work. Students are nominated by their advisors; in this case, ECE Professors Lei Tian and Venkatesh Saligrama, respectively.
Fourth-year PhD student Yunzhe Li’s research is focused on physical-model and deep-learning-based computational imaging techniques, for application in the field of biomedicine. Anil Kag, in his third year, is developing faster, more efficient deep learning architectures for utilization in resource-constrained applications, such as devices under the umbrella of the Internet of Things. The Hariri Graduate Student Fellowship committee praised both students for their independence, resourcefulness, and capacity for original thinking. The ECE department joins the committee in expecting great outcomes from their future work.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, these students and their accomplishments represent only the smallest fraction of the innovation and determination that our students, in the PhD program and throughout the entire department, continue to pour into their studies and research. They are to be congratulated both for their achievements, and for their ongoing pursuit of excellence.