Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Since its founding in 1893 by two legends, George Westinghouse and Reginald Fessenden, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt has excelled in education, research, and service.  Today, the department features innovative undergraduate and graduate programs and world-class research centers and labs, combining theory with practice at the nexus of computer and electrical engineering, for our students to learn, develop, and lead lives of impact.





Dec
11
2017

Glass with switchable opacity could improve solar cells and LEDs

Electrical & Computer, Industrial

News release from The Optical Society WASHINGTON (December 11, 2017) ... Using nanoscale grass-like structures, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have created glass that lets through a large amount of light while appearing hazy. This is the first time that glass has been made with such high levels of haze and light transmittance at the same time, a combination of properties that could help boost the performance of solar cells and LEDs. The glass exhibits another remarkable quality: It can be switched from hazy to clear by applying water. This could make it useful for creating smart windows that change haze or opacity to control the privacy of a room or to block glare from sunlight. "Switchable glass available today is quite expensive because it uses transparent conducting layers to apply a voltage across the entire glass," said Paul W. Leu of the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering, leader of the research team. "Our glass would be potentially less expensive to make because its opacity can be switched in a matter of seconds by simply applying or removing liquid." In Optica, The Optical Society's journal for high impact research, the researchers describe their new nanograss-based glass, which achieves a record 95 percent light transmittance and a similarly high degree of haze at the same time. The researchers experimented with glass etched with nanograss structures from 0.8 to 8.5 microns in height with "blades" each measuring a few hundred nanometers in diameter. The discovery of switchability was one of serendipity. "I was cleaning the new nanograss glass when I discovered that cleaning it with water made the glass become clear," said project lead, graduate student Sajad Haghanifar. While the discovery was incidental, it can be easily explained. "The water goes between the extremely hydrophilic nanostructures, making the nanograss glass act like a flat substrate. Because water has a very similar index of refraction to the glass, the light goes straight through it. When the water is removed, the light hits the scattering nanostructures, making the glass appear hazy." Using nanograss to improve solar cells Leu's group developed the new glass to improve the ability of solar cells to capture light and turn it into power. Nanostructure patterns can prevent light from reflecting off the solar cell's surface. These structures also scatter the light that enters the glass, helping more of the light reach the semiconductor material within the solar cell, where it is converted into power. The new glass uses a unique pattern of nanostructures that looks much like grass. Because the structures are taller than previously-used nanostructures, they increase the likelihood that light will be scattered. Although glass with the nanostructures appears opaque, tests showed that most of the scattered light makes its way through the glass. The fact that the glass is highly hazy and exhibits high transmittance could also make it useful for LEDs, which work in a way that is essentially the opposite of a solar cell, by using electricity that enters a semiconductor to produce light that is then emitted from the device. The new glass could potentially increase the amount of light that makes it from the semiconductor into the surroundings. Finding the right 'grass' height The researchers found that shorter nanograss improved the antireflection properties of the glass while longer nanograss tended to increase the haze. Glass with 4.5-micron-high nanograss showed a nice balance of 95.6 percent transmittance and 96.2 percent haze for light with a 550-nanometer wavelength (yellow light, a component of sunlight). Although more work is needed to estimate the exact cost of manufacturing the new glass, the researchers predict that their glass will be inexpensive because it is easy to make. The nanostructures are etched into the glass using a process known as reactive ion etching, a scalable and straightforward method commonly used to make printed circuit boards. To turn the glass into a smart window that switches from hazy to clear, it would require placing a piece of traditional glass over the nanograss glass. Pumps could be used to flow liquid into the space between the two glasses, and a fan or pump could be used to remove the water. The researchers also showed that in addition to water, applying acetone and toluene can also switch the glass from hazy to clear. "We are now conducting durability tests on the new nanograss glass and are evaluating its self-cleaning properties," said Haghanifar. "Self-cleaning glass is very useful because it prevents the need for robotic or manual removal of dust and debris that would reduce the efficiency of solar panels, whether the panels are on your house or on a Mars rover." ### Photo above: New glass etched with nanograss structures can be switched from hazy to clear by applying water. As shown here, removing the water from the glass makes it appear hazy again. This switchable glass could offer a simple and inexpensive way to make smart windows that change between clear and opaque. (Credit: Sajad Haghanifar, University of Pittsburgh) Paper: S. Haghanifar, T. Gao, R. T. Rodriguez de Vecchis, B. Pafcheck, T. D. B. Jacobs, P. W. Leu, "Ultrahigh Transparency, Ultrahigh Haze Nanograss Glass with Fluid-Induced Switchable Haze," Optica, Volume 4, Issue 12, 1522-1525 (2017). DOI: 10.1364/OPTICA.4.001522. About OpticaOptica is an open-access, online-only journal dedicated to the rapid dissemination of high-impact peer-reviewed research across the entire spectrum of optics and photonics. Published monthly by The Optical Society (OSA), Optica provides a forum for pioneering research to be swiftly accessed by the international community, whether that research is theoretical or experimental, fundamental or applied. Optica maintains a distinguished editorial board of more than 50 associate editors from around the world and is overseen by Editor-in-Chief Alex Gaeta, Columbia University, USA. For more information, visit Optica. About The Optical Society Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional organization for scientists, engineers, students and business leaders who fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned publications, meetings and membership initiatives, OSA provides quality research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its extensive global network of optics and photonics experts. For more information, visit osa.org.
Rebecca B. Andersen, The Optical Society
Dec
5
2017

Pitt Computer Engineers Win Best Paper Award at International Big Data Conference

Electrical & Computer

TUSCANY, ITALY (December 5, 2017) … A team of computer engineering and bioengineering researchers from the University of Pittsburgh won the Best Paper Award at the 3rd International Conference on Machine Learning, Optimization & big Data (MOD 2017). The paper titled “Recipes for Translating Big Data Machine Reading to Executable Cellular Signaling Models” describes how automated machine reading can be used to pore over volumes of research and use that information to create models for understanding biological processes.“These models are used to conduct and explain hundreds of thousands of simulated experiments, which would be impractical if done with biological material in the lab,” says Natasa Miskov-Zivanov, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Our paper won the Best Paper Award because the methods it presents are critical to automating the process of model generation from vast amounts of literature without human intervention.” The MOD 2017 conference judges selected eight finalists for the Best Paper Award after calling on the international machine learning community for submissions. A major theme of the conference is developing ways to improve computation tools to automate tedious tasks like reading through thousands of studies to find the specific information that applies to a particular biological niche.“Creating big models to describe biological processes is still mainly a manual effort,” explains Khaled Sayed, a PhD student in Dr. Miskov-Zivanov’s lab. “Natural language processing tools are getting better at extracting useful information, but there is still a disconnect between how the tools work and the how researchers assemble models. Our paper describes an interface we have built to connect the efforts of machine reading and model building in biology.”Model building uses equations, data structures, and conceptual tools to represent biological systems in computer simulations. By doing so, researchers are able to better understand biological processes through testing and analysis. The more detailed the model, the more likely it can be used to design new disease treatments and guide future research. Dr. Miskov-Zivanov and her team developed a language processing tool so humans and machines can interpret big data more accurately.“The interface could be applied immediately to existing literature. Several state-of-the-art reading engines are already using it for their output, and we have applied it to reading hundreds of thousands of papers from PubMed to build and expand models of pancreatic cancer and melanoma cells,” says Dr. Miskov-Zivanov.In addition to Sayed and Dr. Miskov-Zivanov, the paper’s authors included: Adam Butchy, PhD student in the Department of Bioengineering, and Carnegie Mellon University’s Cheryl Telmer, research biologist at the Biological Sciences and the Molecular Biosensor and Imaging Center.Dr. Miskov-Zivanov led the project and proposed the initial version of the representation format. Dr. Telmer worked with the engineers to explain biological information and provide insight on how it could be represented. Sayed analyzed the features of the reading output and worked to develop the most suitable representation format, and Butchy identified the times when data was extracted correctly and misinterpretations. He also presented the paper at the MOD conference. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Nov
21
2017

2018 ECE Faculty Positions

Electrical & Computer, Open Positions

The ECE Department (http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/ECE/) at the University of Pittsburgh invites applications for tenure-stream (TS) faculty positions as Assistant Professor in the areas of computer engineering or electric power and energy, as well as a non-tenure-stream (NTS) faculty position as Assistant Professor for teaching and education research in general areas of ECE. The anticipated start date is September 1, 2018. Candidates must show strong potential to become leaders in their fields and be able to synergize with current strengths of Pitt-ECE and the Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE). Successful candidates must also be committed to high-quality education for a diverse student body of undergraduate and graduate students.Since its founding in 1893 by two legends, George Westinghouse and Reginald Fessenden, Pitt-ECE has excelled in education, research, and service.  Today, the department features innovative undergraduate and graduate programs and world-class research centers and labs, combining theory with practice at the nexus of computer and electrical engineering, for our students to learn, develop, and lead lives of impact. The University of Pittsburgh is ranked by the Wall Street Journal as the #1 public university in the Northeastern US, and by US News and World Report as the #15 public university in the US.  The ECE Department is experiencing major growth and achievement in its academic and research programs, with seven faculty members hired since September 2016, the new Energy Grid Institute located at the Pittsburgh Energy Innovation Center, and the new NSF Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC).  In addition, Pitt-ECE features strong collaborations with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and School of Medicine, the Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering (PINSE), the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, the U.S. DOE National Energy Technology Lab (NETL), numerous industry partners, and many more in the Pittsburgh area.Pitt-ECE has 29 full-time faculty members and offers B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical and computer engineering.  Current enrollment consists of nearly 500 undergraduate and 200 graduate students.  The SSOE recently completed a $100 million renovation and redesign of Benedum Engineering Hall, home of Pitt-ECE, with state-of-the-art teaching and research labs. As part of its growth, Pitt-ECE has additional space in Schenley Place, a new research-centric building on Pitt’s campus within walking distance of Benedum Hall and home to much industry/university collaboration.Exceptional candidates in these targeted areas will be carefully considered. Applications are due by January 8th, 2018, although candidates will continue to be considered until positions are filled. Please submit a CV, research and teaching statements, and contact information for at least three references, all in a single PDF file, to ecesearch-TS@pitt.edu for TS positions, or to ecesearch-NTS@pitt.edu for NTS.The University of Pittsburgh is an affirmative action and equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, marital status, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

Nov
20
2017

Students dedicate time to developing drone

Electrical & Computer

Levi Burner had dreamed of making a flying machine since he was 8 years old. The junior electrical engineering student finally got his chance when he started to build a drone for the International Aerial Robotics Competition more than a year ago. “The fact that we have found a competition that follows that dream just gets me really excited,” Burner said. “I’ve always been a robotics fan, so I’ve been building robots since I was quite young.” Burner, along with the Pitt Robotics and Automation Society, engineered a drone capable of flight to compete in the North American venue of the IARC, hosted at the Georgia Institute of Technology this past summer. The student group — which began work on the drone during the summer of 2016 — has since worked to improve their initial drone by developing its software and hardware so that it can compete again next summer. Read the full story at The Pitt News.
Anish Salvi for The Pitt News
Nov
13
2017

Pitt’s Space Hub “SHREC” Welcomes New Associate Director Alex Jones

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (November 13, 2017) … Preparing to increase its research impact at the University of Pittsburgh, leadership at the new National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) announced Alex Jones will be its new Associate Director. Dr. Jones will leave his current role as Director of Computer Engineering in Pitt’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), which he has led since 2009.“Under Alex’s leadership, the Computer Engineering Program grew by approximately 100 percent. He advised and mentored countless students, while keeping the program on track amidst a period of rapid and significant change in the field of computing,” said Alan George, ECE Department Chair and Mickle Chair Professor of ECE at Pitt and Director of SHREC.  “His success therefore will translate well as we ramp up efforts to recruit more students, university partners, and industry partners and create more opportunities for SHREC to expand and excel.”SHREC celebrated its grand opening on Sept. 18 at its facility on Pitt’s Oakland campus. SHREC’s main research focus is “mission-critical computing,” which includes space computing, high-performance computing and data analytics, and resilient computing to ensure computer dependability in harsh environments like space. The SHREC researchers currently operate two experimental space processors deployed on the NASA International Space Station and will add six more in early 2019.  “I am very pleased that the Computer Engineering Program is in a great place and is poised to continue this success,” said Dr. Jones. “I’m honored that Alan selected me to help lead SHREC’s new growth in Pittsburgh and help to establish the region as a new epicenter for space, high-performance, and resilient computing.”Associate Director Sam Dickerson and Administrator Andrea Aliquo-Valera will continue as part of the Computer Engineering Program’s leadership.“After having worked closely with Andrea from the very beginning of her time at Pitt, I believe she has become a truly great resource for our students and will continue to be a huge boon for the program as its administrator,” Dr. Jones said. “I know that Sam has already started implementing several great ideas that will also be valuable for the program including renovation of senior design and the addition of more and varied electives from the electrical and computer engineering department that will excite our students.”Dr. Jones began his service to the Computer Engineering Program in 2009 after the retirement of Ron Hoelzeman. During an Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) review, he was named the Interim Director in 2011 and was officially named Director in 2013. Dr. Jones successfully led the program through two ABET reviews.Dr. Jones earned his PhD in electrical and computer engineering from Northwestern University in 2002 where he developed the PACT compiler for low-power hardware generation from software codes. He received his master of science degree with research in parallel FPGA design from Northwestern University in 2000 and his bachelor of science degree in physics with honors from the College of William of Mary in 1998. Dr. Jones is a Sustainability Faculty Fellow and also received a Carnegie Science Award for his research activities this year. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

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