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.


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Dec
12
2019

Pitt Research Featured on December Cover of Environmental Science: Nano

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (Dec. 12, 2019) — Research from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering will be featured on the cover of the journal Environmental Science: Nano. The research, titled “Leveraging Electrochemistry to Uncover the Role of Nitrogen in the Biological Reactivity of Nitrogen-Doped Graphene,” (DOI: 10.1039/C9EN00802K) was led by Yan Wang and co-authored by Nathalia Aquino de Carvalho, graduate students in the Gilbertson Group, managed by Leanne M. Gilbertson, PhD, assistant professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department with a secondary appointment in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. The research will appear on the cover of the December 2019 issue with graphics developed by Gilbertson and Kutay Sezginel, doctoral candidate working in the Wilmer Lab.
Maggie Pavlick
Dec
10
2019

The Swanson School’s Fall 2019 Design Expo Showcases Creativity in Engineering

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Dec. 10, 2019) … Twice each year, students from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering gather at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall to showcase their innovations at the Design Expo. Student teams use this opportunity to present research from their Capstone Design courses or highlight concepts and prototypes from the School’s Product Realization and Art of Making courses. More than 75 student projects were exhibited at the event on Dec. 5, 2019. This year’s Expo aligns with Pitt’s Year of Creativity, which highlights a unifying feature across all University departments - creativity is required not only in artistic endeavors but also for identifying inventive ways to solve real-world problems. The Design Expo highlights how creativity and innovation in engineering can impact the lives of others. Judges from industry selected the best project from each of the participating courses, and attendees casted votes for the "People's Choice" Award. New this year - as part of the Year of Creativity - a prize will be awarded for the most creative project. “The Design Expo is the Swanson School’s signature competition that shines a light on our students’ high-level academic performance and ingenuity,” said Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Nickolas A. Dececco Professor of Industrial Engineering and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “Our winners have truly demonstrated their engineering abilities. I am always impressed with the quality of work that I see at this event, and I look forward to what the future holds for this year’s winning innovations.” OVERALL WINNERS Best Overall Project AOM-3: TupperWhere: A Compact Sustainable Food ContainerJamie BarishmanJosh LneBridget MoyerBobby Rouse People’s Choice Award AOM-1: It’s Your Turn: Empowering People with Fine-Motor DisabilitiesNatasha GilbertMaureen HartMadison HenkelmanShirley JiangSydney LeonardDanielle Wu Year of Creativity Award AOM-3: TupperWhere: A Compact Sustainable Food ContainerJamie BarishmanJosh LneBridget MoyerBobby Rouse DEPARTMENT WINNERS 1st Place Bioengineering BIO-6: Post-Partum Hemorrhage TrainerTyler BrayJessica BrownMarlo GarrisonMaddie HobbsAlly McDonaldJake Meadows 2nd Place Bioengineering BIO-7: Patient Specific Endovascular TrainerDaniella Carter (Nursing)Elliott HammersleyMaddie JohnsonSara KenesLiam MartinCeline Rivera (Nursing)Cassie Smith 3rd Place Bioengineering BIO-3: Nurse-Assistive Patient Rotation Mechanism for Pressure Sore ExaminationPatrick BohseJordan Cobb (Nursing)Julie ConstantinescuChristy HeislerHaiden McDonald 1st Place Civil and Environmental Engineering CEE-5: PWSA - ClearwellTristan AbrahamTimothy ChebuskeAndrew DawsonRachel FayChristina RogersMason Unger 2nd Place Civil and Environmental Engineering CEE-1: Pittsburgh International Airport - New BuildingSeth AppelCole BurdenAdam ChidiacLiam StubanasMark Vrabel 1st Place Electrical and Computer Engineering ECE-4: Electric Vehicle to Grid: Microgrid IntegrationNate CarnovaleAqilah Mahmud ZuhriElizabeth RagerSeth SoStephen Wilson 2nd Place Electrical and Computer Engineering ECE-5: LUMINBen BirkettAustin ChampionChristopher EngelJared LinBrian McMinn 3rd Place Electrical and Computer Engineering ECE-6: ParkITJustin AndersonBen HarrisParker MaySam PetersonRob Schwartz 1st Place Industrial Engineering IE-3: GraneRx Performance DashboardAdvisor: Caroline KolmanMarlee BrownSean CallaghanAlex HartmanAdam Sneath 2nd Place Industrial Engineering IE-7: Tiered Approach for Increasing Inventory Accuracy of Raw Materials at AccuTrexAdvisor: Jayent RajgopalZach DissenMaiti KeenDina PerlicJenna RudolphConnor Wurst 1st Place Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science MEMS-1: Hockey Skate Laces Tension Retaining Device and Adaptation for Use with Athletic ShoesAdvisor: Brad Pelkofer – Panther LacesDaniel GunterDavis HerchkoKaylee LevineDavid Maupin 2nd Place Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science MEMS-9: Unripe Fruit Removal System for TomatoHarvesting RobotAdvisor: Mr. Brandon Contino – Four GrowersGabriel FruitmanJames MaierJoshua Pope 3rd Place Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science MEMS-10: Development of a System to Test Anterior Cruciate Ligament FailureAdvisor: Dr. Patrick SmolinskiAustin BussardAlexander HourietSydney LeonardGriffin Monahan 1st Place Product Realization PR-2: Body Camera Range ExtenderAmedeo HirataJoshua LineRyan BarrettTyler Smith 2nd Place Product Realization PR-1: Alarm and Safe IntegrationAlex DziakLindsey LauruneAlex BuonomoGaby Robinson 1st Place Art of Making AOM-3: TupperWhere: A Compact Sustainable Food ContainerJamie BarishmanJosh LneBridget MoyerBobby Rouse 2nd Place Art of Making AOM-1: It’s Your Turn: Empowering People with Fine-Motor DisabilitiesNatasha GilbertMaureen HartMadison HenkelmanShirley JiangSydney LeonardDanielle Wu 1st Place Medical Product Prototyping MPP-3: Acetone BreathalyzerBrinden EltonPhillip Harding 2nd Place Medical Product Prototyping MPP-2: ET3Nikki CwalinaLiam McNamaraBryce Norwood Click here to view the full collection of photos.

Dec
6
2019

Synthesizing an Artificial Synapse for Artificial Intelligence

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (Dec. 6, 2019) —In science fiction stories from “I, Robot” to “Star Trek,” an android’s “positronic brain” enables it to function like a human, but with tremendously more processing power and speed. In reality, the opposite is true: a human brain - which today is still more proficient than CPUs at cognitive tasks like pattern recognition - needs only 20 watts of power to complete a task, while a supercomputer requires more than 50,000 times that amount of energy. For that reason, researchers are turning to neuromorphic computer and artificial neural networks that work more like the human brain. However, with current technology, it is both challenging and expensive to replicate the spatio-temporal processes native to the brain, like short-term and long-term memory, in artificial spiking neural networks (SNN). Feng Xiong, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, received a $500,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his work developing the missing element, a dynamic synapse, that will  dramatically improve energy efficiency, bandwidth and cognitive capabilities of SNNs. “When the human brain sees rain and then feels wetness, or sees fire and feels heat, the brain’s synapses link the two ideas, so in the future, it will associate rain with wetness and fire with warmth. The two ideas are strongly linked in the brain,” explains Xiong. “Computers, on the other hand, need to be fed massive datasets to do the same task. Our dynamic synapse would mimic the brain’s ability to create neuronal connections as a function of the timing differences between stimulations, significantly improving the energy efficiency required to perform a task.” Current non-volatile memory devices that have been studied for use as artificial synapses in SNNs haven’t measured up: they are designed to retain data permanently and aren’t suited for the spatio-temporal dynamics and high precision that the human brain is capable of. In the brain, it’s not only the information that matters but also the timing of the information—for example, in some situations, the closer two pieces of information are in time, the stronger the synaptic strand between them. By programming the conductor to conduct more electricity for a stronger neural connection, it can function more like the synapses of the human brain, giving more weight to items that are more closely linked as it learns. “The resulted change in the electrical conductance (representing the synaptic weight or the synaptic connection strength) in the dynamic synapse will have both a short-term and a long-term component, mimicking the short-term and long-term memory/learning in the human brain,” says Xiong. Though researchers have demonstrated this kind of technology before in the lab, this project is the first time it will be applied to an SNN. The application could lead to the wide use of AI and revolutionary advances in cognitive computing, self-driving vehicles, and autonomous manufacturing. In addition to the research component of the project, Xiong will use the opportunity to engage future engineers in his research. He plans to develop an after-school outreach program, host nanotech workshops with the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science, and welcome undergraduate engineering majors at Pitt to engage with the research. The project is titled “Scalable Ionic Gated 2D Synapse (IG-2DS) with Programmable Spatio-Temporal Dynamics for Spiking Neural Networks” and will begin on March 1, 2020.
Maggie Pavlick
Dec
2
2019

Computing at the Speed of Light

Electrical & Computer

Nathan Youngblood, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was a part of Harish Bhaskaran's Advanced Nanoscale Engineering research group at the University of Oxford before joining the University of Pittsburgh. The group's research was recently published in the journal Science Advances. Republished with permission from the University of Oxford. OXFORD, United Kingdom (Dec. 2, 2019) -- The first ever integrated nanoscale device which can be programmed with either photons or electrons has been developed by scientists in Harish Bhaskaran’s Advanced Nanoscale Engineering research group at the University of Oxford. In collaboration with researchers at the universities of Münster and Exeter, scientists have created a first-of-a-kind electro-optical device which bridges the fields of optical and electronic computing. This provides an elegant solution to achieving faster and more energy efficient memories and processors. Computing at the speed of light has been an enticing but elusive prospect, but with this development it’s now in tangible proximity. Using light to encode as well as transfer information enables these processes to occur at the ultimate speed limit – that of light. While as of recently, using light for certain processes has been experimentally demonstrated, a compact device to interface with the electronic architecture of traditional computers has been lacking. The incompatibility of electrical and light-based computing fundamentally stems from the different interaction volumes that electrons and photons operate in. Electrical chips need to be small to operate efficiently, whereas optical chips need to be large, as the wavelength of light is larger than that of electrons. To overcome this challenging problem the scientists came up with a solution to confine light into nanoscopic dimensions, as detailed in their paper Plasmonic nanogap enhanced phase change devices with dual electrical-optical functionality published in Science Advances, 29 November 2019. They created a design which allowed them to compress light into a nano-sized volume through what is known as surface plasmon polariton. The dramatic size reduction in conjunction with the significantly increased energy density is what has allowed them to bridge the apparent incompatibility of photons and electrons for data storage and computation. More specifically, it was shown that by sending either electrical or optical signals, the state of a photo- and electro-sensitive material was transformed between two different states of molecular order. Further, the state of this phase-transforming material was read out by either light or electronics thereby making the device the first electro-optical nanoscale memory cell with non-volatile characteristics. “This is a very promising path forward in computation and especially in fields where high processing efficiency is needed,” states Nikolaos Farmakidis, graduate student and co-first author. Co-author Nathan Youngblood continues: “This naturally includes artificial intelligence applications where in many occasions the needs for high-performance, low-power computing far exceeds our current capabilities. It is believed that interfacing light-based photonic computing with its electrical counterpart is the key to the next chapter in CMOS technologies.” ### Additional Information: The work was carried out as part of the H2020 project Fun-COMP (#780848), see www.fun-comp.org for further details Paper published 29 November 2019: Plasmonic nanogap enhanced phase-change devices with dual electrical-optical functionality Nikolaos Farmakidis1*, Nathan Youngblood1*, Xuan Li1, James Tan1, Jacob L. Swett1, Zengguang Cheng1, C. David Wright2, Wolfram H. P. Pernice3, Harish Bhaskaran1 1 Department of Materials, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PH, UK. 2 Department of Engineering, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 QF, UK. 3 Institute of Physics, University of Muenster, Heisenbergstr, 11, 48149 Muenster, Germany. *These authors contributed equally to this work.

Nov
21
2019

Eight Receive Mascaro Faculty Program in Sustainability Awards

Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Nov. 21, 2019) — The University of Pittsburgh’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) named eight faculty awardees for the 2020 John C. Mascaro Faculty Program in Sustainability. The one-year awards, created to enhance the University’s mission of interdisciplinary excellence in sustainability research and education, go to faculty members from all disciplines, who may apply as faculty fellows, scholars or lecturers. “From proposing ways to give students more hands-on experience with sustainability to the incorporation of arts- and humanities-based approaches to sustainability discourse, this year’s award recipients demonstrate the interdisciplinary work we strive for,” says Gena Kovalcik, co-director of administration and external relations at MCSI. “We’re excited to see the great work they will do.” John C. Mascaro Faculty Fellow in Sustainability: David Finegold, Graduate School of Public Health John C. Mascaro Faculty Scholars in Sustainability: Tony Kerzmann, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Sara Kuebbing, Department of Biological Sciences John C. Mascaro Faculty Lecturers in Sustainability: Joshua Groffman, Division of Communication and the Arts, Pitt Bradford Katherine Hornbostel, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Robert Kerestes, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Pamela Stewart, Department of Anthropology Andrew Strathern, Department of Anthropology
Maggie Pavlick

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