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Nov

Nov
19
2020

University of Pittsburgh Joins New DOE Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute

Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Nuclear

SAN ANTONIO, TX (November 19, 2020) ... The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) today formally launched the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CyManII), a $111 million public-private partnership. Led by UTSA, the university will enter into a five-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to lead a consortium of 59 proposed member institutions in introducing a cybersecure energy-ROI that drives American manufacturers and supply chains to further adopt secure, energy-efficient approaches, ultimately securing and sustaining the nation’s leadership in global manufacturing competitiveness.U.S. manufacturers are one of the top targets for cyber criminals and nation-state adversaries, impacting the production of energy technologies such as electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines. Integration across the supply chain network and an increased use of automation applied in manufacturing processes can make industrial infrastructures vulnerable to cyber-attacks. To protect American manufacturing jobs and workers, CyManII will transform U.S. advanced manufacturing and make manufacturers more energy efficient, resilient and globally competitive against our nation’s adversaries.“The University of Pittsburgh is proud to be among the inaugural member institutions of this national effort to develop cyber security and energy research to benefit U.S. manufacturing expertise,” noted Rob A. Rutenbar,Senior Vice Chancellor for Research at Pitt. “Both our Swanson School of Engineering and School of Computing and Information at the forefront of innovations in advanced manufacturing, cyber infrastructure and security, sustainable energy, materials science and supply chain management. Our faculty are looking forward to participating in this groundbreaking institute.”“The exploitation of advanced materials and computing can provide us with a more holistic approach to secure the nation’s manufacturing infrastructure, from communication networks and assembly lines to intricate computer code and distribution systems,” added Daniel Cole, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and co-director of the Swanson School’s Hacking for Defense program. “Just as our personal computers and cell phones are vulnerable to cyber-attacks, so too is our complex manufacturing industry. But thanks to this national effort through CyManII, we will not only be able to develop defenses but also create more sustainable and energy efficient technologies for industry.”“I am excited for the potential collaborations between our faculty and the innovations they will develop,” said David Vorp, Associate Dean for Research at the Swanson School. “We already have a healthy collaboration with faculty in the School of Computing and Information, and sustainability informs our research, academics, and operations. CyManII presents a new opportunity for us to engage in transformative, trans-disciplinary research.”As part of its national strategy, CyManII will focus on three high priority areas where collaborative research and development can help U.S. manufacturers: securing automation, securing the supply chain network, and building a national program for education and workforce development. “As U.S. manufacturers increasingly deploy automation tools in their daily work, those technologies must be embedded with powerful cybersecurity protections,” said Howard Grimes, CyManII Chief Executive Officer and UTSA Associate Vice President and Associate Vice Provost for Institutional Initiatives. “UTSA has assembled a team of best-in-class national laboratories, industry, nonprofit and academic organizations to cybersecure the U.S. manufacturing enterprise. Together, we will share the mission to protect the nation’s supply chain, preserve its critical infrastructure and boost its economy.”CyManII’s research objectives will focus on understanding the evolving cybersecurity threats to greater energy efficiency in manufacturing industries, developing new cybersecurity technologies and methods, and sharing information and knowledge with the broader community of U.S. manufacturers.CyManII aims to revolutionize cybersecurity in manufacturing by designing and building a secure manufacturing architecture that is pervasive, unobtrusive and enables energy efficiency. Grimes says this industry-driven approach is essential, allowing manufacturers of all sizes to invest in cybersecurity and achieve an energy ROI rather than continually spending money on cyber patches.These efforts will result in a suite of methods, standards and tools rooted in the concept that everything in the manufacturing supply chain has a unique authentic identity. These solutions will address the comprehensive landscape of complex vulnerabilities and be economically implemented in a wide array of machines and environments.“CyManII leverages the unique research capabilities of the Idaho, Oak Ridge and Sandia National Laboratories as well as critical expertise across our partner cyber manufacturing ecosystem,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “UTSA is proud and honored to partner with the DOE to advance cybersecurity in energy-efficient manufacturing for the nation.”CyManII has 59 proposed members including three Department of Energy National Laboratories (Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories), four Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, 24 powerhouse universities, 18 industry leaders, and 10 nonprofits. This national network of members will drive impact across the nation and solve the biggest challenges facing cybersecurity in the U.S manufacturing industry.CyManII is funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) and co-managed with the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). ------ Learn more about the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute.
Author: EmilyGuajardo, CyManII Communications Manager
Nov
11
2020

Astrobotic and SHREC Partnering for Space Technologies Research

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (November 9, 2020) ... Astrobotic and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) are pleased to announce a partnership to develop new software and hardware technologies for future space applications. The SHREC consortium, led by the University of Pittsburgh, is an NSF Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) and will work together with Astrobotic by pairing first-class academic researchers with engineering teams to translate concepts into tangible innovations that will support lunar landings, rover missions, satellite servicing, and more. A diverse cohort of researchers, scientists, and engineers at Astrobotic and SHREC will share intellectual property, domain expertise, and practical know-how to develop space computing platforms, among other technologies. The teams have already kicked off collaboration on Astrobotic’s Phase II NASA SBIR contract to develop UltraNav, a compact smart camera for next-generation space missions. This low size, weight, and power system includes an integrated suite of hardware-accelerated computer vision algorithms that enable a wide range of in-space applications, including satellite servicing, autonomous rover navigation, and precision planetary landing. “The University of Pittsburgh’s space-focused engineering program is developing incredible technologies through a mixture of universities and companies supporting foundational and applied research,” says Chris Owens, Astrobotic Research Engineer and Principal Investigator for the UltraNav project. “In addition to research collaboration, Astrobotic is taking advantage of the partnership with SHREC to revamp our internship program. We are supporting not just SHREC students, but students in Pittsburgh and beyond who might want to give space a try.” “On behalf of all students and faculty in SHREC, we are most honored to be partnering with the leading space company in our region,” said Alan George, SHREC Center Director and R&H Mickle Endowed Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “We look forward to many collaborations on space research, technologies, experiments, and workforce development.” SHREC has a proven track record of developing computing solutions and advanced algorithms to handle the challenging radiation and thermal environment of space. Astrobotic has most recently worked with Bosch Research to develop hardware for the SoundSee Mission to the International Space Station (ISS). SHREC also boasts hardware currently in orbit on the ISS through multiple missions with the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program. SHREC and Astrobotic will use these platforms to test technologies in space before launching. Astrobotic and SHREC, both founded in 2007, are examples of the Pittsburgh region’s renewed invigoration in the space industry – Astrobotic with its recent $199.5 million VIPER contract win from NASA and SHREC curating its dozens of partnerships with leading space companies and agencies across the nation. Both Astrobotic and SHREC are participants in the PGH Space Collaborative, a group seeking to coalesce a broader network of existing regional assets to revitalize Pittsburgh as a space robotics hub. The Astrobotic-SHREC partnership begins with a two-year-long agreement and will culminate in an enhanced UltraNav system in 2022. About AstroboticAstrobotic Technology, Inc. is a space robotics company making space accessible to the world. They develop advanced navigation, operation, and computing systems for spacecraft, and their fleet of lunar landers and rovers deliver payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits, and individuals. The company has more than 50 prior and ongoing NASA and commercial technology contracts and a corporate sponsorship with DHL. Astrobotic was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA.
Alivia Chapla, Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist, Astrobotic
Nov
9
2020

Tracking Monarch Butterfly Migration with the World’s Smallest Computer

Electrical & Computer

Each year, monarch butterflies make their way from the U.S. and Canada to central Mexico, where they'll spend the winter. Inhee Lee, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering, partnered with researchers at the University of Michigan to create a tiny sensor to track and monitor the environmental conditions the butterflies encounter on the way. "We had to create a sensor small enough to be glued to the butterfly, which presented challenges for how to power it," said Lee. "We created a sensor that operates on very little power, has a small battery, and contains a very small solar panel to recharge the battery." The information collected by the sensor will help researchers understand the environmental conditions along the butterflies' path and inform where to focus conservation activities. Story originally appeared on the Michigan Engineering News Center from The University of Michigan. Reposted with permission. ### In Mexico, days before the COVID-19 shutdown, a team of engineers and biologists were riding on horseback into the heart of a popular overwintering site for monarch butterflies to conduct preliminary tests on their newest iteration of the Michigan Micro Mote (M3). The project, supported in part by National Geographic, hopes to aid wildlife conservation efforts by shedding light on butterfly migration and habitat conditions. The M3, created by David Blaauw, Kensall D. Wise Collegiate Professor of EECS, and several other University of Michigan researchers, is a fully energy-autonomous computing system that acts as a smart sensing system and can be configured for a wide variety of applications. For this project, the M3 will be glued to the back of individual monarch butterflies to track and monitor environmental conditions – specifically light and temperature and eventually air pressure – they encounter during migration. “This is our most complex M3 system,” says Blaauw. “We need to capture data about the light intensity that is accurate down to a few seconds, and we need to be able to transmit that captured data a long distance because we will not be able to physically retrieve the specimens.” Blaauw and Prof. Inhee Lee, an ECE alum who is now at the University of Pittsburgh, are responsible for the chip and system design. Prof. Hun-Seok Kim designs and trains the algorithms that analyze the captured data and reconstruct the migratory path of the specimen. André Green, a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at U-M, analyzes these paths to learn more about monarch biology and applies this knowledge to conservation efforts. Monarchs can travel as far as 3,000 miles during migration, spending the summer across the US and southern Canada to breed and the winter mostly in Mexico and along the coasts of California. The sensors have to be hardy enough to survive the long trip, as well as any inclement weather along the way, but light enough so they don’t disrupt the behavior or harm the butterflies. This iteration of the M3 is the lightest yet, weighing around 50 milligrams, which is tenfold lighter than the lightest tracking devices to date. As part of the team’s preliminary tests, they attached M3s to several butterflies and monitored their condition in a greenhouse. “All initial indications are that we’re not having strong negative effects on the butterflies,” says Green. “We found no significant difference in their metabolism whether they were carrying the sensor or not.” The conventional method to study monarch migration involves attaching a paper tag to an individual butterfly and recovering the specimen at known monarch destinations. “Using that technique, we can know only the starting point and ending point for the specimens we recover, which is a small percentage of the total,” Lee says. “But with our technique, we can actually track each individual’s complete path.” In addition to tracking the entirety of an individual monarch’s journey, this will be the first time it’s possible for conservationists to see how day-to-day environmental conditions impact their behavior. “We’ll be able to see what types of habitats they actually spend their time in,” Green says. “That will help inform where we should focus efforts for conservation activity.” Monarchs are particularly important for conservation, for they act as a sentinel species. Since monarchs travel to many different locations, they show us how the collective impact of human activities affect the wellbeing of an entire population. One of the biggest challenges has been figuring out how to pinpoint a monarch’s location, for a GPS is too large and heavy to include in the device. “We can infer the data indirectly from other primitive ultra-low power sensors using a new data-driven framework,” Kim says. The team uses deep learning algorithms and neural networks to evaluate the environmental data and infer the location based on matching conditions. The location model is created from data collected by nearly 300 volunteers who act as pseudo-butterflies. The volunteers, or citizen scientists, use sensors to collect environmental data along known monarch migration routes. “Bicyclists travel around the same speed and the same distance as monarchs do in a particular day,” Blaauw says, “so we have volunteer cyclists take larger sensors with them on multi-day trips, and we use that data to check the algorithms. It’s a bit of a role reversal, for normally we use animals to model as humans in science, but this time we’re using humans to model for animals.” “Working together with the volunteers is the most exciting part of this project,” Kim says. “It is a very rare opportunity to design an advanced machine learning algorithm using the data collected by K – 12 students and their families.” The team is hoping to do a few preliminary deployments this fall in specific local areas (COVID-19 permitting), and another deployment next fall in more distant locations. They plan to scale up gradually to full deployment that covers the entire migration range over the next year or two. This iteration of the M3 could be applied to tracking other species as well, furthering additional wildlife conservation efforts. For more information on the project or how you can volunteer, visit https://monarch.engin.umich.edu/
Hayley Hanway, ECE Communications Coordinator, University of Michigan

Oct

Oct
22
2020

Pitt to collaborate on new artificial intelligence study of Alzheimer’s

Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer

Heng Huang, John A. Jurenko Endowed Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, will lead the University of Pittsburgh research on a collaborative study awarded to the University of Southern California's Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging Informatics Institute. “Current analytic methods have not kept pace with the vast amount and high complexity of data that is being collected on Alzheimer’s disease,” said Huang, who also holds an appointment in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Pitt. “As a pioneer scientist with more than 15 years of experience in machine learning and biomedical data science, I am the main leader of the advanced AI and machine learning techniques developed in this project.” His award is in collaboration with Liang Zhan, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt. The joint project has six dedicated core teams that will focus on ultra-scale genomics, imaging, and cognitive data analysis. The Pitt team will lead the AI&ML core and the Genomic Sequencing Data Analysis core while also contributing to the Imaging Genetics core. # # # Reposted with permission. Click here to view the University of Southern California's original story. USC leads massive new artificial intelligence study of Alzheimer’s By Zara Greenbaum A massive problem like Alzheimer’s disease (AD)—which affects nearly 50 million people worldwide—requires bold solutions. New funding expected to total $17.8 million awarded to USC’s Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging Informatics Institute and its collaborators is one key piece of that puzzle. The five-year National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded effort, “Ultrascale Machine Learning to Empower Discovery in Alzheimer’s Disease Biobanks,” known as AI4AD, will develop state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) methods and apply them to giant databases of genetic, imaging and cognitive data collected from AD patients. Forty co-investigators at 11 research centers will team up to leverage AI and machine learning to bolster precision diagnostics, prognosis and the development of new treatments for AD. “Our team of experts in computer science, genetics, neuroscience and imaging sciences will create algorithms that analyze data at a previously impossible scale,” says Paul Thompson, associate director of the USC INI and project leader for the new grant. “Collectively, this will enable the discovery of new features in the genome that influence the biological processes involved in Alzheimer’s disease.” Predicting a diagnosis The project’s first objective is to identify genetic and biological markers that predict an AD diagnosis—and to distinguish between several subtypes of the disease. To accomplish this, the research team will apply sophisticated AI and machine learning methods to a variety of data types, including tens of thousands of brain images and whole genome sequences. The investigators will then relate these findings to the clinical progression of AD, including in patients who have not yet developed dementia symptoms. The researchers will train AI methods on large databases of brain scans to identify patterns that can help detect the disease as it emerges in individual patients. “As we get older, each of us has a unique mix of brain changes that occur for decades before we develop any signs of Alzheimer’s disease–changes in our blood vessels, the buildup of abnormal protein deposits and brain cell loss”, says Thompson, who also directs the USC INI’s Imaging Genetics Center. “Our new AI methods will help us determine what changes are happening in each patient, as well as drivers of these processes in their DNA, that we can target with new drugs.” The team is even creating a dedicated “Drug Repurposing Core” to identify ways to repurpose existing drugs to target newly identified segments of the genome, molecules or neurobiological processes involved in the disease. “We predict that combining AI with whole genome data and advanced brain scans will outperform methods used today to predict Alzheimer’s disease progression,” says Thompson. Advancing AI The AI4AD effort is part of the “Cognitive Systems Analysis of Alzheimer's Disease Genetic and Phenotypic Data” and “Harmonization of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (AD/ADRD) Genetic, Epidemiologic, and Clinical Data to Enhance Therapeutic Target Discovery” initiatives from the NIH’s National Institute on Aging. These initiatives aim to create and develop advanced AI methods, and apply them to extensive and harmonized rich genomic, imaging, and cognitive data. Collectively, the goals of AI4AD leverage the promise of machine learning to contribute to precision diagnostics, prognostication, and targeted and novel treatments. Thompson and his USC team will collaborate with four co-principal investigators at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh and the Indiana University School of Medicine. The researchers will also host regular training events at major AD neuroimaging and genetics conferences to help disseminate newly developed AI tools to investigators across the field. Research reported in this publication will be supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U01AG068057. Also involved in the project are INI faculty members Neda Jahanshad, PhD, and Lauren Salminen, PhD, as well as consortium manager Sophia Thomopoulos. # # #
Zara Greenbaum
Oct
21
2020

Pitt Engineering Alumnus Dedicates Major Gift Toward Undergraduate Tuition Support

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, Nuclear, Diversity, Investing Now

PITTSBURGH (October 21, 2020) …  An eight-figure donation from an anonymous graduate of the Swanson School of Engineering and spouse to the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering in their estate planning to provide financial aid to undergraduate students who are enrolled in the Pitt EXCEL Program. Announced today by Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and US Steel Dean of Engineering James R. Martin II, the donors' bequest will provide tuition support for underprivileged or underrepresented engineering students who are residents of the United States of America and in need of financial aid. “I am extremely grateful for this gift, which supports the University of Pittsburgh’s efforts to tackle one of society’s greatest challenges—the inequity of opportunity,” Gallagher said. “Put into action, this commitment will help students from underrepresented groups access a world-class Pitt education and—in doing so—help elevate the entire field of engineering.” “Our dedication as engineers is to create new knowledge that benefits the human condition, and that includes educating the next generation of engineers. Our students’ success informs our mission, and I am honored and humbled that our donors are vested in helping to expand the diversity of engineering students at Pitt,” Martin noted. “Often the most successful engineers are those who have the greatest need or who lack access, and support such as this is critical to expanding our outreach and strengthening the role of engineers in society.” A Gift to Prepare the Workforce of the Future Martin noted that the gift is timely because it was made shortly after Chancellor Gallagher’s call this past summer to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all, especially for the University’s future students. The gift – and the donors’ passion for the Swanson School – show that there is untapped potential as well as significant interest in addressing unmet need for students who represent a demographic shift in the American workforce.  “By 2050, when the U.S. will have a minority-majority population, two-thirds of the American workforce will require a post-secondary education,” Martin explained. “We are already reimagining how we deliver engineering education and research, and generosity such as this will lessen the financial burden that students will face to prepare for that future workforce.” A Half-Century of IMPACT on Engineering Equity In 1969 the late Dr. Karl Lewis (1/15/1936-3/5/2019) founded the IMPACT Program at the University of Pittsburgh to encourage minority and financially and culturally disadvantaged students to enter and graduate from the field of engineering. The six-week program prepared incoming first year students through exposure to university academic life, development of study skills, academic and career counseling, and coursework to reinforce strengths or remedy weaknesses. Many Pitt alumni today still note the role that Lewis and IMPACT had on their personal and professional lives.  Under Lewis’ leadership, IMPACT sparked the creation of two award-winning initiatives within the Swanson School’s Office of Diversity: INVESTING NOW, a college preparatory program created to stimulate, support, and recognize the high academic performance of pre-college students from groups that are historically underrepresented in STEM majors. Pitt EXCEL, a comprehensive undergraduate diversity program committed to the recruitment, retention, and graduation of academically excellent engineering undergraduates, particularly individuals from groups historically underrepresented in the field. “Dr. Lewis, like so many of his generation, started a movement that grew beyond one person’s idea,” said Yvette Wisher, Director of Pitt EXCEL. “Anyone who talks to today’s EXCEL students can hear the passion of Dr. Lewis and see how exceptional these young people will be as engineers and individuals. They and the hundreds of students who preceded them are the reason why Pitt EXCEL is game-changer for so many.”  Since its inception, Pitt EXCEL has helped more than 1,500 students earn their engineering degrees and become leaders and change agents in their communities. Ms. Wisher says the most important concept she teaches students who are enrolled in the program is to give back however they can once they graduate—through mentorship, volunteerism, philanthropy, or advocacy.  Supporting the Change Agents of Tomorrow “Pitt EXCEL is a home - but more importantly, a family. The strong familial bonds within Pitt EXCEL are what attracted me to Swanson as a graduating high school senior, what kept me going throughout my time in undergrad and what keeps me energized to this very day as a PhD student,” explained Isaiah M. Spencer Williams, BSCE ’19 and currently a pre-doctoral student in the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Pitt EXCEL is a family where iron sharpens iron and where we push each other to be the best that we can be every day. Beyond that, it is a space where you are not only holistically nurtured and supported but are also groomed to pave the way for and invest into those who are coming behind you.  “Pitt EXCEL, and by extension, Dr. Lewis' legacy and movement are the reasons why I am the leader and change agent that I am today. This generous gift will ensure a bright future for underrepresented engineering students in the Pitt EXCEL Program, and will help to continue the outstanding development of the change agents of tomorrow.”  Setting a Foundation for Community Support “Next year marks the 51st anniversary of IMPACT/EXCEL as well as the 175th year of engineering at Pitt and the 50th anniversary of Benedum Hall,” Dean Martin said. “The Swanson School of Engineering represents 28,000 alumni around the world, who in many ways are life-long students of engineering beyond the walls of Benedum, but who share pride in being Pitt Engineers. “The key to our future success is working together as a global community to find within ourselves how we can best support tomorrow’s students,” Martin concluded. “We should all celebrate this as a foundational cornerstone gift for greater engagement.” ###

Oct
1
2020

Pitt ECE Alumni Organize Indy Autonomous Challenge Entry

Electrical & Computer

Reposted with permission from Robotics Institute Summer Scholars. Original story here. ### Two members of the RISS Alumni Share Their Latest Robotics Project & Invite Your Participation Led by a group of motivated CMU Masters in Robotics students (MSR) and RI Summer Scholars (RISS) alumni, Panther AV RAS-ing is the University of Pittsburgh’s entry, a city-wide effort with virtual partners beyond our region’s borders,  in the Indy Autonomous Challenge, a competition devoted to developing software for an autonomous high-speed Indy car. We hope that by participating in this challenge, we can bring more people into the Pittsburgh robotics community. Our team is led by Nayana Suvarna, Josh Spisak, and Andrew Saba. Nayana, the University of Pittsburgh’s Robotics & Automation Society (RAS) President and a RISS 2020 Scholar, is the project lead and manages the project. Andrew, a former RAS officer, RISS 2019 Scholar, and future MSR student, provides technical mentorship to team members. Josh, an MSR student, also helps mentor the project technically. Relying on their experiences making robots at CMU and in RAS, our leaders believe our team is uniquely qualified to win this challenge, while also recognizing the importance of fostering robotics at Pitt and elsewhere. As part of the Indy Autonomous Challenge, our algorithms will be deployed on an Indy race car traveling over 120 mph on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2021. This isn’t a single car race; instead, we will be racing head to head against other vehicles from schools such as MIT, TUM, ETH, and others. We feel that this competition will spark a greater interest in robotics at the University of Pittsburgh. We value participation for anyone and everyone, including those working remotely due to COVID, and students who may not have access to universities with dedicated robotics programs. There are many areas in which our team is skilled, including autonomous unmanned aerial and ground vehicles, SLAM and localization, motion planning and controls, perception, systems development, multi-agent systems, and fast aerial-flight. Our members developed this experience while participating in RAS projects such as the International Aerial Robotics Competition (IARC), which won first place at the American Venue in 2017 and 2018. Our members have also worked on many competitions at CMU, such as the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, MBZIRC, and AlphaPilot. In pursuing this challenge we are following in the footsteps of RAS alumni who have gone on to top-tier graduate schools, including CMU, UC Berkeley, University of Maryland, and the University of Pittsburgh. In addition, our members and alumni, including our team leads and mentors, have worked at cutting-edge robotics companies including Uber ATG, Argo AI, Aurora Innovations, Carnegie Robotics, IAMRobotics, Near Earth Autonomy, Neya Systems, RE2, Four Growers, Redzone Robotics, and Gecko Robotics, among many others. We are looking forward to continuing to lay the groundwork for our future endeavors, expanding our experience into the realm of high-speed vehicles, and bringing robotics to as many people as possible. Pushing the frontier of self-driving vehicles and artificial intelligence is not an easy task. Bringing our car over the finish line will take the support of many passionate roboticists and sponsors. Join the mission and bring autonomous high-speed head-to-head racing to Pittsburgh! In the age of Covid-19, there are many opportunities to contribute remotely or socially distanced. Technical expertise, communications, media, and sponsors are key to building, communicating, and supporting this journey. Connect with us and contribute your skills and resources to drive Pittsburgh autonomous racing to success! Reach out to us (Nayana Suvarna, Josh Spisak, or Andrew Saba) at [nsuvarna, jspisak, asaba]@andrew.cmu.edu. We look forward to hearing from you!

Sep

Sep
30
2020

Powering AI in Sensors with Energy Harvested from Nature

Electrical & Computer

In a city with 446 bridges, how do you effectively monitor the health of the structures that help residents navigate above Pittsburgh’s three rivers? Experts rely on remote sensors fastened beneath a bridge that continuously detect vibrations and produce data for structural health monitoring. These kinds of wireless, battery-operated devices are often placed in hard-to-reach areas, complicating maintenance. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Notre Dame want to apply artificial intelligence to extend the lifetime of sensors and devices deployed in remote areas. They received a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation to support their work. “One of the major challenges with these sensors is battery replacement. Many times, it is costly, inconvenient, or even infeasible to replace or charge these batteries after deployment,” said Jingtong Hu, lead researcher on the study and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Hu and the research team want to develop a way to save power on the remote sensor device by leveraging energy-harvesting technology, which sources power from the environment, such as solar, thermal, or wind. They plan to add a second, small sensor that can trigger a more robust device, thus saving energy and allowing users to change the battery less frequently. The smaller sensor -- powered by energy harvested from the environment -- will run unattended, and with the help of AI, it can be trained to recognize patterns and signal the larger device to turn on during a specific event. “The main device is programmed to do all of the legwork,” explained Hu. “The smaller sensor is the watchdog that can monitor the environment and wake up the larger sensor when necessary.” These devices have many applications, including monitoring and predicting natural disasters. Sensor technology is currently used to observe gases emitted by active volcanoes in some of the most remote parts of the planet. This requires researchers to take long, arduous hikes to reach the location -- all while wearing protective equipment to prevent damage to the skin and lungs from the extreme heat and corrosive gases. With Hu’s improvements, the researchers may be able to make trips such as these – whether to the tops of volcanoes or under bridge trusses –  less frequently. If successful, the project may ultimately allow these devices to be powered by the environment to help protect the environment. He will collaborate with Yiyu Shi, associate professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Notre Dame. “One of the main challenges of running AI algorithms with energy harvested from the environment is that the energy from the environment is intermittent,” Hu explained. “Much like a laptop, if the sensor loses power, you lose the data, so we want to help AI algorithms reach an accurate decision, even with intermittent power. “By applying AI, we hope to increase the lifespan of unattended sensors and make them more reliable and useful,” he said. # # #

Sep
28
2020

Four Pitt Engineering Researchers Receive NSF CAREER Awards in 2020 Funding Cycle

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (September 28, 2020) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering closed out the 2020 fiscal year with four faculty winning CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation. This brings the total to 15 CAREER awards received by Swanson School faculty since 2016. According to NSF, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is its most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. “I am incredibly proud of our young faculty for contributing to the Swanson School’s diverse research portfolio and achieving this important recognition in their early career,” said David Vorp, associate dean for research and the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering. “Over the past few years, we have improved faculty resources for developing and applying for federal funding, and the number of CAREER recipients is a great indicator of our success.” The 2020 recipients include: Takashi D-Y Kozai, assistant professor of bioengineeringUncovering the Impact of Traditional and Novel Chronic Stimulation Modalities on Neural Excitability and Native Neuronal Network Function Dr. Kozai received a $437,144 CAREER award to improve the integration of the brain and technology in order to study long-standing questions in neurobiology and improve clinical applications of brain-computer interfaces. One of the challenges remaining with this technology is achieving long-term and precise stimulation of a specific group of neurons. Kozai has designed a wireless, light-activated electrodethat enables precise neural circuit probing while minimizing tissue damage. The funding will enable him to further improve this technology. Sangyeop Lee, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science Machine Learning Enabled Study of Thermal Transport in Polycrystalline Materials from First Principles Dr. Lee’s $500,000 CAREER award will utilize machine learning to model thermal transport in polycrystalline materials. Developing materials with ultrahigh or ultralow thermal conductivity along a certain direction can enable new energy storage and conversion devices. However, grain boundaries - two-dimensional defects in crystal structures - exist in polycrystalline material and significantly affect thermal transport. Addressing the defects is currently not efficient - observing and experimenting with grain boundaries when creating materials can prove to be a lengthy and costly process. Machine learning may provide a more sustainable alternative. His research seeks to create a computer model that can predict the conductive properties of a material in real life, providing guidance to engineer defects for desired thermal properties. Jason Shoemaker, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering Enabling Immunomodulatory Treatment of Influenza Infection using Multiscale Modeling When a person contracts a respiratory viral infection like COVID-19 or influenza, the immune system responds in a myriad of ways to eliminate the virus. Respiratory viral infections are so dangerous, however, because excessive immune responses may cause extreme lung inflammation. However, Dr. Shoemaker’s new modeling research may help doctors better predict and treat patients who are most at risk to that extreme response. His $547,494 CAREER Award will fund creation of computational models of the immune response to seasonal, deadly (avian) influenza viruses, which can help identify the best way to suppress immune activity and reduce tissue inflammation. Since this work targets the immune system and not the specific virus, the models are expected to impact many respiratory infections, including COVID-19. Feng Xiong, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Scalable Ionic Gated 2D Synapse (IG-2DS) with Programmable Spatio-Temporal Dynamics for Spiking Neural Networks 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. Dr. Xiong’s $500,000 CAREER award will fund research in neuromorphic computer and artificial neural networks to replicate the spatio-temporal processes native to the brain, like short-term and long-term memory, in artificial spiking neural networks (SNN). This “dynamic synapse” that will dramatically improve energy efficiency, bandwidth and cognitive capabilities of SNNs. ###

Sep
28
2020

Pitt students invent Canal Battery Guard, a novel way to keep your phone battery alive longer

Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

Swanson School students Mohamed Morsy (ECE), Nick Kshatri (BIO), and Matt Rosenblatt (BIO) developed the Canal Battery Guard during their Art of Making course and are now taking it to Kickstarter. Their device doubles the lifespan of a phone's battery through an optimized charging algorithm to minimize overheating. Their work was featured by NextPittsburgh. Click here to read the full article. When Mohamed Morsy, Nick Kshatri and Matt Rosenblatt started a first-year engineering class at Pitt called The Art of Making, they had no idea that four years later, they’d still be working together. The problem they hoped to solve: The more you charge your phone, the weaker the battery becomes. “It was an idea I had prior to taking this class,” says Morsy. “Battery life is always a big issue for a cell phone. Everyone I know has faced this problem with their phone at some point.” What if there was a better way? That question led to the trio’s creation of the Canal Battery Guard, which aims to preserve your phone’s battery, extending the lifespan of your phone. Where most smartphone manufacturers are adding ways to speed up charging, the Canal Battery Guard takes the opposite approach: slowing down charging overnight to give the battery periods of rest.
Michael Machosky, 8/26/20
Sep
25
2020

Not Just a Phase

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (Sept. 25, 2020) —  The ability to tune the optical properties of materials is the key to many of the technologies we rely on everyday, like phone displays and fiber internet. For new applications, like high-speed computing and advanced optical storage, a new group of materials—known as phase-change materials—is especially promising. The University of Pittsburgh's Nathan Youngblood and Feng Xiong, assistant professors of electrical and computer engineering, have received $380,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study phase-change materials and overcome the challenges inherent in the technology. Phase-change materials consist of a layer of atoms that can be individually manipulated. Heating these materials causes them to switch between two or more stable states, where the atoms are either randomly positioned, like in glass, or ordered, like in a crystal. Importantly, the change is reversible, which allows it to be rewritten over and over, an aspect crucial to analog computing and deep learning applications. Optical memory, like a DVD, uses lasers to write and read information in a phase-change material. This project would combine optical readouts with electrical controls, using electrical currents to generate heat and encode information. “Other attempts to create an electrically-controlled optical memory device have resulted in short life-cycles, failing after 1,000 cycles. Blending the two technologies is a challenge, but it’s necessary for real-world applications,” explained Youngblood, who is the principal investigator on the project at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “This project will help us understand how to overcome those challenges.” The team will investigate the role of heat and mechanical expansion in the layers that make up these devices, and they will use high-resolution imaging to study the role of migration of atoms and the effect that has on reversibility of the materials. The pair also received a $501,953 NSF award earlier this year for their work investigating how light affects two-dimensional phase-change materials for use in improved storage devices. “One of the bigger issues we’re addressing is how many times they can reverse and repeat the memory storage process,” said Xiong. “Computing memory needs to do many cycles, and if we’re using electrical phase change memory, you can achieve an endurance performance of about 108 cycles - or a hundred million - times. But with current technologies combining electrical control and optical readouts, instead of one hundred million, it’s reduced to just a few thousand cycles before it starts to degrade.” Though these materials’ primary use is for storage, Youngblood and Xiong say their work can potentially also be used for optical devices with a coating that can be controlled, like a lens or screen that can perform calculations on the optical information passing through it. “This technology would be useful not only for storage but also for tenable optical components, like electrical interfaces,” said Youngblood. “If we are able to create memory cells that we can control electrically, we can apply the same technology to optical devices, like mirrors or lenses, with a coating that users can control.” The project, titled “High Endurance Phase-Change Devices for Electrically Reconfigurable Optical Systems,” began in August 2020 and is expected to last three years.
Maggie Pavlick
Sep
22
2020

Under (Intraocular) Pressure

Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (Sept. 22, 2020) — Diabetic patients monitor their blood glucose throughout the day, watching for peaks and valleys. Just taking a sample once during a visit to the doctor’s office would not give a clear picture of whether the patient’s diabetes is under control. The same is true of glaucoma patients, whose intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure within the eye, is too high. IOP varies throughout the day, but there isn’t yet an easy way to monitor changes at home that would provide proven, reliable readings, making it difficult for doctors to monitor the effectiveness of treatment. Piervincenzo Rizzo, PhD, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, is leading a project that will help glaucoma patients monitor their intraocular pressure (IOP) at home, giving them and their doctors a clearer picture of eye health. The project recently received $1,099,984 from the National Science Foundation. The proposed device would use a cylinder containing an array of particles that, when pressed against the closed eyelid, will send an acoustic wave into the eye and wait for it to bounce back. The properties of the returning wave give the device information about the pressure inside the eye. “We’re proposing to use a special family of acoustic waves that can interact with the eye, bouncing back like an echo,” said Rizzo. “It’s like shouting into a small room versus a large one. The properties of the echo depend on the properties of the room.” Rizzo’s team includes Sam Dickerson, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School, and Ian Sigal, PhD, Ian Conner, MD, PhD, and Robert Handzel, MD, in Pitt’s Department of Ophthalmology. “We understand that intraocular pressure can have a pretty wide range throughout the day, but have very few ways to assess this critical variable outside of the clinic,” explained Conner, Director of UPMC’s Glaucoma Service. “This technology really has a lot of potential to enable non-clinicians, and even patients themselves, to reliably assess intraocular pressure, which will allow their doctors to better tailor their treatments. The project, titled “Managing Glaucoma in the Digital Age: A New Tonometer to Connect Patients to their Caregivers,” will begin Oct. 1, 2020 and last four years.
Maggie Pavlick
Sep
17
2020

Measuring Student Motivation and Stress During a Pandemic

Covid-19, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Sept. 17, 2020) … As universities continue to adapt to the evolving situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh want to understand how the ever-changing learning environment affects student motivation, stress, and valued experiences. Two Swanson School of Engineering faculty, Renee Clark and Samuel Dickerson, received an award from the National Science Foundation to lead a longitudinal study to determine the degree to which undergraduate engineering students are academically motivated several semesters after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team believes that the new safety measures implemented on campus may affect “valued college experiences” that increase motivation and help students maintain a work-life balance. They will survey which university experiences students value most and examine how the pandemic has impacted those experiences. They will also study students’ perceived motivation and stress levels using validated instruments in the semesters following the COVID-19 rules and restrictions. Mary Besterfield-Sacre, the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Industrial Engineering and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, initiated this study at the start of the COVID crisis with a team of undergraduate students and continues to provide necessary direction and mentoring to Dickerson and Clark and they design and administer the study together. “The scope of this project is only step one,” said Dickerson, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt. “We suspect that students are less motivated, but with this study, we can figure out what contributed to this and determine how to mitigate it in case we need to transition to a fully virtual experience again.” Conversely, the group also wants to know if some students prefer the self-paced, flexible nature of remote learning. They have created an online assessment tool with the help of Pitt undergraduate students. Participants will be able to choose up to five “valued college experiences” and then rate the degree to which COVID-19 has impacted those experiences. “College in and of itself is stressful, but I generally find what is offered on and around campus to really complete the college experience and give me the time to enjoy myself while on campus,” said Alexander Cohen, a junior history major at Pitt who is contributing to the project. “I believe that incorporating the undergraduate viewpoint on this project helps us consider what experiences are valued the most and keep us in a healthy frame of mind, both mentally and emotionally,” he continued. They will use the MUSIC Model of Motivation by Brett Jones, professor of educational psychology at Virginia Tech, and his colleagues to formally measure academic motivation. They will similarly assess stress with the Perceived Stress Scale, a well-known, established instrument by Sheldon Cohen, Robert E. Doherty Professor of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, and his colleagues. “This instrument measures students’ perceived stress and also will provide us with baseline data from college students who were previously studied,” said Clark, assistant professor of industrial engineering. “We can use these data to determine where our students’ stress level is in comparison and try to figure out the top stressors.” Given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, Clark and Dickerson have created a flexible study that can adapt to the changing structure of higher education. “It’s more than just a survey,” said Dickerson. “We are collecting real data that we hope will reveal ways to improve the college experience and motivation and decrease stress for students who, unfortunately, found themselves in this unprecedented situation.” # # #

Sep
14
2020

Following the Current From Idea to Reality

Electrical & Computer

In March 2013, representatives from Mitsubishi Electric Company arrived from Japan to meet with University of Pittsburgh electrical engineers with a proposal: they wanted to engineer a way to identify faults within the new high voltage direct current (HVDC) system they intended to manufacture in forthcoming years. Fault identification is critical as high short circuit currents will cause equipment damage, and they needed a group of experts to propose and provide evidence that novel ideas would work as planned. The Pitt researchers—led by Founding Director of the Energy GRID Institute and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Greg Reed; Assistant Professor, Associate Director of the Pitt Energy GRID Institute, and Eaton Faculty Fellow Brandon Grainger; and ECE then-graduate student researchers Patrick Lewis and Hashim Al Hassan—were tasked with verifying power converter performance for a US market; validating the fault finding methods for Mitsubishi; and helping to take their innovation a step farther. Now, seven years later, the company announced that this technology is finally going to market with its Voltage Source Converter (VSC)-based HVDC-Diamond. The HVDC system is a utility-scale, power electronics system used to transmit megawatts of power from point to point, converting the alternating current (AC) produced by renewable energy sources, converting it to a direct current (DC) to send through the system, and converting it back to AC on the other end. As more renewable resources find a place in the power grid, systems like this one can transmit the power quickly and reliably to load centers where it will be used. “Transmitting power through high voltage DC is important. By transmitting at a super high voltage (in this case, 500,000 Volts), current levels will drop, resulting in less losses in the overall electrical system. It’s more efficient,” explained Grainger. “But, in such a large, expensive system, things can go bad very quickly if currents flow somewhere they shouldn’t. Our main tasks were to engineer a creative way to find faults in the system and to make sure the system was designed to meet the U.S. market with the help of local engineers at Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc. in Warrendale, PA.” Faults, or short-circuits, happen when equipment degrades and allows a current to flow somewhere other than the intended path. The new system would find faults within different segments of the apparatus so they can be addressed before causing damage. With a $250,000 grant from Mitsubishi, the researchers set to work validating the findings and ensuring it would work as intended. The proposed solution did not require a communication method for the HVDC system that would allow it to relay information about faults from one end of the 1000 kilometer-long units; however, that approach was ultimately left out of the final product. Communication between station to station is important when designing equipment operating at high voltage and power. In 2016, the team at Pitt published a paper in IEEE, “Fault Section Identification Protection Algorithm for Modular Multilevel Converter-Based High Voltage DC With a Hybrid Transmission Corridor,” with their findings. Prior to publication, the team filed a patent for their technology which was awarded Aug. 4, 2020. Now, the system is being manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric Company, based in Tokyo, Japan. “It’s a long road for projects to go from concept to reality, but it’s always an exciting process to be a part of,” said Grainger. “We were glad to have the opportunity to work with one of the leaders in the HVDC space. Our experience is just one example of the many ways academia and industry work together to bring innovative ideas to the marketplace.”
Maggie Pavlick

Aug

Aug
26
2020

EE Graduate Student Nathan Carnovale Receives IEEE Charles LeGeyt Fortescue Graduate Scholarship

Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Aug. 26, 2020) — The IEEE Educational Activities Board (EAB) has selected Nathan (Nate) Carnovale, graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, to receive the Charles LeGeyt Fortescue Graduate Scholarship. The scholarship was named for Charles LeGeyt Fortescue (1876-1936), an electrical engineer who spent his career at the Westinghouse Corporation, in recognition of his contributions to the field of electrical engineering. The award is given to a beginning graduate student for one year of full-time graduate work in electrical engineering. “Nate is one of the most outstanding students in our department, and we are most excited for his ECE graduate studies sponsored by this prestigious scholarship,” said Alan George, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Nate Carnovale graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in December 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a concentration in electric power and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in electric power engineering at Pitt. His current research deals with system and fault identification methods in microgrids and inverter-based generation power systems. “In his time at Pitt so far, Nate has proven to be an outstanding student and engineer,” said Brandon Grainger, Eaton Faculty Fellow, associate director of the Pitt Energy GRID Institute, and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. “I look forward to his continued work in the Department and in the field of electrical engineering.” During his undergraduate career, Carnovale interned with Eaton for two summers, working at Eaton’s Power Systems Experience Center for Eaton’s Power Systems Automation and Controls services groups in Warrendale, PA. There, he gained experience in power systems metering and monitoring and microgrid control systems, as well as experience installing, wiring, and programming Eaton demos at the Experience Center.  This past summer, he interned with Eaton’s Digital Office team testing and developing software for smart circuit breakers used in electric vehicle charging applications. For four semesters at Pitt, Carnovale was a teaching assistant for the Art of Making, an introductory engineering course to hands-on systems design. During his time as an undergrad, he worked to develop an adapted physical education learning tool for students with physical and mental challenges at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children in Pittsburgh, a project he started during his time as a student in the Art of Making course. “To be recognized by the organization at the foundation of my industry is a great honor and means a lot to me,” said Carnovale. “I am excited that this scholarship will not only help me in my own pursuits but also my department at the University of Pittsburgh as we strive toward innovation in the electrical engineering field.”
Maggie Pavlick
Aug
21
2020

Smartphones can tell when you’re drunk by analyzing your walk

Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer

Ervin Sejdic, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering with appointments in the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Bioengineering, recently coauthored a paper published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs (JSAD) that investigates the use of smartphones to detect alcohol intoxication. The research uses a smartphone's sensors to measure the user's gait as they walk, and they were able to correctly determine when the person's blood alcohol concentration exceeded the legal limit 90 percent of the time. “Many of us use smartphones as a source of entertainment and an occasional source of information. However, these devices are packed with high-quality sensors, and it is in our best interests to explore these sensors to enhance our daily lives," said Sejdic. "A combination of sophisticated sensors and artificial intelligence tools such as machine learning will provide us great opportunities to develop solutions that otherwise were only accessible in research or clinical settings. Our newest paper is just one example how we can use smartphones for the benefit of general public. With the ongoing pandemic, I’m sure many more novel solutions will pop up that will drastically expand the use of smartphones beyond entertainment apps.” News release from JSAD republished with permission. ### Smartphones can tell when you’re drunk by analyzing your walk By Paul CandonPISCATAWAY, NJ – Your smartphone can tell when you’ve had too much to drink by detecting changes in the way you walk, according to a new study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.Having real-time information about alcohol intoxication could be important for helping people reduce alcohol consumption, preventing drinking and driving or alerting a sponsor for someone in treatment, according to lead researcher Brian Suffoletto, M.D., who was with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine when the research was conducted and is now with Stanford University School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine.“We have powerful sensors we carry around with us wherever we go,” Suffoletto says. “We need to learn how to use them to best serve public health.”But for Suffoletto, this research is much more than academic. “I lost a close friend to a drinking and driving crash in college,” he says. “And as an emergency physician, I have taken care of scores of adults with injuries related to acute alcohol intoxication. Because of this, I have dedicated the past 10 years to testing digital interventions to prevent deaths and injury related to excessive alcohol consumption.”For the study, Suffoletto and colleagues recruited 22 adults ages 21 to 43. Volunteers came to a lab and received a mixed drink with enough vodka to produce a breath alcohol concentration of .20 percent. They had one hour to finish the alcohol.Then hourly for seven hours, participants had their breath alcohol concentration analyzed and performed a walking task. For this task, researchers placed a smartphone on each participant’s lower back, secured with an elastic belt. Participants walked a straight line for 10 steps, turned around, and walked back 10 steps.The smartphones measured acceleration and mediolateral (side to side), vertical (up and down) and anteroposterior (forward and backward) movements while the participants walked.About 90 percent of the time, the researchers were able to use changes in gait to identify when participants’ breath alcohol concentration exceeded .08 percent, the legal limit for driving in the United States.“This controlled lab study shows that our phones can be useful to identify ‘signatures’ of functional impairments related to alcohol,” Suffoletto says.Although placing the smartphone on the lower back does not reflect how people carry their cell phones in real life, the research group plans to conduct additional research while people carry phones in their hands and in their pockets.And although it was a small investigation, the researchers write that this is a “proof-of-concept study” that “provides a foundation for future research on using smartphones to remotely detect alcohol-related impairments.”“In 5 years, I would like to imagine a world in which if people go out with friends and drink at risky levels,” Suffoletto says, “they get an alert at the first sign of impairment and are sent strategies to help them stop drinking and protect them from high-risk events like driving, interpersonal violence and unprotected sexual encounters.”Going forward, Suffoletto and his colleagues plan to not only build on this research detecting real-world signatures of alcohol-related impairment but also identify the best communication and behavioral strategies to influence and support individuals during high-risk periods such as intoxication. ### Suffoletto, B., Dasgupta, P., Uymatiao, R., Huber, J., Flickinger, K., & Sejdic, E., (2020). A preliminary study using smartphone accelerometers to sense gait impairments due to alcohol intoxication. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 81, 505–510. doi:10.15288/jsad.2020.81.505 ### To arrange an interview with Brian Suffoletto, M.D., please contact Mandy Erickson at +650-245-8491 or merickso@stanford.edu. ### The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs is published by the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. It is the oldest substance-related journal published in the United States. ### To learn about education and training opportunities for addiction counselors and others at the Rutgers Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies, please visit https://education.alcoholstudies.rutgers.edu/education-training.###The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs considers this press release to be in the public domain. Editors may publish this press release in print or electronic form without legal restriction. Please include proper attribution and byline.
Maggie Pavlick

Jul

Jul
29
2020

Training Algorithms to Identify COVID-19 in CT Scans

Covid-19, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (July 29, 2020) … As COVID-19 cases in the United States continue to surge, there is an ongoing search for quick and reliable testing. Though there are conflicting opinions on using chest computerized tomography (CT) scans as a method of screening in the United States, the technology has been successfully used to identify the disease in other parts of the world. The University of Pittsburgh’s Jingtong Hu received funding from the National Science Foundation to improve CT scan screening by training a computer to analyze images and do the diagnostic heavy lifting. “Several works have recently demonstrated the potential of deep neural networks in identifying typical signs or partial signs of COVID-19 pneumonia,” said Hu, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Our goal is to train an algorithm to be able to tell the difference between regular pneumonia and the type of pneumonia caused by COVID-19.” Deep neural networks are sets of algorithms, inspired by the human brain, that recognize patterns and learn to complete a task by training on sample data -- in this scenario, CT scans with confirmed pneumonia caused by COVID-19. This approach has the potential to drastically speed up the screening process and reduce the burden on radiologists, who are challenged to accurately screen the volume of incoming images. Hu will collaborate with Yiyu Shi, associate professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Notre Dame, to address some of the current limitations with this technology. “Though deep neural networks work well on 2D images, they are not well equipped to handle the amount of data associated with 3D images,” said Hu. “We will explore various hardware and software solutions that will allow the technology to adapt to these larger files.” Since deep neural networks require significant processing power, the research group will use a field-programmable gate array (FPGA), which is a high performance integrated circuit that is designed to be reconfigured by the user. This type of device also provides the flexibility needed to handle the evolving structure of neural networks. “The first step of this project is to create the algorithm and allow it to learn from the current data,” Hu explained. “We will use FPGAs to make the computation faster and more energy efficient. The ultimate goal of this work is to develop a mobile scanning device that can screen for signs of COVID-19 in highly populated places, like an airport or university.” The diagnostic standard in the U.S. is the RT-PCR test kits, which are not widely available and can take days to deliver results, many of which are inaccurate. Hu and his team hope that the results of this project can help effectively address some of the issues associated with testing in the U.S. This work will be made open source so that the developed techniques can be applied beyond COVID-19 where neural networks need to handle large volumetric data. # # #

Jul
20
2020

Three Women Will Join the Electrical and Computer Engineering Faculty in Fall 2020

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (July 20, 2020) … The University of Pittsburgh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) will welcome Drs. Kara Bocan, Azime Can-Cimino, and Peipei Zhou as assistant professors, starting September 1, 2020. “My ECE colleagues and I are thrilled to have these outstanding new professors join our faculty,” said Alan George, Department Chair and R&H Mickle Endowed Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Azime’s experience in industry and gift for working with students will be a major asset, and Kara is an innovative teacher with a wealth of ideas to improve our courses and programs. Peipei will boost our research efforts with her expertise in field-programmable gate arrays, which is a field of growing prominence and a growing need in our department.” The appointment of these three faculty members will also help narrow the gender gap in a field that struggles to hold a female presence. Though the number of women earning engineering degrees has increased in the past decade, there are still proportionally far fewer women than men studying engineering and an even lower proportion of female engineering faculty. According to a 2018 study from the American Society for Engineering Education, on average, women only make up about 17 percent of tenured and tenure-track engineering faculty. “These three appointments will double the number of full-time female faculty in our department, help us to more strongly support our present undergraduate and graduate students, and help us to attract in future an even larger and broader range of promising students,” George added. “Peipei, Azime, and Kara are outstanding engineers, and they will significantly enhance both teaching and research in the Swanson School of Engineering.” Kara Bocan, PhD Bocan received her PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017, where she also received her BSE in electrical engineering and bioengineering with a minor in neuroscience in 2012. She performed her dissertation research on wireless implantable medical devices with the RFID Center of Excellence, where her use of computer-aided design was an entry point to the field of computational modeling. More recently, her research has focused on the use of computational modeling to enhance understanding of complex systems, and on the development of effective and usable modeling software. She has taught courses part-time as a visiting research assistant professor for the Swanson School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering since Fall 2018, focusing on active learning and student engagement through interactive examples and open-ended engineering questions. Her teaching interests include blended learning, flipped classrooms, gameful design, technology ethics, and accessibility. Azime Can-Cimino, PhD Can-Cimino received a BS and MS degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey, and a PhD degree in electrical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to Pitt, she worked as a senior software engineer at Emerson Automations Solutions development team, where among other things, she developed AI algorithms for the power and water industry. Her research interests are in machine learning, optimization, and statistics. She has also contributed to other areas including sampling (signal processing), wavelets and compressive sensing. Peipei Zhou, PhD Zhou received her PhD in computer science in August 2019 from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she also received an MS in electrical and computer engineering in June 2014. Her undergraduate studies were in electrical engineering at Chien-Shiung Wu Honors College, Southeast University, China. She is currently a research scientist at Shanghai Enflame Technology, an AI chip start-up with a research focus on domain-specific language and compiler for AI ASIC Accelerator and computer architecture modeling and system optimization with autotuning. Zhou's research interests lie in design automation and compilers as well as modeling and optimization for customized, parallel and distributed computing at multiple levels, including chip-level, node-level and cluster-level. Her research advances field-programmable gate array-based reconfigurable architecture from a performance, energy and cost perspective for deep learning, precision medicine and other big data and machine learning applications. # # #

Jul
20
2020

In Memoriam: John C. "Jack" Mascaro BSCE ’66 MSCE ’80, 1944-2020

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

From James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering: It is with great sadness to inform you that Jack Mascaro BSCE ’66 MSCE ’80, one of our outstanding alumni, volunteers, advocates, and benefactors, passed away this weekend after a hard-fought battle with illness. On behalf of our Swanson School community, I extend our deep condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.Jack was a creative, caring juggernaut of ideas and inspiration, and his passing leaves an emptiness in our hearts and minds. It was an incredible honor and privilege to work with him during my short tenure as dean thus far, but I know those of you who have a long history with Jack and his family experienced a deep connection and now share a tremendous loss. I hope your memories of his lighthearted spirit, curious intellect, and enthusiasm for our students and programs provide solace and smiles.As one of our Distinguished Alumni, Jack was lauded by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School for his contributions to Pitt, the region, and the profession, and was also honored by the University with the Chancellor’s Medallion. Thanks to his beneficence, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and our focus on sustainability will continue his legacy for generations. Most importantly, it was his passion for sustainability, and what he saw as its inexorable link to engineering, that will forever inform our mission to create new knowledge for the benefit of the human condition. He truly was an engineer’s engineer, and we can never thank him and his family enough for his generosity of mind and spirit. Please join me in expressing our sympathies to the Mascaro Family, and to thank them for Jack’s impact on our students, alumni, and entire Swanson School community. Visitation will be held this Thursday in McMurray and you may leave thoughts for the family at his obituary page. Sincerely,Jimmy Other Remembrances Some Random and Personal Observations. Jeffrey Burd, Tall Timber Group & Breaking Ground Magazine (7-21-20). Jack Mascaro, founder of one of Pittsburgh's largest construction firms, dies at 76. Tim Schooley, Pittsburgh Business Times (7-22-20). Pittsburgh builder and sustainability pioneer Jack Mascaro dies after long illness. Paul Guggenheimer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (7-23-20). John C. 'Jack' Mascaro / Builder of Heinz Field, science center embraced 'green' construction. Janice Crompton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (7-27-20). Founder of Mascaro Construction, Heinz Field builder, dies at age 75. Harry Funk, Washington Observer-Reporter (8-1-20).

Jul
2
2020

The Department of Energy Awards $1.9M to Swanson School Faculty and Students for Nuclear Energy Research

Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles, Nuclear

PITTSBURGH (July 2, 2020) … Humankind is consuming more energy than ever before, and with this growth in consumption, researchers must develop new power technologies that will address these needs. Nuclear power remains a fast-growing and reliable sector of clean, carbon-free energy, and four researchers at the University of Pittsburgh received awards to further their work in this area. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) invested more than $65 million to advance nuclear technology, announced June 16, 2020. Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering received a total of $1,868,500 in faculty and student awards from the DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP). According to the DOE, “NEUP seeks to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities.” “Historically, our region has been a leader in the nuclear energy industry, and we are trying to keep that tradition alive at the Swanson School by being at the forefront of this field,” said Heng Ban, Richard K. Mellon Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Swanson School’s Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program. “I’m thrilled that the Department of Energy has recognized the innovative work from our faculty, and I look forward to seeing the advancements that arise from this research.” The DOE supported three projects from the Swanson School. High Temperature Thermophysical Property of Nuclear Fuels and MaterialsPI: Heng Ban, Richard K. Mellon Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director of Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program$300,000 Ban, a leading expert in nuclear material thermal properties and reactor instrumentation and measurements, will use this award to enhance research at Pitt by filling an infrastructure gap.  He will purchase key equipment to strengthen core nuclear capability in the strategic thrust area of instrumentation and measurements. A laser flash analyzer and a thermal mechanical analyzer (thermal expansion) will be purchased as a tool suite for complete thermophysical property information. Fiber Sensor Fused Additive Manufacturing for Smart Component Fabrication for Nuclear Energy PI: Kevin Chen, Paul E. Lego Professor of Electrical and Computer EngineeringCo-PI: Albert To, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science$1,000,000 The Pitt research team will utilize unique technical capabilities developed in the SSoE to lead efforts in sensor-fused additive manufacturing for future nuclear energy systems. Through integrated research efforts in radiation-harden distributed fiber sensor fabrication, design and optimization algorithm developments, and additive manufacturing innovation, the team will deliver smart components to nuclear energy systems to harness high spatial resolution data. This will enable artificial intelligence based data analytics for operation optimization and condition-based maintenance for nuclear power systems. Multicomponent Thermochemistry of Complex Chloride Salts for Sustainable Fuel Cycle TechnologiesPI: Wei Xiong, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials scienceCo-PIs: Prof. Elizabeth Sooby Wood (University of Texas at San Antonio), Dr. Toni Karlsson (Idaho National Laboratory), and Dr. Guy Fredrickson (Idaho National Laboratory)$400,000 Nuclear reactors help bring clean water and reliable energy to communities across the world. Next-generation reactor design, especially small modular reactors, will be smaller, cheaper, and more powerful, but they will require high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) as fuel. As the demand for HALEU is expected to grow significantly, Xiong’s project seeks to improve the process of recovering uranium from spent nuclear fuels to produce HALEU ingots. Part of the process involves pyrochemical reprocessing based on molten salt electrolysis. Hence, developing a thermodynamic database using the CALPHAD (Calculation of Phase Diagrams) approach to estimate the solubilities of fission product chloride salts into the molten electrolyte is essential for improving the process efficiency. The results will help in estimating the properties that are essential for improving the HALEU production and further support the development of chloride molten salt reactors. Two Swanson School students also received awards from NEUP. Jerry Potts, a senior mechanical engineering student, received a $7,500 nuclear energy scholarship, one of 42 students in the nation. Iza Lantgios (BS ME ‘20), a matriculating mechanical engineering graduate student, was one of 34 students nationwide to be awarded a $161,000 fellowship. Swanson School students have secured 20 NEUP scholarships and fellowships since 2009. # # #

Jun

Jun
25
2020

Making a Sustainable Impact Throughout Pitt and Our Communities

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

"MCSI remains committed to addressing global sustainability issues, connecting our domestic and international pursuits to create synergies locally, nationally, and internationally. We hope you enjoy this summary of the past year’s impacts, and we'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about the report's contents and MCSI's programs."

Jun
23
2020

Five Pitt Researchers Receive PA Department of Community and Economic Development Grants

Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (June 23, 2020) — Five researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have received grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) through the Manufacturing PA initiative. The DCED has approved more than $2.8 million in grants to 43 projects that will “spur new technologies and processes in the manufacturing sector,” according to their press release. “As engineers, we are applied scientists, and our singular goal in performing research is to produce public impact,” said David Vorp, associate dean for research and John A. Swanson Professor of bioengineering. “I am proud that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania saw the potential of these projects by our Swanson School faculty and their industrial partners to have benefit to their citizens.” The five researchers to receive funding at the Swanson School are: Kevin Chen, Paul E. Lego Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering$67,991—Femtosecond Laser Manufacturing of 3D Photonics Components in Nonlinear Optical Substrates for Electro-Optic Applications Markus Chmielus, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science$70,000—Improving 3D Binder Jet Printed Tungsten-Carbide Parts via Strategies to Increase Green Density and Strength Jung-Kun Lee, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science$70,000—Smart Crucible: Monitoring Damage of Crucibles by Embedded Electric Resistance Sensor Albert To, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science$69,450—A Computational Tool for Simulating the Sintering Behavior in Binder Jet Additive Manufacturing Xiayun Zhao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science$70,000—Pushing the Boundaries of Ceramic Additive Manufacturing (CAM) with Visible light initiated Polymerization (ViP)
Maggie Pavlick
Jun
18
2020

Researching resilience

Electrical & Computer

Grid and infrastructure resilience are increasingly important, while a relatively ‘new concept’ in terms of today’s modern grid, and its dynamic environment. With the increase in natural disasters, and as the northern hemisphere goes into what is commonly known as ‘storm season’, Smart Energy International spoke with Dr. Alexis Kwasinski, Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Kwasinski specializes in grid resilience research in areas prone to natural disasters and extreme weather. Read the full article.
Smart Energy International Issue 3 2020
Jun
10
2020

Pitt ECE Professor Receives $300K NSF Award to Develop 2D Synapse for Deep Neural Networks

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (June 10, 2020) — The world runs on data. Self-driving cars, security, healthcare and automated manufacturing all are part of a “big data revolution,” which has created a critical need for a way to more efficiently sift through vast datasets and extract valuable insights. When it comes to the level of efficiency needed for these tasks, however, the human brain is unparalleled. Taking inspiration from the brain, Feng Xiong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, is collaborating with Duke University’s Yiran Chen to develop a two-dimensional synaptic array that will allow computers to do this work with less power and greater speed. Xiong has received a $300,000 award from the National Science Foundation for this project. “Deep neural networks (DNN) work by training a neural network with massive datasets for applications like pattern recognition, image reconstruction or video and language processing,” said Xiong. “For example, if airport security wanted to create a program that could identify firearms, they would need to input thousands of pictures of different firearms in different situations to teach the program what it should look for. It’s not unlike how we as humans learn to identify different objects.” To do this, supercomputing systems transfer data back and forth constantly from the computation and memory units, making DNNs computationally intensive and power hungry. Their inefficiency makes it impractical for them to be scaled up to the level of the complexity needed for true artificial intelligence (AI). In contrast, computation and memory in the human brain uses a network of neurons and synapses that are closely and densely connected, resulting in the brain’s extremely low power consumption, about 20W. “The way our brains learn is gradual. For example, say you’re learning what an apple is. Each time you see the apple, it might be in a different context: on the ground, on a table, in a hand. Your brain learns to recognize that it’s still an apple,” said Xiong. “Each time you see it, the neural connection changes a bit. In computing we want this high-precision synapse to mimic that, so that over time, the connections strengthen. The finer the adjustments we can make, the more powerful the program can be, and the more memory it can have.” With existing consumer electronic devices, the kind of gradual, slight adjustment needed is difficult to attain because they rely on binary, meaning their states are essentially limited to on or off, yes or no. The artificial synapse will instead allow a precision of 1,000 states, with precision and control in navigating between each. Additionally, smaller devices, like sensors and other embedded systems, need to communicate their data to a larger computer to process it. The proposed device’s small size, flexibility and low power usage could make it able to run those calculations in much smaller devices, allowing sensors to process information on-site. “What we’re proposing is that, theoretically, we could lower the energy needed to run these algorithms, hopefully by 1,000 times or more. This way, it can make power requirement more reasonable, so a flexible or wearable electronic device could run it with a very small power supply,” said Xiong. The project, titled “Collaborative Research: Two-dimensional Synapatic Array for Advanced Hardware Acceleration of Deep Neural Networks,” is expected to last three years, beginning on Sept. 1, 2020.
Maggie Pavlick
Jun
8
2020

Shedding a New Light on 2D Materials

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (June 8, 2020) … In the information age, where we ditch paper files and cabinets for digital files and hard drives, there is an imminent need for affordable and efficient ways to store our information. At the beginning of 2020, the digital universe was estimated to consist of 44 zettabytes of data -- that’s 44 trillion gigabytes (GB) of information. Every time someone “googles” a question, uploads a photo to social media, or performs a variety of daily activities, that number increases. The University of Pittsburgh’s Nathan Youngblood and Feng Xiong secured a $501,953 award from the National Science Foundation to better understand how to store data more efficiently using optical and electrical techniques on two-dimensional (2D) materials. Optical storage, commonly used in rewritable CDs and DVDs, uses a laser to store and retrieve data in what is called a “phase-change material.” Heating these materials causes them to switch between two stable states, where the atoms are either randomly positioned like in glass or ordered like in a crystal. However, the amount of energy required to heat these materials is fundamentally limited by their volume. “Encoding data in 2D materials, which are atomically flat, provides a direct route to overcome this fundamental limitation,” said Youngblood, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and lead researcher on the study. “If you reduce the dimensions of the material, it becomes much more efficient because the amount of energy needed to program data is proportional to the area rather than the volume of the material,” he continued. Modern 2D materials were first studied in the early 2000s. Their crystalline structure, consisting of a single layer of atoms, demonstrated a variety of useful properties, inspiring research into hundreds of other 2D materials, including MoTe2 -- the compound used in this project. “MoTe2 is useful for this application because it is predicted to be the most energy efficient, but due to a lack of experimental data, the way that light affects this material is elusive,” said Youngblood. Youngblood and Xiong will work in collaboration with Steven Koester, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota and an expert in 2D materials, to examine how MoTe2 interacts with the light used in optical storage. “Our goal is to use time-dependent light-based measurement techniques along with advanced imaging and characterization at the atomic level,” said Xiong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Storing and retrieving data in atomically flat materials like MoTe2 could allow highly-efficient processors for machine learning where the computation physically occurs in the memory cell itself. This approach is known as “in-memory” computing and has been demonstrated to be much faster than digital computers--though up to now has used three-dimensional materials like those used in rewritable optical discs. “A better understanding of MoTe2 properties will allow us to advance this technology and improve the use of 2D materials for high-speed, reliable and efficient memory and computation,” said Youngblood. # # #

May

May
12
2020

Using a Smartphone to Diagnose COVID-19 at Home

Covid-19, Electrical & Computer

In Pennsylvania and other U.S. states, one of the keys to safely reopening society amid the COVID-19 pandemic is providing sufficient testing so that new cases of the disease do not overwhelm the public healthcare system. University of Pittsburgh professors are reimagining testing using a device that nearly every American owns -- a smartphone. Using the existing hardware and computing power of commodity smartphones, this project aims to perform non-invasive at-home testing for COVID-19 infection, and it was selected for funding by the National Science Foundation through its RAPID award program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of this work is to provide an easy and low-cost way to monitor and diagnose a large population without the need for special equipment or the involvement of clinicians. It can ultimately be applied to other acute or chronic respiratory diseases, in addition to the novel coronavirus. “In this project, we will develop new mobile sensing and artificial intelligence techniques for in-home evaluation of COVID-19 in an effort to quickly and effectively identify viral disease carriers,” said Wei Gao, lead researcher and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “We hope this work will also help identify negative cases caused by other diseases with similar symptoms, and therefore, help eliminate unnecessary hospital visits during this pandemic,” he said. Gao and his team will build upon smartphones’ microphones and speakers to develop acoustic sensing that can measure changes in human airway mechanics, which are uniquely correlated to COVID-19 infection. “We will begin by designing new acoustic waveforms to minimize acoustic signal distortion in human airways,” Gao said. “We will then develop new signal processing techniques for accurate measurements and eventually apply deep learning techniques to create generic models that depict the core characteristics of airway mechanics.” The system will be implemented as a smartphone app that a user can easily download, install, and operate. Users will need to use a smartphone adapter as a mouthpiece so that the phone’s microphone and speaker can transmit and record acoustic signals from human airways. If successful, this research will help accurately identify cases of COVID-19 without a visit to the hospital, which could subsequently help contain the spread of the highly contagious virus. This project is a collaborative effort with Heng Huang, John A. Jurenko Endowed Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt, and clinicians at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children’s Hospital. # # #

Apr

Apr
20
2020

Twelve Pitt Students Awarded 2020 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (April 20, 2020) … Twelve University of Pittsburgh students were awarded a 2020 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. This is the highest number of students to receive this competitive award since 2015 when the University had a total of 13 recipients. An additional sixteen Pitt students also earned an honorable mention. For the past two years, the University’s Honors College has been working with the Office of the Provost to host informational workshops and boost participation in the fellowship program. Patrick Loughlin, professor of bioengineering, also holds workshops in the Swanson School of Engineering to encourage graduate students to apply to external fellowships. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is designed to ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States. GRFP supports the graduate study of U.S. citizens, nationals and permanent residents attaining research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education at institutions located in the United States. Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 as well as a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees. Four Swanson School students and three alumni are among this year’s cohort. Three current students and three alumni received honorable mentions. Award Recipients Janet Canady, a bioengineering undergraduate, works in Dr. George Stetten’s lab where she helps design and test FingerSight, a device for the visually impaired. Zachary Fritts, a bioengineering undergraduate, works in Dr. Tamer Ibrahim’s lab where he helps design and build multi-channel transmit arrays for ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Brian Gentry, a mechanical engineering undergraduate, works in Dr. John Keith’s lab where he investigates local solvent effects on density functional theory energy calculations applied to a class of organic compounds called chelating agents. Evan Miu, a chemical engineering graduate student, works with Drs. James R. McKone and Giannis Mpourmpakis. His research explores combined thermo- and electro-catalytic processes through experimental electrochemistry and density functional theory. Honorable Mentions Evan Becker, an electrical and computer engineering undergraduate, works in Dr. Natasa Miskov-Zivanov’s lab where he has designed representation schemes for modeling and simulating dynamic behavior in systems such as intracellular networks and geopolitical systems. Dr. Miskov-Zivanov’s lab uses discrete logic techniques, allowing him to rapidly assemble these models from scientific literature. Alexander Maldonado, a chemical engineering graduate student, works in Dr. John Keith’s lab to develop novel ways to accurately and quickly predict how complicated chemical reactions occur in solvents using state-of-the-art quantum chemistry and machine learning. Jordyn Ting, a bioengineering graduate student, works in the Rehab Neural Engineering Labs with Dr. Douglas Weber where her work focuses on investigating the spared connection between the motor cortex and muscles. Swanson School alumni Kiara Lee (BioE, Brown University), Harrison Douglas (ChemE, Michigan State University) and Katarina Klett (BioE, Stanford University) also received awards. The alumni to receive honorable mentions include Katreena Thomas (IE, Arizona State University), Richard Hollenbach (MEMS, Duke University) and Arjun Acharya (BioE, University of Utah). # # #

Apr
15
2020

Peering Into Undergraduate Research at Pitt: Swanson School of Engineering Publishes Sixth Edition of Ingenium

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

PITTSBURGH (April 15, 2020) … Demonstrating the diverse and exceptional undergraduate research in the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, Associate Dean for Research David A. Vorp recently released the sixth edition of Ingenium. This edition features a collection of 26 articles that highlight work performed throughout the 2019-20 academic year and during the school’s 2019 summer research program. Ingenium mirrors the peer-review process of scientific journals by inviting undergraduate researchers to submit manuscripts to a board of graduate students. The review board provides feedback to which the undergraduates are required to respond before their work is accepted. The co-editors-in-chief for this edition were Monica Liu, a bioengineering graduate student, and Jianan Jian, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student. “I think Ingenium is a great experience for undergraduates,” said Liu. “They have been diligently working on research all year, and Ingenium is a great way for them to present it to a larger audience and get experience writing a scientific paper.” While the publication is designed to help prepare undergraduates, members of the graduate review board also benefit from a different point of view in the academic writing process. “Graduate students spend so much time writing about their research and incorporating feedback,” said Liu. “Ingenium is a great way to experience the other side of things -- taking the time to review others' work gives us a broader perspective when we review our own work.” Ingenium features research from each department in the Swanson School and is divided into five categories: experimental research, computational research, device design, methods, and review. The publication is sponsored by the school’s Office of Research. “With each year and with each edition of Ingenium, we continue to see notable and impressive academic and professional growth and development in our undergraduate students when given opportunities to engage in scientific research,” said Vorp. “We witness students taking the knowledge, skills, and information that they learn in their coursework and apply it in a meaningful and intentional manner outside of the classroom. These thriving students are our future -- of both our highly accredited institution and our world.” ###

Mar

Mar
31
2020

Heng Huang Inducted into Medical and Biological Engineering Elite

Electrical & Computer

Reposted with permission from the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has announced the induction of Heng Huang, Ph.D., John A. Jurenko Endowed Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Pittsburgh to its College of Fellows. Election to the AIMBE College of Fellows is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to a medical and biological engineer. The College of Fellows is comprised of the top two percent of medical and biological engineers. College membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to "engineering and medicine research, practice, or education” and to "the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of medical and biological engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to bioengineering education." Dr. Huang was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows for “outstanding contributions to Biomedical Data Science, Bioinformatics, Medical Image Computing, and Imaging Genetics.” As a result of health concerns, AIMBE’s annual meeting and induction ceremony scheduled for March 29-30, 2020, was cancelled. Under special procedures, Dr. Huang was remotely inducted along with 156 colleagues who make up the AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2020. While most AIMBE Fellows hail from the United States, the College of Fellows has inducted Fellows representing 34 countries. AIMBE Fellows are employed in academia, industry, clinical practice and government. AIMBE Fellows are among the most distinguished medical and biological engineers including 3 Nobel Prize laureates, 18 Fellows having received the Presidential Medal of Science and/or Technology and Innovation, and 173 also inducted to the National Academy of Engineering, 84 inducted to the National Academy of Medicine and 37 inducted to the National Academy of Sciences. ### About AIMBE AIMBE is the authoritative voice and advocate for the value of medical and biological engineering to society. AIMBE’s mission is to recognize excellence, advance the public understanding, and accelerate medical and biological innovation. No other organization can bring together academic, industry, government, and scientific societies to form a highly influential community advancing medical and biological engineering. AIMBE’s mission drives advocacy initiatives into action on Capitol Hill and beyond.

Mar
30
2020

Thanks for Tuning In: Swanson School Students Present Virtual Dissertation Defenses

Covid-19, Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (March 30, 2020) … After years of classwork, conducting research, collecting results and attempting to publish in peer-reviewed journals, Gary Yu was finally ready to present his dissertation defense to his committee members. He got dressed, confidently entered the room, signed in to Microsoft Teams, and began the virtual meeting. In the days of social isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, this was the only way for Yu, an MD/PhD student in the Department of Bioengineering, to complete the PhD portion of his degree on schedule. Yu is not alone. Across the University, graduate students find themselves reaching long-anticipated academic milestones alone, at home, behind a computer monitor. However, even under these unusual conditions, they are making the best of it - and succeeding. Yu’s presentation started with an introduction from his advisor, John Pacella, associate professor of medicine and bioengineering. The audience then fell silent as they muted their microphones to avoid interruptions and turned off their cameras to save bandwidth. According to Yu, this absence of communication was one of the main challenges in defending remotely. “Usually when I present, I'm reassured by eye contact and other gestures of understanding that my audience is paying attention,” he said. “When I was presenting my dissertation, there were moments where I had doubts creep up in the back of my mind. Since it was completely silent, aside from myself, I wondered whether I had lagged out or disconnected from the call because of computer or internet issues.” Yu continued to present his work on a new microbubble contrast agent with anti-inflammatory properties that can be used with therapeutic ultrasound pulses to treat cardiovascular disease. He recalled a moment of relief after an audience member broke the silence by opening a bag of chips on the other end. He eventually adapted to this new environment and noticed that he began to pick up online vernacular as he subconsciously quipped, “Thanks for tuning in,” at the end of his presentation. After his committee members took turns asking questions, they informed Yu that he successfully passed his defense. Mohammed Sleiman, too, successfully defended his thesis virtually. His advisor, Brandon Grainger, created two “rooms” in Zoom, inviting Sleiman to one and using the second for committee discussion after the defense. Despite the unusual circumstances, Sleiman, who was studying the energy conversion process in electric vehicles, passed with flying colors and earned his MS in electrical engineering. Grainger is an Eaton Faculty Fellow, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and associate director of the Swanson School’s Electric Power Engineering program. “After a few minutes in the other room, the committee came back to my Zoom room and announced my pass!” recalled Sleiman. “It was a thrilling experience to present to professors online. The sad thing is that I missed taking photos for memories with them, because we were far away.” Grainger, too, noted that one downside of virtual defenses is the absence of in-person celebration with mentors, friends and loved ones that usually comes after them. “The online defense is a bit abnormal, but Mohammed handled the challenges well,” said Grainger. “When a defense is live, in a conference room, the room is typically filled with labmates, friends, and sometimes family, but having a virtual meeting did not allow for this to happen.” Despite the unusual circumstances, both Yu and Sleiman were able to make the best of their experiences. The necessity of social distancing did not stop Sleiman from celebrating; after he heard the news that he passed, he headed to the Cathedral of Learning, still in his suit, to snap a few photos to commemorate the moment for social media. Yu, too, did his best to embrace the quirks of presenting to an audience you cannot see. “Don't be nervous about the silence you will likely encounter,” suggested Yu. “Do your best to have good sound quality and minimize background noise. Enjoy feeling like a Youtuber or an academic streamer, and make sure to celebrate - responsibly - after your defense!” If you find yourself preparing for a virtual defense, here are some tips to make the best of it: Find a good streaming platform. Swanson School students have successfully used Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Consider having your audience turn off video to avoid overwhelming the connection. Ask the audience to remain muted when they are not contributing to the discussion. This will decrease background noise and feedback. Work with your advisor to test your technology ahead of time to make sure you have everything you need. Make sure to be comfortable and have hydration close by! # # #
Maggie Pavlick and Leah Russell
Mar
10
2020

Learn more about Pitt's planning and response to COVID-19

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Diversity, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

Please visit and bookmark the University of Pittsburgh COVID-19 site for the most up-to-date information and a full list of resources. From the University Times: As the coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, Pitt is remaining diligent with addressing related issues as the pop up. For an overall look at updates from Pitt, go to emergency.pitt.edu. On Saturday, Provost Ann Cudd issued a statement about how to support faculty and staff who have committed to attending professional conferences this semester and choose not to attend due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The University will grant an exception for travel booked through May 31 and reimburse any out-of-pocket expenses incurred by those who decide to cancel travel. The administration will reassess this deadline date as COVID-19 evolves and may extend the deadline as conditions evolve. For more updates from the provost, go to provost.pitt.edu. The provost and the University Center for Teaching and Learning is encouraging faculty to be prepared if remote learning situations become required. The center has set up a page detailing the basics of providing instructional continuity. The page will be updated regularly. Find information about remote learning and more at teaching.pitt.edu/instructional-continuity. All business units and responsibilities centers also are being asked to work on how to handle mass absenteeism and/or the need for as many people as possible to work at home.

Mar
4
2020

ECE Alumnus and Fulbright Scholar Pursues MS in Electrical Engineering in Germany

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (March 4, 2020) — David Skrovanek (ECE’19), a University of Pittsburgh alumnus, electrical engineer, accomplished musician, and polyglot, is adding Fulbright Scholar to his list of accomplishments. One of the 14 Pitt students and alumni to receive a Fulbright in 2019, Skrovanek is currently earning his master’s in electrical engineering with a concentration in optical and radio telecommunications at the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft, in Dresden, Germany. “When I started college, if you'd asked me if I’d end up in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar, I'd say, “No way!” says Skrovanek. “But sticking to my true self and what interests me and pursuing things I’m passionate about has worked out for me.” A double major in electrical engineering and German while at Pitt, Skrovanek participated in a Maymester study abroad program in Munich. Upon returning, Lesha Greene, scholar mentor in the Pitt Honors College, encouraged him to pursue a Fulbright to study in Germany after graduation. Though it wasn’t necessarily an easy transition at first, Skrovanek is proud of his progress so far. “In the first week of classes, I found out I was the only non-German student in the class. I was confident in my German-speaking abilities, but lectures were challenging to follow, and with dialects and technical vocabulary, I was lucky if I understood half of what they were saying,” he recalls. “But comparing that with the last week of classes, now I can understand all of it and feel comfortable talking about electrical engineering in German. I’ve definitely come a long way, and I’m proud of that.” Among those encouraging him to pursue a degree abroad was William Stanchina, professor of electrical and computer engineering who retired from the Swanson School last year. “I worked with Dr. Stanchina during my junior year, and even though I ended up going into a different area of electrical engineering, he remained kind of a mentor for me and encouraged me to get outside of my comfort zone,” says Skrovanek. “He told me that there is a lot of top-notch research being conducted in other parts of the world, and how important it was to recognize that.” In addition to his coursework, Skrovanek is engaging in research that will help electrical grid operators more efficiently distribute electricity and plan networks more effectively. The research uses fiber optic sensors to measure air temperature, wind speed, and transmission lines’ real-time thermal expansion. He will use that information along with the grid operator’s distribution data to mathematically predict the lines’ expected thermal expansion as it relates to current weather conditions, which will help avoid the dangerous sagging power lines that result from overheating. After graduation, Skrovanek plans to return to the U.S. and pursue a doctorate in electrical engineering. For now, he’s enjoying his studies and learning from his new friends. “I always enjoyed studying a foreign language and a foreign culture. I find I learn more about myself as well as my own culture through that,” he says. “I always had that interest, and I stuck with it. It’s interesting to see the twists and turns that has led to in my professional life.”
Maggie Pavlick

Feb

Feb
27
2020

Michael Sullivan Selected for 2020 Siemens Peter Hammond Scholarship

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (Feb. 27, 2020) — Michael Sullivan, a master’s student in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has been selected to receive this year’s Siemens Peter Hammond Scholarship for $10,000. The scholarship is named for Peter Hammond, inventor of the Perfect Harmony drive and long-time engineer at Siemens who is now retired. Hammond’s Perfect Harmony drive is a high-power machine that controls the speed of large motors; today, it is a key part of Siemens’ medium voltage variable frequency drive portfolio. The resulting energy savings on large pumps, fans, compressors, and other industrial equipment have had an enormous environmental impact, the carbon footprint equivalent of removing millions of cars from the road. The annual scholarship, which is in its fourth year, was open to any student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Swanson School. Students must complete an application, supplementing it with an essay, letters of recommendation, a resume and their transcript. “Not only is Michael’s academic work remarkable, but he embodies the humility and good nature that Peter Hammond embodied throughout his career,” says Brandon Grainger, PhD, associate director of the Energy GRID Institute, Eaton Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School. “This scholarship invests in the students who will someday be the engineers pursuing bold ideas like the Perfect Harmony drive.” Before attending Swanson School, Sullivan worked for a decade as an electrician, where he was first introduced to the field of electrical engineering. Excited to learn of a career path so well suited to his curiosity about how things work, he pursued a bachelor’s degree at Pitt. Once he finishes earning his master’s degree in 2021, he plans to become a research engineer and work part-time toward a PhD. Previous recipients include Jacob Friedrich, MSEE; Thomas Cook, MSEE; and Ryan Brody, MSEE. The scholarship was presented Feb. 21, 2020, and included a presentation by Jason Hoover, director of business development at Siemens Industry. “The pool of applicants for this year’s scholarship was diverse and impressive, and we’re proud to have Michael Sullivan as the recipient of the 2020 Siemens Peter Hammond Scholarship,” says Hoover. “Michael’s innovative spirit, humility, and passion for engineering are all virtues that reflect Pete Hammond and make Michael a very worthy recipient of this award.”
Maggie Pavlick
Feb
12
2020

Researchers Celebrate Pioneer’s Work on World Radio Day

Electrical & Computer

Originally published in Pittwire. Reposted with permission. Every day, people use wireless technologies that may be taken for granted, like music streaming, FaceTime and podcasts listened to on smartphones. All of this and more can be traced back to the work of Reginald Fessenden, described by the United States National Park Service as the “Father of Voice Radio.” Fessenden served as chairman of the electrical engineering department at Pitt when it was called the Western University of Pennsylvania. The department has since evolved into today’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Fessenden was one of the greatest engineers and inventors in history, truly a genius,” said Alan George, the department’s current chair. “Much of the research and education in my field, electrical and computer engineering, including my research on space systems, sensors and missions, wouldn’t exist without his pioneering work in radio communications. Our department is most proud to have been founded by the father of radio.” Fessenden was recruited to Pitt in 1893 by George Westinghouse, who developed the alternating current electrical system and the Westinghouse light bulb among other innovations. Fessenden previously helped Westinghouse with electrical infrastructure and lighting for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and, prior to that, worked with another inventor he admired, Thomas Edison. It was at Pitt where Fessenden began experimenting with the foundations of what would become radio technology, at a time when wireless communication was very limited and people could only send messages via Morse code’s dashes and dots. By 1899, he was able to send wireless telegraphs between Pittsburgh and the former Allegheny City, now Pittsburgh’s North Side. He would leave Pitt in 1900 to dedicate his time to inventing, eventually being employed by the National Electric Signaling Company. His next achievements included the first wireless transmission of speech by radio in 1900, and the first two-way transcontinental radiotelegraphic transmission in 1906. Fessenden developed concepts and technologies for transmission and reception of continuous-wave signals, in the form of amplitude-modulated (AM) radio signals carrying audio information such as speech and music, which was a leap beyond the spark-gap transmitters of the day used for Morse code. AM signaling would later lead to frequency-modulated (FM) signaling, the two keystones of radio technology, and many more radio-frequency technologies that followed. “Fessenden laid the foundation for all modern communications,” George said. “Throughout our modern society, from TV to cell phones to GPS satellites, you can trace back to the work of Fessenden on radio technology. He deserves far more credit than he ever received.” Fessenden’s legacy at Pitt has been carried through the decades, with the late Marlin Mickle advancing research in the application of radio frequency energy. Mickle was the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor in the Swanson School of Engineering, holding a primary appointment as professor of electrical and computer engineering and secondary appointments in computer engineering, biomedical engineering, industrial engineering and telecommunications. He worked as a Pitt faculty member from 1962 until his retirement in 2013. Mickle had over 40 patents licensed, including a method to passively power image capturing and a method to control radio frequency transmissions to mitigate interference with critical care equipment. Pitt’s licensing of his patents led to seven spinoff companies forming. Mickle also directed Pitt’s Radio Frequency Identification Center of Excellence, which focused on research pertaining to advancements in wireless medical and engineering technologies. “He (Mickle) would make sure to dedicate part of his time to telling students in his networking classes about Fessenden and his work so they knew the connection between Fessenden and the department,” said Sam Dickerson, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. “He would tell students ‘Nothing is new,’ and that all technology we have is simply repackaged ideas implemented with better devices.” In medicine, communication is important for faster accurate diagnoses and treatments. "A lot of work in my field wouldn’t be possible without Fessenden’s work,” said Christopher Brown, an associate professor in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “Wireless communication has solved many problems in medicine. You can try using wires to transmit information from an external device to an implant in a patient’s body, but then you have the problems of infection, device failures and inconvenience.” Brown studies psychoacoustics, speech understanding in the presence of background noise, hearing impairment and cochlear implant processing. “Hearing devices have a direct link to Fessenden’s work,” he said. “For example, when someone has hearing aids in both ears, the aids will ‘communicate’ with each other to adjust volume levels so the listener is more comfortable. A cochlear implant is another surgically implanted device that takes radio information from external components through the skin into audio.” Pitt’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering reflects every year on the importance of Fessenden’s work at its graduation ceremony. “It’s important for every engineer to understand history in their field, because we can foresee much about the future by understanding the past,” George said. “The inventors of that era were amazing, and much of their new science was based upon faith in their ideas and that they can be successful, even when others didn’t believe in them.”
Author: Amerigo Allegretto, University Communications
Feb
12
2020

Dr. Steven Jacobs on the History of Radio

Electrical & Computer

As part of World Radio Day and the Centennial of KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh, Dr. Steven Jacobs spoke with Robert Mangino about the legacy of Reginald Fessenden, the "Father of Radio" and first Department Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt. Click here to download the KDKA-AM episode.

Feb
7
2020

Brandon Grainger Receives the ESWP 2019 Engineer of the Year Award

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (Feb. 7, 2020) … Brandon Grainger, assistant professor and Eaton Faculty Fellow of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, received the 2019 Engineer of the Year Award from the Engineering Society of Western Pennsylvania (ESWP). The award recognizes individuals who have significant technical and professional accomplishments which contribute to the engineering profession, and it was presented at the ESWP Annual Engineering Awards Banquet on Thursday, February 6, 2020 at the Westin Convention Center Hotel. Grainger is associate director of the Swanson School of Engineering’s Electric Power Engineering Program and associate director of the Energy GRID Institute. He received his PhD in electrical engineering with a specialization in power conversion from Pitt in 2014, where he also received his master’s degree in electrical engineering and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.  He was one of the first R.K. Mellon graduate student fellows as the Center for Energy was being established at Pitt. Grainger’s research interests are primarily focused upon power electronic converter design with power ranges that accommodate aerospace to grid scale applications. He and his advised students investigate circuit topology design, controllers, magnetics, and power semiconductor devices to ensure practical, high power dense solutions primarily for DC/DC and DC/AC converters. “The success of my research endeavors is a result of being strategic, aggressive and observant with a critical eye for detail,” he said. “In the past, there were two classes of engineers in power engineering: the system engineers and power conversion engineers. Although I focus in power conversion engineering, my strength is bridging both domains while proposing unique, novel solutions that industry will find valuable. I feel I bridge academia and industry well - in how I teach, train students, and interact with a wide range of manufacturers.” Grainger, a Pittsburgh native, worked for a variety of companies before joining Pitt full-time including ABB, ANSYS, Mitsubishi Electric and Siemens as either a co-op student, graduate student intern or full-time engineer. The Pittsburgh region is the birthplace of electric power engineering and Grainger gives credit to his academic and industry partners, foundations in the region and graduate students who have invested in him professionally, monetarily, or partnered with him in solving tough, electrical engineering problems that resulted in him receiving this award. “The challenges we are facing today cannot be solved by one individual but requires a community of champions within various organizations who have diverse skill sets to drive change,” he said. “My job is to ensure that students graduating with advanced degrees are equipped to meet these challenges and, yet, being a part of the community of professionals early on. I want to ensure that they feel confident as they transition to the workforce, thus, they are a part of influencing solutions being developed now, in practice, with our program at Pitt.” Grainger has contributed to more than 60 electric power engineering articles and is an annual reviewer of various power electronic conferences and transaction articles. He is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) where he participates in the Power Electronics Society (PELS) and Industrial Electronics Society (IES) at national levels. He served as the IEEE Pittsburgh PELS chapter chair for three years at which time the section won numerous awards under his leadership. “We are very proud to have Brandon as part of our faculty,” said Alan George, Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the R&H Mickle Endowed Chair Professor.  “Through his teaching and mentoring, he effectively prepares nascent engineers for a successful career in an increasingly diverse and global workforce. His innovative research and collaborations have been an asset to our department from his time as a student to his subsequent transition to faculty in 2014. Brandon is most deserving of this recognition.” ###

Jan

Jan
21
2020

Pitt Researchers Propose Solutions for Networking Lag in Massive IoT Devices

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (Jan 21, 2020) — The internet of things (IoT) widely spans from the smart speakers and Wi-Fi-connected home appliances to manufacturing machines that use connected sensors to time tasks on an assembly line, warehouses that rely on automation to manage inventory, and surgeons who can perform extremely precise surgeries with robots. But for these applications, timing is everything: a lagging connection could have disastrous consequences. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering are taking on that task, proposing a system that would use currently underutilized resources in an existing wireless channel to create extra opportunities for lag-free connections. The process, which wouldn’t require any additional hardware or wireless spectrum resources, could alleviate traffic backups on networks with many wireless connections, such as those found in smart warehouses and automated factories. The researchers announced their findings at the Association for Computing Machinery’s 2019 International Conference on Emerging Networking Experiments and Technologies, one of the best research conferences in networking techniques. The paper, titled “EasyPass: Combating IoT Delay with Multiple Access Wireless Side Channels,” (DOI: 10.1145/3359989.3365421), was named Best Paper at the Conference. It was authored by Haoyang Lu, PhD, Ruirong Chen, and Wei Gao, PhD. “The network’s automatic response to channel quality, or the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), is almost always a step or two behind,” explains Gao, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “When there is heavy traffic on a channel, the network changes to accommodate it. Similarly, when there is lighter traffic, the network meets it, but these adaptations don’t happen instantaneously. We used that lag - the space between the channel condition change and the network adjustment - to build a side channel solely for IoT devices where there is no competition and no delay.” This method, which the authors call “EasyPass,” would exploit the existing SNR margin, using it as a dedicated side channel for IoT devices. Lab tests have demonstrated a 90 percent reduction in data transmission delay in congested IoT networks, with a throughput up to 2.5 Mbps over a narrowband wireless link that can be accessed by more than 100 IoT devices at once. “The IoT has an important future in smart buildings, transportation systems, smart manufacturing, cyber-physical health systems, and beyond,” says Gao. “Our research could remove a very important barrier holding it back.”
Maggie Pavlick