Pitt | Swanson Engineering

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


Pitt Power Engineering Seniors Nathan Carnovale and Shamus O’Haire named IEEE PES Scholars

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (February 4, 2019) … The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power and Energy Society (PES) selected University of Pittsburgh seniors Nathan Carnovale and Shamus (James) O’Haire as recipients of the 2018-19 IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Award. Both are majoring in electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. This is Mr. Carnovale’s second IEEE PES Scholarship in as many years. “Being named an IEEE PES Scholar is well-respected in the field of power engineering, and both Nate and Shamus are outstanding ambassadors for our program,” said Robert Kerestes, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt. “We are incredibly proud of their accomplishments and I think they have great potential in their future careers.”The IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Initiative awarded scholarships to 174 electrical engineering students from 96 universities across the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Applicants for the scholarships were evaluated based on high achievement with a strong GPA, distinctive extracurricular commitments, and dedication to the power and energy field. Over the past seven years, the Scholarship Plus Initiative has awarded more than $3.5 million in scholarships to students interested in pursuing a career in the power and energy industry. Carnovale and O’Haire are the Swanson School’s 11th and 12th PES recipients since the scholarship’s inception in 2011 and continue the School’s seven-year streak of at least one awardee each year. Also, according to IEEE, Pitt is one of only 16 universities that have had at least one recipient every year since 2011. About Nathan CarnovaleNate Carnovale is scheduled to graduate from the University of Pittsburgh in December 2019 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and a concentration in electric power, and plans to pursue an M.S. degree in electric power engineering at Pitt starting in spring 2020. During his undergraduate career, he interned with Eaton for two summers, working at Eaton’s Power Systems Experience Center and in Eaton’s Power Systems Automation services group in Warrendale, PA. There he gained experience in power systems metering and monitoring, as well as experience installing, wiring, and programming Eaton demos at the Experience Center. He will be working in Eaton’s Power Systems Controls group this summer working with microgrids. For four semesters at Pitt, Carnovale has been a teaching assistant for the Art of Making, an introductory engineering course to hands-on systems design. He is currently working 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.About Shamus (James) O’HaireShamus O’Haire is scheduled to graduate in spring 2019 with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering with a concentration in power systems and a minor in computer science. During his career at Pitt, he has spent three summers interning at Exelon Corp., a Fortune 100 energy company that operates electric generation nationwide as well as electric distribution in the Northeastern US. He gained industry experience in system operations, transmission planning, and substations engineering during his time with the company, and hopes these experiences will be a springboard for his future career in the power and energy industry. O’Haire currently serves as the Chief Electronics Engineer for Pitt Aero Society of Automotive Engineers, and is a member of IEEE. ###


Lights, Camera, Action: Pitt iGEM team captures silver medal for their “Molecular Movie Camera”

Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (January 29, 2019) … The ability to measure and record molecular signals in a cell can help researchers better understand its behavior, but current systems are limited and provide only a “snapshot” of the environment rather than a more informative timeline of cellular events. In an effort to give researchers a complete understanding of event order, a team of University of Pittsburgh undergraduate students prototyped a frame-by-frame “video” recording device using bacteria. The group created this project for the 2018 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, an annual synthetic biology research competition in which over 300 teams from around the world design and carry out projects to solve an open research or societal problem. The Pitt undergraduate group received a silver medal for their device titled “CUTSCENE.” The iGEM team included two Swanson School of Engineering students: Evan Becker, a junior electrical engineering student, and Vivian Hu, a junior bioengineering student. Other team members included Matthew Greenwald, a senior microbiology student; Tucker Pavelek, a junior molecular biology and physics student; Libby Pinto, a sophomore microbiology and political science student; and Zemeng Wei, a senior chemistry student. CUTSCENE aims to show a “video” of cellular activity by recording events in the cell using modified CRISPR/Cas9 technology. Hu said, “By knowing what time molecular events are happening inside of a cell, we are able to better understand a cell's history and how it responds to external stimuli.” Their system improved upon older methods that could only record the levels of stimuli at a single point in time. They used a movie analogy to illustrate their objective. “Try guessing the plot of a movie by looking at the poster; you can get an idea of what is going on, but to really understand the story, you need to watch the film,” said Becker. “Unless researchers are taking many snapshots of the cellular activity over time, the image doesn’t give any sense of causality. You can see that the molecule is there, but you don't know where it has been or where it is going.” For their project, the iGEM team used modified CRISPR/Cas9 technology called a base editor. The CRISPR/Cas9 system contains two key components: a guideRNA (gRNA) that matches a specific sequence of DNA and a Cas9 protein that makes a cut at the specific sequence, ultimately leading to the insertion or deletion of base pairs - the building blocks of DNA. In addition to these components, a CRISPR/Cas9 base editor contains an enzyme called cytidine deaminase that is able to make a known single nucleotide mutation at a desired location of DNA. “We achieved a method of true chronological event recording by introducing recording plasmids with repeating units of DNA and multiple gRNA to direct our base editor construct,” said Hu. “This technique will provide an understanding of the order in which molecules and proteins appear in systems.” “A recording plasmid can be thought of as a roll of unexposed film, with each frame being an identical sequence of DNA,” explained Wei. “A single-guideRNA (sgRNA) directs the CRISPR/Cas9 base editor to move along the recording plasmid, making mutations at a timed rate and constantly shifting which frame is in front of our base editor. Activated by the presence of a stimulus, another sgRNA can mark the current frame.” The iGEM team’s approach to this technology will allow them to figure out which molecules are abundant at specific times and perhaps reveal hidden, causal relationships. The information gathered from the device has many potential applications and may allow researchers to develop medicines and therapies based on the timing of the cellular malfunction. “The team did a tremendous amount of lab work over the summer, implementing the cellular event recording methodology,” said Alex Deiters, a professor of chemistry at Pitt who helped advise the iGEM team. “Most importantly, the students developed this clever idea on their own by first identifying a current technology gap and then applying modern gene editing machinery to it. The silver medal is well-deserved!” In addition to Dr. Deiters, the 2018 Pitt iGEM team was advised by Dr. Jason Lohmueller, American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Immunology; Dr. Natasa Miskov-Zivanov, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Bioengineering, and Computational and Systems Biology; Dr. Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering; and Dr. Cheryl Telmer, a Research Biologist at Carnegie Mellon University. Funding for the 2018 Pitt iGEM effort was provided by the University of Pittsburgh (Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research, Honors College, Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences, Department of Chemistry, Swanson School of Engineering, Department of Bioengineering, and Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering), New England Biolabs (NEB), and Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT). ###


ECE's Heng Huang Receives $1.2M NSF BIGDATA Award to Address Computational Challenges in Big Brain Data Research Collaborations

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (December 20, 2018) … The National Science Foundation BIGDATA program awarded $1,200,000 to a research team led by the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering to study the big brain data for complex brain disorders and design new algorithms that address computational challenges in multi-site collaborative data mining. Heng Huang, the Swanson School’s John A. Jurenko Professor of Computer Engineering, is principal investigator of the study, "Asynchronous Distributed Machine Learning Framework for Multi-Site Collaborative Brain Big Data Mining." Huang currently leads seven NSF projects and an NIH R01 project on machine learning, big data mining, computational neuroscience, health informatics, and precision medicine. “Research in emerging fields, such as brain imaging genomics and human connectomics, holds great promise for a systems biology study of the brain,” said Huang. “This research can help us better understand complex neurobiological systems, from genetic determinants to the interplay between brain structure, connectivity, function, and cognition.” While researchers currently have access to brain data collected from a series of funded projects, they have failed to attain additional data collected by different local institutes due to data privacy and security issues preventing cross-institutional distribution. In this project, Huang will create a framework to address these issues and facilitate data and computing resource sharing. “In collaborative data analysis, the participating institutes keep their own data, which are analyzed and computed locally, and only share the computed results via communicating with the server,” explained Huang. “The server communicates with all institutes and updates the computational model such that the trained machine learning models indirectly use all data and are shared to all institutes.” According to Huang, most machine learning algorithms were not designed for such distributed architecture due to difficulties in designing efficient algorithms and providing theoretical foundations. This is the first project to create these type of algorithms for the study of brain imaging genomics and human connectomics. The goal of this project is to alleviate these computational challenges and enable investigators in neuroimaging, genomics, neuroscience, and other brain-related disciplines to securely and more efficiently further their research. “The result of our project will be new distributed machine learning algorithms with theoretical foundations that can be used for multi-site collaborative big brain data mining, creating large-scale computational strategies and effective software tools,” said Huang. “We hope that this work will help researchers harness the full potential of big brain data, potentially leading to the next major brain science discoveries.” ###


ECE NTS Research Faculty

Electrical & Computer, Open Positions

The ECE Department (http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/ECE/) at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) invites applications for a non-tenure-stream (NTS) research faculty position as Associate Professor in the fields of brain or medical imaging, with particular interest in computing and data analytics as well as other specialties in these two fields. The expected start date is Sept. 1, 2019. Successful candidates will have the scholarly qualifications and strong potential to become leaders in their field, synergy with strengths in and around our Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE) (http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/), and commitment to high-quality education for a diverse body of undergraduate and graduate students. Founded in 1787, Pitt is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the nation and located in one of the most beautiful, family-friendly, affordable, and vibrant of the major US cities. The ECE Department at Pitt dates back to 1893, when it was created by two engineering legends, George Westinghouse and Reginald Fessenden, and for 125 years it has excelled in education, research, and service. Today, Pitt-ECE features innovative undergraduate and graduate programs and world-class research centers and labs, combining theory with practice at the nexus of computer and electrical engineering, for our students to learn, develop, and lead lives of impact. Pitt-ECE is experiencing major growth and achievement in its academic and research programs, with 10 new faculty members joining our department in the past two years. Pitt-ECE is home to the NSF Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC), University Center for Energy, and Energy Grid Institute, and a leading partner in the Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering (PINSE). ECE faculty members benefit from strong collaborations with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and School of Medicine, Pittsburgh Quantum Institute (PQI), Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), Pitt Center for Research Computing (CRC), Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI), and dozens of industrial and agency research partners in the region and across the nation. With 30 full-time faculty members, Pitt-ECE offers B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical and computer engineering.  Enrollment consists of over 500 undergraduate and nearly 200 graduate students. The SSOE recently completed a $100 million renovation and redesign of Benedum Engineering Hall (BEH), home of Pitt-ECE, with state-of-the-art teaching and research labs. As part of its growth, Pitt-ECE has additional space in Schenley Place, a new research building within walking distance of BEH, and the Energy Innovation Center in downtown Pittsburgh, both major hubs for industry and university collaboration. Strong candidates in these targeted areas will be carefully considered. Applications are due by January 7, 2019 although candidates will continue to be considered until positions are filled. Please submit a CV, research and teaching statements, and contact information for at least three references, all in a single PDF file, to ecesearch-NTSR@pitt.edu. The University of Pittsburgh is an EEO/AA/M/F/Vets/Disabled Employer.


Pitt's power lab at Energy Innovation Center will be one-of-a-kind

Electrical & Computer

By early next year, Pittsburgh will have one of the country’s most advanced academic labs for the study of electrical power. The Energy Innovation Center in the Lower Hill District will be the site of the University of Pittsburgh’s high-voltage, high-capacity electric power lab. The state-of-the-art facility will be a distribution-level location with a microgrid, high-tech control and operation, and connectivity to solar, wind and natural gas generation. Greg Reed, director of Pitt’s Center for Energy and the Energy GRID Institute, said no academic center will have anything like it in terms of capacity and flexibility: It will have 15,000 volts and 5 megawatts of capacity, and both alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) in the lab. Read the full story (with subscription) at the Pittsburgh Business Times.
Author: Paul J. Gough, Reporter, Pittsburgh Business Times

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