Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Join With Us In Celebrating Our 2020 Graduating Class! 

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

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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. # # #


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. # # #


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).


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. # # #


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."

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