Category Archives: Alumni

Heffernan wins national teaching award

Alumnus and CEEO affiliate John Heffernan

Alumnus and CEEO affiliate John Heffernan

John Heffernan is a part-time lecturer at the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) and a two-time Tufts alumni, with a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering. He’s also the technology teacher for pre-kindergarten through sixth grade students at the Anne T. Dunphy School in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.

Heffernan was recently honored with the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The award recognizes outstanding K-12 science and mathematics teachers from across the country.

“We must nurture the natural engineering instincts of young children. We cannot wait until middle and high school to interest students in engineering,” says Heffernan. Read more.

Tufts engineers invent “smart” thread

Illustration demonstrating how the thread collects data and transmits it to a flexible wireless transmitter atop the skin.

Engineers at Tufts invented a thread that wirelessly collects real-time diagnostic data when sutured into tissue. The thread-based diagnostic platform could be an effective substrate for a new generation of implantable diagnostic devices and smart wearable systems. The research was published in the journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering and has been featured in a number of media outlets, including The Economist, WBUR, IEEE Spectrum, and STAT.

Authors included Tufts alumni Pooria Mostafal and Kyle Alberti, who were PhD students at the time of the research; Assistant Professor Qiaobing Xu of the Department of Biomedical Engineering; and Associate Professor Sameer Sonkusale of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, alongside colleagues from Harvard Medical School’s Biomaterials Innovation Research Center, the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology, and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Alumna Zimmerman Wins Top Prize in Health and Life Sciences Track

04/07/2016 - Medford/Somerville, Mass. -  Award presentation:  Lauren Linton, deputy director of Tufts Institute for Innovation and BrainSpec. The 2016 $100K New Ventures Competition at Breed Memorial Hall in Tufts University, Thursday, April 7, 2016. (Chitose Suzuki for Tufts University)

Alexandra Zimmerman of team BrainSpec poses with Lauren Linton, deputy director of Tufts Institute for Innovation.

In the recent $100k New Ventures Competition organized by the Gordon Institute, mechanical engineering alumna Alexandra Zimmerman, E09, was on the BrainSpec team, which won first place in the Health and Life Sciences track. BrainSpec is a software platform that enables the accurate and non-invasive diagnosis of brain disorders, using magnetic resonance spectroscopy. It can help diagnose neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and brain tumor progression.

New Scientist Interviews Jacob and Yuksel about BACh System

Computer Science Professor Rob Jacob and doctoral student Beste Filiz Yuksel’s BACh System — Brain Automated Chorales – helps beginners learn to play Bach chorales on piano by measuring how hard their brains are working. It only offers a new line of music to learn when the brain isn’t working too hard, avoiding information overload. BACh estimates the brain’s workload using functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS), a technique that measures oxygen levels in the brain. Read more of the story in New Scientist magazine.

Their paper “Learn Piano with BACh“, including co-authors Remco Chang, Kurt Oleson, Lane Harrison, Evan Peck, and Dan Afergan, won the CHI2016 Best Paper Award.

Kullman Named NAE Fellow, Palladium Medal Winner

Ellen Kullman, E78, DuPont Chair of the Board & Chief Executive Officer

Ellen Kullman, E78, DuPont Chair of the Board & Chief Executive Officer

Mechanical engineering alumna, Tufts University Trustee  and Engineering Board of Advisor Member Ellen Kullman, E78, was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), which is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Kullman, Chair of the Board and CEO of DuPont,  was elected “for leadership in the business growth and transformation of a global science and engineering company.”

Kullman is also the 2015 recipient of the International Palladium Medal from the The Société de Chimie Industrielle–American Section for her distinguished contributions to the chemical industry and thereby to the enhancement of the international aims and objectives of the Société de Chimie Industrielle.

Kullman was named Drexel University’s 2015 Engineering Leader of the Year. She was honored for her leadership in the development of technology-based solutions to societal problems, and as a role model for current and future generations of engineers. Kullman is the second woman after Linda M. Abriola, to receive the award.

Engineers Develop Early Warning System for Cholera Epidemics

In two recently published papers, School of Engineering researchers have established new techniques for predicting the severity of seasonal cholera epidemics months before they occur and with a greater degree of accuracy than other methods based on remote satellite imaging. Taken together, findings from these two papers may provide the essential lead time to strengthen intervention efforts before the outbreak of cholera in endemic regions.

Cholera, caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae, is rare in the United States and other industrialized nations. However, globally, cholera cases have increased steadily since 2005 and the disease still occurs in many places including Africa, Southeast Asia, and Haiti. According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 3–5 million cholera cases every year, more than 100,000 cases are fatal. Image credit:

The team, led by Shafiqul Islam, professor of civil and environmental engineering, used satellite data to measure chlorophyll and algae, organic substances, and flora that also support growth of the cholera bacteria. Using satellite images, the researchers created a “satellite water marker” (SWM) index to estimate the presence of organic matter including chlorophyll and plankton based on wavelength measurements.

In a separate paper published online in the journal Environmental Modeling and Software, ahead of the September 1 print edition, Antarpreet Jutla, EG13, Islam, and Ali Akanda, EG13, showed that air temperature in the Himalayan foothills can also be a factor in predicting spring cholera.

“A Water Marker Monitored by Satellites to Predict Seasonal Endemic Cholera,” Antarpreet Jutla, Ali Shafqat Akanda, Anwar Huq, Abu Syed Golam Faruque, Rita Colwell, and Shafiqul Islam, Remote Sensing Letters, published on line before print June 3, 2013, Vol. 4, No. 8, 822–831.

The research reported in this paper was supported, in part, from National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants 1RCTW008587-01 and 2R01A1039129-11A2.

“A Framework for Predicting Endemic Cholera Using Satellite Derived Environmental Determinants,” Antarpreet S. Jutla, Ali S. Akanda, Shafiqul Islam, Environmental Monitoring and Software, published online before print

The research reported in this paper was supported through NIH funding under award number 1RCTW008587-01. Dr. Jutla acknowledges the support from Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.

Alumna McCarthy Nominated to Head the EPA

Gina McCarthy, EG81

President Obama nominated Gina McCarthy, EG81, to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and she was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate. McCarthy, who earned a joint M.S. degree in environmental health engineering and planning and policy, is the former EPA administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. McCarthy was also named a recipient of Graduate Studies’ Outstanding Service Award

In a 2009 interview with Tufts E-News, McCarthy said, “I don’t separate health issues from environmental issues or environmental issues from energy issues. I try to see it from the standpoint of human beings and what they need to have a sustainable world. I ended up in the environmental world because I saw the most direct overlap between what is happening in peoples’ health and the pollution they were being exposed to.”

Cortese Wins EPA Lifetime Achievement Award

Anthony D. Cortese, E68, EG72, received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Environmental Protection Agency at the 2013 Environmental Merit Award ceremonies held June 26 in Boston. Cortese is a senior fellow of Second Nature, an organization based in Boston and committed to promoting sustainability through higher education. Cortese received another Environmental Merit Award on behalf of Second Nature, which was nominated in the EPA’s Environmental, Community, Academia & Nonprofit category.


Curt Spalding (left), Regional Administrator, EPA New England, honors Anthony D. Cortese, E68, EG72, (third from left) with an EPA Lifetime Achievement award along with award recipients Ken Kimmell and Ira Leighton.

Cortese co-founded Second Nature with then-US Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts; Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry; and environmentalist and educator Bruce Droste. As president of Second Nature from 1993 to 2012, Cortese organized the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and co-founded both the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the Higher Education Association Sustainability Consortium. Cortese was formerly the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and was the first dean of environmental programs at Tufts University. At Tufts, he founded the Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute in 1989 that helped integrate environmental and sustainability perspectives into more than 175 courses.

Cortese also organized the effort that resulted in the internationally acclaimed Talloires Declaration of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future in 1990, now signed by more than 350 presidents and chancellors in more than 50 countries. Cortese is a frequent consultant on sustainability to higher education, industry and non-profit organizations.