Thursday, 8 of October of 2015

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Secretary of Defense Acknowledges Fisher’s Anti-Hacking Research

Kathleen FisherU.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter acknowledged the role that Professor Kathleen Fisher played in the creation of the High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems (HACMS) program at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Secretary Carter opened DARPA’s “Wait What?” Future Technology Forum in St. Louis by discussing some of the technological advances made through programs such as HACMS.
“After years in a corporate-research lab, [Fisher] came to DARPA on a three-year tour in 2011, where she launched a program that uses so-called formal methods to make certain software, like the code behind physical control systems of an airplane or a self-driving car, to help them become mathematically provably unhackable,” said Carter.

Read a full transcript of Secretary Carter’s speech.

Xu Wins NSF Award to Find New Ways to Deliver Drugs Directly into Cells


Qiaobing Xu

Qiaobing Xu

Qiaobing Xu, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical engineering in Tufts University School of Engineering, has received a $498,899 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund research into a new way to deliver protein-based cancer-fighting drugs and other therapeutics into cells.

Such an approach would enable drugs to destroy cancerous growth more effectively than existing treatments and target other diseases traditionally considered “undruggable.”

Chemotherapy drugs attack all actively dividing cells—healthy and diseased alike—often causing significant side effects in the patients. New protein-based therapy, such as cytokines, monoclonal antibodies and growth factors, allow for highly targeted treatment. The problem is that, unlike compounds used in chemotherapy, proteins are too large to easily cross the cell membrane to penetrate into the cell cytoplasm. Instead, most of these protein therapies work by targeting specific receptors on the outside surface of diseased cells.

The NSF program supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.

Xu is developing a method way to transport the protein inside the cell safely and efficiently by binding it with a nanoparticle that can cross the cell membrane and, when safely inside, release the protein. In his approach, the protein is first chemically altered to give it a negative charge and then bound to a positively charged nanoparticle composed of lipids. The lipids then pass through the cell membrane, which is naturally negatively charged.

– See more at:

AEESP Recognizes Ramsburg for Outstanding Teaching

Andrew Ramsburg

Andrew Ramsburg

The Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) has recognized Associate Professor C. Andrew Ramsburg with its Award for Outstanding Teaching in Environmental Engineering and Science which recognizes his outstanding contributions to the teaching of environmental engineering, both at Tufts and in the larger community.

Abriola Named University Professor

Linda M. Abriola appointed University Professor. Photo: J.J. Zhou

Linda M. Abriola appointed University Professor. Photo: J.J. Zhou

Linda Abriola, dean of the School of Engineering and a professor of civil and environmental engineering, has been named a University Professor, the highest academic honor conferred at Tufts. It is a distinction currently held by just four other faculty members here. Abriola is the first woman to receive the appointment.

Abriola, who has been dean since 2003, was one of the first to develop a mathematical model that describes the migration of organic liquid contaminants in the subsurface—or, more simply, how organic chemical pollutants travel within and contaminate our groundwater resources.

She is particularly known for her work on the characterization and remediation of underground aquifers contaminated by chlorinated solvents, a family of chemicals used as degreasers and in dry cleaning that are known carcinogens and harmful to ecological health.

The president and provost recommend faculty for University Professorships, which are approved by the Board of Trustees. The designation is an honor reserved for faculty of unusual scholarly eminence who are also exemplary citizens of the Tufts community.

“This appointment honors Linda Abriola for her work as a transformative leader of the School of Engineering and the university, as well as her outstanding reputation as a researcher in the field of groundwater remediation,” said Provost David Harris.

“I am deeply honored to receive this distinguished professorship,” Abriola said. “My past 12 years as dean of the School of Engineering have been the most rewarding and productive of my academic career. It has been both a joy and a privilege to be a part of this wonderful community, and I look forward to continuing my relationship with the university in this new capacity.”

– See more at:

Miller and Saibaba Featured on Cover of Inverse Problems

Eric Miller

Eric Miller

The research of Professor and Chair Eric Miller (ECE) and postdoc Arvind Saibaba is featured on the cover of the January issue of the journal Inverse Problems. The work, in collaboration with Professor Peter Kitanidis at Stanford University, develops computationally efficient methods for estimating the state of large-scale, noisy, and dynamical systems, opening up possibilities for real-time monitoring and control of processes in fields ranging from medicine and biology to subsurface remediation, carbon sequestration, and numerical weather prediction.



Fig. 8 Variance of the computed solution at time 30 h after injection computed on the grid of size.

New Catalysts May Provide Path to Low-Cost Production of Future Fuels

Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos

Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos

New catalysts designed by Tufts University School of Engineering researchers and collaborators from other university and national laboratories have the potential to greatly reduce processing costs in future fuels, such as hydrogen. The catalysts, composed of single gold atoms bound by oxygen to sodium or potassium atoms and supported by a wholly unique structure comprised of non-reactive silica materials, demonstrate comparable activity and stability with current catalysts used in producing highly purified hydrogen.

The work, which appears in Science Express, points to new avenues for producing single-site supported gold catalysts that could produce high-grade hydrogen for cleaner energy use in fuel-cell powered devices, including vehicles.

“In the face of precious metals scarcity and exorbitant fuel-processing costs, these systems are promising in the search for sustainable global energy solutions,” says senior author Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos, the Robert and Marcy Haber Endowed Professor in Energy Sustainability.

The paper appeared in the November 27 edition of Science Express. (doi:10.1126/science.1260526). This research is primarily supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under grant # DE-FG02-05ER15730.

Image from Science Express, Nov 27

Matson Discusses Electromagnetic Levitator with NASA

Doug Matson

Doug Matson

Associate Professor Doug Matson spoke with NASA Public Affairs Officer Amiko Kauderer about the Electromagnetic Levitator, a piece of physics experiment hardware operating in the International Space Station’s Columbus laboratory. The EML is a furnace that can heat metals to more than 2,000 degrees Celsius and then cool them rapidly, and by doing so in a weightless environment—with the samples suspended in mid-air—allows scientists to more clearly observe some of the complex core processes of physics.

Watch the interview on YouTube.


Engineers Win Big at Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition

Engineering students won big at this year’s $100K New Ventures Competition held, April 7-8, 2015.

Computer Science seniors Karan Singhal and Jaime Sanchez were part of the winning team for the high-tech track. SpotLight Parking is an on-demand service that brings valet parking to the user’s fingertips through a mobile app that enables a customer to drive directly to a destination and be met by a SpotLight-enabled valet able to accept pre-registered credit cards. SpotLight Parking received the Stephen and Geraldine Ricci Interdisciplinary Prize, awarded to a project that bests demonstrate interdisciplinary engineering design and entrepreneurial spirit, and the Audience Choice Award, given to the highest-potential project as voted by event attendees.

Dylan Wilks, who graduates this year with his masters of science in engineering management from Tufts Gordon Institute, also tied for first place in the $100K. Dylan developed a low-cost, portable chemical analysis platform with marketability in the cosmetics, petroleum, and tobacco industries, among others.

Doctoral recipient Chirag Sthalekar and his advisor Valencia Koomson took third place in the $100K life sciences track for the development of low-cost and lightweight silicon microchip technology that accurately monitors cerebral blood flow to prevent brain damage in premature babies.

Read more about the Spring 2015 Finalists.


Tufts $100K Spotlight Parking

Members of the Spotlight Parking team receive their check.

Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences Launched

Matthias Scheutz

Matthias Scheutz

Researchers from Tufts University and the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) are joining forces to advance our understanding of how people think, function, and interact in demanding environments. This new center represents a collaborative partnership in cognitive science research co-directed and co-managed by researchers from both institutions.

“We hope to increase understanding of how individuals and teams adapt and sustain performance in high-stakes environments,” says Holly A. Taylor, a professor of psychology at Tufts School of Arts and Sciences, an adjunct professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and lead investigator from the Tufts team.

Matthias Scheutz, a professor of computer science at Tufts School of Engineering and co-principal investigator on the center grant, brings yet another dimension to the research when attempting to understand how people interact not only with each other in teams, but with potential robotic partners.

“In the same scenario of searching for an injured person, imagine now that a robot is the navigator,” says Scheutz, “and the rest of its human teammates are interacting with that robot from a safe distance out of the fray. How might that team work together in a high-stress environment? How could we improve that collaboration?” These questions need answering as robots become an ever-increasing presence on the battlefield and in everyday life, adds Scheutz who directs the Human-Robot Interaction Lab.

Read more about the launch of the center.

 Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences


Silk-Based Surgical Implants an Orthopedic Innovation

silkscrewThe latest silk-inspired innovation from the lab of biomedical engineering Professor David Kaplan is receiving media attention: silk-protein surgical screws that could transform the way we heal broken bones. Researchers from Kaplan’s lab and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center published their findings in the journal Nature Communications this March.

Surgical screws and plates, or “fixation devices” are used to repair fractured bones and are often made of metal alloys or synthetic polymers. However, metal implants place undue stress on the bone, are prone to infection, and must be surgically removed from the body once a fracture has healed. Synthetic screws are designed to be absorbed by the body, but they can be difficult to set and may cause inflammation.

The research team manufactured plates and screws from the silk protein produced by the Bombyx mori (B. mori) silkworm cocoons. A silk solution was cured into molds that produced easily machinable plates and screws. The silk screws are self-tapping, an improvement from conventional resorbable screws that require careful drilling of a screw hole before insertion of the hardware. In vivo tests showed the screws remain fixed in the bone at four and eight weeks with notable improvements in the healing and resorbtion process.

Professor Kaplan told BBC News: “The future is very exciting. We envision a whole set of orthopaedic devices for repair based on this – from plates and screws to almost any kind of device you can think of where you don’t want hardware left in the body.”

Some added benefits to the silk technology over metal fixation devices include decreased sensitivity to the cold and zero interference with X-ray technology or metal detectors. “One of the other big advantages of silk is that it can stabilize and deliver bioactive components, so that plates and screws made of silk could actually deliver antibiotics to prevent infection, pharmaceuticals to enhance bone regrowth and other therapeutics to support healing,” says Kaplan.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (EB002520).

More coverage on this story: TuftsNow, New Scientist, The Telegraph, and Popular Science