Category Archives: Engineers

Who is doing all this great stuff?

Islam wins international prize for water research

Professor Shafiqul Islam

Professor Shafiqul Islam

Professor Shafiqul Islam of Tufts School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and professor of water diplomacy at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, was awarded the Creativity Award for the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW). The award, given to Islam and his team member Rita Colwell, University of Maryland at College Park, was presented at a ceremony held November 2, 2016 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. It was hosted by the U.N. Friends of Water and presided over by the U.N. General Secretary H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, and by PSIPW Chairman H.R.H. Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdualziz.

Islam and Colwell received the Creativity Award for developing and testing a model that uses chlorophyll information from satellite data to predict cholera outbreaks at least three to six months in advance. Colwell and her team were the first to use remote satellite data to develop a predictive model for cholera outbreaks in East Asia. Islam applied Colwell’s findings to relate chlorophyll information obtained from NASA satellites and cholera outbreaks in the Bay of Bengal. The team is currently working on testing the satellite-based model with ground-based observations.

Islam, who directs the Water Diplomacy program, received his Sc.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also the director of the Boston Water Group, a diverse group of researchers and practitioners from academia, industry, and civil-society, who are based in the Greater Boston region but who work across the United States and around the world to address problems that involve water.

Civil & environmental engineers visit Skanska site

Skanska group tourRecently, Skanska hosted a Jumbo to Jumbo recruiting event. Tufts students heard presentations from recent Tufts graduates who now work for Skanska.

The alumni presenters were Aliandro Brathwaite, E14; Jeffrey Chang, E15; Sarah Ruckhaus, E14; Sydney Smith, E16; and Rip Swan, E15.

Topics included working with Skanska’s BIM Group/VDC Center of Excellence, and the 121 Seaport up-down project.

After the alumni presentations, Skanska hosted a below-ground tour of 121 Seaport to demonstrate the excavation of the foundation.

 

Students participate in annual bridge competition

CEE22 students watch as weights are loaded onto one team's bridge.

CEE22 students watch as weights are loaded onto one team’s bridge.

Every year, Professor Masoud Sanayei‘s class on structural analysis, CEE22, holds a competition. Students are asked to build bridges using rudimentary materials in a short period of time, and then the carrying load of their bridges is tested with weights.

Last week, the class held its 2016 competition in Anderson Hall. Sanayei says, “[The bridges] carried about 800 to 900 times their self weights. This shows the power of good design with accurate structural analysis and good construction.”

Check out a slow-motion video on the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Facebook page.

Tufts team wins international computational biology competition

A team of Tufts computer scientists and mathematicians won top prize in the Disease Module Identification DREAM Challenge, which is an “open community effort to: (1) Systematically assess module identification methods on a panel of state-of-the-art genomic networks, and (2) discover novel network modules/pathways underlying complex diseases.” The competition is driven by the interconnected nature of multiple genes interacting within molecular pathways to drive physiological and disease processes.

Out of 42 teams from across the globe, Team Tusk won first place with its response, “A Double Spectral Approach to DREAM 11 Subchallenge.” Team members included, from the Department of Computer Science, Professor Lenore Cowen, Professor Donna Slonim, Assistant Professor Ben Hescott, and master’s student Jake Crawford; and, from the Department of Mathematics, Assistant Professor Xiaozhe Hu and Ph.D. student Joanne Lin.

Heppelmann to deliver Dean’s Lecture

HeppelmannLecture-emailJames Heppelmann, the CEO of software company PTC, will deliver the annual Dean’s Lecture on Monday, October 17 at 12:00 PM in Nelson Auditorium (Anderson Hall, 200 College Avenue).

Titled “THINGS Will Never Be the Same: A New Reality and New Opportunities for Innovation,” Heppelmann’s talk will address lessons learned from more than 30 years of experience in the technology industry, including the vision to anticipate how to capitalize on the next opportunity. The convergence of the physical and digital worlds create new opportunities for innovation and disruption. Heppelmann will provide advice to students and startups on creating and unlocking value in an IoT world.

Heppelmann is an award-winning CEO and recognized thought leader in the Internet of Things (IoT). He co-founded Windchill Technology, which was first to market with an internet-based solution for product lifecycle management, and he served as president and chief operating officer of PTC before his appointment to CEO in 2010.

Researchers receive $1 million ONR grant

Sameer Sonkusale, professor of electrical and computer engineering

Engineering faculty Professor Sameer Sonkusale and Associate Professor Qiaobing Xu, working with Assistant Professor Jimmy Crott from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, have received a $1 million grant from the Office of Naval Research to build biomedical microdevices to investigate the gut microbiome.

Qiaobing Xu, associate professor of biomedical engineering

Current studies of the gut microbiome rely on the metabolic and genomic analysis of fecal matter. That analysis fails to identify which areas of the large or small intestine are colonized by bacterial species, and how those bacterial species interact with one another and with the host. This research project seeks to sample the microbiome at different locations in the gut to obtain a spatial distribution profile. Sonkusale, Xu, and Crott have proposed the use of a biocompatible lab-on-a-pill with integrated sensor, energy source, and electronics, to carry out that sampling.

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.

Nair honored with NIH New Innovator Award

Assistant Professor Nikhil Nair of the Tufts Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Nikhil Nair, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, received an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award for his research on engineering bacteria to treat inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs). These rare genetic disorders, like Phenylketonuria and Maple Syrup Urine Disorder, are disorders in which the body converts nutrients from food into harmful toxins. If not treated at birth, IEMs can impede intellectual or physical development and may even lead to death.

Nair and members of his synthetic biology laboratory are modifying lactobacillus bacteria that could produce enzymes that intercept and detoxify amino acids before they can be improperly metabolized to harm patients with IEMs.

The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, established in 2007, supports early career investigators within 10 years of their terminal degree or clinical residency and is part of the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program.

Read more about Nair’s research and the award.

Rising costs for infections linked to bacteria in water supply

articleBacteriaWaterSupply2016A team led by Tufts researchers has found that healthcare costs are rising for infections linked to bacteria in water supply systems. The costs may now exceed $2 billion for 80,000 cases per year, and antibiotic resistance may be contributing to the trend.

“Premise plumbing pathogens can be found in drinking water, showers, hot tubs, medical instruments, kitchens, swimming pools—almost any premise where people use public water. The observed upward trend in associated infections is likely to continue, and aging water distribution systems might soon be an additional reservoir of costly multidrug resistance,” says lead author Elena Naumova.

The Tufts team included Naumova, professor at the Friedman School and Director of the Initiative for the Forecasting and Modeling of Infectious Disease at Tufts University, and Jeffrey Griffiths, professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. Both Naumova and Griffiths have a secondary appointment in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE).

CEE postdoctoral fellow Alexander Liss was also an author on the paper, alongside Irmgard Behlau, research assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine, and Jyotsna Jagai of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Read the press release and the full paper in the Journal of Public Health Policy.

Summer scholar profile: Grace Aro

Each year, the Summer Scholars Program awards funding to a select group of rising juniors and seniors from across Tufts academic disciplines, to carry out ten-week independent research projects. This summer, we profiled three engineering students as they worked on their projects.

Grace Aro working in the lab at SciTech. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

Grace Aro working in the lab at SciTech. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

Name: Grace Aro
Hometown: Denver, CO
Major: Chemical engineering, E18
Faculty mentor: Assistant Professor Ayse Asatekin

Project: There are “a lot of people in the world who don’t have access to clean drinking water,” says Aro, “and that’s a big issue.” Her project investigates an interesting potential solution: a co-polymer membrane that could filter organic materials out of surface water, while resisting getting clogged. The membranes that she made and tested in the lab are zwitterionic, meaning that they were created with zwitterions — ions that have positive charges on one end and negative on the other.  So far, Aro’s research suggests that the zwitterionic membranes seem to have equal the filtering capabilities of commercially-sold membranes, while clogging less. She’s also experimenting with whether the membranes can remove lead from a solution.

Read more: Filtering cleaner drinking water, and Water purification at the molecular level