Monday, 20 of October of 2014

Category » Students

Tufts University Alumni Association 2014 Senior Award Honorees

Each year, the Tufts University Alumni Association (TUAA) recognizes members of the senior class for academic achievement, participation in campus and community activities, and leadership. Twelve students are chosen from a pool of nominees for the TUAA Senior Award. This year’s cohort of Senior Award Honorees includes two engineering students: Briana Bouchard and Laura Burns.

Briana BouchardBriana Bouchard will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. Bouchard served as Corporate Relations Chair and Publicity Chair for Tufts Society for Women Engineers, Tufts Admissions Tour Guide and Engineering Panelist, Senior Representative and Academic Chair for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Residential Assistant for Tufts University Office of Residential Life. As a researcher, she designed a medical device to assist in the insertion of IV catheters in babies and children, was part of a team that designed an award winning audio speaker, and has researched the use of silk for breast implants for women who have had mastectomies.


Laura BurnsLaura Burns will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering. At Tufts, Burns was a Stern Family Scholar, was on the Dean’s List all semesters, a member of Tau Beta Pi (Engineering National Honor Society), President and Board Member of the Tufts University Engineering Student Council, Secretary and Board Member for Tufts University Society for Women Engineers, Captain of the Varsity Swim Team, and a volunteer at Tufts University Admissions Office. Burns was a research assistant in Assistant Professor Lauren Black’s Lab, where she worked with tissue engineering of cardiac tissue and design of an optical device to measure the thickness of delicate tissues.


Proof of Concept Robotic Programming Lends A Stress-Free Hand

Summer Scholar Chris Shinn, E15, hopes to reduce musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace through human-robot interaction.

The intended application is in diagnostic laboratories to reduce repetitive motion injuries. Currently lab techs must open and close hundreds of jars every day. Every year thousands of man-hours are lost due to such injuries, and costing employers and employees alike millions of dollars. While there’s plenty of room for improving the speed, Shinn’s work demonstrates a proof of concept for human-friendly robots such as Baxter to use tools to extend their utility and to integrate them into the work flow of laboratories and similar workplaces.

This video from Chris Shinn in the Human Factors program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering shows ongoing research with the Baxter robot. Located in the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO), Baxter opens and closes a specimen jar using a tool to overcome positioning uncertainty in its “hands.” Another special adapter on the other hand is employed to operate a pipette.


Entrepreneurial Engineers Design Water-Saving, Color-Changing Shower head

Engineers Brett Andler, E13, Joo Kang, A13, Sam Woolf, E13, and Tyler Wilson, E13, designed a water-saving, color-changing showerhead.

The recent graduates worked on their project, Uji, as part of their senior capstone thesis with Senior Lecturer Gary Leisk. The Uji team members were winners in the 2013 $100K business plan competition hosted by Tufts Gordon Institute.

The shower turns from green to red after seven minutes of use. In initial reports submitted to the School of Engineering, the team determined that, on average the Uji showerhead, will shorten shower times by over 10 percent. This estimate is now being reported as a 12 percent decrease.

The team and the technology was featured on National Public Radio’s weekly innovation blog  “All Tech Considered”  and was subsequently featured by FastCompany, and USA Today.

The team is now piloting the technology on university campuses. The Uji website claims that Uji showerheads count as low flow showerheads enabling universities to earn LEED green credits toward certification.

Follow Uji on Twitter (@UjiShower) to keep up with the team.


Tooth Tattoo

Gold, silk and graphite may not be the first materials that come to mind when you think of cutting-edge technology. Put them together, though, and you’ve got the basic components of a new ultra-thin, flexible oral sensor that can measure bacteria levels in the mouth. The device, attached temporarily to a tooth, could one day help dentists fine-tune treatments for patients with chronic periodontitis, for example, or even provide a window on a patient’s overall health.

The sensor, dubbed a “tooth tattoo,” was developed by the Princeton nanoscientist Michael McAlpine and Tufts bioengineers Fiorenzo Omenetto, David Kaplan and Hu Tao. The team first published their research last spring in the journal Nature Communications.

The sensor (A), attached to a tooth (B) and activated by radio signals (C), binds with certain bacteria (D). Illustration: Manu Mannoor/Nature Communications

Before the tooth tattoos can undergo clinical testing, however, researchers will have to overcome some limitations. In order for the sensor to detect specific strains of bacteria, McAlpine says, his team will need to create new peptides or similar molecules that bond with only one particular strain. Constructing those won’t be easy. McAlpine notes that he’ll need to work with biologists to build them from the ground up, a process that could require the development of entirely new methods for assembling organic molecules in the lab.

The sensor’s physical size is also a consideration: the prototype is a bit too large for use in humans (the team tested it on a cow tooth), so making the whole package smaller will be another challenge. And, Kugel notes, thickness is a factor, too. It’ll be important to determine if patients will accept having a foreign object, no matter how thin, attached to their teeth.

“People are very sensitive,” Kugel says. “They can feel objects in the mouth that are 50 or 60 microns across”—about the thickness of a sheet of paper. “If it’s at all irritating to a patient, he or she will complain about it. You’d need to make sure it’s actually comfortable enough to leave in place for long periods of time.”

[David Levin is a freelance science writer based in Boston. This story was first published on TuftsNow, Nov. 1, 2012.]


Breaking Point

They’ve got limited resources: a fixed amount of basswood, Elmer’s glue and an X-Acto knife. The goal: span an 18-inch gap with a bridge that holds as much weight as possible. That’s the plan at least, as teams of engineering students in Masoud Sanayei’s structural analysis course prepare for an annual competition, where they will learn real-life lessons.

“These are junior structural engineers with limited knowledge of applied mechanics and structural engineering in bridge design,” says Sanayei, a professor of civil and environmental engineering.

The teams put their designs to the test in a public contest of strength and skill, with bridges rated on aesthetics, load carried and efficiency (the ratio of bridge load to weight).

This year’s entries included colorful bridges that twisted, bent and snapped under loads ranging from less than 20 pounds to nearly 200 pounds. In a previous competition, one bridge withstood 376 pounds, still the record.

The “spaghetti” bridge from an earlier competition, a spectacular failure. Photo: Courtesy of Masoud Sanayei

The “spaghetti” bridge from an earlier competition, a spectacular failure. Photo: Courtesy of Masoud Sanayei

“They see there are so many ways for a structure to fail,” observes Sanayei. And it is failure that describes Sanayei’s most prized possession—a photograph of what he calls the “spaghetti” bridge—a warped and buckled span that was terribly designed and thus collapsed spectacularly during one competition.

“Understanding structural failures is crucial to the learning process,” says Sanayei, who requires the students to write a detailed analysis of where and why their bridges failed—and how they would go about preventing such failures.

“This is a real learning experience for structural engineers who, in the future, are going to design our highway bridges for safety, efficiency and durability,” says Sanayei.