Category Archives: undergraduate

A packed house for Tufts Polyhack

Students and mentors at the 2016 Tufts Polyhack

Mentors (wearing purple shirts) and student participants listen as the 2016 Tufts Polyhack gets underway. Photo courtesy of Ming Chow.

Tufts Computer Science Exchange hosted the annual Tufts Polyhack hackathon on October 14 and 15, in the Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex at 574 Boston Avenue. Nearly 300 students participated, spending a whirlwind 20 hours developing computer science projects of their choosing. There were 34 projects submitted. This year, 20 mentors also participated. A mix of current students and alumni, mentors led workshops and helped students troubleshoot questions and problems with their projects.

One outstanding design for a hackathon team came from Julie Sanduski, A17, who worked on Streetspot, an app conceptualized as the equivalent of Rate My Professors for landlords. Other winners included Linda Cameron, E19, Jake Rochford, A19, and José Lopez, A17, who won Polyhack’s design war sprint competitions, which were created as a way to encourage more designers to attend hackathons and collaborate with developers. Cameron, Rochford, and Lopez designed everything from logos to wireframes within short time constraints. All four students were among the winners chosen to have their portfolios sent to Polyhack’s sponsors for review.

Mechanical engineers receive best poster award

Xiao and Barlow pose with their winning poster.

Xiao and Barlow pose with their winning poster.

On October 29, mechanical engineering major Stan Barlow, E17, and Ph.D. candidate Xiao Xiao attended the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. They received the Best Poster – Young Investigator Award from the NASA Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).

Xiao and Barlow won the award for their poster titled “Density Measurement for Industrial Turbine Blade Superalloys,” which they worked on with Associate Professor Douglas Matson and Ph.D. candidate Justin Rodriguez.

 

Tufts attends Grace Hopper Celebration

The 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration kicks off in Houston. Photo courtesy of Sara Amr Amin.

The 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration kicks off in Houston. Photo courtesy of Sara Amr Amin.

In late October, a group of Tufts students and faculty attended the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) in Houston, Texas. GHC is the world’s largest technical conference for women in computing, where women technologists and leaders in computing convene to highlight the contributions of women to computing. Named in honor of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, GHC is co-presented by the Anita Borg Institute and the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM).

This year, Tufts attendees included 16 undergraduates, two graduate students, and one faculty member. Students were able to make connections across the industry, from engineers at Otto, Uber’s self-driving semi-truck company, to Google X project leads, computer science Ph.D. students, and recruiters hiring for open positions.

“Most valuable was meeting people on specific teams at companies I’m interested in, because that’s how I want to think about potential,” says Alice Lee, a senior who’s interested in programming languages and embedded systems. “I was inspired by the women who are actively breaking glass ceilings and ready to talk about just how they did it.”

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.

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

$1 million grant to support low-income engineering students

Professor Laurie Baise and engineering students visit a construction site.  (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

Professor Laurie Baise and engineering students visit a construction site. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

The new FAST-TRAC program will provide scholarships and support to low-income students who are earning a B.S. and an M.S. in Tufts’ five-year combined degree program. Thanks to a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Tufts can fund FAST-TRAC through at least 2020. Engineering undergraduates starting their junior year this fall will be the first class eligible for FAST-TRAC. The program applies to all majors within the School of Engineering.

The effort is led by Associate Dean for Graduate Education Karen Panetta, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Darryl Williams, and Kristin Finch, Associate Director of the Center for STEM Diversity.

“The landscape for entry-level engineering jobs is changing significantly,” Williams says. “The more competitive applicants are those who have master’s degrees.” FAST-TRAC will bring a master’s degree within reach for more engineering students.

Summer scholar profile: Anu Gamage

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.

Anu Gamage performs research on her inverted pendulum.

Anu Gamage performs research on her inverted pendulum.

Name: Anu Gamage
Hometown: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Major: Electrical engineering, E18
Faculty mentor: Assistant Professor Usman Khan

Project: An inverted pendulum is exactly what it sounds like: a pendulum stood on its head, with its center of mass above its pivot. It requires a constant application of force to keep it balanced. The human body is an inverted pendulum, Gamage points out, with our muscles constricting to act against gravity and keep us upright. There are inverted pendulums in robotics and in aeronautics. They’re monitored by internal sensors that track the pendulum’s position and apply the proper amount of force to maintain its vertical position. Those internal sensors, however, are potentially vulnerable to software bugs or cyberattacks. Gamage seeks to create an external camera system that would capture a running visual feed of the pendulum’s motion, process those images, and use that data to balance it. “It would be robust against attacks or malfunctions,” says Gamage.

Read more: Defying gravity with an inverted pendulum, and Anu’s blogs for Tufts Admissions

Communicating health risks with visualizations

Associate Professor Remco Chang creates visualizations to help communicate health risks to patients.

Associate Professor Remco Chang creates visualizations to help communicate health risks to patients.

Associate Professor Remco Chang, students, and collaborators at Maine Medical Center (MMC) created a project to investigate how older men with prostate cancer use visualizations to better understand their own health risk information. Chang, master’s student Anzu Hakone, E16, recent graduate Nate Winters, E16, doctoral recipient Alvitta Ottley, EG16, postdoctoral researcher Lane Harrison, and MCC collaborators Dr. Paul Han and Caitlin Gutheil have a paper entitled “PROACT: Iterative Design of a Patient-Centered Visualization for Effective Prostate Cancer Health Risk Communication” appearing at the 2016 IEEE InfoVis conference. The web-based visualization prototype, PROACT, supports patients to learn about their cancer risk and the possible side effects of different treatment options.

Driving the Autobahn

Professor Kathleen Fisher, Remy Wang, and Diogenes Nunez worked on a Haskell program called AUTOBAHN.

Professor Kathleen Fisher, Remy Wang, and Diogenes Nunez created a Haskell program called AUTOBAHN.

A paper by doctoral student Diogenes Nunez, senior Remy Wang, and Professor and Chair Kathleen Fisher, entitled “AUTOBAHN: Using Genetic Algorithms to Infer Strictness Annotations,” will appear at the 2016 Haskell Symposium. This work, which started as a project in Associate Professor Norman Ramsey’s functional programming class, tackles the long-standing problem of how to improve the performance of Haskell programs by telling the compiler which program fragments should be evaluated eagerly. Currently, inserting the appropriate annotations is a black art, known only to expert Haskell programmers. The Autobahn tool developed by Nunez and Wang automatically suggests appropriate places to put annotations to improve a number of performance metrics.