Category Archives: Research News

Summer scholar profile: Jenny Skerker

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’ll be profiling three engineering students as they work on their projects.

skerker.JPGName: Jenny Skerker
Hometown: Lexington, MA
Major: Environmental engineering, E17
Faculty mentor: Associate Professor John Durant

Project: Over the last several years, you might have seen a Tufts RV driving around Boston. That RV, operated by Tufts CEE graduate students and equipped with fast-response air pollution monitoring equipment, was collecting data on air quality throughout the city. Skerker will bring some of that data into an analysis program called AERMOD to model air dispersal patterns from the northbound and southbound Central Artery Tunnel exits beneath downtown Boston  a particular focus that hasn’t been studied before. “My question that I’ll be trying to answer,” Skerker says, “is: where is this pollution going [when it exits the tunnel]? Does it affect neighboring communities? What’s the downwind direction?”

More information: Big road blues

Messner writes on autonomous cars

Bill Messner, John R. Beaver professor of mechanical engineering, recently wrote about advancements in autonomous car technology and about the future of these self-driving vehicles. Messner opined that “the prospect of greatly reducing accidents, injuries and deaths due to reckless driving, drunk driving, distracted driving, impaired driving, speeding and road rage means that increasingly automated cars will be a fact of life in the years ahead.”

Read the full article in The Conversation and the Boston Business Journal.

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.

Koomson awarded NSF early-concept grant

Valencia Joyner Koomson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, has received a National Science Foundation early-concept grant for exploratory research (EAGER) to develop a 3D optical imaging device to report data on the real-time electrical activity of multi-cellular systems.

The research, conducted in collaboration with postdoctoral scholar Nurdan Ozkucur, will have broader applications for disease pathways, drug development, and bioengineering.

Aeron wins NSF CAREER award

Shuchin Aeron, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, has received a five-year $530,000 NSF early career award for his work advancing multidimensional data science via new algebraic models and algorithms. The outcome of this research will re-invigorate interest from the applied mathematics and signal processing communities in using tools from linear and multilinear algebra that are not currently exploited.

The research involves collaboration with Tufts Department of Mathematics, Tufts Department of Neuroscience and Tufts Interactive Learning and Collaboration Environment (InterLACE) program, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and AT&T research.

Zenyuk researches hydrogen fuel cells

Widespread use of electric vehicles could offer relief from pollution, says Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Iryna Zenyuk, and hydrogen fuel cells present the option for a cleaner, more efficient power source. However, the water byproduct created inside a hydrogen fuel cell compromises the cell’s efficiency.

Tufts Now covers the work being done by Zenyuk and colleagues as they develop new ways to see how water droplets form inside a fuel cell’s tiny cathode layer.

Tufts biomedical engineers preserve fruit with silk

Strawberry - slideA team of Tufts researchers, including professors David Kaplan and Fiorenzo Omenetto, have demonstrated a promising alternative for food preservation, using an ultra-thin coating of biocompatible silk to keep fruit fresh without refrigeration.

Their research has been published in Scientific Reports. In addition to Kaplan and Omenetto, authors include first author Benedetto Marelli, Ph.D., formerly a post-doctoral associate in the Omenetto laboratory and now at MIT; and Mark A. Brenckle, Ph.D., former research assistant in the Omenetto Laboratory, now at Columbia University.

Tufts team uses silk to stabilize blood samples

stabilizingbloodPNASMay2016

Encapsulating blood samples in silk protein extracted from silk worm cocoons protected biomarkers effectively, even at high temperatures. (Courtesy Tufts Silk Lab)

A team of Tufts University researchers, including Professors David Kaplan and Fiorenzo Omenetto, have stabilized blood samples without refrigeration, by using air-dried silk protein to encapsulate the samples. The technique has implications for clinical care and research that require analysis of biofluids like blood, and could open up new testing options for currently underserved populations.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. In addition to Kaplan and Omenetto, authors include co-first author Jonathan Kluge, Ph.D., former postdoctoral associate in the Kaplan lab; Adrian B. Li, Ph.D., scientist at Vaxess Laboratories and a former doctoral student in Tufts’ Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Brooke Kahn, B.S., research associate at Cocoon Biotech and former intern in the Kaplan laboratory; and Dominique S. Michaud, Sc.D., Tufts University School of Medicine.

Dorfmann Researches the Dynamics of Chameleon Tongues

Chameleon with fly on tongue

Chameleon with fly on tongue

Associate Professor Luis Dorfmann contributed to research that built a mathematical model to explain the dynamics of the quick release of a chameleon’s tongue. The model could potentially have applications in designing elastic materials. Read the article from BBC News and the full paper as published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A.

 

$3M Grant Awarded to Mass Nanotech Consortium

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced $3 million in state support of the Cluster for Advanced Nanomanufacturing of Smart Sensors and Materials (ANSSeM) — a consortium of Massachusetts businesses and universities led by Northeastern University that includes Tufts University School of Engineering and University of Massachusetts Boston. Associate Professor Sameer Sonkusale in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Professor Igor Sokolov in the Department of Mechanical Engineering will purchase equipment for developing nanoscale sensors and for measuring nanomechanical properties, respectively.