Professor Soha Hassoun, department chair of Computer Science
Professor and Chair Soha Hassoun was one of three recipients of an 2015 Ideas Competition award. The Ideas Competition, hosted by Tufts Gordon Institute, is designed for early-stage business ideas. Hassoun’s project “TRAG: At-Home Diagnostics System and App for Tracking the Gut Microbiota” seeks to allow individuals to easily and frequently track and assess the impact of diet, including prebiotics and probiotics, on the gut microbiota. “The global market for prebiotics and probiotics is expected to grow steadily in the next 5 years,” says Hassoun. “There is currently no sure way of predicting and tracking the benefits of these products.”
Learn more about the Ideas Competition and enter the Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition.
On December 13, 2015, Professor Bill Messner spoke with the the Boston Metro about the possibility of driverless trains in the public transportation system, commenting on the recent “Ghost Train” mishap where a Red Line train left a T station without its driver. “From a technology standpoint, it’s certainly doable. It’s a question of expense, really, and of course public acceptance of autonomous trains.” Messner commented that the MBTA is not a good case for “robotic retrofitting” because it was never designed to be an autonomous system.
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.
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 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 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.
Today, the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine announced that the second phase of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) project will move ahead with involvement from researchers on Stern Family Professor David Kaplan’sbiomedical engineering team. The five-year, $75 million federally funded project focuses on applying regenerative medicine to battlefield injuries.
Anthony Atala, M.D., director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, is the lead investigator for AFIRM-II. He will direct a consortium of more than 30 academic institutions, including Tufts School of Engineering, and industry partners.
In the first phase of AFIRM, which began in 2008, Kaplan’s group looked at soft tissue reconstruction and peripheral nerve repair research. During this phase, Kaplan will focus on muscle regeneration.
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.
In an article published in MIT Tech Review, Professor Rob Jacob in the Department of Computer Science commented on a new 3D interface called “Leap Motion” that allows users to gesture to interact with their computers.
According to the company, since the launch of the product in late July, users have downloaded more than 1 million apps that connect with the technology.
MIT Tech Review reports, “Yet after one month and a raft of ‘meh’ product reviews citing problems like difficulty controlling apps and tired arms, the sardine-can-sized gadget—which connects to a computer’s USB port and tracks the movement of your hands and fingers as they move above its sensor—seems to have lost its steam.”
“Things involving human-computer interfaces often move extremely slowly. It may take a while before the Leap reaches its full potential,” Jacob, told Tech Review.
Professor Fiorenzo Omenetto in the Department of Biomedical Engineering collaborated with the Mediated Matter Research Group at the MIT Media Lab to produce the Silk Pavilion–a stunning geometric structure constructed by silkworms and guided by engineers.
The Silk Pavilion explores the relationship between digital and biological fabrication on product and architectural scales.
The primary structure was created of 26 polygonal panels made of silk threads laid down by a CNC (Computer-Numerically Controlled) machine. Inspired by the silkworm’s ability to generate a 3D cocoon out of a single multi-property silk thread (1km in length), the overall geometry of the pavilion was created using an algorithm that assigns a single continuous thread across patches providing various degrees of density.
Overall density variation was informed by the silkworm itself deployed as a biological “printer” in the creation of a secondary structure. A swarm of 6,500 silkworms was positioned at the bottom rim of the scaffold spinning flat non-woven silk patches as they locally reinforced the gaps across CNC-deposited silk fibers. Following their pupation stage the silkworms were removed. Resulting moths can produce 1.5 million eggs with the potential of constructing up to 250 additional pavilions.
Affected by spatial and environmental conditions including geometrical density as well as variation in natural light and heat, the silkworms were found to migrate to darker and denser areas. Desired light effects informed variations in material organization across the surface area of the structure. A season-specific sun path diagram mapping solar trajectories in space dictated the location, size and density of apertures within the structure in order to lock-in rays of natural light entering the pavilion from South and East elevations. The central oculus is located against the East elevation and may be used as a sun-clock.
Parallel basic research explored the use of silkworms as entities that can “compute” material organization based on external performance criteria. Specifically, we explored the formation of non-woven fiber structures generated by the silkworms as a computational schema for determining shape and material optimization of fiber-based surface structures.
Research and Design by the Mediated Matter Research Group at the MIT Media Lab in collaboration with Prof. Fiorenzo Omenetto and Dr. James Weaver (WYSS Institute, Harvard University). Mediated Matter researchers include Markus Kayser, Jared Laucks, Carlos David Gonzalez Uribe, Jorge Duro-Royo and Neri Oxman (Director).
The new journal, called Soft Robotics (SoRo), will be published quarterly online with Open Access options and in print. SoRo combines advances in biomedical engineering, biomechanics, mathematical modeling, biopolymer chemistry, computer science, and tissue engineering to present new approaches to the creation of robotic technology and devices that can undergo dramatic changes in shape and size in order to adapt to various environments.
“The next frontier in robotics is to make machines that can assist us in everyday activities, at home, in the office, in hospitals, and even in natural environments,” says Trimmer director of the Soft Material Robotics | IGERT doctoral program at Tufts. “Soft Robotics provides a forum, for the first time, for scientists and engineers across diverse fields to work together to build the next generation of interactive robots. This journal provides biologists, engineers, materials specialists, and computer scientists a common meeting place, and we are very excited about this new forum.”
This article first appeared as a press release from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. publishers, July 18, 2013.
Last year, a research effort led by Michael McAlpine, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton, Naveen Verma, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, and Professor Fiorenzo Omenetto of Tufts University, resulted in the development of a “tattoo” made up of a biological sensor and antenna that can be affixed to the surface of a tooth.
Scientists used 3-D printing to merge tissue and an antenna capable of receiving radio signals. (Credit: Frank Wojciechowski)
A new project, however, is the team’s first effort to create a fully functional organ: one that not only replicates a human ability, but extends it using embedded electronics.
“The design and implementation of bionic organs and devices that enhance human capabilities, known as cybernetics, has been an area of increasing scientific interest,” the researchers wrote in the article which appears in the scholarly journal Nano Letters. “This field has the potential to generate customized replacement parts for the human body, or even create organs containing capabilities beyond what human biology ordinarily provides.
This story appeared as a press release on EurekAlert, May 1, 2013.