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Tufts University - 2016

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Research Description

Research Description By Graduate Engineering Department

Biomedical Engineering

The Department research themes focus on sensing systems, including diffuse optical imaging and spectroscopy, medical informatics, optical diagnostics for diseased and engineered tissues, and ultrafast nonlinear optics; and regenerative medicine. Research in the area of medical optics covers aspects such as the study of light propagation in optically turbid media (biological tissue), the design of optical instrumentation for medical imaging, and the development of novel near-infrared techniques for medical diagnostics. Specific applications are aimed at functional imaging of the brain, optical mammography, and monitoring the hemodynamics and oxygenation of skeletal muscle. The development of novel instrumentation for engineering biomedically relevant structures, and for investigating cellular interactions on the microscopic scale is also researched. The use of photonic bandgap engineering and nonlinear optics to make continuous wave terahertz optical sources for biomedical imaging is also researched, as in the design of non-invasive, in-vivo and outpatient-centered devices and the applications of electronic, mechanical and micro-engineering. These new devices are developed for commercial viability and/or utlized as novel tools for physiological and clinical investigations to understand mechanisms of certain diseases. Ultrafast lasers and nonlinear optics research has the overarching goal of building a bridge between the physical, engineering and biological sciences. The research focuses heavily on the interdisciplinary approach to bring the power of ultrafast nonlinear optics to biomedical problems, while at the same time focusing on the underlying challenges that lie in the specific physical, engineering and biological aspects of the project at hand. Regenerative medicine is at the interface between biology and materials science and engineering - aimed at understanding and controlling the biological synthesis and processing of polymers and polymer interfaces. This understanding is used to control the functional attributes of the polymers related to cell responses, solution properties,architectural control of assembly, self-assembly. This problem is addressed using genetic, physiological and enzymatic approaches. These concepts are also integrated into ongoing efforts in tissue engineering. Studies are focused on the manipulation of various sources of human stem cells on biopolymer-based matrices in bioreactors to generate desired tissue outcomes, from orthopedic tissues to myocardial, vasculature and nerve tissues.
In addition, studies are focused on the unique physics and chemistry at the interface between living and artificial systems, including platforms that can integrate cells/tissues for probing, interrogating and directing biologically significant processes, and bio-derived materials and bio-inspired approaches for a wide range of engineering applications such as energy harvesting/storage and chemical sensing. Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine efforts are focused on integrating cells, biomaterial matrices and suitable environments towards sustainable tissue systems that provide physiologically relevant analogs for in vitro studies or in vivo repairs. In vitro, these systems are utilized to study tissue development, drug impacts, diseases including infectious diseases, nutrition and many related themes. Scaffold design based on bioengineering suitable biopolymer-based materials are pursued, cell types and cocultures for use in the tissue systems are studied, and bioreactor designs to match the environmental needs of specific tissues are implemented. Current tissues of interest include myocardium, brain, vasculature, intestine, skin, lung and kidney.

Chemical & Biological Engineering

Research in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department currently includes the following projects: nanobiofabrication with genetically modified viral nanotemplates, biophotonic device fabrication with smart biopolymers, metal clusters in oxide matrices, hot gas desulfurization with regenerable sorbents, lean-NOX reduction catalysts, systems biology, metabolic engineering, and tissue engineering, membrane science and technolg - especially transport in polymeric and (of hydrogen in) palladium alloy membranes, catalytic membrane reactors, mass transfer with chemical reaction, mathematical modeling of transport phenomena - especially coupled to reaction, chemical processing of ceramics, process control applictions, artificial neural network aplications, theoretical models of transport in the renal medullary microcirculation, fibrous proteins - new paradigms for materials and science, biosynthesis of emulsan bioemulsifiers for structure/function and biological activation, functional tissue engineering, bioengineered biomaterials, mathematical modeling of the transport and fate of organic chemical contaminants in porous media, modeling, optimization, and control of batch processes, model predictive and nonlinear control, identification and model reduction, statistical process and controller monitoring, integration of process design and plant-wide control, applied mathematics, polymer structure and properties, processing and properties of composite materials, surface, interface and adhesion, difusion and sorption in polymers, self-assembly of polymers for surface engineering.

Civil and Environmental Engineering

The Civil and Environmental Engineering department currently pursues research in three focus areas: Environmental Health and Management, Environmental and Water Resources Engineering, and Infrastructure Engineering. Interdisciplinary efforts, involving researchers within the department and multi-disciplinary efforts with researchers from within and outside the department exist. For example, the Water: Systems, Science and Society (WSSS) program currently provides cross campus leadership in interdisciplinary water-related research, education, and outreach. The department also has major collaborative and multi-disciplinary research efforts in earthquake engineering, infrastructure evaluation and retrofit, contaminant transport and remediation in groundwater systems, environmental health and outreach, water quality assessment and modeling, sustainable infrastructure development, and assessment of the effects of natural hazards.

Computer Science

Research in the Department of Computer Science follows several disciplinary and inter-disciplinary themes that span theoretical foundations and application areas. Core research investigates how one should design, build, and maintain computing systems for better services and increased reliability, how computers can be made more accessible to humans, how to expand computer capabilities by designing algorithmic solutions to abstract as well as application- specific problems, and what are fundamental limitations to computation. Core topics include: algorithms and computational geometry; cognitive science; computational and systems biology; electronic design automation; human-computer interaction, visualization, and analytics; machine learning and data mining; networks and system administration; programming languages; robotics and human-robot interaction; and security. Each of these topics cuts across several of the core questions mentioned above, developing foundations and algorithms, constructing systems, analyzing performance, and deploying in applications. Interdisciplinary applications include: astronomy, automotive research, aviation systems, biology, chemistry and biochemistry, civil engineering, computational metabolomics, geography, health, human and animal genome analysis, hydrologic science, medical diagnosis, metabolic engineering, and synthetic biology.

Electrical & Computer Engineering

Research in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department currently includes the following: Integrated Biosensors and Automated Instrumentation For Early Stomach Cancer Detection Using Flexible Capsule Endoscope, Creating Future Female Engineering Leaders, Fast-Trac to Graduate Degrees in Engineering, Nanoelectrochemical Systems on Silicon, Advancing Multidimensional Data Science via New Algebraic Models and Scalable Algorithms, Probabilistic Analysis of Dynamic X-ray Diffraction Data: Toward Validated Computational Models for Polycrystalline Plasticity, Metamaterial-Enhanced Thermal Energy Harvesters, Optimal Sampling and recovery for multilinear signals and systems, Combating Dark Silicon through Specialization, Lab-on-a-pill for in-vivo spatial sampling of gut microbiome, Link-State and Priority Based Relay Coding for Wireless Networks, Epitaxial Growth of Semiconductor-Semimetal Towards Rectifying Diodes for Energy Harvesting, Advanced Nanomanufacturing of Smart Sensors and Materials, Scalable and Flat Controls for Reliable Power Grid Operation with High Renewable Penetration, Cyber-Physical Models in Naval Energy Systems, Transmission Topology Control for Infrastructure Resilience to the Integration of Renewable Generation, A novel informatics approach to understanding complex muscle fiber phenotypes, Dynamic Phasor-based Controller Design for Solid State Transformer, 3D Reconstruction methods for novel sparse-view energy-discriminating computed scatter tomography system, Microplasmas for Reconfigurablable Metamaterials, Plug & Play Solar PV for American Homes, Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks, Diode Pumped Rare gas Lasers, Tissue engineered sensors actuators and electronics for chronic wound management, RF Microplasma for Energetic Species Generation, Group IV Photonic Material by Molecular Beam Epitaxy.

Mechanical Engineering

The ME Department has four main research areas: (1) Thermo-Fluid Systems, (2) Material Mechanics & Processing, (3) Robotic, Autonomous and Aerospace Systems, and (4) Product Design and Human Factors.

In the Thermo-Fluid Systems area, our research examines the world of liquids and gasses. In one lab, we seek to understand how bacteria propel themselves through microscopic channels filled with water. In another, we are improving the ability to move heat away from computer chips by mimicking how water rolls off a lotus leaf. In a third lab, we are modeling how blood flows through our body, and in another lab, we use fluids as a novel way of converting energy into different forms for more effective energy storage. Topic areas include:
Electrokinetics, Sustainable Energy, Superconducting Materials, Cryogenics, Micro-Scale Fluid Mechanics And Transport, Cell Locomotion, Microfluidics, Thermal Sciences, Heat Transfer, Apparent Slip, Mass Transfer In Supercritical Fluids, Thermal Management Of Electronics, Fluid Mechanics And Heat Transfer In The Human Body, Power Generation Systems, Solidification Processes, Thermal Manufacturing, Turbulence, Acoustics, Engineering Education, Sustainable Energy, Heat Transfer At The Nanoscale, Composite Materials For Advanced Lubrication, Electrochemistry, Renewable Energy, Fuel Cells

In the Material Mechanics & Processing area, we look at materials from different viewpoints; from the atomic scale, and mapping how that affects macroscopic behavior, to the macroscopic viewpoint in modeling how materials fracture. We also examine how materials physically interact with each other at different scales. We look at how liquid metals behave in the absence of gravity, how different materials can be combined to allow energy to be transported without resistance (superconductors), how to store energy more efficiently, and how nanomaterials self-assemble in complex shapes. With a number of unique instruments developed by our faculty, we are studying properties of soft materials (polymers and cells) to the level previously inaccessible, and we can build mechanical sensors with a width less than that of human hair. Topic areas include:
Sustainable Energy, Electromechanical Properties Of Superconducting Materials, Cell Mechanics, Soft Matter, Micromechanics Of Heterogeneous Materials, Microstructure- Property Relations, Fracture- Micro Cracking And Damage, Machine Design, Non-Destructive Testing, Solidification Processes, Thermal Manufacturing, Machine Design, Micromechanics Of Composites, Interfacial Fracture And Adhesion, Fatigue And Creep Damage In Solder Alloys, Thermomechanical Reliability Of Microelectronic Packaging, Defects And Transport In Solids With Applications To Solid Oxide Fuel Cells And Batteries, Ultrasonic Nondestructive Evaluation Of Advanced Engineering Materials, Material Choices In Musical Instrument Design, Engineering Education, Materials Engineering, Manufacturing Processes, Quality Control, Finite Elements, Self-Assembly Of Porous And Functional Materials, Mechanical And Photonic Properties, Biosensors, Physics Of Nanostructures (Semiconductor Photonics And Electronics) And Interfaces, Energy Materials, Semiconductor Material, Materials Processing For Microsystems, Mechanics Of MEMS, Electrochemical Devices, Materials For Energy-Storage And Conversion Technologies, Polymer Materials And Processing, Batteries, Energy Storage And Polymer Materials, And Polymer Processing

In the Robotic, Autonomous and Aerospace Systems area, research concentrates on developing intelligent systems. Robots that can help the elderly pick up their glasses or grab a tissue require a combination of automated control, actuators, and sensors. Our professors work with cognitive scientists to better understand how to get robots to think and assist people. In another lab, faculty work on using automation to increase safety, developing algorithms to help quad-copters accurately know where they are and to ensure planes can land safely. We research large systems, with robots such as the Nao or the Baxter, and can make very small systems in our nano-manufacturing facility, where we can fabricate arrays of very small microphones to better understand and control the acoustics in an airplane. Topic areas include:
Data storage systems, robotics, microfluidics, and biological systems and instrumentation, GPS, Emerging Satellite Navigation Systems, Navigation, Robotics, Controls, Assistive robotics, Educational technology development, Engineering Education, Atomic Force Microscopy, Acoustics, Vibrations, MEMS, Sensors

In the Human Factors and Product Design area, the research here is split primarily into two areas: medical devices and educational technologies. Our research in medical devices has led to a full usability testing facility. On the educational technologies side, our research has focused on understanding how the brain learns to engineer (collaborating with the School of Arts and Sciences Department of Education) and leveraging that understanding to develop new educational tools, in both hardware and software. We then collaborate with companies like LEGO Education, National Instruments, Texas Instruments, and others to put these technologies into classrooms for testing. Topic areas include:
Airspace Systems, Medical device design, Machine Design, Non-Destructive Testing, Solidification Processes, Thermal Manufacturing, Machine Design, Musical Instrument Design, Educational Product Design, Engineering Education, Human Factors, spatial cognition and comprehension, Educational Technology Design and Engineering Education, Micro- and Nano- electromechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS) design and fabrication, MEMS sensors, Human Factors, Electrochemical devices design

The Gordon Institute

Tufts Gordon Institute’s engineering management programs prepare engineers and technical professionals to succeed as leaders in an increasingly competitive global environment. Powered by a leadership focused curriculum, exceptional faculty and an emphasis on real-world projects, our students develop the blend of business knowledge and technical skills they need to advance their careers, inspire teams, and bring innovative products to market. We offer both graduate and undergraduate engineering management programs.

Research Description By Engineering Research Center

Center for Applied Brain & Cognitive Sciences

The Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences is a cooperative research initiative between Tufts University and the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC). Its mission is to bring together a unique interdisciplinary community of scientists and engineers to advance the state of the art in applied brain and cognitive sciences. The Center provides an innovative environment for conducting collaborative applied research focusing on measuring, predicting, and enhancing cognitive capabilities and human system interactions for individuals and teams working in naturalistic high-stakes environments. To accomplish this mission, they support cutting-edge interdisciplinary projects that push the boundaries between basic and applied research, making fundamental contributions to our understandings of human performance within real-world contexts.

Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO)

The Center for Engineering Educational Outreach is dedicated to increasing the engineering literacy of the average high school graduate. We do this through four major divisions within the Center: (1) outreach to schools, (2) development of new tools for teaching engineering, (3) engineering education research, and (4) special programs for local children. Our STOMP program ( teams teachers with engineering students to help bring engineering into the pre-college classroom. This program has spread to 6 universities (from Princeton to Univ of Hawaii) and two industries (National Instruments and Raytheon). We couple this outreach work with our website and the LEGO Engineering conferences worldwide to develop a community of teacher-leaders to help bring engineering into every classroom. Most of these outreach efforts are based around the tools we have developed. The most popular tool is the ROBOLAB software environment for programming LEGO robots. This is a joint development with LEGO education, and is used by around 3 million students (in 15 different languages) a year. We have also done extensive work with teaching science through making a movie (, giving students multiple ways of "telling the story". This tool development is tightly coupled with (and augmented by) a doctoral program in engineering education. This program now has 9 doctoral students and 4 masters students and examines elementary, middle, high school and college engineering education. Finally, we run a number of programs for local children, from summer camps to weekend explorations. Through the efforts of students in these four divisions, we hope that the next generation will have the engineering background to understand the consequences of engineering design, from global warming to the Internet.

Environmental Sustainability Lab (ESL)

Over the past 40 years, the field of environmental engineering has evolved from a discipline focused primarily on "sanitary engineering" to one that brings a multidisciplinary approach to solve environmental problems in natural and engineered systems. This multidisciplinary approach is essential for addressing the growing need for sustainable approaches to using, managing and conserving natural resources. Water is a critical resource requiring sustainable management of both quantity and quality. One of the most critical threats to current and future clean water supplies, and the underlying research theme of this proposed project, is emerging contaminants, specifically engineered nanomaterials, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and pathogens.
1. Acquire fundamental knowledge for enhanced mathematical modeling of engineered nanomaterial transport, distribution and persistence in multi-media environmental systems
2. Understand the influence of wastewater treatment operations and reactive transport processes on the environmental fate of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in water reuse systems
3. Develop real-time monitoring devices and modeling tools to assess the prevalence and fate of waterborne pathogens in urban areas
4. Create and implement multi-disciplinary undergraduate and graduate student research training in environmental sustainability

Human-Robot Interaction Laboratory

The Human-Robot Interaction Laboratory (HRIlab), directed by Professor Matthias Scheutz, performs both theoretical and applied research, connecting to and fostering research collaborations with other groups and departments on campus (e.g., the AI/ML cluster in the CS department, and faculty in the Departments of Psychology and Occupational Therapy).

Funded by grants from the NSF and ONR, the 10 Ph.D. students in the HRIlab are working on a variety of cutting-edge aspects of future social robotic systems, including algorithms for coping with open-ended tasks in unknown environments, for learning new activities from a mixture of dialogue and human demonstration and for developing moral competence in computational architectures. Applications developed in the lab include: a robotic wheelchair that can be instructed through spoken natural language dialogues, autonomous robots for Parkinson's intervention to improve patient- caregiver interactions and reduce stigma, and search and rescue helper robots that can be tasked in natural language. In addition, thorough empirical evaluations are conducted in human-robot interaction experiments to determine both robot performance and to evaluate the effects of autonomous robots on humans.

Integrated Multiphase Environmental Systems Laboratory (IMPES)

The Integrated Multiphase Environmental Systems (IMPES) laboratory is comprised of computational and wet-lab facilities which house the research programs of Dean Linda Abriola and Professor Andrew Ramsburt at Tufts University. Here, laboratory experiments and mathematical models are combined in highly collaborative explorations of processes which influence the persistence of contaminants and control the effectiveness of remediation. Dr. Abriola's primary research area is in the mathematical modeling of the transport and fate of organic chemical contaminants in porous media. She developed the first mathematical model to apear in the hydrology literature that describes the interphase mass partitioning and migration of organic liquid contaminants in the subsurface. This work and her subsequent multiphase flow modeling investigations have been widely referenced in the literature. Current research is investigating abiotic and biotic transformations and their interaction with physical transport mechanisms. Dr. Ramsburg's research combines fundamental and applied projects which focus on understanding and/or engineering the chemical, biological, and physical processes occurring on multiple scales within the contaminated subsurface. His experimental investigations are designed to elucidate solid-liquid and liquid-liquid equilibria, interphase mass transfer, non-aqueous phase liquid entrapment and mobilization, and the rates and extent of biotic and abiotic degradation. Representative application areas for IMPES laboratory research include: development of innovative remediation technologies, quantification of the benefits of partial mass removal in heterogeneous source-zone environments, reduction in the uncertainty of mass discharge estimates, investigation or organic vapor transport mechanisms, quantification of organic liquid residual dissolution, exploration of the influence of soil wettability on organic liquid transport properties, and evaluation of the/in situ/biotransformation of organic contaminants in low substrate environments.

Renewable Energy & Applied Photonics Lab (REAP)

The primary focus for REAP Labs is studying the interaction of light and matter. Of particular interest are the wavelengths from the infrared through the ultraviolet. REAP Labs has active research in the areas of optoelectronic materials, optical metamaterials, photonic devices, and renewable energy technologies. Accordingly, REAP Labs has extensive electro-optical characterization facilities. Research at REAP Labs starts from the modeling of materials and goes all the way to failure testing of completed devices, with iterative steps of innovation occurring all along the way. Materials are modeled/simulated, grown, and characterized in-house through lab facilities or those of the collocated Tufts Epitaxial Core (TEC) Facility. Devices are modeled, processed, and characterized using in-house or associated facilities. Reap Labs is available for researchers at every level, from the occasional high school student through visiting faculty.

Tissue Engineering Resource Center (TERC)

The Center is focused on advancing the fundamental basis and clinical aspects of functional tissue engineering, to providing training for investigators and to disseminate scientific findings and new techniques. The expertise and facilities are focused on research, problem solving and training for the biomedical community through an integrated systems approach to the challenges in tissue engineering. A Service Core implements solutions that would be impossible to attain from a single laboratory due to the diverse and complex skill sets. The areas of focused effort of the Center include quantitative studies of biophysical regulation of cell differentiation, establishment of cell sources for tissue engineering, optimization of biomaterial matrix design to control cellular outcomes, physiologically relevant tissue models for studies of normal and pathological cell and tissue function, and noninvasive methods capable of monitoring tissue development and remodeling at various hierarchical scales. The Center is available to help researchers at any stage in the process, from the selection of scaffolds, cells and bioreactors, to specialized designs of reactors or scaffolds, and evaluation of the tissue cultivation in vitro and tissue repair in vivo. The Center core members are Tufts, MIT and Columbia University.