Weekly Memo

Jan. 19, 2015

      You know you're witnessing the cutting edge of technology when eight or ten drones appear overhead as a team, dancing to music and doing all kinds of intricate maneuvers in tandem! That was one of the more entertaining things I witnessed last week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. For the dean of an engineering school, shows like this are a good way to assess the demand for various engineering skills and products -- and how that relates to what we're doing at the Hajim School.

     For example, we were certainly ahead of the times when the Center for Future Health was established at the University in 2000. The CFH, with Alice Pentland, Chair of the Dermatology Department, as the Medical Director and Mark Bocko of ECE as Technical Director, pioneered the use of wireless sensors and machine learning in personal health monitoring systems. A lot of floor space at Las Vegas showcased the latest devices for monitoring physical fitness and health, many of which are still little more than glorified pedometers. Clearly there's going to be growing demand for the more advanced monitoring and diagnostic tools that Alice, Mark and other researchers in this field are working on.

      A major theme at CES involved the way various products can be made part of an ecosystem of sensors. I met with a team from ADT, the home security company, which increasingly is focused on integrating home security in ways that allow you to manage your home while you're away.

     All of this bodes well for our Data Science initiative; many of the emerging technologies spotlighted at Las Vegas depend on the novel ways data science allows us to look at the world around us -- at our urban environment, for example -- and to measure community and individual health.

    Speaking of cutting edge technology, be sure to take a look at the video submitted for the semi-final round of the Microsoft Imagine Cup by the Haptech team from UR Robotics. Morgan Sinko '16 (CSC), Jordan Brooks '16 (ME), Lucian Copeland '15 (ECE), and Kian Jones '17 (CSC) are developing a virtual reality system that allows a user to feel the surfaces and impacts of virtual environments, enhancing the immersion and fidelity of games, simulators, and telecontrol devices that rely on VR technology. The Team hopes to also compete at the Intel Cornell Cup, and the finalists will be announced for that in February.

     Pedro Vallejo-Ramirez '16 of Optics returns today from an interesting winter break in Goa, India, working as an intern and technical consultant for The Story of Light Festival. Pedro, you may recall, is one of five students worldwide picked as winners of the “What will you do for IYL (international Year of Light and Light-based Technologies) 2015” contest sponsored by the Optical Society.

      Congratulations to two of our Biomedical Engineering faculty members, Professors Hani Awad and James McGrath, who were recently inducted as American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) Fellows for their significant contributions to the biomedical engineering community.

     Congratulations as well to Andrew Shubin, a graduate student in Danielle Benoit’s lab, who has been awarded an F30 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for his project titled “Poly(ethylene glycol) Hydrogels for Salivary Gland Regeneration.” The project seeks to develop at 3D tissue engineering scaffold to regenerate salivary gland tissue damaged by radiation treatment for head and neck cancers. This will alleviate the resulting dry mouth, an otherwise permanent condition that greatly affects the quality of life for cancer survivors.

      Interested in learning to program, in learning a new programming language, or in picking up some essential computing skills to help with your research or course work? Here's an excellent opportunity to do so: The Center for Integrated Research Computing is offering a six-week boot camp for students, postdocs, research staff and faculty. Topics are covered in modules consisting of 1.5-hour lectures spread over four days, Jan. 26 through March 5. Modules are offered in Perl, Fortran, Linux, C, Bash Shell Scripting, Stata, SAS, MySQL, Python, R, MATLAB and Mathematica. And best of all, there is no charge. Space is limited so register ASAP here.

    I'm a great believer in continually looking for ways to improve. We've accomplished a lot at the Hajim School in recent years -- and I am very grateful to all of you for contributing to that. But there's a lot we still need to do -- to attract and retain female and underrepresented minority students, for example, and to make sure more of our students can take advantage of opportunities to study abroad. I've elaborated on these and other goals is my latest state of the school message. If you were not on the mailing list, please click here -- I welcome your feedback!

  As always, keep me updated and have a great week.


Robert L. Clark
Professor and Dean