News

Most of us have heard Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quip: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” His quote aptly sums up one important impact of the Senior Capstone Design course required for every senior in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. During each semester-long Senior Capstone Design course, companies and other organizations beat a path to the doors of the college, where they sponsor teams of talented MIE students to answer the worldwide call for a better mousetrap and brilliant new mechanical devices of every kind. This productive collaboration between MIE students and their sponsors has created everything from a robotic arm for a disabled child to a collapsible mobile tower for the U.S. Army.

Michael Zink and David Irwin of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department recently received a three-year, $390,000, National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to help create a new instrument for the national research community known as a “cloud laboratory.” Dubbed CloudLab, it will among other things allow scientists to run huge or very complex experiments on an enormous and flexible new shared network of reliable, secure, and fast computers. CloudLab will consist of 5,000 linked cores, or computers, that will be free for research and classroom use and should be up and running by the spring of 2015. See coverage in Phys.org, Electronic Component News magazine, and the UMass Amherst News Office release. More information: www.cloudlab.us/.

A professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is doing something inspiring to address the ongoing problem of far too few women in engineering and science. As part of a $590,000 three-year grant co-funded from the National Science Foundation and the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Shelly Peyton of the UMass Chemical Engineering Department has been running a five-week summer educational outreach program that has transformed the future career goals of two female students from Amherst Regional High School. Peyton’s program, entitled “Engineering the Cell: A Bioengineering Experience for Young Women,” exposed incoming high school juniors Maia Hamin and Christina Manson to a pioneering new method to stop breast cancer from spreading.

The College of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs have announced creation of a new endowed chair in renewable energy that will be funded with $2.5 million from the state Department of Energy Resources (DOER). Kumble R. Subbaswamy, UMass Amherst chancellor, says, “Creating a new high-profile professorship in renewable energy on the UMass Amherst campus clearly demonstrates our commitment to advancing knowledge of renewable energy and sustainability."

The Nanoscale Computing Fabrics Lab of Professor Andras Moritz from the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department has won the Best Paper Award, for the third time in the past four years, at the IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Nanoscale Architectures (NANOARCH). The winning paper, entitled "Wave-based Multi-valued Computation Framework," was written and presented by Santosh Khasanvis, with co-authors Mostafizur Rahman, Sankara Narayanan Rajapandian, and Moritz. As ECE Department Head Christopher Hollot noted, “That’s impressive given that NANOARCH is the leading conference on novel post-CMOS nanocomputing and is a testament to the cutting-edge research that Professor Moritz’s lab conducts.”

Undergraduate Emma Klinkhamer of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department dreamed up her ideal job and published it in the July 28 edition of Chemical & Engineering News: http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/i30/Chemistry-Students-Describe-Dream-Jobs.html. Her utopian job was included in a section called "Chemistry Students Describe Their Dream Jobs." Among other comments, she noted that “My education has taught me that the sky’s the limit when it comes to chemistry. It just takes creative thought and persistence to develop a material or mechanism. In my lab, I would strive to use the fundamentals of chemistry and cutting-edge engineering to create desirable products." Currently she works in the research laboratory of ChE faculty member Jessica Schiffman.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Foundation has established an endowment fund to be known as the Armstrong/Siadat Endowed Professorship in Materials Science with a cash gift of $750,000 from John and Elizabeth Armstrong and a $750,000 pledge from Barry and Afsaneh Siadat. The endowed professorship will be awarded to a researcher in the area of materials science in the UMass Amherst chemical engineering department. Barry Siadat says, “The endowed professorship will attract an outstanding leader who will be a bit like a magnet, building a world-class program that will improve the quality of life.” John Armstrong says he hopes the professorship will be the center of a cluster of renowned scientists working to solve problems and create new materials.

A new report written by Eric Gonzales, a faculty member in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and his colleagues looks at how to manage taxi markets by using Global Positioning System receivers. The report was released by the Mineta Transportation Institute and was covered in the media by WFSB-TV 3, TickerTech.com, and Securities Technology Monitor, among others. The report was entitled “Modeling Taxi Demand with GPS Data from Taxis and Transit.”  As Gonzales wrote,Our primary objective was to identify factors that drive taxi demand and to understand how this varies by location and time of day. The models generated by the study can help to estimate taxi demand and provide many other useful insights.”

On August 1, some 35 undergraduate students doing summer research projects at the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Engineering, Institute for Cellular Engineering (ICE), Collaborative Undergraduate Research in Energy (CURE), and Biological and Soft Matter Research Traineeship hosted a joint poster session to showcase their work. All the posters were on display for visitors, and the student researchers were available to explain each one in understandable language for nonscientists. The poster session, which was free and open to the public, took place in the Amherst Room, Campus Center 1009, from 10 a.m. until noon. Many came to see this fascinating research, supported by the National Science Foundation, including UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy and College of Engineering Dean Tim Anderson (pictured with REU student Sarah Mangels and her father).

The second annual Summer Engineering Institute, known affectionately as SENGI, was conducted on campus for two weeks in July and was designed to teach 32 high school students the joy, creativity, discovery, and complexity of engineering. The residential summer camp was a multi-faceted program that allowed students to explore how engineers envision creative and practical solutions to benefit the everyday lives of people and their communities. The institute also awarded a full SENGI scholarship (in concert with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation) for one inner city high school student from Boston. The two co-directors of the SENGI camp were college lecturer Bernd F. Schliemann and Paula Sturdevant Rees, who is the director of the College of Engineering Diversity Programs Office (DPO). They were assisted by Mathilda Tuuli, the assistant director of the DPO.