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Biomedical engineering

The Carnegie Heart Program, a joint initiative between Carnegie Mellon and the Allegheny Health Network, gives fellowship support to five BME undergraduates who are applying their education to develop new technologies for cardiovascular medicine.

The program—which was initiated by co-directors Keith Cook (BME associate professor) and Conrad Zapanta (BME teaching professor and associate department head)—has two components: individual project-based laboratory research and clinical rotations, in which the students shadow cardiovascular clinicians. The 2016 fellows observed a remote-controlled robot surgically implant an artificial mitral valve into a human heart.

Chemical engineering

ChemE Professor Jim Schneider received an NSF grant to develop new strategies to rapidly separate and analyze long (kilobase) DNA strands, using surfactants rather than polymeric gels. Faster analysis techniques can impact a wide range of genomic DNA analyses, such as genome mapping, where rapid processing of kilobase-length DNA is required. While conventional methods take days to separate kilobase-length DNA, Schneider’s new methods will take less than five minutes and use inexpensive, reusable materials.

Schneider is working to commercialize this technology for medical diagnostics and crime labs. Investigators, says Schneider, can use existing equipment with the lab’s new surfactant-based methods to perform DNA analysis ten to 100 times faster than is currently possible.

Civil & environmental engineering

When coal-fired power plants use wet flue gas desulfurization to control emission of chemicals that cause acid rain, bromide can end up in the wastewater. Bromide in our rivers was, until recently, considered naturally occurring and harmless to humans and ecosystems. However, when river water goes through a drinking water treatment plant, any bromide present combines with organic matter and chemicals (like chlorine), creating disinfection by-products (DBPs). DBPs are associated with reproductive and developmental health effects and cancer.

CEE’s Duquesne Light Company Professor Jeanne VanBriesen and Ph.D. student Kelly Good are using many different sources of bromide information to estimate the amount of bromide entering the Allegheny River basin from coal-fired power plants.

Electrical & computer engineering

When a criminal’s face is caught on camera, law enforcement has a huge advantage—that’s why many criminals wear masks, covering everything except their eyes. However, work in the CyLab Biometrics Center has shown that a person’s face can be “hallucinated” based solely on their eye-region.

Marios Savvides, director of the CyLab Biometrics Center and a professor of ECE, and Felix Juefei Xu, a Ph.D. student in ECE, authored a study that was awarded “Best Student Paper” at the IEEE 8th International Conference on Biometrics: Theory, Applications, and Systems. The tool uses a machine learning algorithm that sweeps through millions of different face images and learns correlations between the eye region and the full face.

“Law enforcement would love to have these types of tools to use in challenging crime cases,” says Savvides. “This would fill a huge technology gap in this area.”

Engineering & public policy

From April 21 – 22, 2017, over the week-end of CMU’s annual Spring Carnival, EPP commemorated 40 years as a department with a 40th Anniversary Celebration. Friends and colleagues of EPP explored the department’s many accomplishments and recognized the individuals who have contributed to EPP’s success. The event included keynotes and presentations exploring energy, environment, information and communication technology, and other engineering and public policy issues across the last 40 years. The weekend concluded with an invitation-only event at Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. Happy anniversary, EPP!

Materials science & engineering

Deepoo Kumar, a MSE doctoral candidate studying with Professor Chris Pistorius, won the First Place Award in the Materials Photography Contest, a competition supported by the TMS Foundation.

As the recipient of the First Place Award, Kumar was given $300, and his photograph was on display in the TMS Member Welcome Center, located in the San Diego Convention Center, during the TMS 2017 Annual Meeting.

News of his award was posted online in conjunction with the conference and was announced in the TMS 2017 Daily Newsletter, as well as in posts to TMS social media.

Mechanical engineering

MechE Assistant Professor Ryan Sullivan has developed a way to isolate individual particles, in order to study the way they interact with the atmosphere. The aerosol optical tweezers, a tool that traps a single particle in a laser beam, uses a laser that induces a Raman vibrational spectrum, allowing a spectrometer to collect real-time information every second about the particle as it evolves. The researchers can then throw materials at the droplet and observe how it changes: does it grow? Does the morphology, or shape, of the particle change? Do all the components mix together, or exist in separate phases?

Knowing what’s at the interface of each individual particle is key to understanding how the particle, individually or in tandem with other particles, impacts the environment.