Course One Newsletter | Spring 2018
The Herman Project page 3
Network tracks the evolution of microbial communities in sourdough starter mixtures
TREX 2018 page 13
Students travel to Hawaii to conduct environmental research
Remembering Professor Sussman page 33
Remembering Professor Joseph Sussman, expert in complex engineering system and revered mentor
A Dynamic Approach page 49
Professor Eduardo Kausel applies principles of dynamics to health, biology
Civil and Environmental Engineering
CEE Video Competition
AND THE WINNERS ARE:
First Place: Overcoming Murphyâ€™s Law
Second Place: Egyptian Blue
Third Place: Mosaic Project
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Letter from Markus
The Herman Project
Graduate Student Updates
New Leadership in Parsons
Remembering Professor Sussman
Materials Based Innovation
In the Department
A Dynamic Approach
IEEE MicroRad Conference
A Note From Markus
â€œOur alumni network is crucial to establishing connections that help guide CEE students in their paths outside of MIT.â€?
Dear CEE Alumni and Friends, With the warm weather and the conclusion of the academic year, spring is always an exciting time here at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. I am delighted to update you on the latest happenings in CEE as we prepare to graduate the Class of 2018. In January, we hosted a successful year of our Traveling Research Environmental eXperiences (TREX) program, led this year by assistant professor Ben Kocar. We also sponsored a new special subject, taught by Professor Otto X. Cordero, which took undergraduate students to Israel over IAP to work alongside graduate students at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev to study cow microbiomes. It is inspiring to see our students developing their skills around the world and gaining global perspectives. Our alumni network is crucial to establishing connections that help guide CEE students in their paths outside of MIT. This term we launched the CEE Internship Program to ensure that all Course 1 students have the resources and support they need to secure meaningful internships and employment opportunities. The engagement of CEE alumni network is essential to the success of this program. If you would be interested in hosting a CEE undergraduate at your company, would be willing to mentor a current student to share your personal insight, or are curious about other ways to get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you enjoy this edition of Course One. As always, if you have an alumni update to include in the upcoming edition, please email it to email@example.com. I love hearing from Course 1 alumni, and if you are in town, please do stop by CEE Headquarters and say hello! Best regards,
Markus J. Buehler Department Head and McAfee Professor of Engineering
With The Herman Project, home bakers become citizen scientists Network tracks the evolution of microbial communities in sourdough starter mixtures shared around the world. Researchers from MIT are taking their microbial research out of the lab and into the kitchen. Their new Herman Project modernizes a longstanding tradition, with a digital network that tracks the evolution of sourdough starters as they are shared by home bakers around the world. By crowdsourcing information from the project’s participants, the researchers, based in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), are investigating how the starters’ microbial communities change in different conditions and environments. Sourdough starters — a mixture of flour and water that, through the growth of bacteria, is responsible for the unique taste of sourdough bread — have traditionally been shared among friends and families. The starters, known affectionately as “Herman,” are typically shared with paper instructions for “feeding” the sourdough starter, and an accompanying letter to track the sourdough starter’s path as it is passed from person to person. Gabriel Leventhal, a postdoc in CEE and creator of The Herman Project, grew up participating in starter networks. Now, working with CEE Assistant Professor Otto X. Cordero and undergraduate students Sarah Weidman and Lindsey McAllister, Leventhal launched The Herman Project to create a more modern, online way to track the spread of the sourdough starters and to leverage the resulting data for science. “The Herman Project isn’t just doing citizen science and asking people to help us gather data. We’re giving people the opportunity to participate in the scientific process,” Leventhal says. “We plan to have feedback with the data that’s generated from the [sourdough] samples, where we can share the data and the genetic
makeup of a starter, so participants can see how the starter changes over time, and potentially also do little experiments at home with their starters.” To help kick-start the project, Cordero and Leventhal hosted two first-year students, Weidman and McAllister, in their lab over MIT’s Independent Activities Period as part of CEE’s mini-Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Weidman and McAllister fine-tuned the instructions for participants, designed an accessible online platform, tested The Herman Project in its beta phase, and conducted online research for The Herman Project website. “My primary part was working on the instructions, and we wanted to make it more visual and look as easy as possible,” McAllister says. “We tried to make it very simple and easy to follow. I learned graphic design tools and made a big wheel that we later ended up animating to make it more interactive and highlight where in the wheel you were. Then at the end, it gave you a way to find out what our next steps would be.” Meanwhile, Weidman translated the complex, scientific details of sourdough into more understandable blurbs for the website. “I really liked how we were able to take what we were learning and present it to the community,” she says. The Herman Project works by giving each sample of “Herman,” the sourdough starter, an identification number, and using an
online platform to instruct users for how to feed Herman. Herman needs to be fed with additional flour and water over four days to acclimatize to its new kitchen environment and to let the mixture ferment. Herman is then ready to be mixed with baking ingredients and cooked. Not all of the starter is used, however, and participants save some of Herman to use for future baking. As Herman is passed between friends, the new participants also log information on The Herman Project website, noting their location and type of flour used while growing their new starter. Each user thus adds data for the researchers to study and expand the network. In addition to participants logging their approximate location and environmental conditions of Herman as it is fed, they are also asked to share a sample of Herman with Cordero’s lab. The researchers, assisted by Weidman and McAllister, will isolate the microbes and study how the microbial communities differ across time and environments. The project’s network is currently centralized in the greater Boston area, as members of Cordero’s lab begin to share Herman with their peers. “The Herman Project allows us to study microbial evolution in the context of communities, where multiple species coexist and interact,” Cordero explains. “This is one of the frontiers in our field. I found it really elegant and exciting that we can take advantage of the social dynamics around sourdough to ‘crowdsource’ an evolution experiment through the Herman Project.”
The utilization of microbes such as bacteria and yeast is essential for the creation of sourdough and other fermented foods like wine and beer. For sourdough, microbes break down complex carbohydrates in the flour and water mixture and ferment the dough over a series of days. This creates carbon dioxide and produces air bubbles to help the dough rise. The process also produces lactic acid, which gives the dough its sour flavor. For The Herman Project, combining the networked information about the spread of different sourdough starters with the microbial data from the dough samples allows the researchers to analyze how microbial communities change as they transfer between different environmental conditions. A lot is known about how individual microbes evolve, but Leventhal and Cordero are seeking to use The Herman Project to ask questions about if and how being part of a microbial community impacts the way microbes evolve in different conditions.
as biotechnology by human societies for millennia. A key difference between using microbes as engineering tools and inert components, however, is that “microbes are ‘alive’ — they grow, they get mutations, and they evolve. We need to understand how this influences their function as a community if we want to use them sustainably,” Leventhal says. Under Leventhal’s guidance, Weidman and McAllister are planning to conduct analyses of the bacteria and yeast genomes to get a complete understanding of the microbial community of each sample as part of their UROP. “The Herman Project is a really cool way to take something that a lot of people know about, and to investigate what’s actually happening,” McAllister says. This article was written by Carolyn Schmitt of CEE Communications for MIT News
“I think The Herman Project could help us address many important questions,” Cordero says. “For instance, what is the impact of strain-level (within-species) diversity with respect to stability and function, are there alternative trajectories for evolution, and if so, what controls them? These are important questions to address if we want to learn how to control and design microbial consortia.” “Microbial communities have been used
Prof. Desiree Plata and the Nepf Environmental Fluid Mechanics Lab featured in Environmental Solutions Initiative video
Assistant Professor Desiree Plata and the Nepf Environmental Fluid Mechanics Lab were featured in a video from the Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI). The video gives an overview of ESI at MIT and announces the environmental sustainability minor. The video also highlights environmental laboratories around campus, including Professor Heidi Nepfâ€™s Environmental Fluid Mechanics Lab. Plata discusses how MIT is well suited to address current environmental challenges and transform future innovation practice through incorporation of environmental objectives early in design; she also highlights the human strength of MIT and the ESIâ€™s ability to convene those individuals. Plata officially joins CEE in July. Watch the Video
CEE Research Night brings community together to foster new ideas
CEE Research Night, held on April 24, brought the community together to showcase the wide range of research conducted in the department. Featuring over 30 electronic posters, the night was filled with research presentations and networking. Attendees also helped to determine the overall winners of the event. Read More
Postdoc Arun Prakash and Intelligent Transportation Systems Lab receive TRB’s Best Simulation Application Paper Award Postdoctoral associate Arun Prakash, along with co-authors that include Professor Moshe Ben-Akiva, the Edmund K. Turner Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was awarded the Best Simulation Application Paper Award for the paper “Improving Scalability of Generic Online Calibration for Real-Time Dynamic Traffic Assignment Systems.” The award was presented by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Joint Traffic Simulation Subcommittee (SimSub) at the TRB Annual Meeting on January 8, 2018. SimSub is a joint committee that focuses on coordinating advancements in traffic simulation and promoting and endorsing the use of simulation tools in transportation systems analysis.
Senior Mikayla Murphy featured on MIT News for her SuperUROP research Senior Mikayla Murphy was featured on MIT News for her Advanced Undergraduate Research Program (SuperUROP) project, which uses data from city government websites to determine whether the governments are being transparent. Murphy is one of more than 130 undergraduates to participate in the SuperUROP program. Read More
Visiting Scientist Thibaut Divoux receives 2018 Arthur B. Metzner Early Career Award from the Society of Rheology Thibaut Divoux, a visiting researcher from CNRS (France), and a member of the Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub), was awarded the 2018 Arthur B. Metzner Early Career Award from the Society of Rheology. This award recognizes a young person who has distinguished him/herself in rheological research, rheological practice, or service to rheology. Divoux has unraveled the existence of long-lived transient shear bands that are key to the rheology of yield stress fluids and demonstrated deep connections between the failure mechanisms of hard and soft amorphous solids. He received the award for his outstanding contributions to the understanding of shear-induced yielding transitions in soft glassy materials. Read More 9
CEE receives top ranking from QS World University Rankings
The 2018 QS World University Rankings were released and CEE was ranked among the top. The department was named number one for Civil and Structural Engineering and number three for Environmental Science. MIT was ranked the number one university. QS World University Rankings are intended to educate prospective students about the leading schools in their preferred field. Read More
Research scientist Francisco Martin-Martinez named President of Association of Spanish Scientists in the United States
Research scientist Francisco Martin-Martinez was named President of the Association of Spanish Scientists in the United States (ECUSA) on March 6. Martin-Martinez was previously Vice President of ECUSA, an organization that aims to disseminate and expose the high impact work developed by the community of Spanish science and technology professionals in the U.S. and to educate and inspire new generations of scientists and innovators.
Professor Admir Masic’s lab featured in The Tech The Laboratory for Multiscale Characterization and Materials Design, led by Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Professor Admir Masic, was featured in The Tech. Graduate student Linda Seymour was interviewed for the profile and spoke about the lab’s tools and research interests. Seymour also talked about CEE’s mini-UROP program for freshmen and the Materials in Art, Archaeology and Architecture (ONE-MA3) program. Read More
Professor Otto X. Cordero teaches special subject in Israel over IAP
Assistant Professor Otto X. Cordero taught a special subject, 1.S992 (Agricultural Microbial Ecology), in Israel over this Independent Activities Period (IAP). Agricultural Microbial Ecology was a collaboration between Cordero and Professor Itzhak Mizrahi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). Over two weeks, undergraduate students from MIT and graduate students from BGU studied how to design microbial communities that could consume certain resources and convert them into desired compounds, which has major agricultural implications. Read More
In fieldwork program, students take the lead TREX program from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering takes students to Hawaii to conduct environmental research.
A group of MIT students said “Aloha, Hawaii!” during the latest Independent Activities Period, but it wasn’t for a month of vacation. The students were tasked with conducting research and collecting data samples, which will help them further understand the environmental conditions of soil and air quality on the Island of Hawaii (a.k.a. “the Big Island”). The research was part of the Traveling Research Environmental eXperiences (TREX) program hosted by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), which offers a unique fieldwork opportunity for students. “It is very important to us in CEE that students get hands-on research experience and tangible skills that they can take with them in their careers, especially in the field where a lot of the action is for our discipline,” says Markus Buehler, the McAfee Professor of Engineering and department head of CEE. “TREX continues to do both of these things, while producing impressive environmental research.” TREX brings students out of the classroom to experience firsthand the benefits and challenges of fieldwork. Each year, the projects evolve and adapt to changing research interests and tools, as well as to different environmental issues in Hawaii. “Returning to Hawaii every year has allowed us to cultivate ongoing relationships with scientists and land owners who live and work on the island,” says Ben Kocar, assistant professor of CEE and lead instructor of TREX. “As a result, our projects continuously improve, and our findings become
increasingly thorough and impactful. Giving the students control over the projects also means that each year is a little bit different, because the students have their own unique backgrounds and talents.” The students, advised by Kocar, Associate Professor Jesse Kroll, and teaching assistants Josh Moss and Ben Crawford, are the driving force behind the research. While Kocar, Kroll, Moss, and Crawford oversaw the projects and provided guidance, the fieldwork execution was the students’ responsibility. Kocar specializes in soil science, and Kroll is an expert in atmospheric chemistry, so students pursued projects on the chemical composition of soil and on monitoring particulate matter in the air. One project worked on building and managing a network of air quality sensors across the island to monitor the levels of air pollution from volcanoes, while another project used a combination of imagery from unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs) and soil samples to monitor plant health. In early January, the students familiarized themselves with the basics of soil science, air quality research, and topography to prepare for the projects in Hawaii. In addition to the scholarship behind the research, the students built air quality sensors and prepared their UAVs for the fieldwork. With the necessary skills and background information on the projects, the students were in charge of managing the projects and for the data collection. “We were told our two main projects and given an outline of what should be completed, but all of the detailed decisions were made among our group,” explains Meghan Reisenauer, a junior in civil and environmental engineering. “We needed to decide how and where to place our air particle sensors, how and where to sample the corn and surrounding soil, as well as decide
how to approach the data analysis once we had collected it.” For the air quality project, the students also built mounts for the air quality sensors and ensured that they were angled to the correct degree, so that the solar panels would have the appropriate amount of sun. The group then installed them around the island, expanding the preexisting network created by previous TREX students. To do this, the students contacted local residents and business owners and asked to mount air quality sensors on their property.
“I learned just how important networking and simple interaction with strangers is to the success of any project. I would be lying if the concept of asking someone for permission to use their property left me without the tiniest bit of apprehension heading into our voyage,” wrote Josh Wilson, a junior in civil and environmental engineering, in a blog post about the day. What he found instead was that “everyone was more than willing to help and, moreover, interested and excited about the research we were doing.” For the soil analysis project, teams collected soil samples from a local farm owned by Richard Ha. They compared those results with images taken with UAVs, and, scavenging a forward looking infrared (FLIR) thermal camera from a broken UAV, added an extra dimension to their data collection by capturing aerial soil and crop
temperature data to determine whether heat stress was limiting crop growth. The students had to figure out how to integrate and support the FLIR camera on the UAV and how to build a sturdy, lightweight platform for the it on the UAV. Using materials from a hardware store, the students built and tested an effective platform to make their data collection possible. A key aspect of the fieldwork was troubleshooting and changing direction at the last minute. A few days of heavy rain impeded the data collection, soaking the soil samples, making the farm inaccessible for work and impeding the UAV’s ability to fly. When the government unexpectedly shut down, the students were forced to relocate from the Kilauea Military Camp in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to nearby, privately owned housing. The move disrupted the research schedule, adding additional pressure to complete the work on time. Combined with the new housing situation, the students were challenged with maintaining an efficient workspace and performing initial analysis on the samples. “You have this general idea of what you need to do, but you also need to adjust for weather conditions and limitations,” explains junior David Wu. “But when you’re out in the field, anything can happen, so you have to be ready for it.” The data collection and preliminary fieldwork research from Hawaii is brought back to campus and analyzed as part of 1.092 (Traveling Research Environmental eXperience: Fieldwork Analysis and Communication) in the spring semester, giving students a chance to perform further analysis in a more controlled setting. Despite initial setbacks and surprising results in their data collection, the students collected and analyzed a wealth of data, and presented their preliminary findings to different audiences. One night, the group met with local MIT alumni and
shared their findings and research methods. “There were alums from all different majors, who each asked very in-depth questions about their field of study in relation to our projects with the particle sensors and drone usage,” Reisenauer wrote in a blog post. “Although we didn’t have all the answers, we did our best explaining our work and fielding questions from the room.” At the end of the program, the group also presented their research and preliminary results to local citizens of the Big Island. “When we presented to the public, their response and questions were much broader [than the alumni questions]; they asked mainly about what we thought the long-term effects could be, or our prediction of the material in other air particles they had dealt with,” Reisenauer recalls. “They certainly seemed appreciative of our research into an issue that affects them almost every day, so it was satisfying to show our hard work into the topic!” In addition to collecting and analyzing data, the students also partook in local activities such as hiking around the Kilauea Iki Crater and studying the plants and ecosystem that has developed at the site; snorkeling and learning about local fish species and coral; and visiting a local coffee farm, using the location as a test site for the UAV. “Besides the beaches that people think of, there’s a lot of cool history and a lot of ecosystems in Hawaii,” Wu says. “The Big Island has almost every type of ecosystem, from deserts and rainforests, to mountains 14,000 feet tall. Since it’s so isolated, it was a good place to do research. It was like a research playground.” This article was written by Carolyn Schmitt of CEE Communications for MIT News
Graduate Student Updates Tianli Zhou profiled on MIT News
Graduate student Tianli Zhou of the Interdepartmental Transportation Program was profiled on MIT News for his research into vehicle sharing services. Zhou and Evan Fields, a PhD candidate in MITâ€™s Operations Research Center, used data from Zipcar to infer demand for vehicles and develop algorithms to inform best practices for car-sharing services. Zhou and Fields are advised by associate professor Carolina Osorio. Read More
Grace Gu receives Caltech 2018 Award
Graduate student Grace Gu, a member of the Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics, was selected as one of Caltech’s 2018 “Young Investigator Lecturers in Engineering and Applied Science.” The lecture series, hosted by the Division of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) at Caltech, provides research exposure for selected female and underrepresented minority PhD students and postdoctoral scholars with Caltech faculty. Gu presented her research on January 11.
Justin Montgomery speaks at U.S. Energy Information Administration Energy Forecasting Forum
Graduate student Justin Montgomery was invited to speak at the Energy Forecasting Forum, a monthly lecture series by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Montgomery and Francis O’Sullivan, the Director of Research for the MIT Energy Initiative, presented the methodology and findings of their paper “Spatial variability of tight oil well productivity and the impact of technology,” to inform the EIA about how they can incorporate the research into their modeling and forecasting of shale gas and tight oil production trends. Read More 18
Kyle Delwiche receives Outstanding Student Paper Award from American Geophysical Union
Graduate student Kyle Delwiche of the Hemond Lab received the Outstanding Student Paper Award from the American Geophysical Union (AGU) at the AGU fall meeting. The award was given to the top five percent of student participants. Delwiche received the award for her paper that showed rising methane bubbles transport arsenic-containing particles from contaminated sediments at 16 m depth to the water surface of Upper Mystic Lake, MA. Her work was supported by the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Judy Yang Receives Caltech 2018 Award
Graduate student Judy Yang, a member of Professor Heidi Nepf’s Environmental Fluid Mechanics Lab, was selected as one of Caltech’s 2018 “Young Investigator Lecturers in Engineering and Applied Science.” On February 8, Yang spoke about how vegetation such as wetlands mitigate coastal erosion. The lecture series, hosted by the Division of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) at Caltech, provides research exposure for selected female and underrepresented minority PhD students and postdoctoral scholars with Caltech faculty.
Abdullah Almaatouq leads winning MIT team at Fragile Families Challenge
Abdullah Almaatouq, a graduate student in the Computational Science and Engineering program and a research assistant in the Human Dynamics Lab at the MIT Media Lab, led a team of MIT students who won three of six categories in the 2017 Fragile Families Challenge (FFC). The FFC is based on a wellbeing study and challenges participants with accurately predicting outcomes in six key categories. Almaatouq’s team ranked first in predicting GPA, grit and layoffs. Read More
Joanna Moody presents research at Transforming Transportation Conference
On January 11, graduate student Joanna Moody presented her research at the Transforming Transportation Conference, held at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Moody discussed her work on “car pride” and its impact on car usage and ownership in two cities in Latin America. The project was funded by the Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship for Sustainable Transport and Energy Efficiency, which Moody received in August 2017. The scholarship recognizes innovative young researchers who challenge existing paradigms and expand research and policy dialogue on sustainable transportation. Read More
Professor Jesse Kroll appointed new Director of the Parsons Laboratory for Environmental Science and Engineering Associate Professor and Atmospheric Chemist will assume the role effective June 1, 2018. Effective June 1, 2018 Professor Jesse Kroll wil be the new Director of the Parsons Laboratory for Environmental Science and Engineering Professor Kroll is a world-leading atmospheric chemist, whose research focuses on organic aerosol, colloidal suspension of particles dispersed in the atmosphere, and especially how they evolve over time under varying conditions. His work is enabling improved model treatments of atmospheric organic aerosol (and atmospheric organic chemistry generally), and ultimately will inform policy related to air quality and climate, two of the most important environmental issues confronting us on a global scale. Professor Kroll is a dedicated teacher and mentor, inside and outside the classroom. He regularly reaches 1.84J, an introductory graduate-level Atmospheric Chemistry subject. At the undergraduate level, he has taught the lecture and laboratory subjects 1.107/1.080 Environmental Chemistry, and he has led the CEE field subject 1.091/1.092 Traveling Research Environmental Experiences (TREX) for several years. In this setting, Jesse worked with students to measure the air quality associated with a plume of volcanic smog downwind of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. Professor Kroll has been selected for highly prestigious awards such as the â€œThompson Reuters Highly Cited Researcherâ€? award, the Whitby Award of the American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR), and the Macelwane Medal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Professor Kroll is an elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.
Professor Lydia Bourouiba
Professor Elfatih Eltahir
Assistant Professor Lydia Bourouiba presented at the
Breene M. Kerr Professor Elfatih Eltahir wrote about the
MIT symposium on Chaos and Climate on February 2, a
Nile water conflict for Nature Middle East. Eltahir discusses
centennial celebration of the diverse and enduring scientific
how population growth and the increased demand on water
legacies of former MIT professors Jule Charney and Ed
resources, in addition to the low agricultural productivity, are
Lorenz. Bourouiba spoke on how the legacies of Lorenz
the root causes of the Nile water conflict. Eltahir suggested
and Charney influenced her path from her research on
five elements that are necessary to consider in order to
turbulence, to chaos in epidemiology, to her current work
achieve sustainable agreement on sharing water between
at the intersection of fluid dynamics and health joining
Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan.
multiscale modeling and nonlinear dynamics, mechanics,
and fluids, all guided by key concepts of chaos and predictability.
Professor Elfatih Eltahir also presented at the MIT symposium on Chaos and Climate on February 2, where he gave a talk
Professor Lydia Bourouiba was also featured in the “Storied
entitled “From Charney’s Hypothesis to Multiple Climate
Women of MIT” video series for Women’s History Month.
Equilibria in the Sahel.” He discussed feedbacks in the
The video highlights Bourouiba’s contributions to the field of
coupled land-atmosphere system and how those may lead
fluid mechanics as they are applied to disease transmission.
to meta-stabilities in the regional climate system. He used
The series was produced by MIT Video Productions.
examples from research in his group explaining the expansion
of the Sahara desert 6000 years ago. The symposium celebrated the diverse and enduring scientific legacies of former MIT professors Jule Charney and Ed Lorenz.
Professor Charles Harvey
Professor Oral Buyukozturk
Professor Charles Harvey and his lab were awarded a $3.7
Professor Oral Buyukozturk received a $1.3 million research
million grant, $5 million in Singaporean dollars, to continue
grant from Shell to develop innovative technologies to
their research on tropical peatlands. With the grant, the
detect and characterize oil operation induced earthquakes
researchers will combine field and laboratory data with
in areas near urban populations and to study the effects in
satellite data to predict and prevent fires, better manage
neighborhood buildings. These operations and their locations
tropical peatlands, and characterize the chemistry and
are of significant concern and are challenging to characterize
transport of regional haze.
from both social and scientific perspectives. Buyukozturk is the Principal Investigator for the project, along with co-PI Nafi ToksĂśz of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and
Professor Charlie Harvey was also featured in a
Planetary Sciences (EAPS).
documentary entitled HAZE, Itâ€™s Complicatedâ€ŚThe film discusses the burning of peat forests in Southeast Asia
Professor Buyukozturk was also invited to participate
from the points of view of local and regional stakeholders.
in a meeting of the National Academies of Sciences,
The documentary was created by the Earth Observatory of
Engineering, and Medicine. The meeting was about the role
of advanced technologies in structural engineering for more
resilient communities. Buyukozturk was one of five speakers participating in the session on innovative technologies, specifically advanced structural and material technologies for smart infrastructure in building more resilient and sustainable communities.
Professor Desirée Plata
Professor Colette Heald
Professor Eduardo Kausel
Professor Desirée Plata’s startup
Associate Professor and Associate
Professor emeritus Eduardo Kausel
company, Nth Cycle LLC, was
Department Head of CEE Colette
commented on student learning and
awarded the Department of Energy’s
Heald participated in the Global
examination questions in the January/
Innovation Crossroads award, a $0.5M
Food+ symposium on February
February 2018 edition of the MIT
entrepreneurial traineeship. The award
16. Heald spoke about the impact
Faculty Newsletter. Kausel argued that
was granted to Megan O’Connor, co-
of particulate matter on crops,
even questions that are assumed to be
founder of Nth Cycle LLC and current
particularly maize, wheat and rice. The
“simple” and “obvious” may be open to
postdoc in Plata’s lab. Nth Cycle LLC
symposium featured lectures on food,
interpretations to students, making the
aims to help transition the United States
agriculture, environment and health,
questions more difficult to solve.
away from their reliance on primary
and was hosted by Tufts University.
mining and refining of metals overseas, toward the recycling of rare earth and specialty metals domestically. Plata officially joins CEE in July.
Professor Tami Lieberman
Professor John Williams
Professor Herbert Einstein
Professor Tami Lieberman joined
Professor John Williams gave a
Professor Herbert Einstein was
the department on January 1, 2018,
keynote address to the Saudi Arabia
interviewed in a Forbes article about
and received the Hermann L.F. von
Society of Petroleum Engineers
Elon Musk’s proposed high-speed
Helmholtz Career Development
(SPE) on January 2. Williams spoke
underground tunnels in Los Angeles.
Professorship, effective the same
about “Leveraging Big Data in the
In the article, Einstein provided expert
day. The professorship, which has
Oil Industry” and the speech was
insight into tunnel engineering and
a two year duration, was named in
attended by around 300 high-level
Musk’s proposed design. The article
honor of Hermann von Helmholtz, a
executives and engineers. Williams
also discussed the “Decision Aids for
nineteenth-century German physician-
was entertained by the Chairman of
Tunneling” tool developed in Einstein’s
physicist whose career encompassed
Saudi Arabia SPE and CEE alumnus
lab, which estimates cost and
work in areas such as vision, hearing,
Dr. Zeid Alghareeb, and was presented
conservation of energy, and electricity.
a magnificent trophy depicting the first
Lieberman is a dual assistant
oil rig to strike oil in the Kingdom.
professor with CEE and the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and opened her lab in January. Her lab aims to understand the impact of rapid adaptation and determinants of colonization within microbiomes.
Professor Colette Heald promoted to Full Professor effective July 1, 2018 Heald is an atmospheric chemist who aims to understand the key chemical and physical processes that control the composition of the atmosphere and the impacts of gases and particles in the atmosphere, as well as the global-scale influences of the changing climate and biosphere. Her work has shaped our understanding of the sources, budgets, trends, long-range transport, and impacts of aerosols in the atmosphere. Her analysis of observations of organic aerosol composition became the new paradigm for interpreting the evolution of organic composition in the atmosphere, with important implications for global climate models. In a recent study she showed how ozone can act in concert with climate change to damage crops and threaten global food security in the coming decades. The field of atmospheric chemistry is a nexus of laboratory measurements, field measurements, and modeling, and the most impactful work is done at this intersection of these areas and by scientists who are able to effectively bridging these. Professor Heald is known world-wide for her exceptional skill in bridging research on models and observations to address carefully selected research questions in atmospheric chemistry and climate that solve important problems with broad impact. Professor Heald joined MIT in 2012, and she is an important contributing member and leader in the CEE Department. She leads a prolific research group, and excels in classroom teaching, project-based teaching as well as field-based teaching. She has made numerous contributions to the MIT and CEE community in service and leadership with high levels of excellence and breadth in these activities. She is well known for MIT-wide leadership with her involvement in co-launching the Atmospheric Chemistry initiative at MIT. Since 2016, she serves as Associate Department Head of CEE, as well as the Chair of the CEE Undergraduate Education Committee. She has created and twice chaired the CEE Rising Stars workshop, each time with resounding success. 27
Professor Ruben Juanes was promoted to Full Professor effective July 1, 2018 Juanesâ€™ research focuses on understanding and modeling the physical processes associated with multiphase flows in porous geological media. His work is motivated by important engineering problems from the enhancement of oil recovery (from producing reservoirs) to large-scale storage of carbon dioxide (in depleted reservoirs). One of his most widely recognized contributions has been in the area of CO2 sequestration, where he has elucidated the underlying mechanisms of pore-scale capillary trapping and solubility trapping that control the migration of CO2 in brine aquifers. In other recent work, he has conducted influential international studies that, by integrating structural geology, seismology, and reservoir geomechanics, have enabled understanding of the origin of recorded earthquakes and served as the basis of consequential decisions by regulators. Since Professor Juanes joined MIT in 2006, he has developed a reputation as an outstanding classroom lecturer and mentor. He is an important contributing member and leader in the CEE Department, where he has built a very productive research group, whose high-quality work has been recognized with several outstanding student paper awards at annual AGU Meetings. Prof. Juanes receives strong evaluation scores from the students who regularly cite the clarity and organization of his lectures, his enthusiasm and level of engagement. Since 2015, he serves as the Director of the Henry L. Pierce Laboratory for Infrastructure Science and Engineering, within the CEE Department. On the outside, a major service and honor includes his recent election as the Chair of the 2018 Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Flow and Transport in Permeable Media.
Professor Yossi Sheffi
Professor Ruben Juanes
Yossi Sheffi, the Elisha Gray II Professor of Engineering
Professor Ruben Juanes is the principal investigator and
Systems and CEE, and Director of the Center for
director of the newly established Center of Excellence in
Transportation and Logistics, was featured on MIT News
Multiscale Reservoir Science, a partnership between MIT
for his new book “Balancing Green: When to Embrace
and the College of Petroleum Engineering and Geosciences
Sustainability in a Business (and When Not To).” The article
(CPG) at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals
describes case studies of large companies grappling with
(KFUPM) in Saudi Arabia. The collaboration, initially
their impact on the environment and how Sheffi suggests
funded by KFUPM with $2.5 million over three years, will
companies pursue sustainability measures in their business
focus on the development of technologies for improved
characterization of the subsurface via combined active/ passive seismic imaging, simulation of coupled flow and
geomechanics, and pore-scale modeling of multiphase flow. The MIT team also involves AeroAstro Professor Youssef Marzouk, EAPS Professor Nafi Toksoz and EAPS Senior Research Scientist Dr. Michael Fehler. Ruben Juanes and Xiaojing (Ruby) Fu, a postdoctoral associate, received the Physical Review Letters (PRL) Editors’ Suggestion for a paper on “Nonequilibrium thermodynamics of hydrate growth on a gas-liquid interface.” PRL awards “Editor’s Suggestion” to acknowledge a paper’s importance, innovation, and broad appeal.
Professor Admir Masic
Professor Benedetto Marelli
Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development
Paul M. Cook Career Development Professor Benedetto
Professor Admir Masic participated in a symposium on
Marelli received the 2018 Young Investigator Award from
“Protecting the Rights of Individuals Fleeing Conflict: The
the Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research.
Role of Scientists, Engineers, and Health Professionals” in
The award can be used to support laboratory equipment,
Washington, D.C. on December 8. Masic spoke on a panel
stipends and scholarships, as well as other expenses for
about the right to education. The symposium was hosted
ongoing and planned studies. Marelli is one of five MIT
by the Committee on Human Rights of the U.S. National
professors to receive the award.
Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Professor Benedetto Marelli also received the Director of The MIT Refugee Action (ReACT) Certificate Program,
Research Early Career Grant from the Department of the
created by Professor Admir Masic, launched its first cohort
Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), an award of $1
of participants in Jordan. The participants will complete a
million over five years to cover research expenses. The grant
year-long blended-learning program focused on computer
is awarded based on demonstrated innovative research at
and data science, with an emphasis on innovation and
the frontiers of science and technology that is relevant to
entrepreneurship. In addition to online courses, they will also
the ONR mission, and community service demonstrated
have mentored industry internships. The ReACT program
through scientific leadership and community outreach.
aims to increase access to education and professional opportunities for highly-talented refugees. Read More
Professor David Simchi-Levi
Professor Elfatih Eltahir
Professor Markus Buehler
Professor David Simchi-Levi is leading
Research from Professor Elfatih Eltahir
Research from Professor Markus Buehler
a multiyear collaboration between MIT
and former postdoc Ross Alter was
and the Laboratory for Atomistic and
and JDA Software to advance intelligent
featured in Science Magazine. The
Molecular Mechanics on subnanometer-
supply chains. The collaboration
news article about the CEE study,
scale channels was featured on the cover
aims to leverage machine learning
entitled “The United States’s Corn
of the February issue of Nature Materials.
and optimization to create customer
Belt is making its own weather,”
The research modeled the mechanisms of
experience and improve supply chain
discusses how agriculture had a major
molybdenum disulfide, a two-dimensional
on regional changes in climate among
material that could inform the creation of
the Midwestern United States. Alter
flexible, transparent electronics.
and several independent researchers were interviewed for the article, based
on research published in Geophysical
Additionally, Professor Markus Buehler,
former postdoc Shengjie Ling and David Kaplan of Tufts University was featured
on the cover of the April edition of Nature Reviews: Materials. The paper, entitled “Nanofibrils in nature and materials engineering,” summarizes the hierarchical design strategies of cellulose, silk and chitin, focusing on nanoconfinement, fibrillar orientation and alignment in 2D and 3D
Professor Penny Chisholm
Professor Lydia Bourouiba
Professor Admir Masic
Institute Professor Penny Chisholm
Assistant Professor Lydia
The MIT Refugee Action (ReACT)
was featured in the “Storied Women of
Bourouiba is featured in the Howard
Certificate Program, created by
MIT” video series for Women’s History
Hughes Medical Institute’s series
Esther and Harold E. Edgerton
Month. Chisholm is highlighted for her
“Breakthrough: Portraits of Women
Career Development Professor Admir
role in discovering Prochlorococcus, the
in Science,” as part of a mini-series
Masic, began a collaboration with
smallest, most abundant photosynthetic
which is to be screened in theaters
the MITx MicroMasters program in
organism. The series was produced by
across the country. The Science
data, economics, and development
MIT Video Productions.
Friday and HHMI series on Women
policy and the Abdul Latif Jameel
in Science features six distinguished
Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) to offer a
scientists and their research. The aim
blended educational model specifically
of the series is to increase the public’s
designed to meet the needs of
access to science and inspire and
refugees and other displaced people.
increase the numbers of minorities in
Through the collaboration, refugees
will be eligible to receive online
instruction, hands-on workshops, and paid internships to advance both their education and professional career. Read More
Professor Joseph Sussman, expert in complex engineering systems and revered mentor, dies at 79 Leader in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Institute for Data, Systems, and Society was the inaugural JR East Professor. Retired MIT Professor Joseph Sussman passed away on Tuesday, March 20, at the age of 79 following a long illness. An MIT alumnus and professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS), Sussman is fondly remembered for his dedication to his students and to the MIT community. Sussman received a bachelorâ€™s in civil engineering from City College of New York in 1961, a masterâ€™s of civil engineering from the University of New Hampshire in 1963, and his PhD from MIT in 1967. Shortly after completing his doctoral program, Sussman became a professor in CEE. Sussman was a professor for over 50 years and served as department head in CEE from 1980 to 1985. In 1991 he was awarded the inaugural JR East Professorship, an endowed chair that spurred the establishment of a long-standing partnership between the East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and MIT. He was awarded the CEE Distinguished Service and Leadership Award in 2017 for his devotion to encouraging a culture of diversity, inclusiveness, and innovation and for embodying the department mission and vision of MIT. At the ceremony, Sussman was honored for his friendship and mentorship to both students and fellow faculty members and for his support of all CEE community events.
“Joe was a special person and colleague. He never hesitated to lend a hand, offer advice, and support students and colleagues,” says Markus Buehler, the McAfee Professor of Engineering and head of CEE. “I vividly remember when I first met Joe during my interview, and later for coffee shortly after I joined the faculty at MIT. His passion for mentoring and teaching, and focus on students, was evident in everything he did during his long tenure at MIT. We will all miss him dearly and are deeply grateful for the time we could spend with him, and what he has taught us.” “I first met Joe on Engineering Council when he was serving as an interim director of [the Engineering Systems Division]. He introduced himself jokingly as being part of a recycling program at MIT; given that he was a department head almost 30 years before. Since that day, I really enjoyed our interactions,” recalls Munther Dahleh, director of IDSS and the William A. Coolidge Professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “Joe was always collegial irrespective of the context. I got to know him well during the launch period of IDSS. He always took the time to give thoughtful and constructive comments and was always supportive of the outcomes. He cared a lot about students and their experiences at MIT and emphasized that during the formation of IDSS. We developed a friendship in the last few
years that I will always cherish. It is people like Joe that make MIT a special place. I will miss him dearly.” Sussman taught and mentored many undergraduate students and advised over 120 master’s theses and over 20 doctoral dissertations during his tenure, and maintained relationships with a number of his former students. He led the Regional Transportation Planning and High-Speed Rail Research Group (R/HSR), a close-knit community of scholars who frequently held get-togethers and convened for reunions at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board. Sussman took great pride in mentoring students and spoke affectionately of his relationships with his students and research group members, a sentiment reciprocated by those who worked with him. Many of his former students and mentees laud his leadership and dedication to both their research and to their personal development. “Joe’s research accomplishments were numerous and extraordinary, but he has so many other lasting legacies,” says Joanna Moody, a graduate student in R/HSR and mentee of Sussman. “I think that one of the most often mentioned — and for me very personally important — was how much he connected with his students. He cared as much about how your personal life was progressing as he did your research.” Sussman’s research focus was on large scale complex engineering systems, which he applied to freight rail, intelligent transportation systems, and market selection processes. As a graduate student at MIT, Sussman worked on the application of computing to engineering processes, a project called Integrated Civil Engineering Systems (ICES). He later worked on
intelligent transportation systems (ITS), the use of advanced technology to make transportation networks operate efficiently. Sussman was a member of a small group who developed the first national strategic plan for ITS in the United States. In 2015, Sussman was inducted into the Intelligent Transportation Society of America Hall of Fame. In recent years, Sussman led the development of complex, large-scale, integrated, open, sociotechnical (CLIOS) systems and the CLIOS Process, a theoretical framework that can be applied to complex systems. Sussman and members of his group applied the CLIOS Process to complex systems including ITS, wind energy (Cape Wind), air defense, and the introduction of broadband access in Kenya.
“I was privileged to work with Joe Sussman for over 50 years,” says Daniel Roos, professor emeritus of engineering systems and CEE and longtime friend of Sussman. “He had an unmatched dedication and commitment to MIT and his students, winning three teaching awards in CEE, the Technology and Policy Program, and the Engineering Systems Division.”
collaborated with professionals at JR East, staff members from the company came to study at MIT, and MIT students interned with JR East in Japan. At the 25th anniversary of the program, Sussman noted that “the greatest honor in my professional career has been to serve as the first JR East Professor.” “Joe was a wonderful human being, a great and caring mentor to his students, and a wonderful colleague. He will be truly missed,” says Ali Jadbabaie, a professor of CEE, associate director of IDSS, and the second recipient of the JR East Professorship. In Sussman’s memory, the journal Frontiers in Built Environment announced the creation of a “Best Paper Award” to honor his legacy. The prize will be awarded annually to an outstanding paper published within the Transportation and Transit Systems section of the journal. Sussman served as a Specialty Chief Editor for the Transportation and Transit Systems section. The first award will be granted in early 2019. A memorial service at MIT was held on May 21. In lieu of flowers, the Sussman family requests that donations are made to the Joseph and Henri-Ann Book Fund at the Lincoln Public Library. This article was written by Carolyn Schmitt of CEE Communications
Sussman also led the first 25 years of the JR East-MIT partnership, resulting in a number of joint research projects. Over the years Sussman
Research from Professor Jesse Kroll and former postdoc Gabriel Isaacman-VanWertz tracks evolution of organic molecules in the atmosphere Research from Associate Professor Jesse Kroll and former postdoc Gabriel Isaacman-VanWertz, now an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, tracked the reactions of organic molecules as they react in the air. The research is the first study to get a comprehensive understanding of the process, and could help to study pollutants, smog, and emissions in the atmosphere in the future. Graduate students Chris Lim, Jon Franklin and Josh Moss, as well as former members of Krollâ€™s lab Rachel Oâ€™Brien and James Hunter, also contributed to the work. The paper was published in Nature Chemistry. Read More
Research from Professor Franz-Josef Ulm and research scientist Roland Pellenq shows city arrangement impacts the heat build-up of cities
Research from Professor Franz-Josef Ulm and research scientist Roland Pellenq shows city arrangement impacts the heat build-up of cities, a phenomenon referred to as the â€œheat island effect.â€? The researchers found that cities with more grid-like designs have more heat buildup than cities with more chaotic layouts, making these cities hotter than their surrounding areas. The research was published in Physical Review Letters. Read More
Research from Professor Markus Buehler and LAMM shows spider silk can help understand how bones regenerate
New research from Professor Markus Buehler and Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics (LAMM) shows spider silk can help understand how bones regenerate. The MIT researchers modeled how a cell membrane protein receptor, integrin, folds and activates the intracellular pathways that lead to bone formation. The research was conducted in collaboration with Tufts University and Nottingham Trent University. The paper was published in Advanced Functional Materials. Read More 38
Research from Professor David Simchi-Levi shows that traditional sampling method can be used to address inventory constraints
Research from Professor David Simchi-Levi shows that the Thompson sampling method, developed in the 1930s, can be combined with a linear algorithm to address revenue management problems. Simchi-Levi demonstrates that the Thompson sampling can be naturally combined with a classical linear program formulation to include inventory constraints, and can be applied in airline, internet advertising and online retail industries. The paper was accepted for publication in Operations Read More Research.
Research from Professor Elfatih Eltahir shows intensive agriculture has impact on summer climate in Midwest United States Research from Professor Elfatih Eltahir and former postdoc Ross Alter shows that intensive agriculture has an impact on summer climate in the Midwestern United States. Eltahir and Alter demonstrated that there was a significant empirical association and physical connection between the intensification of agriculture in the Midwest, the decrease in observed average daytime temperatures in the summer, and an increase in the observed local rainfall. The work indicates that intensive agriculture is no less important than greenhouse gas emissions in shaping regional and local climates. The research was published in Geophysical Research Letters. Read More
Research from Professor Colette Heald shows Clean Air Act saved more lives than initially estimated Research from Colette Heald, Associate Professor and Associate Department Head of CEE, research scientist David Ridley and Professor Jesse Kroll, shows that the Clean Air Act saved more lives than initially estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The researchers studied observations of organic aerosol across the United States and showed a significant decrease from 1990 to 2012. The paper was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read More
Research from Professor Martin Polz shows short-lived microbial communities are able to form despite rapidly varying conditions
Research from Professor Martin Polz, in collaboration with Professor Eric Alm, shows that microbial communities in the ocean are able to form despite rapidly varying conditions in a coastal environment, but that these communities demonstrate high turnover. The researchers used a time series method and an algorithm to understand the patterns and behavior of the communities over Read More time. The paper was published in Nature Communications.
Professor Martin Polz and postdoc Kathryn Kauffman discover new type of virus in the ocean
Professor Martin Polz and postdoctoral associate Kathryn Kauffman have discovered a new type of virus that is representative of the uncharacterized majority of viruses in the ocean. Named Autolykiviridae after a character from Greek mythology who was storied for being difficult to catch, these viruses were previously undetected because of their unusual properties that are not detected in common laboratory techniques. The paper was published in Nature. Read More
Research from Professor Oral Buyukozturk and junior Stephanie Chin shows the use of volcanic ash reduces embodied energy
Research from Professor Oral Buyukozturk, research scientist Kunal Kupwade-Patil and junior Stephanie Chin shows that using volcanic ash in place of traditional cement can reduce the embodied energy that goes into manufacturing concrete. Chin has been working in Professor Buyukozturkâ€™s Laboratory for Infrastructure Science and Sustainability since she was a freshman. The research was conducted in collaboration with researchers in Kuwait. The findings were published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. Read More
Materials-based innovation in agriculture
Professor Benedetto Marelli translates biomedical engineering background into proposed technologies to preserve crops and improve agricultural output From the booming fashion and textile industry in Milan to the silk research institute on campus, Benedetto Marelli, currently the Paul M. Cook Career Development Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), was surrounded by silk as an undergraduate student at Politecnico di Milano. It came as no surprise, then, that the material became central to his research interests and a thread throughout his projects in graduate school. A biomedical engineer by training, Marelli began exploring the properties of silk fibroin—the protein extracted from the silk worm— and its uses in the medical field. Silk, an environmentally friendly, biodegradable material, can be controlled and applied to a number of uses. As a Master’s student, Marelli studied abroad in Quebec City and worked in a hospital to engineer a graft blood vessel out of silk. “Somehow I have always worked with silk and structural biopolymers, studying their fundamental properties and nanomanufacturing the materials,” Marelli says. “During my undergrad, I was doing research on silk threads for textile applications. In my Master’s thesis, I studied the nanofabrication of silk fibroin for vascular grafting, and during my doctorate at McGill University, I studied collagen and silk mineralization for bone regenerative medicine.” Following five years of biomedical and materials research, Marelli pursued a postdoc at the Silklab in Tufts University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, one of the leading research groups in silk and natural materials. At Tufts, he began to transition his work from the medical field to another major need: global food waste. Food waste is a concern for both the world’s growing population and for the environment. In 2013, the United Nations estimated that one-third of food produced globally was lost or wasted. Marelli’s research showed that silk could be used to help alleviate some of this food waste. In a 2016 paper published in Scientific Reports, Marelli and researchers from Tufts showed that a thin, edible silk coating applied to fruits could extend the shelf life of produce like bananas and strawberries, without refrigeration or a controlled environment. The challenge now, Marelli says, is to understand and design biomaterials that can be applied to plants and their tissues and to scale-up these innovations to meet the high demands of the agriculture industry, making them accessible for growers and stakeholders. Marelli and members of his Laboratory of Advanced Biopolymers at MIT are currently studying how natural materials—including silk and other biopolymers — can be used to fabricate costeffective solutions for large-scale use in agriculture. “So far agricultural innovation efforts have been based on biotechnology, like engineering crops that work in different 44
conditions to optimize output. But there is potential for materials-based innovation that has been overlooked and has gone under the radar,” Marelli explains. “My plan is to bring materials-based innovation to agriculture, using materials that are sustainable and friendly with the environment.” From understanding fundamental processes and using this information to develop new materials, to creating efficient delivery methods for these materials in crop fields, members of Marelli’s lab are taking multi-faceted approaches to applying materials research to agriculture.
rhizobacteria act as biofertilizers and don’t create this imbalance of elements. One of the major considerations for the researchers is how to modify expensive materials and methods from the lab and both scale it up to meet the demands of growers and stakeholders; additional costs to agricultural practices may be an unbearable financial burden that hinders the transition of a technology from the lab bench to the field. The researchers also need to consider the environment in which the materials will be applied, and the different strains of PGPR required for different environments.
One goal is to offset the environmental impact of fertilizers on soil and groundwater and to mitigate abiotic stresses, such as droughts and floods, by using unique “cocktails” of structural biopolymers, naturally occurring molecular structures inside proteins, to preserve and inoculate bacteria that help plants grow.
“You need to involve growers and stakeholders at an early stage if you really want to have an impact and you need to make sure that the new material-based solutions can retrofit the technology that they already have,” Marelli explains. “We are thinking about how we can reengineer the material that works really well in the lab to make it work in their settings and with their technology.”
“We know plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) can enhance crop yield and production, but we don’t have an effective method to deliver PGPR to the plants,” explains Augustine Zvinavashe ’16, a graduate student in Marelli’s lab. “We are working on developing environmentally friendly materials that can deliver the bacteria.”
The researchers are also seeking to apply this concept to ameliorate the loss of food pre-harvest. Graduate student Yunteng Cao is studying how to precisely deliver antibiotics to plants to make them more resilient to diseases and pests to increase usable crop yield, while reducing the use of antibiotics. He cites citrus trees in Florida as a particular area of concern.
The different biopolymer combinations blended with plant- and soil-specific PGPR can be used to optimize plant growth in the presence of abiotic stresses that decrease crop yield and production. For example, the lab is collaborating with researchers at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Morocco, where the soil has high salinity, which lowers the crop yield and production.
Citrus trees and their subsequent juice production has declined dramatically as a result of bacteria infiltrating the vascular system in plants. The challenge for Cao and Marelli is to figure out how to ensure the antibiotics that combat the bacteria can be optimally delivered.
In response, “we are trying to figure out how to best deliver rhizobacteria that mitigate salinity for crops [there],” Zvinavashe says. The lab thus finds ways to preserve [PGPR] in a dry state and to inoculate them in plants. The same solution may then be used by growers on the field, resulting in a decrease needs for agricultural inputs, including water, pesticides and fertilizers, while maximizing the output: crop yield and production. Whereas fertilizers deposit excess of elements like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous into the soil, causing long-term degradation, with biopolymers the 45
The current methods, plant spray and soil injection, are not effective nor precise ways of delivering antimicrobial agents in plants, so antibiotics cannot reach deep within the tissues in plants where the bacteria reside. “We want to develop a direct method that can help reaching remote tissues in plants, so we are working on a silk fibroin-based solution,” Cao says. Another major challenge for delivering antibiotics to plants is that materials transport is slow when compared to the shelf-life of unstable molecules, such as antibiotics. Thus, the effectiveness of the antibiotics “decreases dramatically,” before the infected tissue may be reached, Cao explains. However, by leveraging the preservation
properties of silk fibroin, the researchers are using it to extend the longevity of the antibiotics post-application. The silk-based deployment system is currently being tested in the lab. In addition to projects explicitly driven by agriculture, the lab is also seeking new nanomanufacturing techniques that integrate top-down and bottom-up approaches, with a key focus on the discovery of new mechanisms for proteins assembly. The self-assembly property gives biopolymers the ability to be engineered and applied to different domains, including medicine and agriculture. Hui Sun, a graduate student in the lab, is spearheading the research on developing new bottom-up nanomanufacturing techniques. She is currently trying to direct and engineer biopolymers’ assembly paths to obtain coatings and membranes that can control material transport with applications in food storage and preservation. Sun is also working on the design and fabrication of novel proteins and peptides with potential properties and functions that are valuable for other projects in the lab, including Zvinavashe’s encapsulation and inoculation of PGPR. “Basically, for a specific application, say food coating, I am proposing possible amino acid sequences that will endow the protein or peptide with targeted structures and functions,” Sun says of her work. “The focus of this project is not on agriculture, but the question is, can we design new nanomanufacturing processes that are so simple to be seamlessly translated in agricultural settings?” Marelli says of the project. “We are trying to bridge together materials science and agriculture.” Marelli is translating his research interests into a new special subject, 1.S979 (Materials in Agriculture, Food Security and Food Safety), to be offered in the fall term. After learning about basic science and technology related to agriculture, students will be guided through developing their own independent project. After identifying initial ideas, testing the ideas in the lab and writing business proposals, students will end the class with unique startup ideas. Marelli, both as a startup enthusiast and an academic, is a proponent of entrepreneurial spirit among undergraduate
and graduate students. “I think [startups] are key. I strongly encourage undergraduates and graduate students to consider it as a way of using their expertise, if they like the startup environment. Plus, MIT has so many programs that students can use to develop their entrepreneurial spirit and ideas.” Similarly, in 1.007 (Big Engineering: Small Solutions with a Big Impact), Marelli organizes a series of seminars to show undergrads how MIT alumni, and Course 1 alumni in particular, have used their knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit to innovate and have an impact on the world. During the subject, speakers from the MIT community share with students their career trajectory, successful entrepreneurial stories and failures, while describing some aspect of starting a new company, from selecting the “right idea” and team building, to intellectual property protection and financing. “In this way, students learn the bread and butter of starting up while extending their connections and being exposed to tremendous models,” Marelli says. For his innovative research, scientific leadership and community outreach Marelli received the 2018 Young Investigator Award and the 2018 Director of Research Early Career Grant from Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research, as well as the 2018 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. Although his focus has shifted from the medical field to agriculture, Marelli continues to leverage his biomedical engineering background through a collaboration with Vaxess Technologies, Inc. Marelli’s lab is currently working on developing a silk microneedle—a thin, painless needle that, due to the preservation properties of silk and its design—doesn’t require refrigeration or medical training. Both today and moving forward, however, Marelli sees his students as being central to the future directions of the lab and his work. “I like to think that my lab is driven by students,” Marelli says. “They challenge me in very constructive ways; they have their own ideas. It shows me that they’re becoming independent and that they’re going to become leaders one day.” 46
In the Department
Microbiology graduate program, co-directed by Professor Martin Polz, celebrates 10 year anniversary
This year marks the 10 year anniversary of the Microbiology PhD graduate program at MIT, a program co-directed by Professor Martin Polz. The program spans 50 labs across 10 departments and divisions at MIT and offers an interdisciplinary approach to microbiology. Read More
Research from Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) shows life-cycle perspective has environmental and financial benefits Research from the Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) shows that using life-cycle methodologies before beginning infrastructure projects has both environmental and financial benefits in the long term. The researchers suggest that engineers and policy makers should complete the life-cycle assessment and life cycle cost analysis methodologies in the planning stages of projects to greater understand the underlying environmental and financial costs and benefits. Read More
A dynamic approach to different disciplines Professor Eduardo Kausel applies principles of dynamics to health, biology Growing up in Santiago, Chile, Eduardo Kausel is no stranger to earthquakes. As a student at the University of Chile, he began to ponder about the impact of earthquakes on the world around him. “I was interested in how the ground vibrates and what earthquakes do to the structures,” Kausel recalls. “To learn that, I needed to know about dynamics.” Dynamics is the study of how and why objects, structures and the ground shake and move. The topic became the primary interest for Kausel through his career. Over the years, Kausel, now professor emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering, studied structural dynamics, soil dynamics and wave propagation. In 2000, he earned the Humboldt Prize granted by the German Government for his contributions to these fields. Kausel also applied these concepts to different disciplines, from structural disasters to health sciences. The September 11, 2001 terror attacks and the resulting destruction “had an enormous impact on me,” Kausel says. He dedicated a day of classes to debriefing with students about the events giving his expert advice on the structural dynamics of the World Trade Center during and after impact. The discussion prompted his students to encourage him to talk to a wider audience about his thoughts on the World Trade Center, resulting in a considerable amount of attention from the press and the media, followed by a collection of essays by CEE faculty on a number of domains related to the impact of the event. Kausel’s research interests were applied to biology and physiology when, in 2015, he was approached by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to collaborate on a project about cultivated heart cells, known as Cardiomyocytes. Kausel had an interest in biology as a child, so this project was a natural fit for him to combine two research interests. The MGH researchers were looking at a variety of physiological properties of Cardiomyocytes, including the force with which they contract. Kausel’s primary role in the research was to figure out what the forces might be by studying the biomechanics of the heart cells and how strong they contract. “Ultimately they wanted to know, if you have cultivated cells, whether they will beat with the same force as natural heart cells,” Kausel explains. The results were published in Stem Cell Reports. 49
Kausel’s next physiological application stemmed purely out of personal curiosity. Kausel became interested in how muscles dissipate energy, such as the energy released when a person walks down a hill, as opposed to a person generating energy by walking uphill. He posed the question on an online forum with peer engineers and scientists, but was not satisfied with the initial responses, prompting him to conduct his own inquiry. While doing his own research about biomechanics of muscles and how they generate energy, he came across a slow motion video of a man running on a treadmill. This proved pivotal to finding an answer. “When I saw the video, I understood instantly how it is that energy gets dissipated. In slow motion, I saw that the very moment that one foot hits the treadmill, a shock wave propagates throughout the body and the muscles vibrate significantly, both laterally and back and forth,” Kausel explains. “Therefore, the entire body is vibrating and that vibration (or wave) dissipates from what is called viscoelastic effects. I understood at that moment that the energy gets dissipated not by physiological processes in the muscles but simply as vibration of energy in the body. This is, of course, structural dynamics.” Recently, Kausel’s research has become increasingly mathematical. He published a paper in early 2018 about an obscure mathematical property of normalized modes. In the context of structural dynamics, a mode refers to the characteristic deformation shapes that a structure exhibits when oscillating on its own after some initial disturbance, Kausel explains. He describes the concept of modes through the character of sound of musical instruments. “When you bang a drum it gives a tone, and
that tone is a characteristic of the drum. The same thing is true for the violin. When plucking and releasing one of the strings of a violin, it oscillates back and forth at a fixed frequency (or pitch), and does so also in a known deformation shape,” Kausel says. “The deformed shape of the string, and the speed at which it oscillates back and forth, define the pitch and the tone that one hears when the violin is played. But two distinct instruments playing the same note, say a violin and a piano, do deform and vibrate in different ways, so their modes are most certainly different from one another. That is, the acoustical modes are an inherent, physical attribute of the instruments.” The vibration modes of a physical system, such as an instrument, are obtained from the solution of a mathematical problem referred to as an “eigenvalue problem.” Its solution yields the frequency, or tone, of the mode (referred to as the “eigenvalues”), as well as their characteristic shape (the “eigenvectors”). These eigenvectors have in turn an implied length, known as “the norm.” Kausel discovered that it is possible to obtain eigenvectors that are automatically scaled so that they have a unit length, i.e. no scaling is needed. As Kausel describes it, “this abstruse property was hiding in plain sight.” The work was published in the Journal of Sound & Vibration and was lauded by his peers and other mathematicians with whom he corresponded about the findings. During his pursuit of a myriad of research interests throughout his career, Kausel has instilled in his students an emphasis on excellence. “The most important thing, I told my students, is to do everything to the best of their ability,” particularly when it comes to writing and formulating their ideas, he says. Kausel combined this tenet and years of teaching and research experience on structural dynamics and mechanical vibration into a treatise, Advanced Structural Dynamics, published last fall by Cambridge University Press, which he created from decades of lecture notes. 50
Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm PhD ’03 Named Chair of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at University of Maryland
Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm PhD ’03 was named chair of the University of Maryland’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science (AOSC) for a five-year term effective July 1, 2018. He is currently a professor in the department and interim director of UMD’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center. He will continue leading ESSIC through 2021. Miralles-Wilhelm also serves as executive director of the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, which is administered by ESSIC.
Tricia Smith ’83 featured on Slice of MIT blog for her business “Ruggles Hill Creamery”
Tricia Smith ’83 was featured on the MIT Alumni Association’s Slice of MIT blog for her business, Ruggles Hill Creamery, which opened in 2005. Ruggles Hill Creamery is located in Hardwick, Massachusetts and produces 3,000 pounds of goat cheese per year. Read More 51
CEE alumnus Han Wu awarded Schwarzman Scholarship CEE alum Han Wu MEng ’15 was awarded a 2018 Schwarzman Scholarship to pursue postgraduate studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Wu was selected as one of 142 Schwarzman Scholars out of over 4,000 applicants. He is currently a structural engineer at Ove Arup and Partners Hong Kong. Read More
CEE alumni Auroop Ganguly PhD ’02 and Don Shobrys ’75 share thoughts on MIT’s role in the AI revolution
CEE alumni Auroop Ganguly PhD ’02 and Don Shobrys ’75 shared their thoughts on MIT’s role in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution. Ganguly and Shobrys penned their ideas to Anantha P. Chandrakasan, the Dean of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering Read More and Computer Science, in response to the School of Engineering newsletter.
Keep in touch with us! A new initiative is underway to profile CEE alumni and educate prospective CEE students about the wide
range of careers available to CEE alumni. CEE alumni are encouraged to share their accomplishments to be highlighted online and in future newsletters. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any updates!
Experts from around the world convene at MIT for 15th Specialist Meeting on Microwave Radiometry and Remote Sensing of the Environment Professor Dara Entekhabi hosts IEEE MicroRad 2018 Conference at MIT
Technological and scholarly advances are often propelled through collaboration with experts with similar interests. The Microwave Radiometry (MicroRad) Conference, a biennial meeting of scientists and engineers who study microwave radiometry and remote sensing, aims to foster this type of innovation. From March 27 to 30, over 120 participants from across the world convened on campus for this year’s meeting. Bacardi and Stockholm Water Foundations Professor Dara Entekhabi, who uses satellite remote sensing data in his work, served as General Chair of the event. Through a series of poster sessions and technical talks, the attendees shared research findings, advances, methods, and potential opportunities for future collaborations. From soil moisture to ocean temperature and salinity, there were a widerange of topics throughout the conference. Entekhabi’s work uses remote sensing data from NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite for insights into vegetation and radiometry measurements. He is the science team leader for the NASA SMAP satellite, which launched in 2015 and continues to return data to Earth.
highlights and system health of the SMAP mission. In the past, research from the Entekhabi Lab used data from the first year of NASA’s SMAP satellite to study global soil moisture. The study provided insight into role of the water cycle in the global climate system. Entekhabi was also the recipient of the 2018 Dave and Lucille Atlas Remote Sensing Prize from the American Meteorological Society, awarded for his scientific and technical leadership in providing remote sensing data and in their use to address basic questions in hydrological science. The three day event was fruitful, and papers from the meeting will be submitted to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Xplore, a research database for peerreviewed publications. MicroRad 2018 was sponsored by the Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS) of IEEE and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Entekhabi’s contributions to remote sensing were prominent throughout MicroRad. He chaired the meeting on radiometry, and his research was included a number of the presentations. Entekhabi, along with graduate student Andrew Feldman and postdoctoral associate Ruzbeh Akbar, also gave a technical talk on “SMAP Soil Moisture and Vegetation Attenuation and Scattering Retrievals Including Higher Order Soil-Canopy Interactions.” Dr. Entekhabi himself presented a paper featuring science 54
June 14 - July 4: ONE-MA3
This summer, a group of students will travel to Privernum, Pompeii and Turin with Professor Admic Masic for the third year of our program on Materials in Art, Archaeology and Architecture (ONE-MA3). The fieldwork program will give students hands-on research experience. While in Italy, many of our students choose to blog. Follow along on the CEE website blog! Read More
August 14: CEE Kids Camp MIT CEE will be hosting its third annual CEE Kids Camp on August 14! This event is open to all children and relatives to get a glimpse into the department and participate in fun, hands-on activities! A formal invitation and specific details will be sent via email in the near future. Email email@example.com with any questions!
July 16 – 20, 2018: IASS 2018 In July 2018, the annual Symposium of the IASS – International Association for Shell and Spatial
Structures—will be held at MIT. The symposium unites designers and researchers working in the fields of structural engineering and architecture from around the world. The theme is Creativity in Structural Design and is being organized by CEE Professors John Ochsendorf and Caitlin Mueller. More Info
Civil and Environmental Engineering
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The Spring 2018 edition of MIT Civil and Environmental Engineering (MIT CEE)'s newsletter, Course One.