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Fall 2016


Sanford Russell ‘82 discusses “Deep Learning” and the near future of driverless cars


t’s a sunny day in February, NVIDIA’s BB8 represents a giant leap forward from autonomous car (internally called today’s hi-tech cars that automatically stop for BB8) with its NVIDIA DRIVE™ PX 2 pedestrians or parallel park on their own. “[That] supercomputer, is on a test drive. It technology is fairly simple,” said Sanford Russell flattens one cone after another on a private (‘81), Senior Director, Autonomous Driving course then veers off the road on a side Ecosystem, NVIDIA. “[It requires] radar to aid in street, nearly taking out a trash can, and braking when a car or person is in front and... side-swipes the branches of snow-covered camera to see well-marked lane boundaries.” trees. In terms of autonomy, the test is Sanford Russell with UMassD engineering students However, a truly autonomous car requires 360actually just a learning drive, like a child degree awareness, integrating data from radar, learning to walk—the human operator must constantly take the lidar, multiple cameras, ultrasonic sensors, and GPS, and the ability to wheel to help it learn. However, one month later, the car is back, and process all the information in real-time. How, then, have we jumped this time it maneuvers the cones with ease then confidently cruises so quickly from assisted braking to Autonomous research vehicles a busy highway, maintaining its lane. BB8 even masters unpaved with Drive PX2? roads, all while the human operator remains hands-free. The drastic “What has changed,” Sanford said, “is deep learning.” A branch improvement isn’t due to better programming or hardware, it’s the of Artificial Intelligence (AI), deep learning attempts to mimic the result of experience. The previous month, it logged 3,000 training human brain’s ability to learn through training then make informed miles and learned to drive better. decisions. “Deep learning relies on training a computer-based neural continued on page 2




COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING Message from the Dean Dear Alumni and Friends, In this issue, we celebrate another outstanding year for the College of Engineering. Engineering alumni, faculty and student achievements help us tell the story of how UMass Dartmouth is impacting lives worldwide. UMass Dartmouth was awarded Carnegie Classification as a Doctoral Research (R2) Level institution in 2015 and the College of Engineering faculty and students contributed proudly to this effort. Examples of innovative research, inter-disciplinary student projects, digital integration and STEM outreach highlight our vision in action. The U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings released this month puts UMass Dartmouth at #220 nationally and the College of Engineering #135 on the doctorate-granting university list. Read about how alumnus Hew (Sanford) Russell ‘82 and Nvidia are shaping the future of autonomous vehicles, student Dylan Baker’s ‘17 NASA Space Center internship successes, and Dr. John Buck’s receipt of the Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching. UMass Dartmouth proudly hosted the NE FIRST Robotics Competition on campus for the second straight time. This year, UMass Dartmouth along with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) co-sponsored a new Team called the SouthCoast Corsairs. Read further to find out how the team won the Rookie of the Year award and competed at the World Championships in St. Louis. The College of Engineering continues to maintain excellence in graduate and undergraduate education. Once again the College is listed among the “best in undergraduate engineering” by U.S. News & World Report and ranked #39 nationally among primarily master’s granting institutions. All current ABET accredited degree programs are undergoing reaccreditation and the new Bioengineering program is seeking its initial accreditation. A campus visit by the ABET team is scheduled for this fall. The need for new technologies, products and systems to improve healthcare, communication, safety, and clean energy and to sustain our quality of life makes this an exciting and rewarding time to pursue an engineering career. Correspondingly, total enrollment in the College now tops 1600 and degree production is up nearly 50% from 8 years ago, which is contributing much needed talent for the knowledge economy. Current students can now earn academic credit for completed internships. Alumni and industry sponsorship can provide this valuable real-word engineering and professional experience. We thank you for your continued support and invite you to join us in shaping a bright future for the next generation of engineers! Sincerely,

Robert E. Peck, Ph.D. Dean, College of Engineering 2

Hands-free continued from pg 1

network with millions upon millions of electronic neurons. Through training, the neurons learn to weight data and form simple decisions that then get passed on to another layer of neurons for a higher level decision. These networks can be 100s and thousands of levels deep with millions of neurons and several notable ones over a billion.” Processing that amount of data requires immense computational power, which traditionally meant enormous supercomputers. However, that has changed thanks to breakthroughs with Graphic Processing Units (GPU). Invented by NVIDIA in 1999, GPUs were used solely for graphics and image processing until 2006, when NVIDIA introduced CUDA (a project Sanford worked on and served as General Manager from 2009-2011). A parallel programming platform, CUDA allows the computational power of GPUs to be harnessed for general purpose processing. To give a sense of the computational power unlocked by CUDA, NVIDIA’s autonomous driving platform, the lunchbox-sized Drive PX 2, has the power of 150 MacBook Pro notebooks and can do 24 trillion operations per second. With deep learning it’s not only possible to teach cars to drive, but have the cars teach themselves to drive better, better even than humans. Imagine thousands of Autonomous cars, each constantly uploading data that the others can learn from and use to avoid accidents. With nearly 33,000 people dying from US car crashes in 2014 (1.2 million worldwide), autonomous cars have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives annually. But if BB8 is the car of tomorrow, when exactly will the future begin? Next year Volvo will launch its Drive Me campaign in London, Sweden, and China. Each locale will give 100 fully autonomous cars to real families for use on pre-mapped roads. It’s a big step and a sign that we’re just a few years from these cars being available to the public. According to Sanford, “Every automotive company has publicly said that they will have autonomous cars by 2020.” But it’s not just the auto industry that’s being transformed. “Deep learning is one of the largest technology explosions that I have seen in my career,” he said. “There are over 1,000 AI start-up’s with well over $5 billion in funding as of this year.” Facebook began using AI in 2011 to learn which posts people wanted at the top of their newsfeed, and this year Google introduced RankBrain, which uses deep learning to provide search results that best answer people’s questions. Health care, in particular, could be revolutionized by the technology. In April, NVIDIA partnered with Mass General Hospital’s Clinical Data Science Center with the goal of training a neural network with millions of radiology and pathology images. The hope is it that can find patterns in data too large for humans to comprehend and offer new diagnostic and treatment insights. Such cross-industry growth makes last year’s creation of UMass Dartmouth’s Data Science Program appear all the more prescient. “The timing could not have been better,” Sanford said adding that, with more companies placing a premium on big data, graduates will offer a unique and valuable skillset. “Data Science and the understanding of how to pull insight out of millions of daily events is the dream of every executive. Instant insight into trends and customer wishes is the holy grail.”

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Rookie Robotics Team

SouthCoast team tests mettle at international championship May 2, 2016 Article reprinted with permission from The Herald News Team 5846 pictured here as winners of the Rookie Award and during a tune-up break at UMass Dartmouth.


he College of Engineering was pleased to host the Regional FIRST Competition in March 2016 for the second year in a row. Mentors from the College supported Team 5846 to head to the International Championship. The members of the SouthCoast Corsairs robotics team, Team 5846, entered into competitions this spring as pure rookies. They had no delusions of grandeur. They hoped to learn, get experience and come back next spring ready to be competitive. “We didn’t even know we were going to win,” Jared Staton, a freshman at Westport High School, said of how the team fared in a regional competition in Hartford, Connecticut. “We’re just really excited.” They made it to the international championship in St. Louis, Missouri, after having competed at UMass Dartmouth and then at regional finals in Hartford. Staton spoke with The Herald News the weekend before the team left for St. Louis. It began in January, when folks at the College of Engineering at UMass Dartmouth, responding to a request from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island, put out the call that they would like to form a team. They reached out to local high schools. Cobot Priestner found out about it, got his friend Jared Staton to join. Their team grew to 13 members. They were joined by students from Bishop Connolly High School, Bishop Stang High School and Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, New Bedford High School and


Dartmouth High School. Terry Wolkowicz, the mother of another student, noted that in less than two months, the team had gotten to know each other, and assembled their robot. “These are kids from a diverse group of schools. They didn’t know each other,” she said. “No one expected this team to do this,” said Alex Fowler, a Mechanical Engineering professor at UMass Dartmouth, and one of the team’s mentors. “It’s very unusual for a rookie team. We did not expect to do any of that. Our hope was to get started. “We built a simple robot. Our aspirations were very modest,” Fowler said. While other teams designed flashy robots, SouthCoast Corsairs decided throughout the competition to play to their strength — defense, explained Jared Staton. It wouldn’t be flashy. The goal of the competition is to take other teams’ castles. So many teams would have elaborate offensive strategies. Team 5846, instead, would defend their castle. They formed alliances with other, more offensively minded teams. “It just came off the top of our heads. It was a good plan — all defense,” he said. It proved effective. “We’ve been a very popular team member because our robot does this one thing very well. We designed our robot to go smashing into things. It’s a simple thing, focused on driving,” Fowler said. In fact, the bigger challenge in being a rookie team that hadn’t expected to go to St. Louis, was fundraising for the trip.



In a short span of time, a matter of days, they needed to raise more than $10,000. Via a combination of crowdsourcing via the website GoFundMe, [a Sparkplug Campaign through the UMass Dartmouth Foundation], and some local sponsorships, they were able to pull the funds together. Jason Staton, Jared’s father, beamed when he spoke about the team’s surprise run. He said Jared “fell right in love with” robotics. “That was actually, a really good opportunity for them,” Jason Staton said, noting that team members not only learned from their experience building and programming their robot, they learned skills from other teams. Being on the team has had a positive impact. “My son is kind of a quiet person. This kind of opened him up a little bit,” Jason Staton said. “They’ve got some impressive hardware,” said Jennifer Mulcare-Sullivan, another mother, whose son, Andrew Sullivan is a freshman at New Bedford Voke. “I am just thrilled,” Mulcare-Sullivan said. “Andrew’s my youngest, and he’s always been pretty shy. And I’m watching him blossom, out talking to people doesn’t know.” As for the quickly planned trip to St. Louis, Mulcare-Sullivan said, “It’s worth it. I know at 15 I wasn’t building robots.” Reporter, Michael Gagne



Harnessing Renewable Energy

Dr. MacDonald (right) explains his low-cost WEC device which captures small amounts of ocean wave energy as two objects move against each other.


ow do you capture energy from ocean waves and convert it into another form of useful energy? That’s the question Dan MacDonald, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, posed to a group of engineering students during their capstone senior design project. Now those students, along with principal investigator MacDonald and former graduate student Brandon Green, are inventors of a wave energy converter (WEC) design currently in the process of being patented. “I challenged the students to come up with the design of a device that would be easy to maintain, low cost, and attachable to something already in the shore—such as a dock, breakwater, or other type of fixed infrastructure—to allow for the capture of small amounts of energy,” said MacDonald. After several designs were proposed, MacDonald said, “They finally came up with this really nice variation on a point absorber WEC, which captures ocean wave energy if you have two objects moving against each other. So one object is held to the ground or attached to the dock, and then a buoy, which moves up and down in the water, can be attached to that fixed part to capture energy.” The same WEC design could be used on a mooring where it would generate enough energy to power ocean sensors so batteries don’t have to be replaced as frequently. The device also could provide small amounts of 4

power to telecommunications stations in coastal areas. MacDonald is also in the process of pursuing a second wave energy patent. This point absorber technology method involves replacing underwater-mounted steel spars with a much simpler design using a tether WEC device. “This tether design overcomes some of the complexities involved with both construction and deployment of the heavy steel spar, which can typically be 50 feet or more in length,” said MacDonald. Additionally, the design drastically lowers the cost of point absorber systems by eliminating the large amounts of steel necessary to form the spars. “This new method will drive down the cost a lot, and still provides electricity from waves.” While both of these distributed energy systems currently provide a trickle of power, with more research and advanced designs, the WEC and point absorber technology may soon become an environmentally friendly way of acquiring large amounts of electricity. “Right now, the designs can only capture a limited amount of energy from waves. But we are finding that this is broad technology that can actually be applied on a much larger scale,” said MacDonald. Mehdi Raessi, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and a collaborator with MacDonald on these projects, said, “Using wave energy converter devices to capture ocean wave energy is a

significant resource for renewable energy.” Raessi teaches a wave energy conversion class that focuses on the mathematics of wave energy. “The resource is vast if we look at the exploitable wave energy. It can supply one-third of the electricity demand in the United States, but it has remained untapped for several reasons, mainly cost.” Design and development of a WEC requires very expensive testing. “Because of this, we have developed an advanced computational tool with funding from the National Science Foundation that can simulate a real-life scenario and can be used to complement and leverage the experimental efforts,” said Raessi. “With computational modeling, if a designer has five different ideas, before diving into the experimental step, the designer can study these five models computationally and select the idea believed to be the most promising versus testing all of the experiments.” This spring, the Seaport Economic Council awarded UMass Dartmouth $239,898 to support more research and development in wave energy conversion technology. As noted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “The research has the potential to dramatically reduce manufacturing and deployment costs associated with traditional wave energy generators, making devices smaller, easier to use, and more cost effective.” “In the future, ocean wave energy may be used for more than just producing a little electricity to run something local,” said MacDonald. And UMass Dartmouth is at the crest of this wave.

From shellfish to biodiesel The Corn Belt region of the Midwest has greatly benefited from the biofuel boom. The next biodiesel frontier may be here in Massachusetts. Chris Brigham, UMassD assistant professor of Bioengineering, has developed a process that modifies soil bacteria and then uses that bacteria to convert shellfish waste into biodiesel. The process involves taking the fats from bacteria and adding genes, which then allows the bacterium to consume the carbon from shellfish wastes.

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Better blades, more wind power UMass Dartmouth professors are developing ways to keep adverse weather from affecting the efficiency and safety of wind turbines. In the 1980s, wind turbines were approximately 40 meters high. With considerable improvements in composite technology, manufacturers can now build large-scale wind turbines with larger blades lightweight enough to rotate and strong enough to withstand high winds. Today’s wind turbines can reach 240 meters high, with blades 100 meters long. While these larger-scale turbines rotate faster and harvest more energy, the blades are susceptible to damage. “When raindrops, sand particles, or hail droplets hit the turbine blade surface, they cause erosion, which in turn lowers the hydrodynamic performance of the blade,” said Dr. Mazdak Tootkaboni, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and principal investigator on the rain-induced erosion project. “Wind turbines with eroded blades don’t perform as well, and disposal of the eroded blades can be damaging to the environment.” Dr. Mehdi Raessi, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and collaborator on the project, said one option is to tape on the blade. However, “the main solution involves replacing the whole blade-set, which is costly.” Removed blade-sets can be dumped in a landfill, or recycled. “But only 10% can be recycled. Or, it can be burned


test designs for rain-induced erosion is to develop a computational model that uses mathematical modeling to build realistic models of rain texture,” said Tootkaboni. In addition to protecting wind turbine blades from erosion, blades must be protected from cold climates, particularly in the north where there is more wind energy to capture. Raessi, in collaboration with professors at UMass Amherst, is principal investigator on a project funded by the National Science Foundation, which explores combating ice formation on wind turbine blades. “In Finland, studies show that nearly every wind turbine site has to be shut down due to ice formation in the winter,” said Raessi. If the blades are turning with ice formation, and the ice detaches from the blade, not only is the efficiency of the turbine significantly reduced, the detached ice can damage buildings or result in injury. “There are different ways of tackling this issue, such as using electric heaters to melt the ice,” said Raessi. “What we are doing in this project is developing a superhydrophobic surface that repels water and avoids ice formation. This involves reducing the contact time between the water droplets and wind turbine surface to reduce the chance of ice formation.”

Bioengineering Professor Chris Brigham (right) and other faculty work with both undergraduate and graduate students on cutting-edge research.

and used as chemical energy, but these solutions aren’t environmentally friendly.” Seeking an alternative, Tootkaboni and Raessi began working with UMass Lowell professors who design protective coatings for wind turbine blades. Raessi brings his computational fluid dynamics proficiency to the project, and Tootkaboni brings his skills in stochastic computations and computational solid mechanics expertise. “The only way to

The increasing size and power of wind turbines 280 240 200

Rotor diameter in meters Power output in Kilowatts and Megawatts

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The project is concentrated in the New Bedford region, where, Brigham said, “There is a lot of lobster processing and shell wastes. As bioengineers, we are interested in looking at seafood-processing wastes, and converting shells from lobsters, shrimp, and crab into something that is sustainable.” Brigham works with undergraduates and graduate students in his laboratory to refine and enhance process efficiency. In terms of sustainability, Brigham said the idea is to produce a local carbon cycle from the breakdown of shells so fisherman can basically fill their fuel tanks with what comes from lobster shells and other shellfish. Biodiesel is cleaner burning because there are not the sulfur-containing additives that are present in petroleum-based fuels.

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t’s already been a banner year for Dr. Gaurav Khanna. A Professor of Physics at UMass Dartmouth, in February Dr. Khanna and his colleagues, Dr. Lior Burko and Dr. Anil Zenginoglu, simulated the interior of a rotating black hole and showed that objects could survive the journey into it, raising the possibility of using black holes as portals for space travel. A week later, LIGO announced the first detection of gravitational waves, (predicted by Albert Einstein exactly a 100 years ago) a monumental feat that Dr. Khanna contributed to through his collaborative work. And in May he unveiled “Elroy,” an innovative supercomputer constructed from tablets. “It is a very rare and a very special year for me,” he admitted. As is often the case, though, that singular year is the product of many years of passion and dedication. For any successful scientist, research is a lifelong pursuit. For Dr. Khanna, it began early. Obsessed with Einstein, in middle school he asked his father, a theoretical physicist, what he needed to learn to be able to follow the original papers on the Theory of Relativity. Though his father offered guidance, he had concerns about his son’s choice of subject matter. “He was quite concerned that I had taken to heart Einstein’s work—an area of theoretical physics that has had a long line of brilliant minds. It would be particularly challenging to contribute in that area.”

Challenging perhaps, but not impossible. In 2007, Dr. Khanna received national headlines for creating a supercomputer from PlayStation 3 consoles. With funding drying up, academic researchers have limited access to supercomputers. Necessity being the mother of invention, Dr. Khanna linked hundreds of the gaming consoles into a supercomputer, becoming


the first scientist to publish a paper using such a machine. However, the cluster, and supercomputers in general, use a lot of power. “If the next generation [of supercomputers] were built with today’s servers, it would take multiple nuclear power stations to run it!” So he created Elroy using tablets. Although comparable in performance to 2 or 3 PS3 consoles, hardware from recent use a fraction of the power. And because Elroy is more compact—fitting comfortably on a 4-foot cart—it can be scaled up without requiring significant space or infrastructure. Believing he can do better, over the summer Dr. Khanna aimed to build another prototype using cell phone components. For Dr. Khanna’s students, Elroy and the PS3 cluster are instructive—obstacles are part of research, as is the need to overcome them. “Out-of-the-box thinking and perseverance are perhaps the two most important ingredients for being a successful scientist.” But if determination and ingenuity are primary virtues of success, patience is close behind. Drs. Khanna and Burko first attempted modeling the inside of a black hole in 2002, but were unsuccessful and abandoned the project until two years ago when they had better techniques and technology. That success can be a long road is a valuable lesson for students, but one that Dr. Khanna says requires a delicate balance. “You want them to experience the rough edges, the wrong directions, the dead ends, and make that contrast with the nicely polished content in textbooks. However, you also want to make sure they experience the euphoria of discovery.” Because science tends to yield long-term satisfaction rather than instant gratification, attracting students is challenging. However, the recent popularity of movies like “Gravity,” “The Martian,” and “Interstellar” have drawn popular interest to the work of researchers like Dr. Khanna. “Interstellar,” in particular, earned buzz from scientists and sci-fi fans alike thanks to the involvement of Dr. Kip Thorne, a giant in physics, who has rubbed elbows with Carl Sagan

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UMass Dartmouth UMass Dartmouth professors Gaurav Khanna, Robert Fisher, Richard Price, (Kip Thorne), Tom Stubblefield, David Kagan, Maureen Ekert, and Geoffrey Cowles (not pictured) participated in a multi-disciplinary panel with Dr. Kip Thorne to a standing-roomonly crowd.

(above) A section of Martineau’s design for UMass Dartmouth's Supercomputing Trailer. (inset) Tia Martineau outside the Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois.

UMASSD and Stephen Hawking, and co-founded LIGO. He was also Executive Producer on “Interstellar,” making sure there was solid science behind the pop fiction. That audiences enjoyed a movie like “Interstellar” isn’t surprising—people have long been fascinated by black holes and space travel—but they’re equally intrigued by the science behind them. That interest was apparent in May when UMass Dartmouth hosted Dr. Thorne for a discussion on the “Science of Interstellar.” Attended by over 150 members of the UMass Dartmouth community and the public, the event was a huge success. Dr. Khanna, who was part of the panel discussion with Dr. Thorne, called it “the most significant event I’ve experienced on campus.” Serious science and pop culture are often at odds, and blockbuster movies and over-the-top headlines can elicit cringes from the scientific community. However, Dr. Khanna believes the spotlight can be beneficial, with public interest possibly leading to better funding. “Moreover,” he said, “it’s a way to draw more young people into this line of research and STEM areas.” His hope is that the buzz surrounding the LIGO discovery, which he puts on par with Galileo’s invention of the telescope, inspires the next generation of scientists in the same way the Apollo missions did in the 60s and 70s. Having himself caught the bug from Einstein at a young age, he knows early interest can become a lifetime pursuit. “I find it a little crazy that as an adult I have been professionally contributing towards advancing that very same theory of gravity...which can be traced back to [an] eighth-grade obsession!”


Inspired by Art & Science Tia Martineau ’18 of Chelmsford, MA interned this summer at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and has big plans for the future: I remember wanting to be a scientist but also wanting to keep art around from a very young age. The first profession I considered incorporated both art and science. I also really loved space. My high school physics teacher told the class that if we ever want to work for a place like NASA, we have to be at the “top of the top.” He pushed me to do what I thought at the time was unthinkable. He deserves all the thanks in the world for showing me my potential, teaching me perseverance, and pushing me to overcome the boundaries I set for myself. This summer, I interned in Batavia, Illinois, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). I worked with Dr. Alan Robinson on error analysis in dark matter research. I worked on developing an open source and extendable calculator in order to determine the reaction rate from (alpha,n) nuclear reaction yields, which will measure with more accuracy the generation of neutrons in detector materials for dark matter and other similar experiments. I think art and physics are more



related than people think. Both are methods of problem solving. Science presents you with a clear-cut problem that needs a creative solution. When you have an art-related assignment with no boundaries or given requirements, coming up with that problem is just as, if not more, difficult than finding the solution. I was originally a dual major in digital media and physics, but I eventually found that physics was the better fit for me. I originally looked into animation, but the further into physics I get, the more I realize how much animation depends on physics. The fluid motion of characters and objects, coding, rendering, and lighting are all physics. My friend Dani Kumor, an illustration major, was originally working with Prof. Guarav Khanna on the mural for the supercomputer trailer. She became too busy with internships to continue, so with Dani & Professor Khanna’s support, I finalized the project. I hope to pursue a PhD in physics, astrophysics, or a related field. I hope that young women can look up to people like myself and see that there are women in higher rankings. Maybe that will reassure them that anything is possible.



Department Spotlights Faculty and students in the College of Engineering continue to devote themselves to innovation on the UMass Dartmouth campus. BIOENGINEERING Kudos to Doctoral student, Jacob Palmer, for his first place finish in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition. Dr. Christopher Brigham is his advisor on his research of Seafood Waste as Feedstock for Biodiesel Production. The UMass President’s Science & Technology (S&T) Initiatives Fund will provide $834,000 in grants to nine projects across the UMass System this year that advance basic and applied research in areas of strategic importance to the Commonwealth. The grants will fund work in areas ranging from developing materials that could prevent brain injuries sustained in sports and military contexts, to creating a regional bio-manufacturing hub in the Northeast. UMass President’s S&T grants awarded to two faculty in the Bioengineering Department at Umass Dartmouth and include: Energy Absorbing-Materials for Mitigating Head and Other Impact Injuries Principal Investigator: Dr. Yong Kim, the focus of this project is to develop a new research center for biomedical injury protection and mitigation structures. It is intended to have applications in both sports (e.g., football) and in


the military to minimize traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Partners: UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School Funding: $125,000 Bio-based, Bio-degradable Plastics with a Medical Focus Principal Investigator: Dr. Christopher Brigham, the plan is to create biodegradable plastics from waste materials such as lobster and crab shells as the basis for developing new bio-compatible polymers that can be used in surgical applications like sutures, implants, scaffolds, wound dressing, and drug delivery. Partner: UMass Medical School Funding: $25,000 (planning grant) Welcome to Dr. Lamya Karim who joins the Bioengineering Department this fall as an Assistant professor. She holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a 2007 Bachelors from SUNY Stony Brook in Biomedical Engineering. Her areas of interest include biomechanics, orthopedics, osteoporosis, aging, diabetes and matrix composition. CIVIL & ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING Congratulations to Civil & Environmental Engineering professor, Dan MacDonald, UMass Dartmouth alumnus Roger Race ‘76 of Boston

Engineering, and UMass Dartmouth Civil and Environmental Engineering student Nathaniel Tarantino. The research team received a $239,898 grant through the Commonwealth’s Seaport Economic Council program to study a new potential in the ability to harness alternative wave energy from our oceans. This project will also contribute to the growth of the SouthCoast as a hub for marine renewable energy research and development. (see story pg. 4) Welcome to Dr. Arghavan Louhghalam who has joined the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as an assistant professor. She holds a Ph.D. and a M.S. in Engineering Mechanics from the Johns Hopkins University, a M.S. in Earthquake Engineering from University of Tehran, and a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Iran University of Science and Technology. Her research interests lie in the area of applied mechanics with particular emphasis on quantitative engineering sustainability. COMPUTER & INFORMATION SCIENCE Dr. Adnan El-Nasan will join the department as a full time lecturer this fall. He received both a Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.S. from Rochester Institute of Technology in Computer & System Engineering. His B.A. is from Jordan University of

Science Technology in Jordan. Dr. El- Nasan’s areas of research include forensics, pattern analysis and recognition and security of emerging devices (tablets and smart phones); applied image processing research (in Civil Engineering and Biomedical applications). Dr. Ming (Daniel) Shao will join the department as an assistant professor this fall. He completed his Ph.D. at Northeastern University. His M.A. and B.A. are from Beihang University in China. His research interests include large-scale data mining and learning; social media analytics; deep learning; efficient feature learning; sparse and low-rank modeling and applied machine learning. Dr. Maoyuan Sun will join the department as an Assistant professor this fall. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Virginia Tech. He holds a Masters in Education from Peking University and a Bachelor of Computer Science from China Agricultural University in Bejing, China. His areas of interest include big data sense-making and semantic interaction, and network usage patterns. Well done Dr. Ramprasad Balasubramanian, Associate Dean and Professor of Computer and Information Science, on receipt of $612,250 from the Commonwealth’s Seaport Economic Council program. He will be the principal investigator on the team that will be installing

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autonomy on Boston Engineering's Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV)– Bioswimmer. Other collaborators include Northeastern University and Charles River Analytics.

research university in China along with the title of ChangJiang Chair Professor. Dr. Xing joined the ECE department in September 2002 as an assistant professor. She was tenured and promoted to associate professor in 2008, and promoted to professor in 2013. She is an author or co-author of more than 130 journal papers. She is a recipient of the 2010 UMass Dartmouth Scholar of the Year award and 2014 UMass Dartmouth Leo M. Sullivan Teacher of the Year award.

Congratulations to Dr. Firas Katib who received a $56,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant in partnership with Northeastern University to study crowdsourcing de novo protein structure design. Kudos to Dr. David Koop for receipt of a National Science Foundation grant of $74,000 in collaboration with New York University. The project will enhance and support a community-based analysis, visualization and provenance platform.

In May 2016, ECE graduate student Md Shaad Mahmud, advised by Dr. Honggang Wang, was awarded third place in the Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT ®) on campus for his work on a Wireless Non-Contact Health Monitoring System for Infants.


Dr. Lance Fiondella spent the summer of 2016 as a Fellow in the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Summer Faculty Research Program at the Naval Air Warfare Center’s Aircraft Division. During the 10-week on-site program, Dr. Fiondella helped assess the reliability of software that goes into various aircraft and weapons systems, including unmanned aircrafts, rocket launchers, and rotorcrafts.Professor Fiondella performed his work at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) headquartered in Patuxent River, Maryland. NAVAIR’s mission is to provide full life-cycle support of naval aviation aircraft,

Congratulations to Dr. Liudong Xing, Professor of the Electrical and Computer Engineering, who was recently named a ChangJiang Scholar by the Ministry of Education of China, one of China’s most prestigious scholarly honors. This award is an international recognition of Dr. Xing’s outstanding accomplishments and contributions in her research area of system reliability engineering. As an international recipient of this highest academic award by China’s Ministry of Education, she also received a visiting appointment at a major

UMass D Interim Chancellor Randy Helm, Donna & Richard Manning, Professor John Buck and UMass System President Marty Meehan at the awards ceremony.

Teaching Excellence


lectrical Engineering professor Dr. John Buck is the first UMass Dartmouth winner of the Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching at UMass Dartmouth. Instituted at UMass for the first time, the $10,000 award honors one outstanding faculty member in each of the five campuses. The prize winners have a record of “implementing unique, innovative or alternative pedagogies, or teaching methods that have deepened student learning. Buck is being recognized for three teaching innovations that have been implemented in several courses: active learning techniques; the Signals and Systems Concept Inventory (a test to assess the effectiveness of active learning) co-authored with Kathleen Wage of George Mason University that was funded by the National Science Foundation; and tutorial videos on Youtube. The outcome assessment data for his teaching show that these innovations have significantly and positively impacted student learning at UMass Dartmouth and have had repercussions well beyond our university community. His tutorial videos have been viewed over 200,000 times all over the world. Dr. Buck’s teaching methods include quizzes, group discussions and problem-solving by students while he walks around monitoring them. He’s noted as saying, “You don’t watch your teacher play piano in a music class or watch your coach play basketball in sports, so why should academic learning be any different.” The testing system he helped develop clearly shows this method of teaching is far more effective and helps students learn more than traditional lecturing and is now used in many other classes on campus and around the world. Dr. Buck was nominated for the award by students, peers and Ramprasad Balasubramanian, Associate Dean at the College of Engineering. He joined UMass Dartmouth in 1996, is a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and holds a joint appointment in the School for Marine Science and Technology. He holds B.S. degrees in electrical engineering and English literature from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the MIT/WHOI joint program in oceanographic engineering and electrical engineering.

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COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING Cosmos with Exploding Stars. ARNIE (Art. Research. Nexus. Innovation. Education) Talks, modeled after the TED Talks, are short, thought-provoking sessions open to the entire University community.

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weapons and systems. This support includes research, design, development and systems engineering; acquisition; test and evaluation; training facilities and equipment; repair and modification; and in-service engineering and logistics support. MECHANICAL ENGINEERING Welcome to Assistant professor Dr. Jun Li who will begin this fall. Dr. Li holds a 2012 Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Illinois, UrbanaChampaign, where he also earned Masters degrees in Mathematics and Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. His Bachelors from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China is in Mechanical Engineering with a Minor in Mathematics. His research interests include cellular solids, hierarchical materials and flexible and deployable structures. MNE major Dustin Roderigues ’17, of Westport, MA, spent winter break of his sophomore year in his garage designing and building an electric vehicle. Dustin is an intern at the University’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE), in Fall River. He is gaining real world experience in manufacturing and machining while utilizing the Center’s equipment and resources to upgrade his motorcycle design. He intends to launch an open source electric vehicle company with the design. He has utilized the CIE’s prototyping shop, to improve his knowledge base regarding manufacturing and has become even more determined to put a professional touch on my motorcycle and grow a business around it.


Kudos to alumnus Kevin Brewer ’81 who was just named Boston Business Journal’s Chief Financial Officer of the year. He made it to “Broadway” in New York as the photo printed here depicts. Brewer has been with Axcelis Technologies, since 1999 when the semiconductor equipment business spun off from Eaton Corporation. Axcelis Technologies produces semiconductor manufacturing equipment, boasts customers in 32 countries and employs nearly 800 people globally.

Dustin’s aim is to create an accessible and affordable electric vehicle design. Interning at the CIE’s prototype shop allows Dustin to fine tune the motor and battery pack he created more than a year ago in a garage. He has also utilized the 3D printing resources on the main campus at the Hall Hildreth IDEAStudio. In addition, to improve the safety for riders of his electric motorcycle, Dustin is building in an audio attachment that will simulate the sounds of a gas powered motorcycle. Well wishes to Professor Farhad Azadivar on his retirement from the University after sixteen years of service. He served for five years, from 2000-2005, as Dean of the College of Engineering and

then as faculty in the Mechanical Engineering Dept. and the School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST). PHYSICS Congratulations to the Physics Department for hosting The Interstellar Event on March 29 featuring Cal Tech Professor Dr. Kip Thorne. Dr. Thorne was the science consultant for the movie Interstellar and recently received acclaim for working with Dr. Rai Weiss of MIT utilizing the LIGO facility to detect gravitational waves. (See story on pg. 6) In February, Dr. Robert Fisher was selected to give an ARNIE talk on campus entitled, ”The Once and Future Universe: Understanding Our Place in the

Congratulations to Professor Dr. David Kagan, chosen as the 2015-2016 Faculty Federation Scholar of the Year. Dr. Kagan joined the Physics faculty in the fall of 2012. He received his PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Cambridge in 2007. His research interests include string theory, a deeply theoretical and specialized area of physics, as well as studies into the philosophical underpinnings of quantum theory. 2016 Sigma Xi undergraduate and graduate research awards included: • Undergraduate Winner Finite Element Modeling and testing of Energy Absorbing Materials Advisors Dr.Vijay Chalivendra, Dr. Yong Kim & Dr. Armand Lewis, Diarny Fernandes– Mechanical Engineering • Undergraduate Runner-Up Peptide Nanotubes as Substrates for Cell Culture Advisors, Dr. Milana Vasudev, Noah Franklin, Kathryn Sherlock, Diane Heidke– Bioengineering • Graduate Winner A Non-Contact Wireless Health Monitoring System Advisors, Dr. Honggang Wang & Dr. Yong Kim, Md Shaad Mahmud– Electrical Engineering

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Getting a Head Start


raumatic brain injury is a serious and growing problem for athletes and soldiers, affecting approximately 2.6 million people in the U.S. every year. Corsair Innovations, a company that propels technology breakthroughs from idea to reality, is one of several U.S. recipients of $250,000 from Phase Three of the Head Health Challenge. This challenge grant supports anti-brain injury technology developed by College of Engineering researchers who seek to advance new helmet foam-replacement materials for athletes and soldiers. The funding will go toward the company’s new Flocked Energy Absorbing Material (FEAM) technology, a radical new and improved approach to foam padding used in helmets and body armor developed by Bioengineering Professor Dr. Yong Kim and Dr. Armand Lewis '53, a retired faculty member.  Mechanical Engineering Professor Vijaya B. Chalivendra is also a contributor on the project. FEAM can absorb energy from blunt forces and reduce the risk of trauma by mitigating impact energies.  FEAM is a 100 percent textile replacement for foams.  This newly developed material is made using

a mature manufacturing process called flocking but in a novel and innovative way. The resulting material offers higher performance, is breathable and washable, and can be used in a wide variety of applications, ranging from padding in military and police gear to athletic uniforms. The Head Health Challenge, is a program developed by the NFL, Under Armour, GE and the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST). The three-phased initiative was created to better understand and diagnose mild traumatic brain injury, improve protection from brain injury, and advance materials to mitigate impact in sport. “We are honored that the experts on the judging committee selected our material and see the promise of FEAM,” said William Lyndon, President, Corsair Innovations.  “The unique properties and flexibility of FEAM will allow us to develop solutions for both linear and the more damaging rotational forces associated with these injuries.”  This award will enable the researchers at Corsair Innovations and UMass Dartmouth to further test and improve the FEAM material with the ultimate goal of producing a better impact absorption system for helmets and other protective gear. Corsair Innovations was born from innovation created by researchers at UMass Dartmouth, working on cutting-edge materials technologies, mainly in the arenas of advanced textiles and composites engineering.  Learn more at

Dr. Jane Goodall visits


orld-renowned ethologist, conservationist and UN Messenger of Peace Dr. Jane Goodall visited UMass Dartmouth in April, 2016. Dr. Jane Goodall is best known for her landmark study of chimpanzee behavior in what is now Tanzania beginning 55 years ago. Through her work at Gombe Stream she redefined the relationship between humans and animals, shedding light onto the little known world of wild chimpanzees. The University, in collaboration with local school districts, offered several opportunities for elementary, middle school, high school and college students to be involved in this remarkable experience. She is pictured here with student members of the UMass Dartmouth Engineers without Borders Chapter on campus, including Johnniel Gomez ’17 President of the Chapter and a Civil Engineering student.

The Harold G. Lash Revocable Trust makes $1 million donation


he Harold G. Lash Revocable Trust donated $1 million to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Foundation to support the Harold and Virginia Lash Scholarships. This generous gift will provide deserving students with a remarkable opportunity to earn a higher education in their chosen field, and then use


that education to make their own contribution to the community and society. $500,000 of the gift will be used to provide full-time, undergraduate students in nursing, bioengineering, computer science, management information systems, and English with $100,000 each over 4 years, beginning in the fall of 2016. The remaining



half will be placed in an endowed fund first established in 1993 by the late Harold and Virginia Lash with a donation of $50,000. That fund, which had grown to more than $200,000 prior to this latest gift, has already supported the UMass Dartmouth education of 80 students over the last 23 years.


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Gratitude Engineered


n the spring of 2011, our son, Alex Lappen received a letter in the mail from UMass Dartmouth. The letter invited him into the class of 2016 and included the happy news (happy, certainly for his parents) that he was the recipient of the Commonwealth Scholarship. Perhaps a little uncertain if this was his best option but recognizing that it would relieve the financial pressure on his family, Alex made the decision to attend. We subscribed to the philosophy that the fancy extras offered at every private university these days are window dressing — that what one would gain from an educational experience was in direct proportion to the effort one put into it. This meant that a state university would provide a perfectly satisfactory foundation on which to build one’s future. We still believe that this is the case; however, that philosophy does not begin to do justice to the education Alex received in the College of Engineering. What Alex began to recognize right from the start of his freshman year was that the professors he encountered were men and women of exceptional talent, both in terms of their knowledge of their respective fields, and in their ability to convey that knowledge in the classroom. On our rides to and from Dartmouth, he would enthusiastically discuss what he was learning, and his comments conveyed an appreciation of his professors’ depth of knowledge as well as their commitment, humanity, and good humor. We believe the Engineering Department at UMass Dartmouth is a gem of the state educational system. We present this gift as a small token by comparison of the education Alex received. We thank you and your faculty for your time and all of your efforts.

Alex Lappen ’16 (left) appears above with his sister and his parents, Mary Piasecki and John Lappen.

“We believe the UMass Dartmouth Engineering Department is a gem of the state educational system.” To make a difference like Alex and his parents, please visit or contact Lara Stone, at or 508.999.8372

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UMassD College of Engineering News / Oct. 2016  

The UMass Dartmouth College of Engineering Newsletter is published by the College of Engineering for alumni and friends.

UMassD College of Engineering News / Oct. 2016  

The UMass Dartmouth College of Engineering Newsletter is published by the College of Engineering for alumni and friends.