Professor Desirée Plata’s startup company receives Innovation Crossroads award from the Department of Energy

April 13th, 20182018 News in Brief

Professor Desirée Plata’s startup company, Nth Cycle LLC, was awarded the Department of Energy’s Innovation Crossroads award, a $0.5M entrepreneurial traineeship. The award was granted to Megan O’Connor, co-founder of Nth Cycle LLC and current postdoc in Plata’s lab. Nth Cycle LLC aims to help transition the United States away from their reliance on primary mining and refining of metals overseas, toward the recycling of rare earth and specialty metals domestically. Plata officially joins CEE in July.

Professor Desirée Plata’s startup company, Nth Cycle LLC, was awarded the Department of Energy’s Innovation Crossroads award, a $0.5M entrepreneurial traineeship. The award was granted to Megan O’Connor, co-founder of Nth Cycle LLC and current postdoc in Plata’s lab. Nth Cycle LLC aims to help transition the United States away from their reliance on primary mining and refining of metals overseas, toward the recycling of rare earth and specialty metals domestically. Plata officially joins CEE in July.

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Professor Ruben Juanes receives Editors’ Suggestion from Physical Review Letters

April 13th, 20182018 News in Brief

Ruben Juanes, the ARCO Associate Professor in Energy Studies, 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.

Ruben Juanes, the ARCO Associate Professor in Energy Studies, 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.

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The Herman Project, a citizen science sourdough project from Professor Otto Cordero’s lab, featured on MIT News

April 12th, 20182018 News in Brief

The Herman Project, a citizen science sourdough project from Assistant Professor Otto Cordero’s lab, was featured on MIT News. The Herman Project digitizes the tradition of peer-to-peer sharing of sourdough starters by asking users to document their location and type of flour used, and to share samples of the starter with Cordero’s lab. Postdoc Gabriel Leventhal, the creator of The Herman Project, is working with undergraduates Sarah Weidman and Lindsey McAllister to analyze the samples to study how microbial communities change in different conditions and environments. Read more on MIT News.

The Herman Project, a citizen science sourdough project from Assistant Professor Otto Cordero’s lab, was featured on MIT News. The Herman Project digitizes the tradition of peer-to-peer sharing of sourdough starters by asking users to document their location and type of flour used, and to share samples of the starter with Cordero’s lab. Postdoc Gabriel Leventhal, the creator of The Herman Project, is working with undergraduates Sarah Weidman and Lindsey McAllister to analyze the samples to study how microbial communities change in different conditions and environments. Read more on MIT News.

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Abroad in Israel: HOT lane networks and exploring Israel

April 9th, 2018Undergraduate Student Life

By Amy Vogel ‘20 I can't believe I've already been at the Technion for five weeks; the time is flying by! I've just returned from a week of vacation for Passover, but the weeks leading up to the holiday were like (literally) running a marathon! Me after running the "Technion Marathon," a 5K race that is basically like running a marathon because the university is built on the top of a mountain. Here at the Technion, I've been enjoying the more "Course 6" side of Course 1-ing. For Omar's PhD, he is researching the possibilities of dynamic HOT lane networks. HOT (high occupancy/toll) lanes are much like HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, except that they involve a toll. In the special case of dynamic tolls, there would be a sign on the highway before the HOT lane starts, marking the estimated travel time on the HOT lane, as well as the price, which would change depending on the estimated travel time. Due to the laws of supply and demand, the system is a lot more complex than it may sound. For example, you could imagine that if a 20-mile HOT lane on I-95 was advertised with a 15-minute travel time, and cost just $1, it would become flooded with commuters, thus doubling or tripling the travel time, and consequently angering thousands of Bostonian drivers. My point is, dynamic HOT networks present an interesting challenge, and I am helping Omar with the code needed to investigate this topic. So, after a [...]

By Amy Vogel ‘20

I can’t believe I’ve already been at the Technion for five weeks; the time is flying by! I’ve just returned from a week of vacation for Passover, but the weeks leading up to the holiday were like (literally) running a marathon!

Me after running the “Technion Marathon,” a 5K race that is basically like running a marathon because the university is built on the top of a mountain.

Here at the Technion, I’ve been enjoying the more “Course 6” side of Course 1-ing. For Omar’s PhD, he is researching the possibilities of dynamic HOT lane networks. HOT (high occupancy/toll) lanes are much like HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, except that they involve a toll. In the special case of dynamic tolls, there would be a sign on the highway before the HOT lane starts, marking the estimated travel time on the HOT lane, as well as the price, which would change depending on the estimated travel time.

Due to the laws of supply and demand, the system is a lot more complex than it may sound. For example, you could imagine that if a 20-mile HOT lane on I-95 was advertised with a 15-minute travel time, and cost just $1, it would become flooded with commuters, thus doubling or tripling the travel time, and consequently angering thousands of Bostonian drivers. My point is, dynamic HOT networks present an interesting challenge, and I am helping Omar with the code needed to investigate this topic.

So, after a week of debugging my code, at 7pm right before Passover vacation started, my code finally ran correctly!!! This week, we will start by refining the input into the code; we are using public data on the Ayalon highway, a major highway in Israel that runs through the greater Tel Aviv area.

Although there is probably no better feeling than when code runs without an error message, going outside of the Technion gates can be fun, too. A few weeks ago, my roommate and I took a trip to the beach in Haifa — although it’s not quite summer yet in Israel, it’s certainly warm enough for an afternoon beach excursion.

Sunset on the beach in Haifa

I also went right before Passover on a trip for Technion International students to see an English stand-up comedy show in Tel Aviv, which was a ton of fun. And later that week, some other students in my lab and I went into downtown Haifa and ate some amazing ice cream creations.

Some amazing and beautiful ice cream concoctions from Glidium

As they say in Hebrew, shavua tov (“good week”)!

Amy Vogel ’20 is studying abroad in Israel at Technion this semester, where she is working alongside Tomer Toledo, PhD ’03.

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So, What Exactly is Machine Learning?: Inside a CEE Capstone Project

April 4th, 2018Undergraduate Student Life

By Jill Dressler ’18 and Rachel Galowich ’18 Machine learning is a 21st century buzzword, but what does it really mean? When we sat down in Professor Saurabh Amin’s office to first begin discussing our senior capstone project, machine learning sounded like a concept from another planet, a field that only computer scientists could enter. Yet, here we are, about two months deep into a fascinating capstone project that applies machine learning theory to civil engineering applications in transportation. And we are thriving. As Course 1 undergraduates, we have to complete a senior capstone in order to graduate. It serves as an opportunity to get a taste of a semester long research project, perhaps to inspire some of us to on to get our PhDs or write a thesis for a master’s degree. I’m Jill Dressler, and I’m writing this blog post with my colleague and best friend, Rachel Galowich. We are both doing our capstone project under the advisement and support of Professor Saraubh Amin and Doctoral Candidate Jeffrey Liu. We hope that this blog post and the few that follow it can give you a bit of an inside look into our project. Here is a little bit of background information: The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has several hundred cameras scattered across Massachusetts roadways. They oversee traffic flow, infrastructure quality, and traveler safety across thousands of miles of streets and highways...and they are recording it all! The hundreds of cameras stream hundreds of thousands of images to [...]

By Jill Dressler ’18 and Rachel Galowich ’18

Machine learning is a 21st century buzzword, but what does it really mean? When we sat down in Professor Saurabh Amin’s office to first begin discussing our senior capstone project, machine learning sounded like a concept from another planet, a field that only computer scientists could enter. Yet, here we are, about two months deep into a fascinating capstone project that applies machine learning theory to civil engineering applications in transportation. And we are thriving.

As Course 1 undergraduates, we have to complete a senior capstone in order to graduate. It serves as an opportunity to get a taste of a semester long research project, perhaps to inspire some of us to on to get our PhDs or write a thesis for a master’s degree. I’m Jill Dressler, and I’m writing this blog post with my colleague and best friend, Rachel Galowich. We are both doing our capstone project under the advisement and support of Professor Saraubh Amin and Doctoral Candidate Jeffrey Liu.

We hope that this blog post and the few that follow it can give you a bit of an inside look into our project. Here is a little bit of background information:

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has several hundred cameras scattered across Massachusetts roadways. They oversee traffic flow, infrastructure quality, and traveler safety across thousands of miles of streets and highways…and they are recording it all! The hundreds of cameras stream hundreds of thousands of images to the Highway Operations Center every day. Dedicated MassDOT employees monitor the roadways and respond to events as needed. The current system faces several technical limitations, including delayed response time to weather events, heavy traffic, and vehicular accidents.

So basically, we have all of these images being processed into a database, but we have not even broken the surface of their potential. Google has a software that can place labels on these images (think: “asphalt,” “snow,” “bridge,” etc.). From here, Professor Amin has invited Rachel and I on board to help use the labeled images to develop classification and prediction methods for future data. This may sound convoluted, so let us try to simplify it.

There are two scenarios that may make this a bit clearer. First, imagine that a police dashcam takes a picture on a highway and we need some way to localize the image. Can we use the existing image database to organize the data in such a way that we can quickly assess where the image was taken based on label similarities? Second, imagine it’s a Tuesday at 5:33PM and you are sitting in dead-stop traffic on the freeway. Was there any way to predict this seven-minute span would have significantly worse traffic flow than the previous seven minutes? These are simplifications of the questions we hope to answer.

Stay tuned for our next blog where we will go into a little bit more detail about how we are employing machine learning techniques (but don’t worry, we won’t go all super-nerd on you!). Thanks for reading!

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Research from Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) shows life-cycle perspective has environmental and financial benefits

March 30th, 20182018 News in Brief

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 on MIT News.

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 on MIT News.

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