The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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The College of Engineering is recognizing its 26 most accomplished, first-year, doctoral students with the distinction of Dean’s Fellows for 2018-19, a program which rewards entering Ph.D. students with financial support, academic acknowledgement, and career-making research opportunities. Since enrolling here last September, these diverse students have shown unlimited potential, as demonstrated by their impressive range of backgrounds.

See the complete list of Dean’s Fellows with bios »

While Professor Christopher Hollot, the longtime department head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department, serves as the interim dean in the College of Engineering, Professor Robert W. Jackson is taking over as the interim ECE department head. Among many other honors, Jackson was elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 2004 “for contributions to the electromagnetic modeling of microwave integrated circuits and packaging.”

A wave of media coverage is only the latest accomplishment in an amazing two years of productivity for research collaborators Qiangfei Xia and Joshua Yang of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department. Media stories by Science & Technology Research News and other outlets topped off a 2018 campaign in which the two ECE professors published eight pioneering articles in major Nature research journals, following a productive 2017 when they published six papers in those journals.

Four engineering and computer science students have conceived a startup company with the goal of circulating life-saving vending machines that can dispense over-the-counter medicine 24 hours a day to anyone with a pressing ailment, such as fever, diarrhea, indigestion, or aches and pains. The team called TransPharm will be competing in at least two entrepreneurship competitions in the coming weeks, and has already been selected as a finalist in one.

Five College of Engineering Students recently participated in the first ever co-op program run by the Coca-Cola plant in Northampton, and, because of their superior performance, they were each asked to make five-minute presentations to 11 company plant managers from the Northeast region and one vice-president from the Eastern U.S. “This is Coca-Cola’s first iteration of its co-op program,” explained co-op participant and mechanical engineering major Michael Schwartz, “and the company as a whole is looking to possibly expand this program to other plants across the nation based on the success the UMass students in Northampton.”

Qiangfei Xia and Joshua Yang of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department lead a 17-person research team that has published a paper titled "Long short-term memory networks in memristor crossbar arrays" in Nature Machine Intelligence, a new Nature research journal launched in January of 2019 and covering a wide range of topics in machine learning, robotics, and artificial intelligence. This Nature Machine Intelligence paper demonstrates that memristor crossbar arrays can address bottlenecks in traditional long short-term memory (LSTM) units, with crucial applications such as data prediction, natural language understanding, machine translation, speech recognition, and video surveillance.

Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering Timothy J. Anderson is stepping down as dean of the College of Engineering, effective January 6. Anderson, who has served as dean since 2013, will continue as a member of the faculty. Meanwhile, Christopher Hollot, a professor and the head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department, has been named interim dean at the College of Engineering.

The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) image of an ant, as demonstrated for a high-school outreach program, has inspired Assistant Professor Jun Yao of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to develop bioinspired, ultrasensitive pressure and strain sensors using microparticles resembling the bristles or tactile hairs ubiquitous in insects. “My hope was that the extremely enlarged image of an ant, perhaps a bit scary and monster-like, would excite the students’ interest in the ordinarily invisible nanoscale domain,” says Yao. Much more than that, the demo inspired Yao’s own subsequent research and his resultant paper in the prestigious journal Nature Communications on the 4th of December 2018.

Electrical and computer engineering (ECE) graduate students Ali Kiaghadi and Morgan Baima were part of a team of UMass Amherst scientists who developed Tribexor, a fabric-based, triboelectric, joint-sensing system that can be integrated with loose-fitting clothing to sense a variety of joint movements such as flexion, extension, and velocity of joint movement. The UMass researchers introduced Tribexor in a paper presented at SenSys 2018, the 16th ACM Conference on Embedded Networked Sensor Systems, held from November 4 to 7 in Shenzhen, China. The information about Tribexor was reported in an Inside UMass article: New Fabric-Based Sensor Overcomes Loose Clothing Obstacle.

In early October Lindsey McGinnis of New England Public Radio reported on the pioneering research of Electrical and Computer Engineering doctoral student Chris Merola, who is trying to create much more efficient cell towers to service the sonic boom in cellular networks. “Americans' wireless data consumption has skyrocketed since 4G technology was introduced nearly a decade ago,” wrote McGinnis. “Smartphones have become essential for on-the-go work and entertainment, fueling the need for 5G. But how do you create a cellular network that accommodates everything from streaming services to self-driving cars?”

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