The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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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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A research team led by Qiangfei Xia of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has just published a paper in the prestigious journal Nature Nanotechnology about research into a promising building block for the next generation of nonvolatile random access memory and bio-inspired computing systems. The research team says that its working memristor crossbar arrays are “to the best of our knowledge, the first high-density electronic circuits with individually addressable components scaled down to two-nanometer dimension built with foundry-compatible fabrication technologies.”

Guangyu Xu of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department is part of a team of scientists based at UMass Amherst that has been awarded a four-year, $953,300 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop miniature, implantable hardware, which can record complex brain activity in animals and analyze it in real time. See News Office release. The NSF funding is part of $16 million given to 18 cross-disciplinary projects around the country to conduct innovative research on neural and cognitive systems, thus attracting key coverage by the venerable Psychology Today.

A new paper by a research team led by Qiangfei Xia, Daniel Holcomb, and Joshua Yang of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst describes a pioneering new technique to support the safe use of all-important “digital keys” in protecting hardware security systems and producing more secure, compact, and efficient memristive hardware. The paper, titled "A provable key destruction scheme based on memristive crossbar arrays," has just been published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Nature Electronics.

According to two independent websites, Executive Biz and UASWeekly, the Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) at UMass Amherst is part of a team including Bell Helicopter, Xwing, and Textron Systems that has just announced a cooperative agreement with NASA to help conduct an unmanned aircraft flight demonstration in 2020. CASA will provide weather avoidance technology for the ambitious project.

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