Thursday, July 30, 2009

Alumni develop sleep analyzer

In 2003, three Brown University undergraduates, Eric Shashoua, Ben Rubin and Jason Donahue, sat in a school cafeteria and mused about their grogginess after an all-night study session. They knew that the stress of exams played a role, but they started wondering about the science of their exhaustion.

Little did they imagine that their discussion would eventually lead to the founding of Zeo, maker of the first direct-to-consumer sleep device that analyzes nighttime sleep patterns. Zeo's product, the Personal Sleep Coach, uses a soft headband loaded with sensors to monitor brain waves. The data are sent wirelessly to a small device on a nightstand; from there they can be uploaded to the Web site. then analyzes the data and e-mails back a strategy and suggestions for improving the next night's sleep.

However, once these three would-be entrepreneurs decided to create a science-based aid for the estimated 70 million Americans suffering from chronic sleep disorders, they realized they were lacking a key ingredient: an investor--or several--to fund their research and development.

Initial fundraising began in the cafeterias at Brown. "We literally went table-to-table to talk about our innovation and get people interested in contributing," Shashoua recalls. Those discussions led to introductions to wealthy Brown alumni, experts in sleep research and so-called "angel investors."

More of the article on

Monday, July 20, 2009

Indo-US Science and Technology Forum collaborates with Brown

Created in March 2000, the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF), established under an agreement between the Governments of India and the United States of America functions to synthesize collaborative research and promote substantive interaction among government, academia and industry. The overall goal of IUSSTF is “to provide opportunities, to exchange ideas, information, skills and technologies, and to collaborate on scientific and technological endeavours of mutual interest that can translate the power of science for the benefit of mankind at large.” (

This Forum has a specific biomaterials area in which Brown University and Indian Institute Technology (ITT) Kanpur (along with other affiliated schools and companies) had a competitive proposal accepted in November 2008.  Co-Coordinator Bikramjit Basu of ITT Kanpur most recent visit in Phase I of this project was to fellow coordinator Thomas Webster at Brown University.  This July 2009 visit included many collaborative meetings and a talk on the biomaterials research in Dr. Basu’s lab.  The goals of these types of visits are to facilitate collaboration and increase their outreach potential.  A core deliverable of the project is to “train the next generation of scientists in the international interdisciplinary arena.” (  

Dr. Basu explains, “This collaboration depends on the two way visits between researchers in the US and India.”  It is clear that these visits help researchers develop concrete projects. The dialogue between the different institutions and researchers allows for sharing of research results and a better understanding of the challenges faced by each group.  The biomaterials area specifically faces the unique challenge of bridging the gap between traditional biology and materials engineering.  The next steps for this project include working to integrate more industrial partners and medical professionals into the research collaborations.

Pictured above are National Metallurgical Laboratory Scientist Dr. S. Nayar, Associate Professor at IIT Kanpur Bikramjit Basu, and Associate Professor at Brown Thomas Webster.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Zia wins PECASE award

Rashid Zia, assistant professor of engineering, has been named one of this year’s winners of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. The White House named the latest group of winners this week.

The PECASE award recognizes outstanding scientists and engineers who, early in their careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of knowledge. It is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. In addition to the recognition, Zia is expected to receive $200,000 annually over five years to support his research.

More of the Brown press release here:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Breuer collaborates on bat research

An excerpt from a recent Forbes article:
Researchers at Brown University are three years into another Air Force grant, this a five-year, $6 million grant shared among five other universities, to understand perhaps the most impressive fliers of all--bats.

Unlike insects and birds, bats have long thin fingers that reach through their wings, and their wings are made out of an extraordinarily stretchy membrane. This allows them to twist and shape their wings in ways that other creatures can't, and so maneuver quickly and accurately through tight spaces like caves. They can take off almost vertically from the ground and they can take off hanging upside down.

"Nature does many, many things we don't know how to do in engineering," laments Kenneth Breuer, an engineering professor at Brown and the principal investigator on the Air Force grant.

Breuer and his Brown colleague Sharon Swartz, an evolutionary biologist, put bats in wind tunnels and study how they move their wings during takeoff, flight and landing. Using lasers that illuminate tiny particles in the air flow created by the bats' wings, the researchers study the turbulence created.

Bat research highlighted in Forbes on June 26, 2009.

Liu wins Acta Biomaterialia Graduate Student Award

Huinan Liu (Brown BME Graduate) was just selected as the Acta Biomaterialia Graduate Student Award winner for her paper:

"An in vitro evaluation of the Ca/P ratio for the cytocompatibility of nano-to-micron particulate calcium phosphates for bone regeneration”, Acta Biomaterialia 2008; 4:1472-1479.

Acta Biomaterialia currently has the 2nd highest journal impact factor in the Materials Science, Biomaterials category.

The award letter reads:
"The field of nominees was very impressive, and the task of selecting a winner was challenging. Not only did your paper demonstrate exceptional value to the biomaterials community, which was also evidenced by its download ranking, but your personal credentials and recommendations were also exemplary. We will present this award at the 2009 Materials Science & Technology Meeting in Pittsburgh in October."