Thursday, December 23, 2010

Twenty-three Students Inducted into Tau Beta Pi

Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, inducted 23 new members into the Rhode Island Alpha chapter at Brown University on Saturday, December 4. Fourteen juniors were inducted along with eight seniors and one graduate student.

Among the 14 juniors elected were: James Arthur Bensson ’12, Brian John Bierig ’12, Michael Caron ’12, Mark Andrew Guttag ’12, Warren Bruce Jin ’12, Yosuke Korokawa ’12, Francis Liu ’12, Alec Roelke ’12, Wichinpong Sinchaisri ’12, Dingyi Sun ’12, Kathryn Ries Tringale ’12, Lingke Wang ’12, and Brent Zajaczkowski ’12.

The eight seniors elected included: Jake Lipton Albert ’11, Brendan James Checkett ’11, Kevin Thomas Durfee ’11, Martin Fagan Finn ’11, Margaret Helen Henderson Merritt ’11, Christopher Casey Moynihan ’11, Nikolas Jurjans Osvalds ’11, Daniel P. Prendergast ’11, and Theresa Marie Raimondo ’11.

Gregory James Rizza Ph.D.’12 was the graduate student elected.

Tau Beta Pi, founded in 1885, is the second oldest Greek-letter honor society in America; the oldest is Phi Beta Kappa. While Phi Beta Kappa is restricted to students in the liberal arts, Tau Beta Pi is designed to “offer appropriate recognition for superior scholarship and exemplary character to students in engineering.” In order to be inducted into the prestigious honor society, juniors must rank in the top eighth of their class and seniors must rank in the top fifth of their class.
Graduate students who have completed at least 50% of their degree requirements and who rank in the top fifth of their class are also eligible to become candidates for membership.

The Rhode Island Alpha chapter is not only an honor society to pay tribute to outstanding students, it also provides a vehicle for these students to assume a role of leadership at Brown and to be of distinctive service. Tau Beta Pi members are active in engineering student publications, the engineering recruiting project, and in a variety of other organizations. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Malaria-infected cells stiffen, block blood flow

A team of researchers at Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has completed the first modeling, followed by experiments, of how red blood cells are infected by a malarial parasite that attacks the brain. The researchers report that infected cells stiffen by as much as 50 times more than healthy cells. Infected cells also tend to stick along blood vessel walls, impeding the flow of blood to critical organs. Results appear in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Less elastic, more viscousThe malaria parasite inside a red blood cell, left, and
 in a computer-generated model. Malarial infection
 inhibits the smooth flow of blood through capillaries.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Although the incidence of malaria has declined in all but a few countries worldwide, according to a World Health Organization report earlier this month, malaria remains a global threat. Nearly 800,000 people succumbed to the mosquito-borne disease in 2009, nearly all of them in the developing world.
Physicians do not have reliable treatment for the virus at various stages, largely because no one has been able to document the malaria parasite’s journeys in the body.
Now researchers at Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have used advanced computer modeling and laboratory experiments to show how malaria parasites change red blood cells and how the infected cells impede blood flow to the brain and other critical organs.
Their findings, published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help doctors chart, in real time, the buildup in the body of cells infected with malaria or other diseases (such as sickle-cell anemia) and to prescribe treatment accordingly.
“The idea is to predict the evolution of these diseases, just like we predict the weather,” said George Karniadakis, professor of applied mathematics at Brown and corresponding author on the paper.

Impeding forward progress
Malaria-infected red blood cells can be 50 times stiffer and have surface changes that disrupt the smooth flow of blood, depriving the brain and other organs of nutrients and oxygen. (Computer simulation by the Karniadakis Lab)

The researchers worked withPlasmodium falciparum, a parasite that can cause cerebral malaria by lodging in capillaries of the brain, especially among children. The parasite is found globally but is most common in Africa.
Once introduced into the human body by an infected mosquito’s bite, the parasite invades red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells are tremendously elastic; even though they can reach 8 microns in length and 2 microns in thickness, they can easily slide through a capillary just 3 microns in diameter. Capillaries are vital conduits in the human brain and other organs; red blood cells are key transporters of oxygen and nutrients.
Through extensive modeling carried out on one of the world’s fastest supercomputers at the National Institute for Computational Sciences, Karniadakis and colleagues found that malaria-infected red blood cells stiffened as much as 50 times more than healthy red blood cells. The result: Infected red blood cells, having lost their elasticity, could no longer pass through capillaries, effectively blocking them.
“Basically what happens is the brain could be deprived of nutrients and oxygen,” said Karniadakis, a member of the Center for Fluid Dynamics, Turbulence and Computation at Brown. “This happens because of the deformation of these red blood cells.
“This shows that as stiffening increases (in red blood cells), the viscosity of the blood increases, and the heart has to pump twice as much sometimes to get the same blood flow,” Karniadakis added.
The researchers also found that infected red blood cells had a tendency to stick, flip, and flop along the walls of blood vessels — unlike healthy blood cells that flow in the middle of the channel. For reasons not entirely known, the infected red blood cells develop little knobby protrusions on their cellular skin that tend to stick to the surface of the blood wall, known as the endothelium. Scientists call the sticking cytoadhesion.
“So, what happens is the infected red blood cell is not only stiffer, it’s slowed down by this interaction (cytoadhesion),” Karniadakis said. “This drastically changes the flow of blood in the brain, especially in the arterials and in the capillaries.”
Dimitry Fedosov, first author on the paper, worked on the research as a graduate student at Brown. He is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Solid State Research in Germany. Bruce Caswell, professor emeritus in the School of Engineering at Brown, contributed to the research. Subra Suresh, former dean of the engineering school at MIT and now director of the National Science Foundation, also contributed to the research.
The National Institutes of Health and the NSF funded the research.

Monday, December 20, 2010

How do you cut a nanotube? Lots of compression

Researchers at Brown University and in Korea have described the dynamics behind cutting single-walled carbon nanotubes, cylindrical structures just 1/50,000th the width of a human hair. The tubes are compressed by potent sonic booms, causing them to buckle at certain points at helical, 90-degree angles. The finding could lead to better-quality nanotubes for potential use in automotive, electronics, optics and other fields. Results appear in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

Sound of slicing
High-intensity atomic-level sonic boomlets cause
nanotubes to buckle and twist at “compression-
concentration zones.”
Credit: Kim Lab/Brown University
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A pipefitter knows how to make an exact cut on a metal rod. But it’s far harder to imagine getting a precise cut on a carbon nanotube, with a diameter 1/50,000th the thickness of a human hair.

In a paper published this month in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A, researchers at Brown University and in Korea document for the first time how single-walled carbon nanotubes are cut, a finding that could lead to producing more precise, higher-quality nanotubes. Such manufacturing improvements likely would make the nanotubes more attractive for use in automotive, biomedicine, electronics, energy, optics and many other fields.

“We can now design the cutting rate and the diameters we want to cut,” said Kyung-Suk Kim, professor of engineering in the School of Engineering at Brown and the corresponding author on the paper.

The basics of carbon nanotube manufacturing are known. Single-atom thin graphene sheets are immersed in solution (usually water), causing them to look like a plate of tangled spaghetti. The jumbled bundle of nanotubes is then blasted by high-intensity sound waves that create cavities (or partial vacuums) in the solution. The bubbles that arise from these cavities expand and collapse so violently that the heat in each bubble’s core can reach more than 5,000 degrees Kelvin, close to the temperature on the surface of the sun. Meanwhile, each bubble compresses at an acceleration 100 billion times greater than gravity. Considering the terrific energy involved, it’s hardly surprising that the tubes come out at random lengths. Technicians use sieves to get tubes of the desired length. The technique is inexact partly because no one was sure what caused the tubes to fracture.

Cutting a nanotube
Compression causes nanotubes to buckle and twist and eventually to lose atoms from their lattice-like structure.

Credit: Huck Beng Chew/Brown University

Materials scientists initially thought the super-hot temperatures caused the nanotubes to tear. A group of German researchers proposed that it was the sonic boomlets caused by collapsing bubbles that pulled the tubes apart, like a rope tugged so violently at each end that it eventually rips.

Kim, Brown postdoctoral researcher Huck Beng Chew, and engineers at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology decided to investigate further. They crafted complex molecular dynamics simulations using an array of supercomputers to tease out what caused the carbon nanotubes to break. They found that rather than being pulled apart, as the German researchers had thought, the tubes were being compressed mightily from both ends. This caused a buckling in a roughly five-nanometer section along the tubes called the compression-concentration zone. In that zone, the tube is twisted into alternating 90-degree-angle folds, so that it fairly resembles a helix.

That discovery still did not explain fully how the tubes are cut. Through more computerized simulations, the group learned the mighty force exerted by the bubbles’ sonic booms caused atoms to be shot off the tube’s lattice-like foundation like bullets from a machine gun.

“It’s almost as if an orange is being squeezed, and the liquid is shooting out sideways,” Kim said. “This kind of fracture by compressive atom ejection has never been observed before in any kind of materials.”

The team confirmed the computerized simulations through laboratory tests involving sonication and electron microscopy of single-walled carbon nanotubes.

The group also learned that cutting single-walled carbon nanotubes using sound waves in water creates multiple kinks, or bent areas, along the tubes’ length. The kinks are “highly attractive intramolecular junctions for building molecular-scale electronics,” the researchers wrote.

Huck Beng Chew, a postdoctoral researcher in Brown’s School of Engineering, is the first author on the paper. Myoung-Woon Moon and Kwang-Ryeol Lee, from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, contributed to the research. The U.S. National Science Foundation and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology funded the work.

- Article by Richard Lewis, Brown Media Relations

This article has appeared in the following online publications:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bashevkin and Deisley Win 2010-2011 Doris M. and Norman T. Halpin Prize for Interdisciplinary Senior Capstone Projects

Thanks to the generosity of Doris M. and Norman T. Halpin, the Brown University School of Engineering Executive Committee provides research awards for exceptional undergraduates. Projects are awarded based on how well they demonstrate the power of interdisciplinary thought in engineering science and design. This year's winners of the Halpin Prize are Eli Bashivkin '11 and Daniel Deisley '11.

Excerpts from Eli's Halpin award nomination:
Eli has been interested in spaceflight since he was young, and has long know he has wanted to enter the aerospace engineering industry. Eli chose to attend Brown despite the lack of an aerospace program to take advantage of the open curriculum to design for himself a course of study leading to a broader technical background, to address the issues of technology in society, and to supplement his classroom education with team work and independent study projects. Professor Rick Fleeter is supervising his work on an innovative desktop scale hybrid rocket motor safe enough for development and use by students in an academic lab environment.

Eli has spent his entire time at Brown as a member of Brown's Formula SAE Design Team, a large interdisciplinary effort that combines engineering, production, and business to design and build a racecar from scratch each year. Eli has worked extensively on all aspects of this process, manufacturing components, contacting and working with sponsors, managing small teams, designed the brake, drivetrain, and powertrain subsystems of the vehicle.

Eli has defined an independent study project for this year to develop a low thrust, paraffin-fueled, hybrid rocket motor. Hybrid rocket motors are exceptionally simpler, and in many cases safer, than traditional liquid rocket engines, and thus can be used to reduce costs and put missions requiring propulsion in the hands of students and academic experimentalists. Paraffin has recently been recognized as an exceptional fuel for these applications. Tests have been done on large (50,000 Newton thrust) paraffin hybrid rocket engines used for launch into space, but little work has been conducted on how small these motors can be made to work. Eli's designs are at the 1 Newton level and below, with rocket motor diameter of a centimeter or two.

Excerpts from Daniel's Halpin award nomination:
Daniel's thesis on carbon nanotube EMI shielding is one that addresses issues emerging from the intersection between the fields of electrical engineering, material science, physics of phase transitions, and polymer chemistry. In his research, he will team up with members of the Laboratory of Emerging Technology to explore a novel carbon nanotube - polymer composite and its multifunctions, with his focus placed on its effectiveness and optimization for EMI (electromagnetic interference) shielding. The thesis will experimentally assess the incorporation of carbon nanotube networks into phase-changing polymer for EM shielding, leading to an optimized EMI shielding material that is ultra-thin, lightweight, corrosion and scratch resistant, flexible, and scalable. If successful, his work has the potential to pave the way for applications of the EMI-shielding composite in passport, bank card, and personnel ID card protection, as well as RFID enabled supply-chain management systems.

Dr. Candace Lynch, Air Force Research Laboratory Engineer, Receives Harold Brown Award

Dr. Candace Lynch ScM'02, PhD'05, a senior scientist from Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., received the 2010 Harold Brown Award on December 15 for her breakthrough research in pioneering new infrared technology that will augment aircraft defense and impact numerous Defense Department systems.

Dr. Lynch strengthened aircraft protection from heat-seeking missiles by developing counter-measure device technology involving laser material, specifically with the growth of orientation-patterned gallium arsenide.

The research physicist extended her technology to generate terahertz sources used in future imaging systems that enable the warfighter to see through brown-out conditions during helicopter landings or to image concealed weapons through clothing.

"Dr. Lynch's technology breakthrough is not only a national asset, but a testament to her dedication to science with a focus on national security," said Dr. David Jerome, the director of the sensors directorate in the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Dr. Lynch's efforts as part of the sensors directorate supported the science and technology necessary for superior U.S. air and space systems in intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, precision engagement and electronic warfare, Dr. Jerome said.

Having published more than 20 journal articles and eight conference presentations, Dr. Lynch received her bachelor of science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., and both her master's degree and doctorate of philosophy from Brown University in Providence, R.I.

The Harold Brown Award recognizes significant achievement in research and development that led to or demonstrated promise of a substantial improvement in operational effectiveness of the U.S. Air Force. The award's namesake was a physicist who served as Air Force secretary from 1965 to 1969 and as Defense secretary from 1977 to 1981. Dr. Lynch is the first female recipient of the award since the program began in 1969.

Story courtesy of Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Nanotechnology Patent: Material and Method for Promoting Tissue Growth U.S. Patent 7,833,283

Brown University Professors Thomas J. Webster and Karen M. Haberstroh were issued a patent (U.S. Patent No. 7,833,283) entitled “Material and Method for Promoting Tissue Growth” which describes a process to implement nanoscale surface features on polymers commonly used in regenerative medicine to increase the growth of numerous tissues. The patent describes how any polymer can be transformed to have surface features which mimic those of natural tissues to promote cell functions. It is currently being licensed to Nanovis, Inc. (

Friday, December 10, 2010

In the lab, engineer’s novel liquid provides a solid fix for broken bones

A bone-healing fluid that can be injected into breaks with a syringe shows such strong promise in lab testing, that it has been licensed from Brown by a Massachusetts biotech startup for further development.

By David Orenstein
A nonmetalic solutionNanomaterials engineer Thomas Webster is
developing alternatives to metals,which do not
occur naturally in the body and can cause
problems with surrounding tissue.
Credit: Webster Lab/Brown University

Here’s the vision: an elderly woman comes into the emergency room after a fall. She has broken her hip. The orthopaedic surgeon doesn’t come with metal plates or screws or shiny titanium ball joints. Instead, she pulls out a syringe filled with a new kind of liquid that will solidify in seconds and injects into the break. Over time, new bone tissue will take its place, encouraged by natural growth factors embedded in the synthetic molecules of the material.

Although still early in its development, the liquid is real. In the Brown engineering lab of professor Thomas Webster it’s called TBL, for the novel DNA-like “twin-base linker” molecules that give it seemingly ideal properties. The biotech company Audax Medical Inc., based in Littleton, Mass., has just announced an exclusive license of the technology from Brown. It brands the technology as Arxis and sees similar potential for repairing broken vertebrae.

“The reason we’re excited about this material is because it gets us away from metals,” Webster said. “Metals are not in us naturally and they can have a lot of problems with surrounding tissues.”

In some of his work, Webster employs nanotechnology to try to bridge metals to bone better than traditional bone cement. But TBL is an entirely new material, co-developed with longtime colleague and chemist Hicham Fenniri at the University of Alberta. Fenniri synthesized the molecules, while Webster’s research has focused on ensuring that TBL becomes viable material for medical use.

Buttressing bonesTwin-based linker molecules, top left, self-assemble
into six-molecule rings. Stacked in a tube shape, the
 rings of molecules not only provide a new scaffold
for bone growth, but can also store growth factors
and helpful drugs inside.

    Credit: Webster Lab/Brown University
The molecules are artificial, but made from elements that are no strangers to the body: carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. At room temperature their aggregate form is a liquid, but the material they form solidifies at body temperature. The molecules look like nanoscale tubes (billionths of a meter wide), and when they come together, it is in a spiraling ladder-shaped arrangement reminiscent of DNA or collagen. That natural structure makes it easy to integrate with bone tissue.

In the space within the nanotubes, the team, which includes graduate student Linlin Sun, has managed to stuff in various drugs including antibiotics, anti-inflammatory agents, and bone growth factors, which the tubes release over the course of months. Even better, different recipes of TBL, or Arxis, can be chemically tuned to become as hard as bone or as soft as cartilage, and can solidify in seconds or minutes, as needed. Once it is injected, nothing else is needed.

“We really like the fact that it doesn’t need anything other than temperature to solidify,” Webster said. Other compounds that people have developed require exposure to ultraviolet light and cannot therefore be injected through a tiny syringe hole. They require larger openings to be created.

Liquid provides a solid fix for broken bones from Brown PAUR on Vimeo.

For all of TBL’s apparent benefits, they have only been demonstrated in cow bone fragments in incubators on the lab bench top, Webster said. TBL still needs to be proven in vivo and, ultimately, in human trials. Part of the agreement with Audax will include support to continue the material’s clinical development. Audax research and development director Whitney Sharp, a Brown alumna (Sc.B., 2008; Sc.M., 2009), is now working with Webster’s group.

“They see the future where hopefully we will get to the point where we won’t be implanting these huge pieces of metal into people,” Webster said. “Instead we’ll be implanting things through a needle that could be used to heal a hip that’s more natural.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rachel Decker Accepted into Entrepreneurial Fellows Program at Slater Technology Fund

Rachel Decker ScM '11, a current Program in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship (PRIME) master's degree student, was just accepted into the Rhode Island National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NSF EPSCoR) Entrepreneurial Fellows Program at the Slater Technology Fund.

A collaboration initiated in 2008 between Slater and the Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR, the program is designed to encourage entrepreneurship in the life sciences and biotechnology industries in Rhode Island by formally engaging local university students in the venture development process.

The Entrepreneurial Fellows Program is designed to attract and support a next generation of entrepreneurs in the life sciences industry by drawing students from the state’s colleges and universities into active participation in the process of venture development. Fellows engage in venture development by working with both academic researchers and industry professionals to understand the process of start-up formation, the development of business plans, the recruitment of entrepreneurial teams, the raising of early-stage capital, and the implementation of commercialization strategies. A goal of the program is to better inform students of the career development options available within the life sciences industry and to help integrate them into the knowledge-based economy in Rhode Island

The Entrepreneurial Fellows Program was launched in 2008-2009 with a group of seven students from Brown University and the University of Rhode Island. The pilot-scale program was continued in 2009-2010 with another six students from Brown and the University of Rhode Island.

About Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR
The Rhode Island National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR) builds partnerships between state government, institutions of higher education, and industry to effect lasting improvements in Rhode Island’s research infrastructure and national R&D competitiveness. Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR began in 2004, receiving federal funding commitments in excess of $26.75 million. For more information, visit

About Slater Technology Fund
The Slater Technology Fund is a state-backed venture capital fund that invests in new ventures committed to basing and building their businesses in Rhode Island. Slater focuses its resources on the support of entrepreneurs who have the vision, leadership, and commitment to build substantial commercial enterprises. Slater typically invests at the inception stage in the development of a new venture, often based upon ideas and technologies originating in academic institutions and/or government research laboratories located within the region. In most cases, investments are premised upon the possibility of raising substantial follow-on financing, from venture capital investors or from strategic partners, with a view toward accelerating the generation of significant numbers of high-value, high-wage jobs over the intermediate to longer-term. For more information, visit

Brown Students Perform Well at Elevator Pitch Contest

Professor Eric Suuberg reports that students from his ENGN 1930G Entrepreneurship course performed well in the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition’s Elevator Pitch Contest this week. The event took place at the new R.I. Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and is considered a preview to the 2011 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition.

The winner, Theresa Raimondo '11, a chemical engineering concentrator, pitched an idea for a container that can quickly heat and cool beverages and won $300. The winning idea, called HnC (hot and cold), grew out of Suuberg's entrepreneurship class in which Raimondo and six other undergraduates have been working on a way to improve the taste of food eaten by astronauts, who don’t have access to refrigeration in space. Using compact thermoelectric technology, the beverage container they’re designing will heat or cool any drink between 50 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit within 90 seconds. The team is proposing to commercialize the product, which, it says, has the potential to redefine the beverage market. Raimondo made her 90-second pitch to a panel of judges and more than 200 audience members, and finished first in a field of 48 aspiring entrepreneurs.

In addition, students and alumni from the Program in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship (PRIME) were presenting, and Joseph Ramos ScM'10 finished second. Ramos, of Axena Technologies in Providence, won $200 for his idea for a start-up company to combat health-care associated infections. Axena Technologies was founded by four graduates of Brown University's PRIME master's degree program. The biomedical engineering company utilizes a novel antibacterial technology to coat medical devices in order to mitigate healthcare-associated infections.

Dan Aziz '05, of PriWater in Providence, received $200 for his pitch for a drink to help pregnant women decrease the chance of certain birth defects.

Each of these teams is expected to do well in the actual business plan competition next semester.

RI Business Plan Competition Press Release:

Providence Business New online edition that described the outcome of the competition: See,54251

Lorin Jakubek and Nitin Jadhav Win 2010 Archambault Teaching Awards

The Office of Continuing Education has announced 2010 Archambault Teaching Awards, and two of the recipients are from the School of Engineering, Lorin Jakubek and Nitin Jadhav. Engineering was the only school or department with more than one honoree.

Stella Aslibekyan, a graduate student in Bio-Med, is the recipient of the 2010 Reginald D. Archambault Award for Teaching Excellence. Honorable mentions were awarded to Lorin Jakubek, School of Engineering; Daniel Block, Department of English; Erica Moretti, Italian Studies; and to Nitin Jadhav, School of Engineering.

The Reginald D. Archambault Award for Teaching Excellence recognizes, rewards, and promotes excellence in teaching in the Brown University summer programs. The award is named in recognition of Reginald D. Archambault, Professor of Education emeritus, and the inaugural Dean of Summer Studies, 1984 - 1992. Prof. Archambault served as Chair of Brown’s Education Department from 1967 through the early eighties, contributing greatly to the M.A.T. program and developing the Brown Summer High School as a teaching laboratory. He remains dedicated to advancing the craft of pedagogy.

Award recipients are selected based on their ability to influence, motivate and inspire students to learn, as well as their creativity and innovation in the development of curriculum and resources that promote student learning.

Award recipients will be recognized at an Office of Continuing Education Event in spring 2011.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Extreme Gingerbread Competition a Success

The Brown University Society for Women Engineers in collaboration with the University's Engineers Without Borders student organization held its fourth annual "Extreme Gingerbread House Competition" on Friday, December 3. Twenty-one teams of three to five students and professors participated, and the event raised more than $125 for Engineers without Borders. This year, Engineers Without Borders is focusing on helping a Haitian orphanage that was damaged during the earthquake in January, 2010. The designs ranged from the traditional to the modern, and included circular houses, and a replica of Frank Lloyld Wright’s Fallingwater.

This year, the teams were challenged to build earthquake resistant gingerbread houses out of graham crackers, icing, candy canes, pretzels, gummy bears and other supplied materials in a one-hour time period. Houses were required to be hollow with a maximum wall thickness of one inch, and had to exceed 6” x 6” x6”. The houses were judged both for aesthetics, and amount of time without breaking on a shake table.

Team eight, the bleeding gumdrops (Kelly Schryver ’11, Ben Howard ’11, Katie Delaney ’11, Adam Maynard ’11) won the competition with a score of 66.67 (16.67 appearance score and 50 structure score), while team 21 (Nick Ragosta ‘12, Ben Freudberg ‘12, Nattie Cooper ‘12, Aris Nakos ‘12) was close behind with a total score of 66.33 (16.33 for appearance plus 50 for structure). Team 16, known as team Barus & Holly (Kristie Chin ’11, Camile Rodriguez ’11, Katrina Wilson ’11, Kelsi Hirai ’11--with advising help from Professor Daniels), finished in third with a score of 65.67 (15.67 for appearance and 50 for structure). In all, seven of the 21 teams survived the maximum time of one minute.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Nanotechnology and nanomaterials: Promises for improved tissue regeneration is top article in NanoToday

A paper written by Dr. Lijie Zhang ScM'07 PhD'09, now an assistant professor at George Washington University, and Brown University associate professor Dr. Thomas Webster, is currently the most downloaded article from the journal NanoToday.

The article is entitled "Nanotechnology and nanomaterials: Promises for improved tissue regeneration" NanoToday 4(1):66-80, 2009 and covers recent advancements in the use of nanotechnology to improve tissue growth for numerous implant applications.

Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine aim to develop biological substitutes that restore, maintain, or improve damaged tissue and organ functionality. While tissue engineering and regenerative medicine have hinted at much promise in the last several decades, significant research is still required to provide exciting alternative materials to finally solve the numerous problems associated with traditional implants. Nanotechnology, or the use of nanomaterials (defined as those materials with constituent dimensions less than 100 nm), may have the answers since only these materials can mimic surface properties (including topography, energy, etc.) of natural tissues. For these reasons, over the last decade, nanomaterials have been highlighted as promising candidates for improving traditional tissue engineering materials. Importantly, these efforts have highlighted that nanomaterials exhibit superior cytocompatible, mechanical, electrical, optical, catalytic and magnetic properties compared to conventional (or micron structured) materials. These unique properties of nanomaterials have helped to improve various tissue growth over what is achievable today. In this review paper, the promise of nanomaterials for bone, cartilage, vascular, neural and bladder tissue engineering applications will be reviewed. Moreover, as an important future area of research, the potential risk and toxicity of nanomaterial synthesis and use related to human health are emphasized.

Link to NanoToday:

Link to full article:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grant gives new life to the virtual reality Cave

The Center for Computation and Visualization is home to the University’s Cave, a virtual reality cube. One minute it's showing the surface of Mars, and the next there is three-dimensional poetry wrapping its walls. It's called the Cave, but it's really just a cube — a virtual reality universe. And it's currently undergoing a $2 million renovation.

The National Science Foundation awarded the Center for Computation and Visualization, home to the University's Cave, a grant for renovations in Sept. 2009. The system — an eight-foot cube with images projected on walls in front, to the left and right of the user and on the floor — is now 11 years old.

Cave users wear LCD-shutter glasses that allow them to view data from a variety of angles. The Cave is equipped with tracking devices that move the projections to wherever the user is looking or touching.

The grant will allow the implementation of 70 new high-definition projectors, as well as wireless glasses and a bigger space to move around in, said John Huffman, graphics systems analyst for the CCV.

These renovations will give users "the ability to completely immerse yourself in ... scientific data," said David Laidlaw, professor of computer science.

"It's sort of like going from the very first telephone ... to the iPhone 4," Laidlaw said.

Many different departments use the Cave, including a "Cave Writing" class, which uses the system as a way of interacting with poetry, Huffman said. The Department of Geological Sciences uses the Cave to recreate the surface of Mars and other planetary objects, giving students the opportunity to use skills and techniques they have acquired in class, he added.

"It's a new way of seeing the planets that you can't really do any other way," said Caleb Fassett, postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Geological Sciences. According to Fassett, most of his students enjoy the experience of using the Cave as a visual component of their education.

When the upgrades are complete, the system will have better color representation, higher contrast and "the same resolution as your eyes are capable of," Huffman said.

Laidlaw said the CCV hopes to have the new Cave ready next October, when the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers will host a week-long forum in Providence.

(Article by Joseph Rosales/Brown Daily Herald)
(Photo by: Stephanie London/Brown Daily Herald)