Friday, April 29, 2011

Sarah Huebscher '10 ScM '11 Named Finalist in RI Business Plan Competition

Brown's Sarah Huebscher '10 ScM '11, who completed her bachelor's degree in engineering and is now a current master's degree student in the Program in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship (PRIME), has been selected as one of eight finalists in the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition.

Huebscher is one of just three finalists in the student track. Her proposal was for PriviCare, a business that would provide at home diagnostic devices for common infections and diseases.

The finalists are competing for $250,000 in prizes. Final presentations are scheduled for May 3 at the RIBX business expo at the R.I Convention Center. Winners will be announced following the presentations. A top overall winner will take home a $50,000 cash prize.

Providence Business News story:,57682 

Brown Engineering Alumnus to Live Tweet NASA Shuttle Launch

Shareef Jackson '02, a Brown Engineering alumnus, is one of 150 tweeps chosen from more than 4,000 applicants scheduled to live tweet during the launch of the space shuttle Endeavor. You can follow him on Twitter @ShareefJackson.   

While looking back on his childhood, thirty-year-old Shareef Jackson always wanted to enjoy a summer at space camp while growing up, but he just never made it.shareef
“I’ve always been a sciency-person. I loved it as a kid, I did engineering in colleges, took a lot of astronomy classes,” he says.
His passion for astronomy continues to develop through his adult life, and in February, he started a space and technology blog from his home in West Philadelphia.
While he still wishes he could go back to his childhood and pretend to be walking on the moon at camp, he never could have imagined winning something even more out of this world: a pass to the shuttle launch of the Endeavor in Florida.
“It’s a good example of government engaging with citizens, trying to really engage in society,” he says.
Jackson is among 149 other tweeps who were randomly selected of approximately 4,000 applicants to live tweet during the launch, as well as “with the opportunity to tour the center, view the shuttle launch and speak with NASA managers, astronauts, shuttle technicians and engineers. The event also will provide participants the opportunity to meet fellow tweeps and NASA’s social media team,” according to NASA’s website.
The chosen tweeps must pay for their own travel expenses and accommodations, but he says it’s totally worth it.
“When I first started my blog, my first post was called, Lift Off. I wrote that I would go to a shuttle launch someday, but I really didn’t expect it to be this soon.”
Space Shuttle Endeavour is slated to launch on April 29th. Be sure to follow Jackson on Twitterhere, and Philly Weekly here.
- courtesy of Matthew Petrillo/PhillyNow (originally published 4/5/11)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Brown Alumna Kareen Riviere '03 Starts Foundation to Help Women in Haiti

Kareen Riviere  '03, a Brown engineering alumna with family in Haiti, started The Empower Foundation in December 2010 to help make "a real difference" for women and girls in Haiti. 

New Organization: The Empower Foundation Helps Haitian Women Combat Sexual Violence

(PRLEAP.COM) (Silver Spring, Md. - April 20, 2011) - "He grabbed me, stuck a gun to me. Then he and several men raped me near my daughter." Sexual assaults against women in Haiti have reached epidemic proportions since the country’s devastating earthquake in January 2010.
According to Amnesty International, more than 250 cases of rape were reported in Haiti’s 1,150 camps in the first 150 days after the earthquake. Some victims are three and five years old. The Empower Foundation ( says "something must be done now," per the organization’s founder, Kareen Riviere, Ph.D.

"The Empower Foundation is my way of getting off the sidelines and making a real difference," says Riviere. Riviere, who has family in Haiti, wanted to help the women and girls, believing they "are important players in transforming the future of Haiti."

The Silver Spring, Maryland-based non-profit was founded in December 2010 by Riviere with a mission of "empowering communities to have a voice, take action, and improve their quality of life."

The quake’s destruction left more than 1 million people homeless with women living in unsecure tent camps. Nightly, women use public latrines in poorly lit areas, vulnerable to men who may be waiting to attack them.

Police protection is nearly nonexistent, and prosecution of offenders is uncertain, making the crime repeatable. This inspired Riviere and others to enact the organization’s first mission, Operation: Empower Haiti. (Read more in The Empower Foundation’s February 2011 Report, "Operation: Empower Haiti.")

The Empower Foundation will prepare more than 1,000 safety kits for Partners in Health to deliver to its clinics in Haiti. The safety kits will contain a small battery-free flashlight, safety whistle, and local resource card. The Empower Foundation has established partnerships with businesses equally passionate to ending the violence.

"Upon learning what Haiti’s women have been enduring, we are honored to partner with The Empower Foundation to support this effort," said Felicia Evans Long, a corporate partner and founder of Sweet Events and Planning, LLC.

Monetary and supply donations are being sought to produce the safety kits.

Ways you can help:

- The Empower Foundation will host its inaugural fundraiser, a family-fun event, on Sunday, May 22, 2011 at Bowlmor Lanes, 5353 Westbard Avenue, Bethesda, Md., from 5-8 p.m.

- Empower Haiti’s women and look good while you cook. Purchase a sassy apron from corporate partner, Apron Elegance using special code "EMPOWER." Apron Elegance will donate $10 of purchase to The Empower Foundation. Shop now.

- Donate to The Empower Foundation (

The Empower Foundation ( is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering people and communities to have a voice, take action, and improve their quality of life. The organization was founded in December 2010 by Kareen Riviere, Ph.D.

Brown Professor John Donoghue PhD '79 elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

John P. Donoghue PhD '79, the Henry Merritt Wriston Professor of Neuroscience and Engineering and director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science, has been elected to fellowship in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Donoghue, a pioneer researcher in brain-computer interface, is the 34th current Brown faculty member elected to AAAS fellowship.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — John P. Donoghue, a Brown University neuroscientist and Department of Veterans Affairs researcher whose pioneering work has led to the development of an interface that links the human brain directly to digital devices such as computers, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the AAAS announced today.
“I am deeply honored to be elected as a fellow of the academy,” said Donoghue, the Henry Merritt Wriston Professor and director of theBrown Institute for Brain Science. “To me, this is a recognition of spectacular work by a large group of faculty and students in brain science here and at our collaborating institutions and has been made possible by the remarkable interdisciplinary environment at Brown.”
The work Donoghue referred to is the development of the BrainGatebrain-computer interface. The investigational system, now in pilot clinical trials, is a combination of hardware and software that uses tiny implanted electrodes to detect electrical signals produced by neurons in the brain that control movement. The system decodes those signals and translates them into digital instructions to give people with paralysis control of external devices such as computers, robotic assistive devices, or wheelchairs.
The BrainGate team, which consists of scientists, engineers and physicians at Brown, the Providence VA Medical Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital, including co-director Leigh Hochberg, is also engaged in research aimed at giving people control of advanced prosthetic limbs.
Decades of leading neuroscience
Donoghue’s neuroscience career began in 1979 when he earned his Ph.D. at Brown after earlier studies of biology and anatomy at Boston University and the University of Vermont. He returned to Brown in 1984 as an assistant professor. He is now professor of neuroscience and engineering at Brown and a senior research scientist at the Providence VA Medical Center.
For decades, Donoghue has studied how ensembles of neurons in the brain plan and produce the signals that command the body to move. To do that, his lab uses arrays of 100 electrodes to listen to the chatter of many brain cells at once. This fundamental research led to the translational BrainGate project.
While he has developed his own research into an internationally recognized technology with significant clinical potential, he has also presided over the rapid rise of broader brain science programs at Brown. From 1992 to 2006 he served as inaugural chair of the Department of Neuroscience at the University, and in 1999 he spearheaded the formation of Brown’s Brain Science Program, which became the Brown Institute for Brain Science in 2009.
The Brown Institute for Brain Science brings together more than 100 faculty members in 15 academic departments at Brown and its affiliated hospitals. The institute is a catalyst for interdisciplinary research on the mind and brain, neurotechnology, and medical applications, as well as “smart technologies” that employ computation modeled on how the brain works.
Donoghue’s work has earned other significant awards. In 2006, he was inducted as a fellow in the American Institute for Medical and Biomedical Engineering. A year later he won the K.J. Z├╝lch Prize, awarded by the German Reemstma Foundation and Max Planck Institute. A year later he became a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in 2009 won the In Praise of Medicine Prize of the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, Netherlands. He received the 2010 Senior Roche Award for Translational Neuroscience.
Donoghue joins 211 other leaders in academia, business, public affairs, the humanities, and the arts in this year’s class of academy honorees, which includes two Nobel laureates and a Pulitzer Prize winner.
“I am humbled to be included among the ranks of its highly distinguished members,” Donoghue said.
Including Donoghue, Brown University has 34 faculty members who are fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Four Brown Students Among 16 Semifinalists in RI Business Plan Competition

A record number of people vying for a record prize pot of more than $250,000 applied to the 2011 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition, and 16 of them have been named semi-finalists, including three Brown University students and one alumnus. 

The four semifinalists with Brown engineering and entrepreneurship connections were among seven semifinalists in the student track of the competition. They included 
HnC Products led by principal applicant Margaret Watson '11. Her idea is to create a personal beverage container that can heat and cool 20 ounces between 150 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit with the flip of a switch. HnC (which stands for hot and cold) grew out of an idea from Professor Eric Suuberg's entrepreneurship class in which Watson 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. The device uses compact thermoelectric technology, and has the potential to redefine the beverage market.

Two students from the Program in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship (PRIME), Sara Huebscher '10 ScM '11 and Rachel Decker ScM'11 were also among the semifinalists. Decker's business plan is for PRIME Omega-3, a company which will produce and sell high quality omega-3 fish oil supplements using a safe proprietary chromatography technique. Huebscher's plan is for Privicare, which will provide at-home diagnostic devices for common infections and diseases.

Dan Aziz '11 presented a business plan for PriWater, which is developing a prenatal beverage supplement to reduce birth defects and mitigate common complications of pregnancy.

The 103 business proposals submitted this year represent a 69% increase over the number of applications received last year. To receive prizes, which will be awarded to all finalists and winners, applicants must agree to establish or continue operations in Rhode Island.

Providence Business News Release:,57199

RI Business Plan Competition 2011 Release:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tissue engineers use new system to measure biomaterials, structures

As cells assemble into a doughnut shape and ascend a hydrogel cone, they do work and thereby reveal the total power involved in forming a three-dimensional structure. That measure not only could help tissue engineers understand their living building materials better, but could also add insight to the understanding of natural tissue formation.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Tissue engineering makes biologists builders, but compared to their civil engineering counterparts, they don’t know much about the properties of the materials and structures they use, namely living cells. To improve that knowledge, Brown University researchers have developed a simple and reliable system for measuring the power that cells employ to assemble into three-dimensional tissue. The research appears online the week of April 11 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In addition to helping engineers evaluate how quickly and stably different cell types will combine into desired structures, the power measurements could also improve scientists’ understanding of natural tissue growth, such as in fetal development, and how cancerous cells sometimes break off from a tumor and travel in the body, said Jeffrey Morgan, the paper’s senior author and associate professor of medical science in Brown’s Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology.
Jacquelyn Youssef and Jeff Morgan“Cells are the ultimate building parts,” Morgan says. “It’s important to understand how they are held together, how they assemble together and the energies with which they do that, if you want to delve into the field of tissue engineering.” Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University“Cells are the ultimate building parts, and it’s important to understand how they are held together, how they assemble together and the energies with which they do that, if you want to delve into the field of tissue engineering,” said Morgan, who last year co-developed the first artificial human ovary. “Sometimes these complex processes go wrong, and that’s where it’s relevant to cancer in terms of cell-to-cell adhesion. But it also plays out very nicely in developmental biology where a very complex 3-D orchestration of cell movement and forces gives rise to new tissues and organs.”
Climb the cone
In the system, the researchers deposited cells in very small wells made of a specially designed hydrogel. The wells each have a cone of different steepness rising in the middle, like Bundt cake pans do. The cells form a doughnut shape around the cone. The mutual attraction of the cells then causes the doughnut of living cells to slide up the cone while a video microscope watches. The observed rate at which this mass of cells overcomes the force of gravity to ascend the cone yields a valuable number for the overall power exerted by the cells.
“There’s no need to calibrate this device, because gravity is consistent and reliable and there are no moving parts other than the living cells,” Morgan said.
Such overall measures of energy, time, and power have been hard to obtain, said lead author and doctoral candidate Jacquelyn Youssef. Many scientists have studied distinct forces and energies within and among cells, such as the bonding strength between particular proteins, but such measures leave tissue engineers to estimate the total energy in a structure by adding up what’s known about the cells, related proteins, and their many interactions.
“What we’ve developed looks at all these things in this one system together,” Youssef said. “There’s lots of moving parts.”

Strong climber
Measuring cellular effort is a matter of observing how rapidly cells overcome the force of gravity and climb the cone. “There’s no need to calibrate this device, because gravity is consistent ... there are no moving parts other than the living cells,” Morgan said.
Credit: Morgan Lab/Brown University

At the same time as it offers an aggregate measure, the system allows for teasing out the relative contributions of those moving parts. In their experiments, the team, which also included Lambert Freund, professor emeritus of engineering at Brown, and recent Ph.D. graduate Asha Nurse, used a drug treatment to inhibit the contractions cells use to “grab” each other. They found that among human skin fibroblast cells, eliminating that particular action took away about half of the total power of the doughnut structure formation.
The researchers worked with two types of cells in the paper. In addition to human skin fibroblasts, which aggregated and ascended the cones in a couple of hours, they also tested liver cells, which took days to reach the same peaks.
Morgan said the system will work for many other cell types and even mixtures of cells as well, making it a promising instrument for assessing the structural characteristics of the variety of building materials that tissue engineers might choose to use in their structures. Bioengineers can also use it to measure the effect different chemicals or drugs might have on the rate or energy of tissue formation.
“What we’re driving at is an understanding of how cells will spontaneously form these three-dimensional structures,” Morgan said. “The rate at which they do that is important to understanding how to design something more complex.”
Funding for the research came from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Brown's Mary Lou Jepsen '87 Ph.D'97 Named Women of Vision Award Winner

Leading Technical Women Honored for Outstanding Achievements in Technology and Innovation, Leadership and Social Impact by Anita Borg Institute 

The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI) has announced the winners of this year’s Anita Borg Women of Vision Awards. Chieko Asakawa, IBM Research; Mary Lou Jepsen, CEO, Pixel Qi; and Karen Panetta,Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Simulation Research Laboratory at Tufts University will be honored for their accomplishments and contributions as women in technology at ABI’s sixth annual Women of Vision Awards Banquet at the Mission City Ballroom, Santa Clara, California on May 19, 2011. The event will feature keynote speaker Anousheh Ansari, first female private space explorer and first space ambassador.
The Women of Vision (WOV) Awards honor women making significant contributions to technology in three categories: Innovation, Leadership, and Social Impact. The three winners were selected from a field of highly qualified women, all of whom are engaged in technology professions in industry, academia, non-profits or government. Candidates for the awards are considered based on their records of (1) consistent, significant contributions to technology invention and application; (2) effecting positive changes in the ways in which technology impacts society; and (3) demonstrated leadership in the technology industry that extends beyond their place of work.
“The 2011 Women of Vision Award Winners have not only made significant contributions to technology but their work has broad impact on the larger world community,” said ABI CEO and President, Dr. Telle Whitney. “The three categories represent the characteristics of a Woman of Vision, whose work has broad impact on the way in which we think of technology.”
The Anita Borg Women of Vision Awards Dinner Host is Lockheed Martin. Gold sponsors are Huawei and NetApp. Silver sponsors are Cisco and IBM. Bronze Sponsors are Adobe, Career Action Center, and Thomson Reuters.
The Women of Vision Awards Dinner will also feature the first annual Anita Borg Top Company for Technical Women Award, which will be awarded to IBM. For more information about the Top Company award and why IBM was chosen, see

About the Women of Vision Award Winners
Chieko Asakawa is the Women of Vision Award winner in the Leadership category. She is recognized for her work as a leader in the field of accessibility. Her work at IBM has led to breakthrough technologies including Japan’s first computer network based Braille library system and Home Page Reader which has enabled the visually impaired to easily surf websites.  Another innovation, aDesigner, is used by Web designers today across the globe to help them build pages that are accessible to those with poor sight. aDesigner has been donated to the Eclipse Foundation, an open source community.  Chieko Asakawa was named an IBM Fellow in 2009.
Mary Lou Jepsen is the Women of Vision Award winner in the Innovation category. She is honored for her technical successes in innovative design of computer displays over several iterations including most recently as CEO of Pixel Qi, her leadership of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project to accomplish its ambitious goals, and in the impact of OLPC’s work on accessibility of digital technology to enable children in all nations to use the digital tools of the modern world, and use them collaboratively.
Karen Panetta is the Women of Vision Award winner in the Social Impact category.  She is recognized not only for her contributions in both academia and industry but also as one of the United States leading experts in innovating successful low-cost methods for disseminating engineering and science to youth, parents, educators and the general public to help recruit young women to the STEM disciplines. Her Nerd Girls international program has inspired young women by teaching them that engineers and scientists create innovations for the benefit of humanity.
About the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI)
The Anita Borg Institute provides resources and programs to help industry, academia, and government recruit, retain, and develop women leaders in high-tech fields, resulting in higher levels of technological innovation. ABI programs serve high-tech women by creating a community and providing tools to help them develop their careers. ABI is a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 charitable organization. ABI Partners include: Google, Microsoft, HP, CA, Cisco, First Republic Bank, IBM, Intel, Intuit, Lockheed Martin, National Science Foundation, National Security Agency, NetApp, SAP, Symantec, Thomson Reuters, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Motorola Foundation, Yahoo!, Amazon, Facebook, and Raytheon. For more information, visit