Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Brown Engineering researchers create nanopatch for the heart

Engineers at Brown University and in India have a promising new approach to treating heart-attack victims. The researchers created a nanopatch with carbon nanofibers and a polymer. In laboratory tests, natural heart-tissue cell density on the nanoscaffold was six times greater than the control sample, while neuron density had doubled. Results are published in Acta Biomaterialia. 
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — When you suffer a heart attack, a part of your heart dies. Nerve cells in the heart's  wall and a special class of cells that spontaneously expand and contract – keeping the heart beating in perfect synchronicity – are lost forever. Surgeons can’t repair the affected area. It’s as if when confronted with a road riddled with potholes, you abandon what’s there and build a new road instead.
Needless to say, this is a grossly inefficient way to treat arguably the single most important organ in the human body. The best approach would be to figure out how to resuscitate the deadened area, and in this quest, a group of researchers at Brown University and in India may have an answer.
The scientists turned to nanotechnology. In a lab, they built a scaffold-looking structure consisting of carbon nanofibers and a government-approved polymer. Tests showed the synthetic nanopatch regenerated natural heart tissue cells ­– called cardiomyocytes – as well as neurons. In short, the tests showed that a dead region of the heart can be brought back to life.
“This whole idea is to put something where dead tissue is to help regenerate it, so that you eventually have a healthy heart,” said David Stout, a graduate student in the School of Engineering at Brown and the lead author of the paper published in Acta Biomaterialia.
David Stout, engineering graduate student at Brown UniversityThe approach, if successful, would help millions of people. In 2009, some 785,000 Americans suffered a new heart attack linked to weakness caused by the scarred cardiac muscle from a previous heart attack, according to the American Heart Association. Just as ominously, a third of women and a fifth of men who have experienced a heart attack will have another one within six years, the researchers added, citing the American Heart Association.
What is unique about the experiments at Brown and at the India Institute of Technology Kanpur is the engineers employed carbon nanofibers, helical-shaped tubes with diameters between 60 and 200 nanometers. The carbon nanofibers work well because they are excellent conductors of electrons, performing the kind of electrical connections the heart relies upon for keeping a steady beat. The researchers stitched the nanofibers together using a poly lactic-co-glycolic acid polymer to form a mesh about 22 millimeters long and 15 microns thick and resembling “a black Band Aid,” Stout said. They laid the mesh on a glass substrate to test whether cardiomyocytes would colonize the surface and grow more cells.
In tests with the 200-nanometer-diameter carbon nanofibers seeded with cardiomyocytes, five times as many heart-tissue cells colonized the surface after four hours than with a control sample consisting of the polymer only. After five days, the density of the surface was six times greater than the control sample, the researchers reported. Neuron density had also doubled after four days, they added.
The scaffold works because it is elastic and durable, and can thus expand and contract much like heart tissue, said Thomas Webster, associate professor in engineering and orthopaedics at Brown and the corresponding author on the paper. It’s because of these properties and the carbon nanofibers that cardiomyocytes and neurons congregate on the scaffold and spawn new cells, in effect regenerating the area.
The scientists want to tweak the scaffold pattern to better mimic the electrical current of the heart, as well as build an in-vitro model to test how the material reacts to the heart’s voltage and beat regime. They also want to make sure the cardiomyocytes that grow on the scaffolds are endowed with the same abilities as other heart-tissue cells.
Bikramjit Basu at the India Institute of Technology Kanpur contributed to the paper. The Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum, the Hermann Foundation, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, the government of India and California State University funded the research.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

General Motors to Provide $2 Million to Brown to Continue Collaborative Research Laboratory on Computational Materials Science for Next 5 Years

Providence, RI - General Motors will provide $2 million in funding to Brown to continue the GM/Brown Collaborative Research Laboratory on Computational Materials Science for the next five years. The laboratory for computational materials research at Brown University is one of several collaborative research laboratories General Motors has established worldwide to accelerate the pace of innovation in strategic technology areas. The GM/Brown collaboration has existed for about the past ten years.

The goal of the laboratory is to develop computer simulations that predict the mechanical properties of materials used in automotive applications, and to use these simulations to help General Motors to develop materials with enhanced performance.  The computations are guided and verified by experiments.  Over the next five years, the laboratory will continue to focus on the development of lightweight materials, an increasingly important topic for all automotive subsystems because it is a key enabler for developing more energy efficient products.

"The CRL is a unique opportunity for Brown students and faculty to work with one of the best industrial research labs in the world," said Allan Bower, co-director of the CRL.  "By partnering with GM, we can make sure that the latest advances in computer simulation of material behavior are being used to help reduce vehicle weight and improve fuel economy."

Notable achievements of the laboratory include the development of multi-scale simulation methods to predict the influence of chemical composition on the rate sensitivity of aluminum alloys; improved modeling of the behavior of aluminum during forming and of the microstructure evolution in aluminum-silicon alloys; development and experimental validation of computer simulation methods to predict constitutive behavior and microstructure evolution in aluminum alloys; and the development of wear resistant diamond coatings.

At Brown, the lab is led by professor Allan Bower (co-director) and at General Motors, the co-director is Mark Verbrugge. Together, the two co-directors plan the work of the Collaborative Research Lab.

For further information, please see http://www.engin.brown.edu/facilities/GM_CRL

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Most Influential Schools of Engineering on Twitter - Brown is No. 1

Which school of engineering has the most Klout? Engineering schools are tech-savvy, but which has the best managed Twitter account and is engaging with alumni, media and friends on Twitter. 

For the uninitiated, Klout score is a measurement of your overall online influence and ranges from 1 to 100. Klout uses over 35 variables to measure true reach (the size of your engaged audience), amplification probability (the likelihood that your messages will generate actions), and network score (how influential your engaged audience is).

Not surprisingly, some of the universities that top the academic rankings are also among the best at social media. Here’s the breakdown of the top ten:

 47 Brown University School of Engineering
2.  46 Stanford University Engineering 
3.  42 University of Wisconsin-Madison Engineering
4.  40 Iowa State University College of Engineering 
5.  40 Virginia Tech University Engineering
6.  39 University of Michigan Engineering 
 39 Olin College 
8.  38 Ohio State University Engineering 
9.  37 Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
10.  37 University of Washington Engineering 


Monday, May 9, 2011

Professor Huajian Gao to Receive 2011 Charles Russ Richards Memorial Award from ASME

Huajian Gao, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Engineering at Brown University,  has been selected to receive the 2011 Charles Russ Richards Memorial Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) for outstanding achievements in mechanical engineering 20 years or more following graduation. Formal presentation of the award is scheduled to take place during the ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, to be held in Denver, Colorado, from November 11-17, 2011.

The award, established in 1944 by Pi Tau Sigma in coordination with ASME, honors Charles Russ Richards, founder of Pi Tau Sigma at the University of Illinois, former head of mechanical engineering and dean of engineering at the University of Illinois and later president of Lehigh University. He was a member of ASME and served on its Board of Governors. 

Professor Gao received his B.S. degree from Xian Jiaotong University of China in 1982, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Engineering Science from Harvard University in 1984 and 1988, respectively. He served on the faculty of Stanford University between 1988 and 2002, where he was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1994 and to full professor in 2000. He was appointed as Director and Professor at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research in Stuttgart, Germany between 2001 and 2006. He joined Brown University in 2006. Professor Gao has a background in applied mechanics and engineering science. He has more than 20 years of research experience with 200+ publications.

Professor Gao's research group is generally interested in understanding the basic principles that control mechanical properties and behaviors of both engineering and biological systems. His current research includes studies of how metallic and semiconductor materials behave in thin film and nanocrystalline forms, and how biological materials such as bones, geckos, and cells achieve their mechanical robustness through structural hierarchy.

Kristie Chin '11 Named To Capital One Academic All-District Team

Kristie Chin '11, a civil engineering and architectural studies dual concentrator, as well as a standout softball player was recognized for her combination of academic and athletic excellence.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The 2011 Capital One Academic All-District softball teams, selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), have been released to recognize the nation's top student-athletes for the their combined performance on the field and in the classroom. Senior pitcher Kristie Chin (Katy, Texas) was a second team selection for District I. 

A second-team All-Ivy selection last season, Chin led the 2011 Bears with 12 wins, 30 appearances, 23 starts, 19 complete games, two shutouts and 83 strikeouts in 172.2 innings pitched from the circle. The senior also batted .293 over 58 at-bats, racking up eight runs, three doubles and four RBI.

Chin, a civil engineering and architectural studies major, boasts 3.60 GPA. 

Janet Blume wins Karen T. Romer Award for Excellence in Advising

Janet Blume, associate professor of engineering and director of undergraduate programs for the School of Engineering, has been chosen this year to receive the Karen T. Romer Award for excellence in advising. Blume was recognized with the formal presentation of the award on Monday, May 2, at the Teaching Awards Ceremony organized by the Sheridan Center. 

This award was instituted several years ago thanks to a generous gift from the family of Brown trustee Marty Granoff. The purpose is to recognize faculty who have shown exceptional dedication, imagination, and commitment in their mentoring of undergraduates. The students who nominated Professor Blume this year (and in past years) praised her work as an advisor in ways that were truly inspiring.

Originally from Long Island, Professor Blume got her bachelor of science in engineering degree from Princeton University in 1982, followed by a Ph.D. in applied mechanics from the California Institute of Technology in 1986. She immediately joined the faculty in engineering at Brown as a member of the mechanics of solids and structures group, doing research in the mathematical issues in the behavior of solids undergoing large deformations.

Professor Blume has taught many engineering courses in the mechanical and civil engineering areas at all levels of the graduate and undergraduate curricula. She often teaches including both introductory engineering classes, EN 3 and EN4. She advises research theses at all levels.

Professor Blume is actively involved in engineering outreach and leads several programs aimed at bringing engineering topics into math and science education at the pre-college level.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Brown Students Win for Third Consecutive Year at RI Business Plan Competition

warshayBrown professor Danny Warshay's Entrepreneurship & New Ventures ENGN1930x course has translated into great success for students in the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition over the past three years. This year's winner in the student track were Dan Aziz '11, Gordon Hood '11, William Do '12, and Kuni Natsuki '11 who developed the plan for PriWater, a prenatal beverage supplement to help reduce birth defects. Last year, Warshay’s students won with Speramus (www.speramus.com), an online fundraising platform that matches donors with individual support opportunities. The year before, they won with Runa (www.runa.org), a company that produces energy drinks made from the leaves of an Amazonian tree. Runa continues to make excellent progress and has raised over $1 million from investors and has increased distribution into WholeFoods.

Here is the Providence Journal recap of the event:

3 business plans recognized by RIBX competition


01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, May 4, 2011
By Kate Bramson

Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE — Their entrepreneurship professor told the three Brown University undergraduates to think big, and he urged them to get out and talk to the people who would eventually use the product they dreamed of developing in his class.
“Danny preaches bottom-up research,” said senior Robert D. [Dan] Aziz about Prof. Danny Warshay, who has taught the class each of his five years at Brown.
As his students began crafting an idea for a prenatal beverage supplement to give pregnant women the vitamins they need without the nasty side effects of large prenatal pills, junior William Do went to the Whole Foods Market on North Main Street and started chatting with a pregnant woman. She told him women have what they call “horse pills,” but no drink supplement.
Warshay said his students then spoke with 150 pregnant women before developing what they call PriWater. The supplement is designed to reduce birth defects, the reason for prenatal pills.
As Aziz presented the group’s product idea Tuesday in the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition at RIBX 2011, he told a crowd of more than 100 what their research revealed. Only 45 percent of pregnant women take prenatal pills because they’re hard to digest and cause constipation and nausea.
“Overall, women hate them, and if you’re a man, you should just try it for your wife,” Aziz said, drawing laughter as he spoke with ease. “We talk about destroying the horse pill forever.”
The judges of the annual competition agreed that Aziz, Do and Gordon Hood have a good idea. PriWater took the top prize in the student track –– $25,000 in cash and $28,000 in services.
It’s the third year in a row Warshay’s students have walked off with the top student prize at the competition, which attracted 103 applications this year, up from 61 last year.
Their project drew praise from one of the competition’s judges, Stephen Lane, president of Ximedica and a member of the state Economic Development Corporation board.
“We need to mint him,” Lane said of Warshay.
Last year, Warshay’s students won with Speramus, an online fundraising platform that matches donors with individual support opportunities. The year before, they won with Runa, a company that produces energy drinks made from the leaves of an Amazonian tree.
Winning the biggest prize in this year’s competition was AmbiLabs, a Warren company that makes systems to monitor air pollution. Named the “green” winner, AmbiLabs won $50,000 in cash and $26,000 in services.
“I’m astounded that we won,” General Manager Andy Tolley said, noting the “fantastic” field of finalists.
At a reception for winners and finalists, Tolley said the reason AmbiLabs entered the competition was to see if others believed in their idea.
Tolley said his company’s work is gaining traction. The Army recently contacted AmbiLabs about its devices, and the company just took an order to provide a pollution-monitoring device in Saudi Arabia, its first international order.
The third winner — this one in the entrepreneur track — was Lucidux, a Providence venture led by East Providence resident Jason Harry. Lucidux, which also won $25,000 in cash and $28,000 in services, is developing software to provide three-dimensional images to help surgeons perform minimally invasive procedures.
Harry told how Lucidux is working to revolutionize what surgeons see with cameras inserted into patients, essentially eliminating what he calls “one-eyed surgery.”

Brown Professor Alan Needleman will receive the 2011 Timoshenko Medal

Alan Needleman,  emeritus professor of engineering at Brown, will receive the 2011 Timoshenko Medal.
Alan Needleman has been a leading innovator in developing the mechanics of large plastic deformation and  fracture.  His career has been intertwined with the rise of the field of computational solid mechanics.  To this field he has made many significant and lasting contributions, usually as the first to demonstrate that computational approaches are both feasible and likely to yield insight.
Needleman performed the first finite element calculations of void growth and coalescence (in early 1970's), of necking in tensile bars (in 1972), of debonding using models which embed cohesive zones (in 1983), and ductile crack growth using models which simulate void nucleation, growth and coalescence (in the early 80's). There are more major contributions. He was one of the first to perform accurate numerical computation of the development of shear band localizations in realistic geometries, and the pictures of emerging bands which came out of the studies where widely regarded as "classics". He has simulated crack growth patterns, including bifurcation and branching, in the dynamic fracture of brittle materials. Most recently, he originated and still drives the effort to develop computational methods to predict macroscopic stress-strain behavior based on discrete dislocation mechanics. In all these cases, his primary contribution has been to lead the way and to demonstrate the feasibility and power of computational approaches to the particular phenomenon.
Needleman is ranked among the most highly cited researchers worldwide, in both the engineering and materials science categories. He served as Dean of Engineering at Brown University, and on the Executive Committee of the Applied Mechanics Division of ASME. He is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Brown Engineering Hosts "Physical Processes in the Environment” STEM Outreach for Local 4th Graders

On April 29, 2011, approximately fifty children in grade four from the Martin Luther King Elementary School visited the Brown engineering and physics labs of Professor Ian Dell’Antonio, physics graduate student Shawna Hollen, senior technical assistant Brian Corkum, and engineering graduate student Jennet Toyjanova in the Barus and Holley building. The event was organized by Karen Haberstroh '95, Director of STEM Outreach and Assistant Professor of Engineering (Research).

Such tours have further allowed Providence schools to witness graduate fellow and faculty research first-hand, to take advantage of science facilities at the University, and to help bridge the gap between K-12 students and the college experience.

Brown’s Graduate STEM fellows in K-12 education (GK-12) Program “Physical Processes in the Environment” supports Brown graduate fellows who work directly with the Providence Public Schools, along with a series of training and enrichment programs for K-12 teachers and students. Graduate Fellows and partner teachers participate in pedagogical training and professional development workshops, which provide the necessary background for developing and delivering hands-on and research-based activities in line with Rhode Island’s Grade Span Expectations for science. Along with these research-based activities, GK-12 has organized laboratory visits and outreach events on the Brown campus. 

Howard Greis '48; entrepreneur was tirelessly creative; at 85

Howard Greis '48, president of a Worcester-based metal forming technology firm, entrepreneur, and Brown Engineering Alumni Medal recipient in 2002, died on April 21.

Howard Arthur Greis, president of a Worcester-based metal forming technology firm and a former member of the state Board of Education, died April 21 of heart failure in his home in Holden. He was 85.
Mr. Greis went to work on the day he died, and friends and family said he took pride in going to work every day. Colleagues considered him the world’s leading authority on roll forming metals.
“If he were alive today, he would be at his desk solving problems,’’ said Matthew Stepanski, former president of the Central Massachusetts Employer Association. “He was always thinking about the next project.’’
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Greis graduated from East Rockaway (N.Y.) High School in 1943. He entered Brown University through a Navy program prior to attending midshipmen’s school at Notre Dame University. He graduated first in his class and was commissioned as an ensign. He was called into active duty during World War II and was stationed at the Naval Ordnance Lab in Washington, D.C., where he developed rocket fuses.
Mr. Greis returned to Brown, where he was a three-sport athlete, and received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1948. The following year, he earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Harvard University.
Mr. Greis worked for various engineering firms in New Jersey throughout the 1950s, developing products for many industries.
He also began his career as a serial entrepreneur, starting consulting firms HAG & Associates in 1953 and Control Molding Corp. in 1955.
In 1962, Mr. Greis and his wife, the former Virginia Peyton Chivers, started Kinefac Corp. Kinefac, which specializes in metal forming technology, is based in Worcester and has offices in Shanghai. Its work ranges from the forming of wire coils for medical devices to the manufacture of dies and centrifuges used in metalworking.
According to his daughter Leslie of Cambridge, his designs can be seen in a diverse set of products, including mine roof bolts, dental drills, nuclear power plant tie rods, airplane fasteners, and catheter guide wires. Kinefac’s work can be found throughout the world, including, in Paris, the Louvre Museum’s glass pyramid entrance, which is supported by a joint system designed and rolled at Kinefac.
“My father lived the entrepreneurial spirit every day,’’ Leslie said. “He always had a wonderful curiosity about how to create things. At Christmas as a child, I got gifts that I had to get down on the floor and put together, and my father would help.’’
Mr. Greis’s curiosity extended to designing and building the family’s five-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Holden in 1972. The whole family was enlisted in the yearlong project.
“Life was his hobby,’’ Leslie said. “He was enthusiastic about life, whether it was traveling, spending time with his family, or exploring new projects.’’
Mr. Greis wrote many technical articles and papers on mechanical engineering and received numerous industry awards and honors, including the Brown Engineering Alumni Medal given by Brown University for lifetime contributions to the field of engineering in 2002.
Mr. Greis also had a strong interest in education. He was first elected to the Wachusett Regional School Committee in 1965 and became chairman and was one of the original faculty members of the school’s science seminar program, which remains the oldest continuously-run program for gifted students in Massachusetts public high schools. In 1976, he received an appointment from Governor Michael S. Dukakis to serve a five-year term on the Massachusetts Board of Education, and he was appointed for a second term by Governor Edward King.
During his tenure, Mr. Greis dealt with the pressing issues of desegregation and busing in the late 1970s. He was also on the board when it decided to reduce the cost to local communities of implementing the state’s special education law.
Harold M. Lane Jr., a former state representative from Worcester, met Mr. Greis during the 1970s when the latter was working for the Wachusett Regional school system.
“Howard had a strong belief that education would solve everything,’’ Lane said. “He was just as devoted to educating others as he was about running his business, and he gained great respect from others for that.’’
Mr. Greis also believed American industry needed to stay competitive globally in science, engineering, and technology. Locally, he served as a director and vice chairman of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts in Boston and on the advisory board of the mechanical engineering department of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In addition to regularly testifying before Congress and serving on several special interest committees in Washington, in 1986 he cofounded the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences in Ann Arbor, Mich., the largest research and development consortium serving North American manufacturing.
“Howard felt strongly about America not falling behind,’’ said Rick Jarman, the center’s president and chief executive. “What struck me about him was that he was able to envision what new technologies would come in the future, and how our industry needed to adapt 30 years ago. These are all discussions only beginning to be had these days. He was a true American visionary.’’
In addition to his daughter Leslie, Mr. Greis leaves three other children, Noel of Chapel Hill, N.C.; Frederick of Madison, N.J.; and Carolyn of Chevy Chase, Md.; and several grandchildren. His wife died two years ago.A memorial service has been held.
April 30, 2011|By Talia WhyteBoston Globe Correspondent