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In this year’s Senior Design Project competition, held annually as the culminating event in the capstone course (ECE 415 and ECE 416) of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, five innovative and eye-catching projects caught the attention of the judges and the audience. Dual Play scored a double whammy by winning first place in the overall competition, along with a People’s Choice second place. Helping Hand, the second place winner in the overall competition, also won first place in the People’s Choice voting. The other prize-winning teams were Smart Desk (third place in overall competition), A-C-C-E-S-S (Coordinator’s Choice Award), and Alfred (People’s Choice third place).

According to the campus News Office, Lixin Gao of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department was one of three faculty members at UMass Amherst who were appointed Distinguished Professors following approval by the Board of Trustees at its June 20 meeting. The title Distinguished Professor is conferred on select, highly accomplished faculty who have already achieved the rank of professor and who meet a demanding set of qualifications.

Aclarity, a startup company based on a transformative water-treatment discovery by doctoral student Julie Bliss Mullen of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, was profiled in June by Forbes Magazine and BostInno. Aclarity is one of 30 startups chosen by the Los Angeles-based Cleantech Open for its 2018 business acceleration program. Mullen and Barrett Mully, a UMass Amherst MBA student, founded Aclarity in 2017 and won $26,000 last year from the Innovation Challenge, an entrepreneurship contest run by Berthiaume Center at the Isenberg School of Management.

Panos Pantidis , a Ph.D. student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department, won first place in the Engineering Mechanics Institute’s (EMI) Student Paper Competition in Objective Resilience, held during the EMI 2018 Conference from May 29 to June 1 at M.I.T. in Cambridge. His paper develops a novel analytical framework capable of assessing the collapse mode and describing the damage propagation path of steel and concrete composite buildings under the extreme scenario of progressive collapse, thus giving civil engineers a valuable new analytical tool. His advisor is CEE Assistant Professor Simos Gerasimidis.

Ashish Kulkarni, an assistant professor in the Chemical Engineering Department (ChE) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and head of the Kulkarni Research Group there, is the lead author of a paper published online on July 2 in Nature Biomedical Engineering, a high-impact engineering journal in the prestigious Nature Group. The newly published paper describes pioneering research on some of the body’s natural immune cells called macrophages, which cancer cells routinely subvert and enlist to suppress the body’s immune response to cancer.

The Walls & Ceilings website reported that Super Stud Building Products has donated cold-formed steel framing system materials for a study being conducted by Assistant Professor Kara Peterman of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. Peterman’s study, which will be conducted throughout the summer, will explore the structural response of cold-formed steel stud assemblies to partial bearing conditions (i.e., not fully bearing on a concrete slab). Peterman was recently recognized for her work with cold-formed steel framing when she won the prominent 2018 Norman Medal, the highest honor granted by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Microbial resistance by so-called “superbugs” living in hospital environments causes 2-million U.S. infections and 23,000 deaths a year. Now hospital superbugs can be destroyed by covering bed rails, door knobs, and other surfaces with coating material inspired by a shark’s skin, according to new research led by UMass Amherst polymer scientist James Watkins and Chemical Engineering Professor Jessica Schiffman, along with a team of their graduate students. The research has been reported in a paper available online in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

See News Office release and related articles in Health Medicine Network, IEEE Engineering 360, Science and Technology Research News.

Feature writer Scott Merzbach reported in the Daily Hampshire Gazette that a transformative water-treatment discovery by doctoral student Julie Bliss Mullen of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department is the basis for a promising startup company named Aclarity LLC, a UMass Amherst spinoff that is developing technology to remove contaminants from water in a cost-effective way. Mullen and Barrett Mully, a UMass Amherst MBA student, founded Aclarity in 2017 and won $26,000 last year from the Innovation Challenge, an entrepreneurship contest run by Berthiaume Center at the Isenberg School of Management.

Kim Renier, the director of finance and administration on the UMass College of Engineering Business Office, is the 2018 winner of the esteemed Dean’s Service Award. As one of Renier’s colleagues summed up her intrinsic value to the whole college, “She is a critical resource for the dean, associate deans, department heads, administrative officers, and everyone who comes in contact with her for information and guidance. Quite simply, we couldn’t do our jobs without her.”

On May 17, UMass Amherst’s brand new 36-foot-long, water-testing trailer was rolled out at the State House in Boston for lawmakers and officials to see, marvel at, and extol. The name of the revolutionary trailer lab is the “University of Massachusetts Amherst Mobile Water Innovation Laboratory,” which was funded with a $100,000 grant by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the New England Water Innovation Network. The trailer allows scientists to move around the state and conduct reliable water tests that can transform the way local communities treat their water.

See media coverage: MassLive, Gazette, WAMC, WesternMassNews

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