The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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A wave of media coverage is only the latest accomplishment in an amazing two years of productivity for research collaborators Qiangfei Xia and Joshua Yang of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department. Media stories by Science & Technology Research News and other outlets topped off a 2018 campaign in which the two ECE professors published eight pioneering articles in major Nature research journals, following a productive 2017 when they published six papers in those journals.

Four engineering and computer science students have conceived a startup company with the goal of circulating life-saving vending machines that can dispense over-the-counter medicine 24 hours a day to anyone with a pressing ailment, such as fever, diarrhea, indigestion, or aches and pains. The team called TransPharm will be competing in at least two entrepreneurship competitions in the coming weeks, and has already been selected as a finalist in one.

The Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department recently held its fall-semester poster contest, and the three winning teams produced a trio of brilliant and practical inventions aimed at solving key engineering problems. The three winning teams conceived an inexpensive and comfortable alternative to ski boots, an assistive steering aid for a physically challenged young boy and his power chair, and a nifty wheelchair brake redesign.

A December 22 article in the Boston Globe reported on Assistant Professor Jungwoo Lee and his colleagues in the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department at UMass Amherst who are developing microenvironments that allow them to study how cancer cells that move around in the human body change from dormant to active, and also what causes or prevents that change. Understanding this process, the researchers say, could lead to new treatments that prevent cancer from metastasizing throughout the body. See News Office release.

Five College of Engineering Students recently participated in the first ever co-op program run by the Coca-Cola plant in Northampton, and, because of their superior performance, they were each asked to make five-minute presentations to 11 company plant managers from the Northeast region and one vice-president from the Eastern U.S. “This is Coca-Cola’s first iteration of its co-op program,” explained co-op participant and mechanical engineering major Michael Schwartz, “and the company as a whole is looking to possibly expand this program to other plants across the nation based on the success the UMass students in Northampton.”

Qiangfei Xia and Joshua Yang of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department lead a 17-person research team that has published a paper titled "Long short-term memory networks in memristor crossbar arrays" in Nature Machine Intelligence, a new Nature research journal launched in January of 2019 and covering a wide range of topics in machine learning, robotics, and artificial intelligence. This Nature Machine Intelligence paper demonstrates that memristor crossbar arrays can address bottlenecks in traditional long short-term memory (LSTM) units, with crucial applications such as data prediction, natural language understanding, machine translation, speech recognition, and video surveillance.

Michael Knodler Jr., a professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the director of the UMass Transportation Center, has been selected to receive a UMass Public Engagement Project (PEP) Fellowship for the coming year. “It is with great pleasure that I write to you on behalf of the PEP program to offer you a Spring 2019 Faculty Fellowship,” wrote Dr. Lisa M. Troy, the director of the PEP Fellowship Program and director of the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. “This award is a strong expression of our organization's confidence in your potential to reach broader publics with your research.”

A team of researchers led by Jungwoo Lee, an assistant professor in the Chemical Engineering Department and an investigator in the Institute for Applied Life Sciences, has developed an implantable biomaterial that recruits rare tumor cells and enables long-term observation of their micro-environmental evolution, according to highlights in Science Translational Medicine and Nature Biomedical Engineering. The Science Translational Medicine highlight explained that this approach could offer a method for quantitative evaluation of therapeutics that target long-term suppression of metastasis.

Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering Timothy J. Anderson is stepping down as dean of the College of Engineering, effective January 6. Anderson, who has served as dean since 2013, will continue as a member of the faculty. Meanwhile, Christopher Hollot, a professor and the head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department, has been named interim dean at the College of Engineering.

This semester Professor Shelly Peyton of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department instituted a new, sophomore-level course that gives ChE majors the kind of hands-on experience in lab experimentation that is distinctive for this department or any other in the country. And Peyton believes this hands-on lab will have a long-lasting impact on the future careers of the students who take it.

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