University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Professor Jae-Hwang Lee and his graduate students in our Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department have collaborated with other researchers at Washington University in St. Louis to further develop pioneering work on promising new nanocomposites that can be tailored as revolutionary ballistic armor significantly stronger and lighter than current armor materials. Lee and his collaborators authored a January 9 paper on their work in the high-profile materials science journal Nano Letters.

It is with heavy hearts that we post this in memoriam tribute to Cheryl Snead, the first African-American alumna of the UMass Amherst Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department. During her storied career, Ms. Snead was the founder, CEO, and president of Banneker Industries Inc. and an inspirational leader in business, women’s issues, and civil rights. Banneker is a world-class provider of supply chain management solutions, including logistics, headquartered in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, with operations across the United States.

As a 2013 article on in The Economist said about neuromorphic computing (meaning microprocessors configured more like human brains than like traditional chips): “Computers will help people to understand brains better. And understanding brains will help people to build better computers.” In that general context, Professors Joshua Yang and Qiangfei Xia of our Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department led a 24-person international team of researchers that has just published the second of two defining papers on neuromorphic computing, which mimics neuro-biological architectures present in the nervous system in order to build better computing systems.

By some estimates, more than 1,000 American citizens have lost their lives in Puerto Rico as one chilling aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 17, 2017, and the whole island is still imperiled by the immediate risk of waterborne illness due to lack of purified water. In answer to this national emergency, a group of dedicated, highly-principled, and brilliant students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst raised enough money to visit Puerto Rico from January 2 to 14 and carry out an intensive campaign of water purification, water contamination education, the distribution of food and medical supplies, and other forms of physical and emotional support for the ravaged island.

Memristors are basically a fourth class of passive electrical circuit, joining the resistor, the capacitor, and the inductor, which exhibit their unique properties primarily at the nanoscale and represent one of the most promising circuit elements for information storage and processing in future computing technologies. But one major problem with current memristors is their inability to perform effectively at extremely high temperatures, such as those in aircraft engine control systems or in wearable electronics for firefighters.

The Arctic region is among the places on earth most profoundly impacted by recent climate changes. For example, according to the New York Times, each year Greenland loses 270 billion tons of ice as the planet warms, a rate that would contribute about two inches to sea level rise by the end of the century. Now Assistant Professor Colin Gleason of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been awarded a five-year grant of $529,000 from the prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program to make a groundbreaking study of the Arctic hydrologic cycle by using a combination of field work, remote sensing, and computer modelling.

Think about the startling international news stories surrounding the hacking of our American voting files and the Meltdown and Spectre bugs, the two recently announced security flaws that can expose personal data to hackers and could potentially affect Linux systems, along with computers and devices running Windows, Mac, and other operating-system software. These and many other news events prove the resounding importance of cybersecurity in today’s uncertain world.

Four enterprising teams of senior engineering majors have been chosen as winners during the end-of-semester Senior Design Competition for MIE 415, the capstone course for the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department. The evaluation process was carried out both by popular vote of the audience and a panel of expert judges. Accordingly, the team calling itself Instrumented Beehive won the Popular Vote. The Best Semester Project went to EZ Pack Paintbrush, and Kinex Cappers was picked as the Best Year-long Project, with Unified Health coming in an “extremely close” second. 

What will the marvelous future of “connected vehicles” mean for drivers in the real world? To answer this crucial question, Toyota Motor North America Research and Development is collaborating with the University of Massachusetts to award Associate Professor Daiheng Ni of our Civil and Environmental Engineering Department a four-year research grant so he can explore connected vehicle technology. As Professor Ni explains, “The outcome of this research can serve as the input to better powertrain management and further optimize vehicle control that can potentially transform the way that we drive in the future while helping save lives and fuel.”

Professor Lixin Gao of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department has been selected to this year’s list of the Networking Networking Women (N2 Women) “Stars in Computer Networking and Communications,” previously known as “10 women in networking /communications that you should KNOW.” As the N2 Women co-chairs wrote to Gao, “Many people from around the world submitted one or more outstanding nominations for this list, and it was difficult to choose only 10 amazing women. You are one of these incredible women!”