University of Massachusetts Amherst

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In a continuing pattern of outstanding undergraduate research, two of the six students chosen as Rising Researchers at UMass for the fall of 2016 are engineers. The Rising Researcher program celebrates undergraduate students who excel in research, scholarship, or creative activity. This semester’s outstanding engineering undergrads named on the biannual list are mechanical engineering major Victor Champagne and physics and chemical engineering major Robert Johnston. Having multiple engineering representatives among the Rising Researchers has become something of a tradition over the past few years.

An Integrated Field Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) will be the first offering in a new global partnership between UMass Amherst and Shorelight Education of Boston that will enable international students to earn a master’s degree at one of the top public research universities in the United States. The joint initiative, called UMass Amherst Global, will launch in the summer of 2017. Read UMass News Office release.

This semester the College of Engineering’s Assistant Dean for Experiential Learning, Cheryl Brooks, is teaching a new, four-credit course in community engagement that is not only enabling engineering students to apply their education in very practical ways, but is teaching them to make meaningful social contributions to the Town of Amherst, local community agencies, and the people served by these institutions. In the process, Brooks’ course in “Learning Through Community Engagement” is building bridges between the Town of Amherst and the UMass campus, which is too often smeared by bad publicity.

Last year scientists at UMass Amherst, led by biologist Duncan Irschick, created their Beastcam Array, a rapid-capture, field-portable tabletop system for making high-resolution, full-color 3D models of living organisms. Now Irschick’s team plans to use it in an ambitious effort to create 3D models of many living organisms, including those that face threat of extinction. Two undergraduates from the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department were instrumental in the creation of Beastcam, which has attracted national media attention since its inception.

Erin Baker, a professor in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and director of the Wind Energy IGERT at UMass Amherst, was featured as one of the 10 national experts in WalletHub’s recent study examining this year’s most and least energy-efficient states. Massachusetts was listed as the seventh most energy efficient state, ranking 14th in home energy efficiency, and fifth in automobile energy efficiency. Among other advice in the column, Baker observed that insulation and weather stripping might be the most cost-effective energy saving products for your home. Find the article and all of Baker’s comments.

Professor Wei Fan of the Chemical Engineering Department is part of a research team that has invented a new environmentally friendly soap molecule, made from renewable sources, that can reduce the number of harmful chemicals needed in soap products. Angela Nelson, writing in Mother Nature Network, said that “This new molecule may change cleaning products forever.” Fan was also a co-author of a journal article, recently published in the American Chemical Society's ACS Central Science, which explained the new discovery. Read the paper, “Tunable Oleo-Furan Surfactants by Acylation of Renewable Furans,” on the ACS Central Science website.

Professor Jenna Marquard of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department is the director of the “Human Factors Core” of a five-year, $1.23-million, collaborative grant received by the UMass Amherst College of Nursing from the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) in the National Institutes of Health. The NINR grant was awarded to create the new UManage Center to Build the Science of Symptom Self-Management (UManage),  where scientists and engineers will develop technologies to help people with chronic illness manage fatigue and impaired sleep. See UMass News Office Story on the NINR Grant.

A study done by the UMass Amherst Traffic Safety Research Program (UMassSafe) and completed in June of 2016 finds that seatbelt use is at an all-time high in Massachusetts, but the state still lags behind others in seatbelt use. The study finds that 78.2 percent of drivers and front-seat passengers use seatbelts, up from 67 percent as recently as 2006. Last year the figure was 74 percent. The national average is 88.5 percent. Robin Riessman, associate director of the UMassSafe Program, says seatbelt use has been increasing during the past 10 years, and especially during the last year studied.

Industrial Engineering doctoral student Zana Cranmer, an Offshore Wind Energy IGERT Fellow at UMass Amherst, has received a National Science Foundation Supplement grant of $34,946 from the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources to run a series of workshops at UMass related to science and technology policy. The grant will support a series of workshops, co-organized by Cranmer, to teach science and engineering doctoral students what they need to know about policy making and help them across all fields to collaborate with one another on policy related to science and technology.

The Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory received another shot of good publicity on September 29 at the 2016 Moving Together Conference, which brings together transportation leaders and individuals involved in the areas of planning, public health, bike and pedestrian safety, transit, advocacy, elected office, law enforcement, and education. At that event, Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito visited the HPL booth to try her hand at the lab’s groundbreaking driving simulator – a PC-based program that trains drivers to anticipate potential roadway hazards and to maintain their attention on the forward roadway.

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