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Research, entrepreneurship at Northeastern celebrated at RISE:2015

Photo of Martha Pearson presenting her research at RISE:2015

Students across the disciplines, including humanities and social sciences, presented their original scholarly research at RISE:2015, Northeastern's annual research expo.

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity stu­dents and fac­ulty on Thursday show­cased their entre­pre­neurial spirit and inno­v­a­tive research projects across many dis­ci­plines atRISE:2015.

The Office of the Provost and the Center for Research Inno­va­tion host the university’s annual research, inno­va­tion, and schol­ar­ship expo, where stu­dents and fac­ulty this year pre­sented more than 400 posters on projects focusing on a score of fields, from marine sci­ence and drug delivery to cyber­se­cu­rity and sustainability.

The event, which was held in the Cabot Center, included Inno­va­tion Alley, an area ded­i­cated to inno­va­tions with high com­mer­cial poten­tial. Many of the research projects fea­tured at RISE:2015 are also working with IDEA, Northeastern’s student-​​run ven­ture accelerator.

At an awards cer­e­mony fol­lowing the expo, Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun con­grat­u­lated stu­dents for their out­standing achieve­ments. He noted Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to use-​​inspired research that solves global chal­lenges in health, secu­rity, and sustainability—the uni­ver­sity three pro­gram­matic pillars—and sug­gested that next year’s cer­e­mony fea­ture an award for research that addresses a grand chal­lenge sub­mitted by industry.

What we are doing here is ter­rific, because we are thinking about how we can take our research to the appli­ca­tion side,” Aoun said.

Indeed, many of the research projects fea­tured at RISE focused on addressing real-​​world chal­lenges, par­tic­u­larly in Northeastern’s three key research areas. Daniel Jamison, E/S’16, a fourth-​​year com­bined major in elec­trical engi­neering and physics, pre­sented his inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research group’s work on devel­oping ultra low-​​cost, sus­tain­able, and com­mer­cially viable solar cells. He noted that today’s solar cells are inef­fi­cient and the cost for sil­icon is quite high. The team, guided by asso­ciate pro­fessor of physics Latika Menon’s workin devel­oping nano­ma­te­rials, is working on a solar cell design that incor­po­rates earth-​​abundant mate­rials such as tita­nium dioxide and iron oxide and fea­tures an arrange­ment of nan­otubes that pro­vide much greater sur­face area to absorb sun­light than other cells with a planer surface.

The team has a “working model,” and Jamison’s research involves testing the pro­to­types’ effi­ciency using a device that sim­u­lates solar energy from the sun.

Neel Shah, E’15, and Tushar Swamy, E/S’15, pre­sented their cyber­se­cu­rity research, which they are con­ducting in Northeastern’s Energy-​​Efficient and Secure Sys­tems Lab. In par­tic­ular, the stu­dent researchers are working to iden­tify coun­ter­mea­sures to pre­vent Web-​​based attacks that target vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties when com­puter sys­tems are run­ning encryp­tion programs.

Sev­eral other fea­tured projects derived from Northeastern’s Aware­ness and Local­iza­tion of Explosives-​​Related Threats, or ALERT Center, a multi-​​university Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity Center of Excel­lence. One, pre­sented by first-​​year engi­neering stu­dent Anthony Bisulco, E’19, focuses on air­port secu­rity screening using a mil­limeter wave radar system to detect poten­tial threats from dis­tances between 10 meters and 40 meters. Mil­limeter waves, Bisulco explained, can pen­e­trate clothing and pro­vide impor­tant infor­ma­tion for dis­tin­guishing poten­tial dielec­tric threats such as explo­sives, and his work aims to improve the imaging res­o­lu­tion on this tech­nology in devel­op­ment at ALERT.

Some projects focused on the human­i­ties. His­tory major Martha Pearson’s research was inspired by her co-​​op at the Uni­ver­sity Libraries Archives and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions, where she explored the inter­play between edu­ca­tion civil rights in Boston and busing deseg­re­ga­tion. Pearson, SSH’15, is now building an online exhibit on how local com­mu­ni­ties and orga­ni­za­tions used numerous methods, from protests to law­suits, to deseg­re­gate busing in Boston.

Many under­grad­uate stu­dents’ projects were the result of col­lab­o­ra­tions with grad­uate stu­dents and fac­ulty. Second-​​year stu­dent Heather Sin, E’18, dis­cussed her research project on using hand­writing analysis to help with early detec­tion of Parkinson’s dis­ease. Not far from Sin, psy­chology major Samantha DiChiara, S’16, pre­sented her work on a study in the Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Affec­tive Sci­ence Lab­o­ra­tory that exam­ines the fac­tors influ­encing someone’s judg­ments of another person’s morality.

Else­where, stu­dents pre­sented research projects in the health sci­ences ranging from devel­oping new HIV pre­ven­tion mea­sures in Kenya to studying smart­phone apps’ effect on weight loss and exploring the cul­ture of con­cus­sion safety in pro­fes­sional lacrosse.

For his research project, archi­tec­ture major Joseph Pucci, AMD’15, set his sights on Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid, with a par­tic­ular focus on where the Olympic Aquatic Center might be built. His project, titled “Beacon Yards: De Novo Urbanism Research Studio,” pro­posed a plan for a tem­po­rary swim­ming and diving facility along the Charles River. Both facil­i­ties, he said, would be incor­po­rated into future design plans so the land would be uti­lized after the Olympics ended.

Envi­ron­mental sci­ences major Ethan Edson, S’15, is working on improving the method of col­lec­tion and analysis of microplastic pol­lu­tion from the ocean. He’s cre­ated a Man­taRay sensor that he said would be easier, cheaper, and more effi­cient to study the ocean’s microplatsic, which is cur­rently col­lected by drag­ging a net behind a boat and seeing what comes out. “There is no modern tech­nology behind it,” Edson said of the cur­rent method. “This would offer the same methods of testing for everyone and set more stan­dard­ized results.”

At the awards cer­e­mony, under­grad­u­ates and grad­uate stu­dents received Out­standing Stu­dent Research Awards in sev­eral cat­e­gories. RISE Awards were also pre­sented in four cat­e­gories: research, inno­va­tion, schol­ar­ship, and people’s choice. Other honors included the Grad­uate Inno­vator Award, the Best Video Pitch Award, and Best Poster Award.

In his remarks before the win­ners were announced, Mel Bern­stein, senior vice provost for research and grad­uate edu­ca­tion, noted that the RISE event “each year gets more and more exciting, and is a strong indi­ca­tion of the incred­ible quality of schol­ar­ship, research, and entre­pre­neurial activ­i­ties at Northeastern.”

– By Greg St. Martin. Staff writer Joe O’Connell con­tributed to this story.

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