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Thu, 04/14/2016 | UW Today

Scientists crack secrets of the monarch butterfly’s internal compass

The secrets of the internal, genetically encoded compass that the monarchs use to determine the direction they should fly each fall have been revealed by a research team that includes assistant professor Eli Shlizerman (EE, Math). "Their compass integrates two pieces of information — the time of day and the sun's position on the horizon — to find the southerly direction," said Shlizerman, who partnered with colleagues at the University of Michigan and the University of Massachusetts to model how the monarch’s compass is organized within its brain.

Thu, 04/14/2016 | UW Today

UW team stores digital images in DNA — and retrieves them perfectly

A team of UW engineering and Microsoft researchers has detailed one of the first complete systems to encode, store — and retrieve — digital data using DNA molecules, which can store information millions of times more compactly than current archival technologies. Authors of the paper are UW doctoral students James Bornholt (CSE) and Randolph Lopez (BioE ), UW associate professors Luis Ceze (CSE) and Georg Seelig (EE, CSE), and Microsoft researchers and UW CSE affiliate faculty Doug Carmean and Karin Strauss.

Fri, 04/08/2016 | UW Today

UW-led research team wins $7.5M MURI grant to defend against advanced cyberattacks

A research team led by Radha Poovendran has won a $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to better model and mount defenses against stealthy, continuous computer hacking attacks known as "advanced persistent threats."

"... these threats exploit vulnerabilities and persist over a very long time and they're very difficult to detect," said Poovendran, chair of UW Electrical Engineering and director of the Network Security Lab, which he founded in 2001. "Right now, there is no good understanding of the interactions in these complex cyberattacks or how to mitigate them."

The MURI team also includes UW co-investigator and electrical engineering associate professor Maryam Fazel.

Wed, 04/06/2016 | UW Today

Rajesh Rao wins 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship

Rajesh Rao is among 3 UW professors and 178 U.S. and Canadian scholars, artists, and scientists recognized this year by the Guggenheim Foundation.

Rao is the director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, a professor of computer science & engineering, and an adjunct professor in the electrical engineering and bioengineering departments. His research spans the areas of computational neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and brain-computer interfacing. With his collaborators, he has proposed theories of how the brain might work based on computational ideas such as predictive coding, Bayesian modeling and reinforcement learning. He has proposed new methods for robotic learning based on how children learn by watching and imitating others. Rao's group was the first to demonstrate direct brain control of a humanoid robot in 2006 and direct brain-to-brain communication between humans in 2013.

Read more: Guggenheim Fellowship » | UW CSE announcement

Tue, 04/05/2016 | UW Today

UW joins public-private partnership for flexible electronics

The UW has joined NextFlex, a consortium of 30 academic institutions and industrial partners to develop the next generation of flexible electronic devices. In addition to use of NextFlex’s Silicon Valley infrastructure and funding, the UW and its industry partners could combine funds, personnel, time, materials and facilities. Prof. J. Devin MacKenzie (ME, MSE, CEI) helped secure funding for NextFlex. As a founding member of this alliance, the UW will seek local and regional partners in the electronics and manufacturing industries to develop and produce flexible electronics for applications from medicine to transportation.

Mon, 04/04/2016 | UW Today

The Twittersphere does listen to the voice of reason — sometimes

HCDE's emCOMP lab has found that tweets from "official accounts" can slow the spread of rumors on Twitter and correct misinformation that’s taken on a life of its own. "Avoiding social media channels because you don't want to be confronted with misinformation is a real danger for an organization. You're essentially opening up a space for information to be spreading without your voice being a part of it." – Kate Starbird, UW assistant professor of human-centered design and engineering

Tue, 03/29/2016 | UW Faculty and Staff News

2016 UW Awards of Excellence honor 3 engineering faculty

Three engineering faculty will be honored for achievements in teaching and mentoring at the 2016 Awards of Excellence. Joe P. Mahoney (CEE), will receive the Distinguished Contributions to Lifelong Learning Award. Wendy Thomas (BioE) and Cole DeForest (ChemE) will receive Distinguished Teaching Awards. They will honored, along with other faculty and staff awardees, on June 9 at a ceremony in Meany Hall for the campus and general public.

Tue, 03/15/2016 | UW Today

Smartwatches can now track your finger in mid-air using sonar

Mobile and wearable devices are shrinking to the size of a matchbook, making it tough for people to interact with screens. FingerIO tracks fine-grained finger movements by turning a smartphone or smartwatch into an active sonar system using the device’s own microphones and speakers.

In a paper

to be presented in May at the Association for Computing Machinery’s CHI 2016 conference, the UW team demonstrates that FingerIO can accurately track two-dimensional finger movements to within 8mm, which is sufficiently accurate to interact with today’s mobile devices. The work was recognized with an honorable mention award by the conference. Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, a UW doctoral student in computer science and engineering, is the lead author.

Tue, 03/08/2016 | UW Today

Family technology rules: What kids expect of parents

Put your phone away when I’m talking to you. Don’t text while you’re driving — not even at red lights. Stop posting photos of me without my permission.

A new study from Human Centered Design   Engineering Ph.D. student Alexis Hiniker, HCDE Professor Julie Kientz, and University of Michigan Professor Sarita Schoenebeck looks at the increasing prevalence of technology use in family life. In a survey of parent-child pairs across the United States, the team discovered what types of internet and smartphone rules families are establishing, and how easy or difficult the rules are for both parents and children to follow.

Mon, 02/29/2016 | UW Today

Doctor, patient expectations differ on fitness and lifestyle tracking

HCDE researchers found doctors lack the tools and capacity to interpret a deluge of fitness, food and lifestyle data that patients are self-tracking. In a study that won a best paper award and will be presented at the ACM conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, the UW team surveyed 211 patients and interviewed 21 doctors, dietitians and other health care providers about their expectations for how patients' self-tracking data should be shared and used.

"We've heard doctors say more and more that people bring this data into the clinic and they’re just overwhelmed by it," said lead author Christina Chung, a UW doctoral student in Human Centered Design & Engineering. The team, which includes UW physicians, computer scientists and engineers, is exploring ways to make self-tracking data more clinically useful and to help health care providers and patients collaboratively engage with it.

Mon, 02/29/2016 | UW Today

NASA data used to track groundwater in Pakistan

UW civil and environmental engineers helped Pakistani water managers access free NASA satellite data to monitor groundwater changes in Pakistan's vast farmland areas, where setting up a traditional monitoring network had taken nearly eight years in one province alone.

"Satellites up in space looking at how much water we have underground, in rivers or in the atmosphere are providing routine observations that can help policymakers and on-the-ground managers make informed decisions," said Faisal Hossain, UW associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. "From offering improved flood forecasting to indicating areas where groundwater resources are threatened, freely available satellite data can be an invaluable resource, particularly in developing countries." Hossain runs the UW Sustainability, Satellites, Water and Environment Research Group.

Thu, 02/25/2016 | UW Today

Driverless cars could increase reliance on roads

A CEE study predicts a 5 to 60 percent increase in car energy consumption due to people choosing to use highly automated cars in cases where they would have previously taken trains or planes.

“There is a lot of hype around self-driving cars, much of it somewhat utopian in nature. But there are likely to be positives and negatives,” said Don MacKenzie, a UW assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering who co-authored the study. “By taking a clear-eyed view, we can design and implement policies to maximize the benefits and minimize the downsides of automated vehicles.”

Wed, 02/24/2016 | UW Today

Clean, efficient cookstoves from UW-industry partnership to be manufactured in Kenya

An efficient and clean wood-burning cookstove developed by a local non-profit lab in close collaboration with UW mechanical engineers will reduce the amount of fuel rural families in the developing world need to collect or buy and reduce exposure to harmful particulate pollution produced by traditional cooking flames.

The new wood-burning cookstove will be manufactured in BURN Manufacturing’s factory in Nairobi, Kenya beginning this summer and sold across East Africa. “If women have to collect twice as much wood to cook their food, then they’re spending less time raising themselves out of poverty,” said Jonathan Posner, UW associate professor of mechanical engineering and principal investigator of the Department of Energy-funded Clean Cookstove Lab at the UW.

Tue, 02/23/2016 | UW Today

UW engineers achieve Wi-Fi at 10,000 times lower power

UW computer scientists and electrical engineers have generated "passive" Wi-Fi transmissions that use 10,000 times less power than current methods that drain the batteries on connected devices.

The new Passive Wi-Fi system also consumes 1,000 times less power than existing energy-efficient wireless communication platforms, such as Bluetooth Low Energy and Zigbee. A paper describing those results will be presented in March at the 13th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation.

Thu, 02/18/2016 | UW Today

Three UW professors win Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Two UW engineering professors have received the 2016 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor given by the U.S. government to early career scientists and engineers.

Shwetak Patel, a nationally recognized expert in sensor systems research who directs the UW’s UbiComp Lab, was cited for "inventing low-cost, easy-to-deploy sensor systems that leverage existing infrastructures to enable users to track household energy consumption and make the buildings we live in more responsive to our needs."

Luke Zettlemoyer's research explores the intersection of natural language processing, machine learning and decision making under uncertainty. In his nomination, he was cited for his "outstanding research accomplishments in computational semantics" that "have the potential to completely revolutionize how we retrieve information and interact with computers."

Fri, 02/12/2016 | UW Today

UW scientists create ultrathin semiconductor heterostructures for new technological applications

A team led by Boeing Distinguished Associate Professor Xiaodong Xu successfully combined two different ultrathin semiconductors — each just one layer of atoms thick and roughly 100,000 times thinner than a human hair — to make a new two-dimensional heterostructure with potential uses in clean energy and optically-active electronics. The team announced its findings in a paper published Feb. 12 in the journal Science. "What we’re seeing here is distinct from heterostructures made of 3-D semiconductors," said Xu, who has a joint appointment in the Department of Physics. "We've created a system to study the special properties of these atomically thin layers and their potential to answer basic questions about physics and develop new electronic and photonic technologies."

Mon, 02/08/2016 | UW Today

UW's Tom Anderson elected to National Academy of Engineering

Tom Anderson, a UW professor of computer science and engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. The academy cited Anderson's "contributions to the design of resilient and efficient distributed computer systems." Anderson's research interests span all aspects of building practical, robust, and efficient computer systems — including distributed systems, operating systems, computer networks, multiprocessors, security and educational software.

Also elected are UW civil engineering alumnus Jon Magnusson and computer science alumnus Albert Greenberg.

Fri, 02/05/2016 | UW Today

‘On-ramping’ paves the way for women scientists, engineers to return to academia

To widen the pool of women faculty in STEM, UW researchers and leaders have explored strategies to encourage women scientists and engineers with industry or government experience to transition into academia. Ten women who participated in the UW's On-Ramps into Academia workshops and made the leap were interviewed about the challenges and rewards and also the support that made it easier. Initial concerns included having spent more time developing products than publishing papers, not being able to discuss their work because of intellectual property concerns, or having been outnumbered by men when they were getting their doctorate degrees. Ultimately, though, the women found other dimensions of an academic career attractive enough to want to return.

Authors of a paper recently published in the Journal of Technology Transfer are Eve Riskin, a professor in EE and associate dean for diversity and access at the UW College of Engineering and UW iSchool Ph.D. student Katie O’Leary, ADVANCE director Joyce Yen, and professor of bioengineering Matt O’Donnell.

Mon, 01/25/2016 | UW Today

New handheld, pen-sized microscope could ID cancer cells in doctor’s offices and operating rooms

ME researchers are developing a handheld microscope to help differentiate healthy and cancerous cells in an office setting or operating room. "Being able to zoom and see at the cellular level during the surgery would really help them to accurately differentiate between tumor and normal tissues and improve patient outcomes," said ME Assistant Professor Jonathan Liu. The handheld microscope, roughly the size of a pen, combines technologies in a novel way to deliver high-quality images at faster speeds than existing devices. Researchers expect to begin testing it as a cancer-screening tool in clinical settings next year.

Wed, 01/20/2016 | UW Today

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi sensing from mobile devices may help improve bus service

CEE researchers have developed an inexpensive system to sense Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals from bus passengers' mobile devices and collect data to build better transit systems. They tested it on UW shuttle buses last spring. "Let's say you have a Husky game or Seahawks game and you want to know how much demand changes so you can offer the right level of bus service for this special event," said senior author Yinhai Wang, a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium, or PacTrans.

Tue, 01/19/2016 | UW Today

Twenty-seven UW faculty listed among ‘world’s most influential scientific minds’ by Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters has selected five Engineering faculty members for their list of elite, highly cited scientific researchers. The researchers were selected "based on their respective output of top-cited papers in their fields... the scientists who have won acclaim and approval within a key population: their peers."

Fri, 01/15/2016 | UW Today

Stir no more: UW scientists show that draining speeds up bioassays

BioE researchers have shortened the wait time in detecting cellular proteins and DNA. Inspired by studies of fluid dynamics, Xiaohu Gao's team worked around the commonly used and sometimes days-long staining process in which detector molecules bind to their targets to produce a visible color change. Instead of waiting for detector molecules to drift through solution to a target at the bottom, Gao's team allowed detector molecules close to the surface to bind. Then they drained the solution from the plate, mixed it, put it back, and repeated this cycle dozens of times — which they call 'cyclic solution draining and replenishing' and resembles a washing machine's function.

Tue, 01/12/2016 | UW Today

UW computer scientists to make financial products better and more available for the poor

A new CSE research group is to improve financial products — such as money remittances and savings accounts — for the lowest-income people around the world. With a $1.7 million, two-year grant awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Digital Financial Services Research Group will be established to investigate and overcome technological barriers to widespread adoption of mobile financial services. "This technology can have tremendous impact — both for allowing people to send remittances from the city back to rural regions, and to establish savings accounts so people can have reserves so that an event like an accident or a pregnancy doesn’t send them over the edge," said Richard Anderson, professor of computer science and engineering.

Mon, 01/11/2016 | UW Today

New master of applied bioengineering to prepare students for translational research

The 1-year program will train students to apply engineering design and entrepreneurship skills to address unmet clinical needs and to transform biomedical research into technologies for improving health care. The degree will position graduates to respond to market-based demands of industry, medicine and translational research. "Our industry partners tell us they want graduates who have hands-on experience, and practice working in teams and solving real-world problems in a clinical environment," said Wendy Thomas, vice chair of academic affairs and associate professor of bioengineering. "Our graduates will also have practice working with all constraints of the business environment and the communication skills needed to facilitate a team of engineers, scientists, clinicians, business and venture capital investors."

Mon, 01/11/2016 | UW Today

UW center receives $16M to work on first implantable device to reanimate paralyzed limbs

Implantable devices that send signals between regions of the brain or nervous system have potential to improve or even restore mobility for people who have suffered a spinal cord injury or stroke. That’s the mission driving the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, a UW-led effort that includes researchers from MIT, San Diego State, and other partners. The goal is to achieve proof-of-concept demonstrations in humans within the next five years, Rao said. This will lay the groundwork for eventual clinical devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration, in collaboration with the center’s industry partners.