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A record-setting day for Research Expo

A process for converting plastic waste into clean energy, a novel, low-cost method for treating contaminated groundwater, and a computer game meant to improve driving skills were among the dazzling array of student research projects on display Wednesday at Northeastern University’s Research and Scholarship Expo 2010.

Some 320 posters — the most ever for the annual event — highlighted research in disciplines such as health, engineering, architecture, sustainability and history. The event, held in the Cabot Physical Education Center, was powerful evidence of the strong culture of use-inspired research embedded in the Northeastern community.

“The scope of the research represented here is terrific,” President Joseph Aoun told presenters and visitors. “This is ultimately what we are all about.”

The expo was the culmination of months of work and planning as researchers not only advanced their projects, but also focused on translating their findings to presentations.

Tanvi Chitnis, who is pursuing her master’s degree in computer systems engineering, is developing a computer game that helps new drivers identify potential hazards on the road.

“Younger drivers tend to look straight ahead and not (use) their peripheral vision,” Chitnis explained.

Senior biology major Heather Gardiner showed her work developing a large-scale method to purge contaminated groundwater of harmful vinyl chloride compounds to prevent them from affecting clean water wells. Her solution? To introduce bacteria that, when exposed to oxygen underground, would multiply and degrade the cancer-causing contaminants.

The expo is “a really good way to bring awareness (of Northeastern research) to students and faculty,” said Gardiner.

David Laskowski was on a team of four mechanical engineering seniors who developed a method for turning plastic waste into energy — cleanly and efficiently — using a self-sustaining pyrolysis/combustion system. When applied at a newly designed power plant, the technology could provide a renewable energy source to the world.

“There is a lot of (plastic) out there that isn’t being disposed of cleanly,” Laskowski said.

Northeastern Vice Provost for Research Kenneth Blank said, “The quality and the enthusiasm that we see for the (research and creative) activity that is happening on campus are just incredible. The energy that is generated throughout this day is something that we need to celebrate.”

Following the poster presentations, awards were presented to undergraduate and graduate students to spotlight extraordinary research projects.

The undergraduate winners included:

– Jason Chrisos, Caitlyn Bintz, Drew Lentz, Andrew Clark and Avi Bajpai for their project, “ATLAS Bimanual Rehabilitation System: A Low-Cost Smart Glove System for Virtual Rehabilitation.”
Advisors: Constantinos Mavroidis and Maureen Holden

– Dylan Wiwchar, Stephen Clark, Daniel Boothby and Ken Chatham for their project, “High-Intensity Inspiratory Muscle Training Improves Skating Performance and Maximal Oxygen Consumption in Division 1 College Ice Hockey Players.”
Advisors: Lawrence Cahalin and Paul Canavan

– Melissa Miranda forthe project, “Courtyard Housing Prototype: Promoting Social Interaction.”
Advisor: Elizabeth Christoferetti

View all of theaward recipientshere:

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