Liveblog: RISE showcases university’s research and entrepreneurial spirit

And the winners are…

April 7, 2016 5:51 pm by Matthew McDonald

Photo by Matthew Modoono/​Northeastern University

The breadth and depth of Northeastern’s research and entre­pre­neurial spirit was on full dis­play Thursday at RISE:2016, the university’s Research, Inno­va­tion, and Schol­ar­ship Expo. Industry leaders judged some 400 projects, which detailed the work of more than 900 North­eastern stu­dents and fac­ulty. The judges sub­mitted their rat­ings and the top award win­ners were rec­og­nized at an after­noon recep­tion in East Village.

“We are very proud of you,” Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun said in addressing the award recip­i­ents. “I was talking to some of the judges and they were men­tioning the pas­sion. Some were talking about the bigger ideas that they saw.”

Photo by Matthew Modoono/​Northeastern University

And now, here are this year’s award winners:

RISE Awards

Excel­lence in Research: Mansi Jain: Auto­mated Diag­nostic System for Gas­tric Cancer

Excel­lence in Inno­va­tion: John de la Parra: Biosyn­thesis of Plant-​​Derived Pharmaceuticals

Excel­lence in Schol­ar­ship: Sarah Solomon: Housing the Boston Homeless

Greatest Entre­pre­neurial Poten­tial: Colin Bernardo: 3D Scan­ning of Neu­roanatom­ical Structures

Grad­uate Inno­vator Award: Joshua Martin: Devel­oping Hier­ar­chi­cally Rein­forced Com­pos­ites Vi

Best Video Pitch: Jacob Ganley: Func­tion­al­izing Anti­bodies Using Flow Chemistry

Out­standing Stu­dent Research Awards

Com­puter and Infor­ma­tion Sciences

Under­grad­uate: Keith Har­ri­gian: Anonymity and Gender Infer­ence on Reddit

Grad­uate: Mansi Jain: Auto­mated Diag­nostic System for Gas­tric Cancer

Engi­neering and Technology

Under­grad­uate: Quan Do: A Sensor-​​Based App for Video Game Play

Grad­uate: Joshua Martin: Devel­oping Hier­ar­chi­cally Rein­forced Com­pos­ites Vi

Health Sci­ences

Under­grad­uate: Alyssa Long: Phar­macy Stu­dent Inter­ac­tions with Minority Groups

Grad­uate: Julie Goff: Gross Motor Group Effects on Chil­dren with ASD

Human­i­ties and Arts

Under­grad­uate: Sarah Solomon: Housing the Boston Homeless

Grad­uate: Joseph di Bella: Re-​​thinking Structure

Phys­ical and Life Sciences

Under­grad­uate: Joseph Chung: Devel­op­ment of a Flu­o­res­cent Western Blot of CFTR

Grad­uate: John de la Parra: Biosyn­thesis of Plant-​​Derived Pharmaceuticals

Social Sci­ences, Busi­ness, and Law

Under­grad­uate: Amelie Desrosiers: Path­ways to Progress

Grad­uate: Matthew Murry: Attach­ment and Emo­tion Per­cep­tion Across Adulthood

Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Topics

Under­grad­uate: Shawn Jones: Triton SCUBA Diving Prosthetic

Grad­uate: Michael Williams: Human in the Loop Debris Collection

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

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If you’re reading this on your smartphone…

April 7, 2016 4:55 pm by Greg St. Martin

Photo by Adam Glanzman/​Northeastern University

Almost every­where you look nowa­days, you’re likely to find someone staring down at a smart­phone. At RISE, two North­eastern phys­ical therapy stu­dents pre­sented their research on how this prac­tice may impact people’s posture—and pos­sibly lead to mus­cu­loskeletal disorders.

For their study, Nicholas Ing, BHS’16, and Kelsey Jonas, BHS’17, observed 1,052 college-​​aged people in a variety of loca­tions in Boston—including cafes, libraries, stu­dent cen­ters, and MBTA stations—and recorded which type of device they were using as well as their pos­ture (including neck, spine, hips, shoulder, elbow, forearm, and wrists), and whether they were sit­ting or standing. The majority of people were using smart­phones (63 per­cent) or lap­tops (33.6 percent).

They observed that across devices, 83 per­cent had a flexed neck and 73 per­cent had a flexed spine. They also noticed that more than half of the people’s wrists were in a cocked, or non-​​neutral, posi­tion. “All of these put together can, over time, affect your body and poten­tially cause injuries,” Jonas said. She said the study could lead to future research looking into how this will affect people over time as well as poten­tial health interventions.

Mean­while, two other phys­ical therapy students—Ranjana Kanungo, BHS’16, and Jef­frey San­scha­grin, BHS’17—presented their research focused on improving reha­bil­i­ta­tion for patients with chronic ankle insta­bility using a robotic device devel­oped by their fac­ulty advisor, assis­tant pro­fessor Sheng-​​Che Yen. The stu­dents explained that people with chronic ankle insta­bility walk with a more inverted ankle, thereby pre­dis­posing them­selves to sprains. The robotic device is driven by air mus­cles and helps the patient safely restore his normal ankle posi­tion while walking.

They first tested the device on healthy patients, and the next step would be to test this on patients with chronic ankle insta­bility. They said it would also improve upon a cur­rent reha­bil­i­ta­tion inter­ven­tion that uti­lizes a bal­ance training board. “It’s inter­esting to see how our pro­fes­sion will change as more robotics become a part of rehab,” Kanungo said.

RISE, in their own words

April 7, 2016 4:49 pm by Northeastern News
More than 900 inno­v­a­tive and entre­pre­neurial North­eastern stu­dents and fac­ulty took part in RISE:2016. Here, in their own words, a few of these stu­dents share their research.
Video by Shirin Mozaffari/​Northeastern University

The mindfulness meditation app

April 7, 2016 4:41 pm by Jason Kornwitz
Student-​​athletes face a unique set of stres­sors that can work to com­pro­mise their overall well-​​being, according to Peter Ward, PhD’19.

After con­ducting a com­pre­hen­sive lit­er­a­ture review of the 2010 NCAA GOALS study and others looking at risk fac­tors impacting col­lege ath­letes, he dis­cov­ered that it’s not uncommon for them to miss class and spend up to 80 hours per week on sports and academics.

“Student-​​athletes report more stress than non-​​athletes in terms of romantic rela­tion­ships, decreased sleep, and demand of extracur­ric­ular activ­i­ties,” said Ward, a doc­toral stu­dent in the coun­seling psy­chology pro­gram who pre­sented his find­ings at RISE:2016.

To reduce neg­a­tive health out­comes among col­lege ath­letes and non-​​athletes alike, Ward is working with assis­tant pro­fessor Mariya Shikyo to develop a mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion app.

The app—titled “Just Be”—is being piloted in four classes this semester, giving 100 stu­dents the chance to get in touch with their inner Zen. It com­prises eight audio record­ings that guide users through as many dif­ferent exer­cises, including breathing and body scan meditations.

“Ath­letic teams often think out­side the box when it comes to their training,” Ward said, “and this app can be another tool for them to tackle their stress.”

Before and after disaster

April 7, 2016 4:32 pm by Greg St. Martin

Photo by Adam Glanzman/​Northeastern University

For their senior cap­stone project, four mechan­ical engi­neering students—Brian Bern­stein, Jonathan Brown, Dale Jordan, and Max Sobel, all E’16—focused on cre­ating a low-​​cost, quickly deploy­able solu­tion for helping to mit­i­gate prop­erty damage during wild­fires. They designed what they’re calling FireNet, a 6-​​meter-​​tall struc­ture with alu­minum poles as frames and a stain­less steel woven mesh net. Once a wild­fire breaks out, the idea would be to stake one or more FireNets into the ground in front of build­ings to block out embers, which can travel large dis­tances by wind.

Early sim­u­la­tions have shown the frame is able to with­stand the force of 60 mph winds and tem­per­a­tures of 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Only steps away from this group, grad­uate stu­dent Michael Williams, MS’17, pre­sented his inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research team’s work that is focused on opti­mizing the response to another type of disaster—after the event hap­pens. Specif­i­cally, the team of stu­dents and fac­ulty is com­bining math­e­mat­ical mod­eling and human-​​in-​​the-​​loop exper­i­ments to address how best to col­lect and clear debris from roads after man-​​made explo­sions or nat­ural dis­as­ters like earthquakes.

By lever­aging the fields of oper­a­tions research, game design, and com­puter sci­ence, the team is devel­oping a video game in which players are given a net­work of roads to clear fol­lowing a dis­aster. They are tasked with deter­mining the routes pri­vate sub-​​contractors should take to clear the debris—with the goal of min­i­mizing the time it takes to clear the debris while also max­i­mizing the profit gained for each sub-​​contractor. The goal is to develop a frame­work for how to best leverage human knowl­edge and com­puting to solve com­plex prob­lems to achieve resilient infra­struc­ture networks.

“The reason this is impor­tant is that if a com­mu­nity is destroyed, you want to rebuild it as quickly as pos­sible,” said Williams, adding that such a frame­work would be par­tic­u­larly valu­able for com­mu­ni­ties that are rav­aged by nat­ural dis­as­ters on a reg­ular basis.

Photo by Adam Glanzman/​Northeastern University

Soul of a new machine

April 7, 2016 4:28 pm by Thea Singer

Thomas Reilly, BHS’16, is designing a sen­si­tive robotic arm that can help people who have suf­fered med­ical casu­al­ties learn to walk again. Photo by Matthew Moodono/​Northeastern University

“An arm for a leg.”

No, the line is not part of a bar­gaining exchange. It’s the catchy title of Thomas Reilly’s research poster at RISE:2016.

Reilly, BHS’16, is devoted to making reha­bil­i­ta­tive robots more sen­si­tive and less cum­ber­some while retaining their strength. To those ends, the fifth-​​year phys­ical therapy major has designed an electrically-​​powered robotic arm that can help people who have suf­fered spinal cord injuries, strokes, and other med­ical casu­al­ties learn to walk again.

The stan­dard robotic offer­ings, says Reilly, com­prise “gigantic metal panels,” or “exoskele­tons,” worn on the leg, trunk, and upper extrem­i­ties. The patient uses the device while on a tread­mill and sup­ported by a har­ness. Reilly’s inven­tion, which also uses a tread­mill and har­ness, com­prises a simple robotic arm that attaches to a band on the user’s ankle.

Think main­frame com­puter trans­formed into Mac­Book Air.

“We wanted a robot that could mirror a human phys­ical ther­a­pist,” says Reilly. “Sen­si­tivity” is the key word. “The aim was for it to be able to sense when the person was ready to move a leg and to follow that lead with no interference.”

In the ini­tial stages of rehab, Reilly’s robot would do much of the work, guiding the user through a nat­ural heel-​​to-​​toe gait. But as the user gained mobility, he or she would become more self-​​reliant. “The impetus would come from the person, not the robot,” he says.

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The sights and sounds of RISE:2016

April 7, 2016 3:00 pm by Northeastern News
Video by Benjamin Bertsch/Northeastern University

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It’s a bug’s life

April 7, 2016 2:47 pm by Thea Singer

Doc­toral stu­dent Erin Cole researches how ter­mite eggs cope with bac­teria to under­stand the role of par­enting in early devel­op­ment. Photo by Matthew Moodono/​Northeastern University

“I study ter­mites,” says Erin Cole, a fourth-​​year Ph.D. stu­dent in the Depart­ment of Biology. “I’m not here to tell you how to kill them.”

No, she’s here at RISE:2016 to help us learn from them. Her research, titled “Bat­tling Bac­teria: Par­enting Lessons from Ter­mites,” explores how the eggs of termites—the progeny—cope with bac­teria. Her find­ings could have broad eco­log­ical impli­ca­tions and also pro­vide clues for pest man­age­ment, per­haps using bac­teria to con­trol their spread.

Cole, who spe­cial­izes in ecology, ento­mology, and evo­lu­tionary biology, is fas­ci­nated by these wood-​​chomping insects. They are extremely social, she says, and despite living in colonies that can number to the hun­dreds of thou­sands, they are monog­a­mous and cou­ples share par­enting respon­si­bil­i­ties of their innu­mer­able young. For­tu­nately, they gen­er­ally get help from “worker” ter­mites, mem­bers of the largest, most rudi­men­tary caste who, not sur­pris­ingly, do all the hard labor.

What would happen, Cole won­dered, if workers weren’t avail­able? “On the subway, when someone sneezes, everyone is exposed,” she says. “I wanted to know: Can an egg resist a pathogen alone?”

To find out she iso­lated eggs at three stages of devel­op­ment and grew bac­teria along­side them. The find­ings sur­prised her: The stage-​​one eggs—the newest ones—not only delayed bac­teria growth but also reduced the bac­teria pop­u­la­tion. The stage-​​two and stage-​​three eggs, how­ever, enhanced the bac­teria growth.

What might this mean? It could be that the ter­mite par­ents lick the new eggs, per­haps depositing some tem­po­rary pro­tec­tant on it, she spec­u­lates. Or it could be that the mother puts some­thing inside the egg while it’s being formed. “What makes the nutri­ents in the egg also makes the immune response,” she says.

Most of us view ter­mites as pests, not guides to child­care. Erin Cole’s con­tin­uing research could make us take a second look.

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The perfect pacifier

April 7, 2016 2:30 pm by Joe O’Connell

Grad­uate stu­dent Jac­lene For­lano sought to find the per­fect paci­fier. Not just one with a stuffed animal hanging from it to enter­tain infants, but one that can help pre-​​term infants develop the sucking skills they need.

Babies begin to develop non-​​nutritive sucking, or NNS, between the 29th and 32nd week of preg­nancy. Infants born pre­ma­turely, before NNS can develop, can expe­ri­ence feeding issues. The paci­fier serves as a tool for those babies to use to play catch up.

“We really need to sup­port pre-​​term infants in devel­oping NNS,” For­lano said. “Some of these chil­dren have dif­fi­culty feeding.”

Under the direc­tion of assis­tant pro­fessor Emily Zim­merman in the Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Sci­ences and Dis­or­ders, For­lano, a speech pathology stu­dent grad­u­ating in May, tested six dif­ferent paci­fiers on 16 infants, specif­i­cally looking at the pull stiff­ness and the base of the paci­fier that covers the mouth.

But none of the paci­fiers have a com­bi­na­tion of the two char­ac­ter­is­tics that could best help pre-​​term infants effec­tively improve NNS, she explained.

“We want to take our find­ings and com­bine them in an optimal paci­fier that just doesn’t seem to be out there,” For­lano said. “A lot of the brands say they are the best but don’t have research to back that up.”

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The gamification of rehabilitation

April 7, 2016 1:54 pm by Jason Kornwitz

Three stu­dent engi­neers explain how they’re applying the prin­ci­ples of gaming to the process of stroke reha­bil­i­ta­tion. Photo by Matthew Modoono.

Peter Scan­nell, E’16, is one of five stu­dent engi­neers working to har­ness the power of the Oculus Rift vir­tual reality headset to help stroke patients over­come hemis­pa­tial neglect. Also called uni­lat­eral visual inat­ten­tion or hemi-​​inattention, it’s a neu­ropsy­cho­log­ical con­di­tion pre­venting stroke vic­tims from per­ceiving stimuli on one side of their body or environment.

“We want to gamify the process of reha­bil­i­ta­tion,” Scan­nell explained at RISE:2016, where the engineers-​​in-​​training demoed a pro­to­type of a game inte­grating the vir­tual reality headset and a body motion tracking system.

Here’s how it works: Apply the headset, move your head to locate cab­i­nets and drawers to your left, to your right, and in front of you, and then use your hands to open them.

Said team member Jesses Michel, E’16: “Right now, you can do a lot of useful things with the Oculus Rift, espe­cially in terms of phys­ical therapy and brain exercises.”

Under the direc­tion of Waleed Meleis, an asso­ciate pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Elec­trical and Com­puter Engi­neering, and Danielle Levac, an assis­tant pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Phys­ical Therapy, Move­ment, and Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Sci­ence, the stu­dents con­ducted a needs assess­ment with phys­ical ther­a­pists at the Spaulding Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Hos­pital in Boston. The next step is to con­duct a pilot test with a small sample of adults with hemis­pa­tial neglect to deter­mine the effi­cacy of their VR interface.

“The goal is to help make phys­ical therapy for hemis­pa­tial neglect more engaging and more applic­able,” said Michel.

Good things come in small packages

April 7, 2016 12:24 pm by Joe O’Connell

Juan Lopez, E’17, dis­plays the wind tur­bine he and his peers devel­oped for RISE:2016. Photo by Matthew Modoono/​Northeastern University

Today’s wind tur­bines are gar­gan­tuan struc­tures that require high wind speeds to gen­erate large amounts of energy for consumers.

One group of engi­neering stu­dents pre­senting at RISE:2016—and fea­tured at the event’s Inno­va­tion Alley—wondered, why go big? Why not go small?

Drawing from a past cap­stone project, Juan Lopez, E’17, and his team devel­oped a scaled-​​down ver­sion of a wind tur­bine that would be geared toward everyday con­sumers and uti­lize slower wind speeds to gen­erate energy using a furling and unfurling method.

“Through our research we deter­mined that the high wind speeds needed to gen­erate the energy output big wind tur­bines claim are just not common,” said Lopez, a mechan­ical engi­neering stu­dent. “Our pro­to­type would be for house­hold con­sumers and gen­erate about 40 per­cent of a house’s electricity.”

The smaller tur­bine, which would have about a 30-​​foot diam­eter, would operate with winds between three and seven meters-​​per-​​second. Once wind speeds get too high, sails on the tur­bine would furl, decreasing the sur­face area and pre­venting the tur­bine from rotating.

Once a full-​​scale model of the tur­bine is built, Lopez said the next step would be to attach a gen­er­ator to it and start cre­ating energy.

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And they’re off

April 7, 2016 11:01 am by Northeastern News
The judging is underway at RISE:2016. The doors opened at 10 a.m., and pre­sen­ters are talking with judges and vis­iting with expo atten­dees. Here are a few photos of the early activity.

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RISE and shine

April 7, 2016 8:00 am by Greg St. Martin

Photo by Brooks Canaday/​Northeastern University

Today’s the day—RISE:2016, Northeastern’s Research, Inno­va­tion, and Schol­ar­ship Expo. The annual event show­cases the breadth and depth of our stu­dents and fac­ulty mem­bers’ research and entre­pre­neurial spirit across many dis­ci­plines. We’ll be live blog­ging with full coverage—including photos and video—throughout the day to share with you par­tic­i­pants’ projects, inno­va­tions, sto­ries, and much more.

Here’s what you need to know about RISE this year. The expo will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Cabot Cage. There were more than 400 abstract sub­mis­sions for RISE this year. Nine hun­dred stu­dents and fac­ulty will be par­tic­i­pating, and better than 100 industry judges will be reviewing their posters, lis­tening to their pitches, and scoring their video sub­mis­sions. (This year, for the first time, all RISE par­tic­i­pants had to submit a video pitch.)

The expo will be fol­lowed by an awards cer­e­mony from 3 to 5 p.m. in East Vil­lage. Awards will be given to stu­dents in seven cat­e­gories, and there will also be four RISE Awards for showing excel­lence in each of the fol­lowing areas: research, inno­va­tion, schol­ar­ship, and entre­pre­neur­ship. There will be an award for the best video pitch, as well.

Our blog will also fea­ture a com­pi­la­tion of social media posts about RISE from throughout the day, and you can follow RISE on Twitter using #GotResearch.


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