PhD Candidate, Alexandre Tuel, Tracks Drying Trends in the Mediterranean Basin

July 17th, 2020Uncategorized

  From his earliest days growing up in France, Alexandre Tuel PhD ’20, has had an interest in weather and the natural world. “In France I was very interested in hard sciences: maths, physics, and earth sciences. I’ve always enjoyed weather and things like that.” Says Tuel. It was his ongoing passion for the environment that would shape Tuel’s future, as he decided to pursue a career as an engineer. Tuel stayed in France to attain his undergraduate degree; he loved the experience, and grounded himself in a solid understanding of the physical sciences. For Tuel, the first step to [...]

 

From his earliest days growing up in France, Alexandre Tuel PhD ’20, has had an interest in weather and the natural world.

“In France I was very interested in hard sciences: maths, physics, and earth sciences. I’ve always enjoyed weather and things like that.” Says Tuel. It was his ongoing passion for the environment that would shape Tuel’s future, as he decided to pursue a career as an engineer.

Tuel stayed in France to attain his undergraduate degree; he loved the experience, and grounded himself in a solid understanding of the physical sciences. For Tuel, the first step to solving a problem is to have a strong understanding of the underlying factors – this important perspective is something he would draw from later on in life to help tackle some of the world’s biggest problems.

As Tuel puts it, his undergraduate program was great for generalists and allowed him to fill his toolbox with valuable skills for the future. Questions, however, continued to lingered in his mind as to what he hoped his future would look like, and how he would apply his newfound knowledge.

“As I progressed, I ended up getting more into fluid dynamics and I also continued doing a lot of data analysis and statistics, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do” said Tuel. It was at this point that Tuel fell back on his first love: earth sciences. He decided to commit his studies to the subject of climate change.

After completing his master’s thesis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, Tuel was ready for new challenges and began researching programs to pursue his PhD.

But for Tuel, it was important to find a project connected to real-world impact.

“I didn’t really want to do purely theoretical work. I wanted to start from a problem that people really cared about and take a step back to see how we could solve it. So that’s how I ended up coming to MIT.” Tuel explained.

His pursuit of meaningful work eventually led him to become a member of Professor Elfatih Eltahir’s group. At the time, Eltahir was just beginning a project in Morocco to find ways to improve agriculture in the country. The prospect of a brand-new project with so many possibilities for climate studies was too tempting, and Tuel jumped onboard.

“Fundamentally, the problem of agriculture in Morocco is a lack of water. There is a lot of precipitation variability from year to year there. It is also one of the regions projected to dry the most due to climate change,” said Tuel. His group started comparing the variability of precipitation in Morocco from year to year. The goal was to build an accurate predictive model to help farmers in the country prepare for conditions under climate change.

“Morocco specifically, but more generally, the Mediterranean Basin, is one of the regions that is projected to dry the most under climate change. Not only is water critical today, but in the future, the trends are going to be difficult to cope with.” Says Tuel. “We developed high-resolution projections for Morocco specifically, and we looked at very relevant metrics for water management under climate change.”

The findings of Tuel’s and Eltahir’s study was published in the Journal of Climate in June. Tuel hopes his results will help to increase awareness and reduce uncertainty around the notions of climate change and global trends. He feels that a focus on more local and regional models and predictions is the best answer to increasing understanding and inspire action among the general public.

“The way to get people to care and to start acting is to show them what is going to happen over their own heads.” Tuel continued, “Focusing on the scale of regions, showing what is going to happen and that we can explain it is an important first step.”

Tuel is set to finish his PhD program in July. He does not yet know what he will do next, but whatever it is, his passion for earth and climate science will continue to guide him.

+ More

CEE Profiles: Md Sami Hasnine

July 9th, 2020CEE Profiles

Md Sami Hasnine, is in the business of understanding people. From his research developing and building predictive models of human behavior, to his work in MIT’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion community, the CEE postdoc has displayed both a passion for, and some considerable skill in, promoting equality, diversity, and helping to drive change within his community. Hasnine is an engineer at heart; he’s got a passion for the work, which seems to run in his family. In his home country of Bangladesh, Hasnine’s father is a civil engineer as well - this early exposure helped Hasnine discover a love for [...]

Md Sami Hasnine, is in the business of understanding people. From his research developing and building predictive models of human behavior, to his work in MIT’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion community, the CEE postdoc has displayed both a passion for, and some considerable skill in, promoting equality, diversity, and helping to drive change within his community.

Hasnine is an engineer at heart; he’s got a passion for the work, which seems to run in his family. In his home country of Bangladesh, Hasnine’s father is a civil engineer as well – this early exposure helped Hasnine discover a love for the work and define his life’s path.

“From the very beginning of my life, I saw [my father] was devoted to engineering and had many engineering books. When I was in school, I used his structural engineering book, I didn’t buy the book,” laughed Hasnine.

Chasing his passion, Hasnine completed his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology before going on to complete master’s and PhD programs at the University of Toronto. While at school in Toronto, Hasnine became very interested in predictive modeling of human behavior to help build and improve smart, sustainable cities. As Hasnine explains, Bangladesh is one of the most traffic-congested countries in the world – something he’d known as a boy growing up in the country and that had stuck with him, well before beginning his undergraduate studies. Hasnine enjoyed the work, which he saw as an opportunity to help his home community and add value to people’s lives.

“My main research is to predict human behavior, and how human behavior is connected to transportation decision making,” he explains. Whether for predicting complex issues related to flying cars, or for those as simple as recommending the right products to online consumers, for Hasnine, understanding human behavior is fundamental.

Throughout Hasnine’s studies, one name kept standing out – MIT’s Professor Moshe Ben-Akiva. Hasnine had originally hoped to complete his PhD program with Ben-Akiva, but outside factors unfortunately kept that from happening. After completing his studies, Hasnine jumped at the chance to work as a postdoc with the man who had become his idol.

“The area of my research—transportation travel demand-modeling—all the textbooks of this area are written by Professor Moshe Ben-Akiva.” Hasnine continued, “It was always my vision to work with Professor Ben-Akiva one day.” Hasnine joined Ben-Akiva’s team in September of 2019 and has established himself as an integral and valued team member.

But the drive to help improve his community that had propelled Hasnine through much of his early life did not disappear upon his arrival at MIT. Now a member of the CEE community, Hasnine became aware of a call for proposals by department leadership to promote and improve diversity and inclusion within CEE. Hasnine drew up a proposal and submitted it to the department leadership.

“I proposed that we should bring researchers who came from diverse backgrounds and they should talk about various challenges they faced in their lives and also, how today, they are very successful researchers. Talk about their journeys.” The CEE leadership would ultimately approve Hasnine’s proposal, and the CEE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Seminar Series was born. The seminar is now hosted monthly and features prominent researchers, who share stories of their lives – successes and struggles – before giving a short lecture on their topics of expertise. Hasnine says the group works hard to identify accomplished speakers from underdeveloped or under-served communities to share their messages.

Important to Hasnine is that his proposal is not just a tool to be used within CEE, but a model for connecting individuals with one another; one he believes could and should be used, throughout MIT. When it originally began, the seminar series was only aimed at the CEE community, but is now offered to the greater MIT community.

“We need to actually understand and go very deep on a grassroots level and then, we can actually try to help, eventually.” The CEE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, which Hasnine was instrumental in helping to create and promote was one of the first of its kind at MIT, and helped develop and grow the Institute-wide committee that now exists.

Hasnine is happy with the committee’s impact thus far and hopes it will continue to support positive growth for the MIT community.

+ More

Research explores why C. difficile infection continues to spread despite increased sanitation practices and intervention methods

February 10th, 2020News

Work underscores C. difficile infection is not a common hospital transmission CAMBRIDGE, MA – New research from MIT suggests the risk of becoming colonized by Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) increases immediately following gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances that result in diarrhea. Once widely considered an antibiotic and hospital associated pathogen, recent research into C. difficile has shown the infection is more frequently acquired outside of hospitals. Now, a team of researchers in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) have shown that GI disturbances, such as those caused by food poisoning and laxative abuse, trigger susceptibility to colonization by C. [...]

Work underscores C. difficile infection is not a common hospital transmission

CAMBRIDGE, MA – New research from MIT suggests the risk of becoming colonized by Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) increases immediately following gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances that result in diarrhea. Once widely considered an antibiotic and hospital associated pathogen, recent research into C. difficile has shown the infection is more frequently acquired outside of hospitals. Now, a team of researchers in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) have shown that GI disturbances, such as those caused by food poisoning and laxative abuse, trigger susceptibility to colonization by C. difficile, and carriers remain C. difficile positive for a year or longer.

“Our work helps show why the hospital and antibiotic association of C. difficile infections is an over-simplification of the risks and transmission patterns, and helps reconcile a lot of the observations that have followed the more recent revelation that transmission within hospitals is uncommon,” said David VanInsberghe, PhD, lead author of the study, ‘Diarrheal events can trigger long-term Clostridium difficile colonization with recurrent blooms’ in Nature Microbiology, published on February 10.

The researchers analyzed human gut microbiome time series studies conducted on individuals who had diarrhea illnesses and were not treated with antibiotics. Observing the colonization of C. difficile soon after the illnesses were acquired, they tested this association directly by feeding mice increasing quantities of laxatives while exposing them to non-pathogenic C. difficile spores. Their results suggest that GI disturbances create a window of susceptibility to C. difficile colonization during recovery.

Further, the researchers found that carriers shed C. difficile in highly variable amounts day-to-day; the number of C. difficile cells shed in a carrier’s stool can increase by over 1,000 times in one day. These recurrent blooms likely influence the transmissibility of C. difficile outside of hospitals and their unpredictability questions the reliability of single time-point diagnostics for detecting carriers.

“In our study, two of the people we followed with high temporal resolution became carriers outside of the hospital,” said VanInsberghe, now a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Pathology at Emory University. “The observations we made from their data helped us understand how people become susceptible to colonization and what the short- and long-term patterns in C. difficile abundance in carriers look like. Those patterns told us a lot about how C. difficile can spread between people outside of hospitals.”

The research team included Joseph A. Elsherbini, MIT graduate student; Bernard Varian, MIT’s Division of Comparative Medicine; Theofilos Poutahidis Department of Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Aristotle University, Greece; Susan Erdman, MIT’s Division of Comparative Medicine; Martin Polz, visiting professor, MIT’s Parsons Laboratory for Environmental Science and Engineering.

+ More

MIT CEE Awarded Gift to Use Artificial Intelligence in Biomedical Device Design

January 22nd, 2020News

Researchers in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have received a gift to advance their work on a device designed to position living cells for growing human organs using acoustic waves. The Acoustofluidic Device Design with Deep Learning is being supported by Natick-based MathWorks, the leading developer of mathematical computing software. “One of the fundamental problems in growing cells is how to move and position them without damage,” said John R. Williams a professor in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “The devices we’ve designed are like acoustic tweezers.” Inspired by the [...]

Researchers in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have received a gift to advance their work on a device designed to position living cells for growing human organs using acoustic waves. The Acoustofluidic Device Design with Deep Learning is being supported by Natick-based MathWorks, the leading developer of mathematical computing software.

“One of the fundamental problems in growing cells is how to move and position them without damage,” said John R. Williams a professor in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “The devices we’ve designed are like acoustic tweezers.”

Inspired by the complex and beautiful patterns in the sand made by waves, our approach is to use sound waves controlled by machine learning to design complex cell patterns. The pressure waves generated by acoustics in a fluid gently move and position the cells without damaging them.

The engineers developed a computer simulator to create a variety of device designs, which were then fed to an AI platform to understand the relationship between device design and cell positions.

“Our hope is that, in time, this AI platform will create devices that we couldn’t have imagined with traditional approaches,” said Sam Raymond, PhD. Raymond recently earned his doctorate working with Williams on this project. Raymond’s thesis title, Combining Numerical Simulation and Machine Learning, explored the application of machine learning in computational engineering.

“MathWorks and MIT have a 30-year long relationship that centers on advancing innovations in engineering and science,” said P.J. Boardman, director at MathWorks. “We are pleased to support Dr. Williams and his team as they use new methodologies in simulation and deep learning to realize significant scientific breakthroughs.”

Williams and Raymond collaborated with researchers at the University of Melbourne and the Singapore University of Technology and Design on this project.

 

News Media Contact:  Maria Iacobo miacobo@mit.edu

+ More

Mohamad Sindi ’19 PhD awarded MIT Shoji Award for Innovation

November 15th, 2019Uncategorized

Mohamad Sindi CEE alumnus Mohamad Sindi was recently honored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for his PhD work. He was awarded the MIT Shoji Award for Innovation for his thesis addressing the issue of fault-tolerance for large-scale High Performance Computing (HPC) workloads. The award was presented on Oct 22 by Dr. Mikio Shoji, a longtime supporter of MIT. Dr. Sindi’s PhD work has previously won the IEEE Innovative Paper Award, as well as research grants and support from Amazon, Schlumberger, and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL).

Mohamad Sindi CEE alumnus Mohamad Sindi was recently honored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for his PhD work. He was awarded the MIT Shoji Award for Innovation for his thesis addressing the issue of fault-tolerance for large-scale High Performance Computing (HPC) workloads. The award was presented on Oct 22 by Dr. Mikio Shoji, a longtime supporter of MIT. Dr. Sindi’s PhD work has previously won the IEEE Innovative Paper Award, as well as research grants and support from Amazon, Schlumberger, and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL).

+ More

Professor John R. Williams, Mohamad Sindi, PhD ‘19 win IEEE Innovative Paper Award

October 22nd, 2019Uncategorized

Professor John R. Williams and PhD  alumnus Mohamad Sindi recently won the IEEE Innovative Paper Award for their paper titled "Using Container Migration for HPC Workloads Resilience". The award was presented during the IEEE High Performance Extreme Computing Conference (HPEC'19) on September 25 in Waltham, MA. The paper was competing against numerous submissions from some top academic institutions such as MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Georgia Tech, Duke, and Carnegie Mellon. The paper introduces an innovative method to address a global challenge in the domain of High Performance Computing (HPC), which is fault-tolerance for large scale HPC workloads. The work was rated [...]

Professor John R. Williams and PhD  alumnus Mohamad Sindi recently won the IEEE Innovative Paper Award for their paper titled “Using Container Migration for HPC Workloads Resilience”. The award was presented during the IEEE High Performance Extreme Computing Conference (HPEC’19) on September 25 in Waltham, MA. The paper was competing against numerous submissions from some top academic institutions such as MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Georgia Tech, Duke, and Carnegie Mellon. The paper introduces an innovative method to address a global challenge in the domain of High Performance Computing (HPC), which is fault-tolerance for large scale HPC workloads. The work was rated as “Outstandingly Novel” in terms of novelty. Their invention uses a machine learning algorithm that is highly accurate in detecting sick machines with a low false positive rate. Upon detection, the container running on the sick machine is frozen, a memory snapshot is taken, and the container is migrated to a healthy machine where the computation is resumed. The whole process is automated and occurs in around 60 seconds on average.

+ More