Two from CEE and one from EECS selected to attend U.S. Frontiers of Engineering symposium

June 28, 2011

Charles M. Vest, former president of MIT and the current president of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), announced today that three MIT faculty members have been selected to attend the NAE’s 17th U.S. Frontiers of Engineering symposium.

Associate Professors Roman Stocker of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), John Ochsendorf of CEE and the Department of Architecture, and Rahul Sarpeshkar of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Research Lab for Electronics are among the 85 researchers invited to attend the symposium Sept. 19-21 at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Participants are engineers ages 30 to 45 who are selected for their exceptional research and technical work from approximately 315 applicants nominated by fellow engineers or organizations.

“The young engineering innovators of today are solving the grand challenges that face us in the coming century,” said Vest. “We are proud that our Frontiers of Engineering program brings this diverse group of people together and gives them an opportunity to share and showcase their work.” 

At this year’s symposium participants will examine additive manufacturing, engineering sustainable buildings, neuroprosthetics and semantic processing.  Alfred Z. Spector, vice president of research and special initiatives at Google, will be a featured speaker. Ochsendorf and Sarpeshkar will also make presentations: Ochsendorf on “Challenges and Opportunities for Low-Carbon Buildings” and Sarpeshkar on “Ultra Low Power Biomedical and Bio-inspired Systems.”

John Ochsendorf

Ochsendorf conducts research on the engineering assessment of existing structures and the design of more-sustainable buildings. He is a structural engineer and historian of construction, known for interdisciplinary projects that revive historical technologies for contemporary use. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2008 for his innovative research in structural engineering. Ochsendorf and his students have contributed to the design of several award-winning, low-carbon buildings that take their inspiration from historical construction methods. As part of the Concrete Sustainability Hub at MIT, Ochsendorf is currently directing a multi-year effort to benchmark the carbon emissions of a range of building types. His research aims to understand and improve the life-cycle performance of buildings, which are responsible for higher greenhouse gas emissions than both transportation and industry in the U.S.

Roman Stocker

Stocker studies the fluid dynamics and ecology of marine microorganisms using microfluidics, small devices about the size of a glass lab slide that contain enclosed microchannels filled with seawater. This technology allows Stocker to mimic the ocean environment at scales (microns to millimeters) relevant to bacteria, algae, protists and microzooplankton. Using videomicroscopy and image analysis to track the microorganisms, he is able to elucidate fundamental small-scale processes, such as how the organisms move and if they do so in response to food. His goal is to obtain a quantitative understanding of how marine microorganisms impact the oceans’ global cycles of carbon, nitrogen and other elements. Stocker has also pursued research in areas contiguous to his primary interests, such as demonstrating that a sharp variation in water current will segregate right-handed bacteria from their left-handed brethren, a methodology that could be useful in the pharmaceutical industry for separating stereo molecules, and in more divergent areas, such as his recent work with colleagues on the physics underpinning how cats drink.

Rahul Sarpeshkar

Sarpeshkar conducts research on ultra-low-power biomedical and bio-inspired systems. His group’s mission is to unify bio-inspired engineering and medical device design by seamless integration of dry electronic engineering and wet biological engineering in the intuitive and rigorous language of analog circuits. In his recently published book, “Ultra Low Power Electronics: Fundamentals, Biomedical Applications, and Bio-inspired Systems” (Cambridge University Press, 2010), Sarpeshkar discusses how to architect advanced neural prosthetics for the deaf, blind and paralyzed. His invention of ‘cytomorphic electronics’ has established an important bridge between electronics and chemistry. It lays a rigorous foundation for an analog circuits approach to systems and synthetic biology, fields highly important in the future of medicine and genetic engineering. His work on the ‘RF cochlea’ has established an important bridge between the fields of RF electronics and hearing via the creation of a novel broadband ear-inspired radio receiver with applications in advanced wireless systems. Sarpeshkar received the Packard Fellow Award in 2001 and holds more than 25 patents. His group holds several world records in low power and biomedical circuits and systems.