Inside a Course 1 UROP: Tackling large scale problems using imaginative solutions

February 28th, 2017Undergraduate Student Life

By René Andrés García Franceschini Some of work done here at MIT that is so outlandish, so “out there,” and, quite frankly, so bizarre, that it’s hard to imagine that work being done anywhere else. Coming back to MIT from leave, I knew that if I were to conduct research, I’d want to do so in a lab that devised projects that felt straight out of a sci-fi novel. While many labs have dipped their toes in these alien waters, the Senseable City Lab has been fully immersed in unorthodoxy for more than a decade. The Senseable City Lab is an extremely multidisciplinary lab that focuses on the human interaction with digital interfaces within the context of an urban environment. Carlo Ratti, the director of the lab, takes pride in the application of technology to enhance the human experience, remarking that some of the lab’s top projects belong in Nature and the MoMA. Make no mistake, as artistic and nontraditional as their work may be, it is by no means lacking in its practical power to change the world. Some of it is perhaps changing your life right now: uberPOOL actually came out of a partnership between Uber and the lab, following a project that looked into savings obtained by sharing cabs. When I’m not in the Senseable City Lab, I can be found doing data analysis for a 1.101 (Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering Design) project. I started working at the lab this past semester as a UROP [...]

By René Andrés García Franceschini

Some of work done here at MIT that is so outlandish, so “out there,” and, quite frankly, so bizarre, that it’s hard to imagine that work being done anywhere else. Coming back to MIT from leave, I knew that if I were to conduct research, I’d want to do so in a lab that devised projects that felt straight out of a sci-fi novel. While many labs have dipped their toes in these alien waters, the Senseable City Lab has been fully immersed in unorthodoxy for more than a decade.

The Senseable City Lab is an extremely multidisciplinary lab that focuses on the human interaction with digital interfaces within the context of an urban environment. Carlo Ratti, the director of the lab, takes pride in the application of technology to enhance the human experience, remarking that some of the lab’s top projects belong in Nature and the MoMA. Make no mistake, as artistic and nontraditional as their work may be, it is by no means lacking in its practical power to change the world. Some of it is perhaps changing your life right now: uberPOOL actually came out of a partnership between Uber and the lab, following a project that looked into savings obtained by sharing cabs.

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When I’m not in the Senseable City Lab, I can be found doing data analysis for a 1.101 (Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering Design) project.

I started working at the lab this past semester as a UROP student. I work on a project called Underworlds, which emerged out of a conversation between Ratti and Eric Alm from Course 1. The idea is rather simple: we know that there is an enormous amount of information in our waste about our health, eating habits, drug use, etc. Thus, there is a vast reservoir of information about inhabitants of entire cities contained in sewers. If we can tap into that reservoir using a network of robots at different manholes around a city, we could revolutionize public health by providing targeted, almost immediate response to health concerns across a community.

I have been rather fortunate to work in different aspects of this multifaceted project. I initially worked on the robotics of the project. I wrote scripts that would calibrate sensors, collect data and log it in real time. What I’m currently working on, though, is what excites me the most as a Course 1 student on the systems track. The problem is as follows: processing data from sensors is expensive monetarily, computationally and timewise. It is thus imperative to make sure that the sampling times for our sensors are such that the data would be as informative as possible.

I am currently working on implementing algorithms that will select the best sampling times in a computationally efficient way. This is very akin to research done in network control in Course 1 by my advisor, Professor Saurabh Amin, and Professor Ali Jadbabaie. Network control also happens to be what excites me the most, and what I think is an important emerging branch of civil and environmental systems.

Although this is project is in a somewhat early stage (being able to prevent an outbreak is still very much in the future), this project could potentially change how we address widespread health concerns.

Projects like these are exactly why I chose to be Course 1: to tackle very large scale problems using only the most imaginative solutions.

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Undergraduates get hands-on research experience during TREX

February 17th, 20172017 News in Brief

A group of undergraduates conducted field research for two projects during this year’s Traveling Research Environmental eXperiences (TREX) in Hawaii. The students presented their research to MIT alumni and gave a final presentation to local community members. Read more about their experience on MIT News.

A group of undergraduates conducted field research for two projects during this year’s Traveling Research Environmental eXperiences (TREX) in Hawaii. The students presented their research to MIT alumni and gave a final presentation to local community members. Read more about their experience on MIT News.

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Professor John Ochsendorf selected as Director of the American Academy in Rome

February 14th, 20172017 News in Brief

Class of 1942 Professor of Architecture and CEE John Ochsendorf was selected to be the 23rd director of the American Academy in Rome, a nonprofit supporting arts and scholars. The appointment begins in July 2017, and Ochsendorf will return to MIT after a three-year appointment. More information on the appointment can be found here.

Class of 1942 Professor of Architecture and CEE John Ochsendorf was selected to be the 23rd director of the American Academy in Rome, a nonprofit supporting arts and scholars. The appointment begins in July 2017, and Ochsendorf will return to MIT after a three-year appointment. More information on the appointment can be found here.

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Advice for #WomenInSTEM, from CEE Professors

February 10th, 2017Women In STEM

In MIT Civil and Environmental Engineering, 70% of civil and environmental engineering undergraduate students are female, but around the world the numbers of women pursuing degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) are less than those of men. In response, the United Nations deemed February 11 International Day of Women and Girls in Science. According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, MIT School of Engineering ranks second among colleges with the largest portion of women receiving bachelor's in engineering. CEE also has nine female faculty members. Three of those professors share the best advice they received as women in STEM, and their advice for young girls interested in STEM. Advice for girls interested in STEM       Best advice ever received    

In MIT Civil and Environmental Engineering, 70% of civil and environmental engineering undergraduate students are female, but around the world the numbers of women pursuing degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) are less than those of men. In response, the United Nations deemed February 11 International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, MIT School of Engineering ranks second among colleges with the largest portion of women receiving bachelor’s in engineering. CEE also has nine female faculty members. Three of those professors share the best advice they received as women in STEM, and their advice for young girls interested in STEM.

Advice for girls interested in STEM

 

 

 

Best advice ever received

 

 

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Dara Entekhabi elected to the National Academy of Engineering

February 10th, 20172017 News in Brief

Bacardi and Stockholm Water Foundations Professor of CEE and Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Dara Entekhabi was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for his leadership in the hydrologic sciences. More information about NAE can be found here.

Bacardi and Stockholm Water Foundations Professor of CEE and Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Dara Entekhabi was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for his leadership in the hydrologic sciences. More information about NAE can be found here.

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IAP 2017: Adventures of CEE Students

February 8th, 2017IAP 2017

What’s it like to be a student in Course 1 at MIT? Two CEE third years, Alexa Jaeger and Rachel Galowich, took over the MIT Students Instagram account from January 29 to February 4, the last week of the Independent Activities Period (IAP) to give a glimpse into a week in the life of a CEE student. Now, we’re giving a quick recap of their week. Alexa had just returned from Hawaii when she took over the account, and started off the week with a group picture from TREX (Traveling Research Environmental eXperiences, more info can be found here). On Tuesday, she stopped by the CEE Department Exploration (DEX) lunch to show freshmen what it’s like to be a student in CEE! Alexa even brought us along to Rugby practice, because she finds the time to manage a busy course load and be a member of the rugby team! It gets pretty chilly here in Cambridge, and there are lots of places to get some hot cocoa and coffee! One popular spot is L.A. Burdick. We even got a bit of snow, so Alexa shared a picture of the warm-weather clothes TREX students wore in Hawaii which officially made everyone who couldn’t participate in TREX jealous! Normally, an @MITStudents takeover is just one student, but Rachel helped with the takeover for the second half of the week! Rachel introduced herself by posting this picture from TREX last year. On #ThrowbackThursday, Alexa posted about [...]

What’s it like to be a student in Course 1 at MIT? Two CEE third years, Alexa Jaeger and Rachel Galowich, took over the MIT Students Instagram account from January 29 to February 4, the last week of the Independent Activities Period (IAP) to give a glimpse into a week in the life of a CEE student. Now, we’re giving a quick recap of their week.

Alexa had just returned from Hawaii when she took over the account, and started off the week with a group picture from TREX (Traveling Research Environmental eXperiences, more info can be found here).

On Tuesday, she stopped by the CEE Department Exploration (DEX) lunch to show freshmen what it’s like to be a student in CEE!

Course 1 DEX luncheon has the literal best cookies that I have ever had 🌎🚄🌉🌊🌧🌱 #cee_iap @mit_cee

A photo posted by MIT Student Life (@mitstudents) on

Alexa even brought us along to Rugby practice, because she finds the time to manage a busy course load and be a member of the rugby team!

It gets pretty chilly here in Cambridge, and there are lots of places to get some hot cocoa and coffee! One popular spot is L.A. Burdick.

Nothing like hot chocolate on a cold day #cee_iap

A photo posted by MIT Student Life (@mitstudents) on

We even got a bit of snow, so Alexa shared a picture of the warm-weather clothes TREX students wore in Hawaii which officially made everyone who couldn’t participate in TREX jealous!

It is snowing here in Boston, but just a few days ago we were in sunny Hawai'i...weird #cee_iap #trex2017 @mit_cee

A photo posted by MIT Student Life (@mitstudents) on

Normally, an @MITStudents takeover is just one student, but Rachel helped with the takeover for the second half of the week! Rachel introduced herself by posting this picture from TREX last year.

Hi, everyone! I wanted to formally introduce myself. I'm Rachel, a Course 1 junior (on the civil engineering side of the department) also minoring in Course 11 (urban studies and planning). I'm a sister in Alpha Chi Omega (@axo_mit), co-president of Engineers Without Borders, VP of Fundraising for Colleges Against Cancer, a project team member in Design for America, and the secretary of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Students Association. In my free time, I enjoy exploring Boston, hanging out with my pals in Burton Conner, baking, and watching too much Netflix. In honor of #tbt, Alexa and I are going to be throwing it back to our past IAP adventures. I went on the TREX trip last year (see coconut pic as evidence), and am currently recovering from jet lag after a 3.5 week trip to Uganda with MIT D-Lab. Can't wait to share with all of you #cee_iap #trexmit2016 @mit_cee - Rachel G. '18

A photo posted by MIT Student Life (@mitstudents) on

On #ThrowbackThursday, Alexa posted about the research they conducted in Hawaii with their UAV.

Every year, the TREX students present their research to MIT alumni, so they took a selfie. Alexa posted it for another Throwback Thursday.

Rachel also posted a throwback picture to her IAP adventure. She traveled to Uganda through MIT D-Lab.

On Friday, Rachel came to the mini-UROP final presentations. “mini-UROP” program is unique to CEE and offers freshmen the opportunity to work in CEE labs over IAP.

Rachel also had a final presentation for her D-LAB IAP on Friday, winding down her takeover week.

Still curious about life as a Course 1 student after the CEE Instagram Takeover? Stop by 1-290 and meet us! Our Course 1 mascot Gunner can’t wait to meet you!

Gunner

Click here for more information about CEE’s undergraduate programs.

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