Lab Notes

Summer 2013

We Can Work It Out: Robots excel at heavy lifting, repetitive motions, and steady hands. Humans shine at fine motor skills and making decisions based on past experience. How can the two best work together? Computer scientist Gregory Hager is part of a four-university team using a $3.5 million NSF grant to devise ways that humans and robots can colla- borate more efficiently in manufacturing and medical tasks. The project is part of the National Robotics Initiative.

Concussion Prevention: Using a new computer-based technique combined with a model of the head, Mechanical Engineering’s K.T. Ramesh and his colleagues aim to examine hockey and football players to discern damage to axons, the tiny fibers that carry information between brain cells. “This kind of injury may take weeks to manifest,” Ramesh says. “But if you can tell right away, you may be able to get a crucial head start on treatment.”

Understanding Tumor Growth: Biomedical Engineering’s Rachel Karchin uses computational modeling to identify gene mutations that drive tumor growth. Recently, she received a three-year NSF Advances in Biological Informatics Innovation Grant to develop a new method to model higher order mutation interactions using a combination of network models, evolutionary genetics, and protein sequence analysis.

Flux Flare: A principle known as flux freezing dictates that magnetic field lines in electrically conducting plasmas are transported by the flowing plasma. Yet researchers have noticed that in the case of solar flares that doesn’t always hold true. Now they know why. Led by Applied Mathematics and Statistics Professor Gregory Eyink, a team used complex computer modeling to conclude that the long-held physics principle of flux freezing doesn’t always apply when turbulence is present. His collaborators included Randal Burns, Charles Meneveau, and Alexander Szalay.

Lab notesFly Like a … Hawkmoth? When mechanical engineer Noah Cowan watches a moth hovering above a blossom he sees an incredible flying machine with something to teach us about aerodynamics and flight control. He and a team from University of Washington have developed a mathematical model analyzing how the insect throws around its bullet-shaped abdomen to redirect force provided by its wings. Cowan’s student Alican Demir has already used this data to improve flight and maneuverability control in a flying robot.