RISE to the occasion
by Greg St. Martin
Students and faculty across many disciplines presented their scholarly research, innovative thinking, and entrepreneurial ventures on Thursday at RISE:2014, Northeastern’s Research, Innovation and Scholarship Expo.
Projects spanned many disciplines and topics, including cybersecurity; airport screening technology; nanotechnology; emotion science; game design; sustainable urban architecture; and novel physical therapy rehabilitation devices. Several students were honored at an awards reception following the expo and the full list of winners can be found here.
Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun said he was impressed with the range of use-inspired research projects on display at RISE:2014, many of which addressed global challenges in health, security, and sustainability—the university’s core research themes. “Our research philosophy here is that we want to impact society,” Aoun said. He added that this research focus aligns with the university’s emphasis on being connected to and engaged with the world, particularly through Northeastern’s signature co-op program.
Northeastern has hosted the research and scholarship expo for the past 10 years; last year, under the leadership of the Center for Research Innovation, the event was renamed RISE to encompass the innovative thinking and entrepreneurship alive at Northeastern in addition to scholarly research. This year’s event also marked CRI’s launch of Tech2Venture, a pilot funding program created to identify and engage seasoned entrepreneurs in the commercialization of Northeastern’s most promising technologies.
Many projects on display at RISE:2014 utilized state-of-the-art technology, including the 3-D printing facilities on campus. In one senior capstone project, a team of mechanical engineering students developed a drone prototype equipped with a video camera that could assist architectural engineers in finding thermal leaks and cracks in building façades. Another group of engineering students designed a “smart bike” that utilizes a series of proximity sensors, lasers, and Bluetooth technology to alert bicyclists to potential hazards and avoids accidents. The project won the “People’s Choice” RISE Award and an Outstanding Student Research Award at the graduate level.
Students’ entrepreneurial spirit was also on display. Robinson Greig, for example, E’14, is part of a group of undergraduates who developed Gather, a mobile application that helps make planning social gatherings easier. Another student, Ian Carlson, AMD’17, presented his prototype for Dash, an electric drivetrain kit that attaches to most longboards, a longer version of a skateboard. Carlson said the project, which won the Husky Startup Challenge in Fall 2013, began simply as an idea to cross campus more easily but turned into one that fills the “the first mile and last mile” public transportation gap. “There’s a market for this,” Carlson said, “and I’m hoping to bring other students on board to help me out.”
At least one RISE research project hit close to home: A native of Vietnam, chemistry major Huynh Vo, S’14, observed how many people in the country lack access to clean drinking water. In response, she began researching the development of a low-tech solar water-purification device that utilizes two of the cheapest materials on earth: titanium dioxide and carbon.
Vo was far from the only student whose project aimed to improve the health and well being of particular populations. For example, physical therapy majors Emily Nasson, Marin Little, and Lucy Burrage won the undergraduate Outstanding Student Research Award in the health sciences category for their project “Moving On,” a pilot study designed to evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of an early physical therapy education intervention for pre-surgical breast cancer survivors.
Elsewhere, senior Elizabeth Dame, AMD’14, highlighted her research exploring the present and potential role of wood in the building industry. She noted that steel and concrete currently dominate large-scale urban building, but that the industry produces one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Through the implementation of sustainable forestry, she said, wood can be a renewable solution—one that some European cities have already introduced—to incorporate into building design.
She pointed to experts’ estimates that 70 percent of the world’s population could be living in urban environments by 2050 as a reason why urban designers and builders—particularly in the U.S.—need to start thinking more about cleaner, alternative approaches to meet this demand. “If we change the way we build, we can have a significant impact on our carbon footprint,” she said.