Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University

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Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University

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Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is a private research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The university began as the Carnegie Technical Schools, founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1900. In 1912, the school became Carnegie Institute of Technology and began granting four-year degrees. In 1967, the Carnegie Institute of Technology merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research to form Carnegie Mellon University. The university's 140-acre main campus is 3 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh. Carnegie Mellon has seven colleges and independent schools: the Carnegie Institute of Technology (engineering), College of Fine Arts, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Mellon College of Science, Tepper School of Business, H. John Heinz III College and the School of Computer Science.

In 2010, the Wall Street JournalĀ ranked Carnegie Mellon 1st in computer science, 4th in finance, 7th in economics, 10th overall, and 21st in engineering according to job recruiters.

Honors: A Technology Powerhouse

Carnegie Mellon News

Carnegie Mellon University News

Carnegie Mellon University will inaugurate its 10th president, Farnam Jahanian, on Friday, Oct. 26. Jahanian, a nationally recognized computer scientist and successful entrepreneur, was unanimously appointed president by Carnegie Mellon's Board of Trustees in March following a national search.

Jahanian will be formally installed during an investiture ceremony at 10 a.m. in the Jared L. Cohon University Center's Wiegand Gym. The event will be marked by keynote speeches from Salesforce Co-CEO Keith Block, a CMU alumnus and trustee, and Cornell University President Martha Pollack. Actors Corey Cott and Tamara Tunie — CMU School of Drama alumni — will perform.

Jahanian joined Carnegie Mellon in August 2014 as vice president for research. He served as CMU's provost and chief academic officer from 2015-2017.

"We are at the center of a societal and economic transformation catalyzed by automation, the digitization of information, the democratization of knowledge and unprecedented access to data," Jahanian said. "Carnegie Mellon is positioned like no other institution to define and lead the space where technology and humanity intersect, and to play a leading role in writing the story of the next century. I am looking forward to working with this extraordinary community, and with partners across the globe, to deepen CMU's societal impact at this pivotal time."

Jahanian has led a period of accelerating momentum in education and research since arriving on campus. He has overseen the launch of major interdisciplinary research centers and substantial investments in the campus' infrastructure, including the Block Center for Technology and Society and David A. Tepper Quadrangle, which opened last month. He also has advocated for a more robust research enterprise, working to diversify sources of funding and grow stronger relationships with foundation and industry partners.

Jahanian spearheaded the implementation of the university's Strategic Plan 2025. In the 2016-2017 academic year, he chaired the Task Force on the CMU Experience, which continues to promote a more proactive approach to health, wellness and student success.

"Farnam embodies the entrepreneurial, curious and bold spirit we value so much at CMU," James E. Rohr, chair of the CMU Board of Trustees, said. "Under his leadership, this global community will continue to foster brilliant ideas at the edges and intersections of traditional disciplines, and shape the next generation of leaders. Farnam's investiture as CMU's tenth president marks the beginning of a very exciting future for Carnegie Mellon as we secure our place among the world's greatest universities."

During Jahanian's tenure, the university has introduced new programs that prepare students for the demands of a rapidly changing world, such as majors in behavioral economics, computational biology and artificial intelligence.

Prior to arriving at Carnegie Mellon, Jahanian led the National Science Foundation Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering from 2011-2014 in its mission to advance scientific discovery and engineering innovation through its support of fundamental research. He was a professor at the University of Michigan from 1993-2014. His research on internet infrastructure security formed the basis for the internet security company Arbor Networks, which he co-founded in 2001 and where he served as chairman until its acquisition in 2010.

Jahanian received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The investiture ceremony is the highlight of a two-day celebration at CMU. Watch parties will take place in the Cohon University Center's Lee Lobby, Kirr Commons and Studio Theater. Following the ceremony, a campus-wide inauguration picnic for students, faculty, and staff will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on the College of Fine Arts lawn.

CMU will host a symposium in the Tepper Quad's Simmons Auditorium following the picnic. The symposium will serve as a celebration of Carnegie Mellon's impact in the world, with educators and researchers from across the university reflecting on the discoveries and innovations that have enhanced lives in Pittsburgh, the region and the world.

The inauguration will lead into CMU's homecoming weekend activities and football game against Geneva College on Saturday, Oct. 27.

Sun, 21 Oct 2018

Smart devices can seem dumb if they don't understand where they are or what people around them are doing. Carnegie Mellon University researchers say this environmental awareness can be enhanced by complementary methods for analyzing sound and vibrations.

"A smart speaker sitting on a kitchen countertop cannot figure out if it is in a kitchen, let alone know what a person is doing in a kitchen," said Chris Harrison, assistant professor in CMU's Human-Computer Interaction Institute. "But if these devices understood what was happening around them, they could be much more helpful."

The plug-and-play system could work in any environment. It could alert the user when someone knocks on the front door, for instance, or move to the next step in a recipe when it detects an activity, such as running a blender or chopping.


Vibrosight is a new approach to sense activities across entire rooms using long-range laser vibrometry.

Harrison and colleagues in the Future Interfaces Group reported this week at the Association for Computing Machinery's User Interface Software and Technology Symposium in Berlin about two approaches to this problem — one that uses the most ubiquitous of sensors, the microphone, and another that employs a modern-day version of eavesdropping technology used by the KGB in the 1950s.

In the first case, the researchers have sought to develop a sound-based activity recognition system, called Ubicoustics. This system would use the existing microphones in smart speakers, smartphones and smartwatches, enabling them to recognize sounds associated with places, such as bedrooms, kitchens, workshops, entrances and offices.

"The main idea here is to leverage the professional sound-effect libraries typically used in the entertainment industry," said Gierad Laput, a Ph.D. student in HCII. "They are clean, properly labeled, well-segmented and diverse. Plus, we can transform and project them into hundreds of different variations, creating volumes of data perfect for training deep-learning models.

"This system could be deployed to an existing device as a software update and work immediately," he added.


Despite sound being a rich source of information, computing devices with microphones do not leverage audio to glean useful insights about their physical and social context. Ubicoustics uses a novel, real-time, sound-based activity recognition system.

The researchers, including Karan Ahuja, a Ph.D. student in HCII, and Mayank Goel, assistant professor in the Institute for Software Research, began with an existing model for labeling sounds and tuned it using sound effects from the professional libraries, such as kitchen appliances, power tools, hair dryers, keyboards and other context-specific sounds. They then synthetically altered the sounds to create hundreds of variations.

Laput said recognizing sounds and placing them in the correct context is challenging, in part because multiple sounds are often present and can interfere with each other. In their tests, Ubicoustics had an accuracy of about 80 percent — competitive with human accuracy, but not yet good enough to support user applications. Better microphones, higher sampling rates and different model architectures all might increase accuracy with further research.

In a separate paper, HCII Ph.D. student Yang Zhang, along with Laput and Harrison, describe what they call Vibrosight, which can detect vibrations in specific locations in a room using laser vibrometry. It is similar to the light-based devices the KGB once used to detect vibrations on reflective surfaces such as windows, allowing them to listen in on the conversations that generated the vibrations.

"The cool thing about vibration is that it is a byproduct of most human activity," Zhang said.

He said running on a treadmill, pounding a hammer or typing on a keyboard all create vibrations that can be detected at a distance.

"The other cool thing is that vibrations are localized to a surface," he added. Unlike microphones, the vibrations of one activity don't interfere with vibrations from another. And unlike microphones and cameras, monitoring vibrations in specific locations makes this technique discreet and preserves privacy.

This method does require a special sensor, a low-power laser combined with a motorized, steerable mirror. The researchers built their experimental device for about $80. Reflective tags — the same material used to make bikes and pedestrians more visible at night — are applied to the objects to be monitored. The sensor can be mounted in a corner of a room and can monitor vibrations for multiple objects.

Zhang said the sensor can detect whether a device is on or off with 98 percent accuracy and identify the device with 92 percent accuracy, based on the object's vibration profile. It can also detect movement, such as that of a chair when someone sits in it, and it knows when someone has blocked the sensor's view of a tag, such as when someone is using a sink or an eyewash station.

The Packard Foundation, Sloan Foundation and Qualcomm supported the work on Ubicoustics and Vibrosight, with additional funding from the Google Ph.D. Fellowship for Ubicoustics.

Wed, 17 Oct 2018

As the 2018-2019 racing season gets ready to begin, the Carnegie Mellon University Racing team is sitting in the pole position.

This summer the team took first place in the 2018 Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) Electric Vehicle Competition and first in the Electric Vehicle category at Formula North in Barrie, Ontario. They also managed to capture first in both Formula North's Endurance category and the overall Dynamics category, which encompasses all events related to vehicle performance.

"The outpouring of support by our alumni once we announced that we had won was incredible," said Sam Westenberg, team president for the 2017-2018 season, who graduated this spring with a degree in electrical and computer engineering. "They were all so excited that the race car platform they had worked on for several years previously was finally paying dividends and performing at a high level."


Mechanical Engineering student Aidan Honnold, sporting a hat from sponsor Hyliion, hoisting the first place trophy after the team’s victory at Formula SAE Electric 2018. Image courtesy of Carnegie Mellon Racing

It was one of these alumni who had first introduced Westenberg to the team. While it was the technical challenge of building a competitive electric vehicle that drew him in, what truly impressed him was the skill and achievements of the students working at CM Racing.

He joined the team his sophomore year in 2015. At the time, the team had made the switch to an electric vehicle but had yet to drive one competitively. In fact, the all-electric class of FSAE itself was only three years old.

Since graduation, Westenberg has been working in the automotive industry. He credits much of his interest and decision to enter the field to his involvement with the team, and the skills and connections that came with it.

"Most of our team members will say that the majority of their relevant engineering experience comes from participating in FSAE," he said. "Many potential employers see it as the most important field on a resume."


Carnegie Mellon Racing team

The team has developed strong relationships with a number of industry leaders, and members are often recruited by sponsors and friends such as UBER ATG, SpaceX, Tesla, Boeing, Hyliion, Blue Origin, Ford and General Motors.

Though still young in comparison to the internal combustion class of FSAE, the electric class is catching up in leaps and bounds. Teams that struggled just a few years ago to field an electric car are now working to adopt advanced features that could put them on par with their gas-burning cousins in performance. While the competition is ultimately an innovation-driving win-win situation for university teams and industry partners alike, the CM Racing team will have to work hard to maintain their edge in an increasingly competitive environment.

But that is a task for future classes of engineering students. Westenberg has handed over the reins to senior Katie Lam, confident that this year's team will be able to meet the high bar set by their predecessors.

"Now the minimum expectation is that the car will be competitive," Westenberg said. "The goal isn't just to drive — it's to win."

Tue, 16 Oct 2018

Public art installations can make spaces beautiful and spark conversations, but they also can blend into the urban landscape, limiting discussion and engagement.

"We know in Pittsburgh that our public art can stir dialogue, sometimes significant dialogue, around social justice issues. But we really haven't figured out a way to communicate with the populace around it," said Brett Ashley Crawford, executive director of CMU's Arts Management & Technology Laboratory (AMT Lab) and associate teaching professor for the Master of Arts Management program, a joint program between the Heinz College for Information Systems and Public Policy and the College of Fine Arts.

A central question for Crawford is how public arts leaders can be better stewards of that dialogue, helping to create deeper meaning and helping people understand public art. It's a question that illuminates an exciting problem at the intersection of people, policy and technology, and how they can come together to address social issues.

"We say that art is transformational, we say that art is about engaging thought around important issues such as race, class, our own humanity. How can we actually activate that?" Crawford said.

The answer might lie in augmented reality, also known as AR.

Augmented Reality Hits the Art World

Museums have been at the forefront of AR deployment, using AR and other forms of technology to breathe new life into parts of their collections. In some famous cases, there have been reports of rogue AR experiences popping up in museums, which can themselves raise interesting and provocative questions.

You can find museums using AR for simple purposes like overlaying background information onto visual art, but some are creating rich experiences like transporting visitors in time to give an artifact better context, or glimpsing the inside of a sealed sarcophagus.

When used creatively, AR provides huge opportunities for conversation and discovery. Crawford is leading a project for AMT Lab, investigating the potential for AR and IoT to transform the ways in which communities create, interact with and give meaning to public art.

AMT Lab's project is in the research phase, but Crawford said she hopes her team — in collaboration with other departments on campus and the City of Pittsburgh — will be able to prototype various solutions, including an app that uses AR or other technologies to activate some of Pittsburgh's public art spaces in 2019.

A New Way of Creating Meaning

Crawford notes that public art and AR have already intersected in a way most people are familiar with: Pokémon Go. The developer, Niantic, built the popular AR game using their existing location-based mobile game Ingress, which required players to find and visit points of interest such as public art installations. In fact, Crawford says the gamification of learning has become a major use case for AR.

But cities don't need to rely on a gaming phenomenon to interest citizens and tourists in public art. They can use the data they already have.

"Most cities have a public art department, a map of where their public art is, and some resource that can tell people about that art. But linking all of that in an interactive space is something very few if any cities are doing yet," Crawford said.

She gives an example from the Detroit Institute for the Arts: the museum has an AR experience linked to murals created by the artist Diego Rivera. The experience overlays the actual pieces with visuals that tell the story of how the murals were put together, how the artist created them and how he worked with his team to install the pieces. This was generated using historical notes, photographs and biographies.

Crawford said as the conversation evolves around smart cities, people should be thinking about how to make life more meaningful. But if cities want to follow the lead of museums and activate art through AR experiences, it may require some structural changes in public art departments. Cities may consider adding new positions or teams of people devoted to capturing content for civic engagement while art is being installed.

"We could grab interviews of the people making the art, for example. Some of the most powerful pieces that you can have are interviews, or videos that speed through the process of a piece of art going up," she said. "That's part of the storytelling that cities have to tell, and that artworks have to tell."

Tue, 16 Oct 2018

Carnegie Mellon University's Kathryn Whitehead is looking for ways to deliver drug therapies to infants by engineering breast milk.

Whitehead, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon, has been awarded a 2018 National Institutes of Health Director's New Innovator Award for her project, titled "Fate, Function, and Genetic Engineering of Breast Milk Cells for Infant Therapy." NIH Director's Awards are prestigious awards given to exceptionally creative scientists proposing high-risk, high-impact research.

With this award, Whitehead, who has a courtesy appointment in biomedical engineering, will genetically engineer the human cells in breast milk for infant disease therapy — something no one has ever done before.

"This idea came about after I gave birth to my daughter," Whitehead said. "I had a lot of time while breastfeeding her to think about what I was doing, and I realized that I didn't really know very much about breast milk or why it was so good for my baby. When I turned to the scientific literature to try to find answers, I realized that very few answers were out there."


Kathryn Whitehead is researching genetically engineering breast milk for infant therapy.

Whitehead found there are many living human cells in breast milk — on the order of a million human cells per milliliter of breast milk. When infants drink breast milk, they consume their mothers' human cells with it.

These cells have a remarkable property: they can get out of the gastrointestinal tract and functionally integrate into the infant's tissue. The mother's cells might enter the liver, for example, attaching there and growing amongst the baby's own liver cells. These cells can live in the baby long into adulthood.

"This is an absolutely amazing phenomenon," Whitehead said. "As drug delivery scientists, we spend a lot of time in my research group trying to think about how to transport proteins and other therapeutic molecules out of the gastrointestinal tract. Living human cells are an order of magnitude bigger than that, and yet, they have the remarkable ability to get out of the GI tract and into the infant's body. This is amazing - and nobody understands how or why it's happening."

In addition to oral drug delivery, Whitehead's lab also works on RNA delivery and gene therapy. Whitehead said she believes that, if her lab can figure out how these cells are achieving this transport through the body, they might be able to use the cells as drug delivery vehicles for some therapeutic purpose that has never been seen before.

Whitehead's long-term vision is to isolate the cells from a mother's pumped milk and genetically engineer them in a dish. From there, the lab would put the genetically engineered cells back into the milk for the baby to consume. By taking the cells in the mother's milk and isolating them, Whitehead's lab could genetically engineer the cells to perform non-invasive therapeutic functions to treat sick babies.

For example, Whitehead's lab might be able to task immune cells to help deliver oral vaccinations for babies, instead of taking the babies for shots every few months. Other examples may include tolerizing infants to allergens, such as peanuts, or treating babies with spina bifida, enterocolitis, or other types of genetic disorders.

"This idea is an example of why diversity in science and engineering is important. It was only having gone through the specific experience of childbirth and breastfeeding that allowed me to identify this underdeveloped area," Whitehead said. "Our approach will be non-invasive both for the mother and the baby, and with this project we might be able to treat babies in ways we've only really dreamed of before."

The NIH Director's New Innovator Award, established in 2007, supports unusually innovative research from early career investigators who are within 10 years of their final degree or clinical residency and have not yet received a research project grant or equivalent NIH grant.

Whitehead's award was possible, in part, because she had some preliminary data to support her grant proposal. It can be difficult to find funding sources to produce preliminary data in the lab for new ideas, and without initial funding, new ideas have nowhere to go. Whitehead's preliminary research was funded by Chemical Engineering alumni donor Jon Saxe and his wife Myrna Marshall.

Tue, 16 Oct 2018

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have identified a molecule that plays a key role in bacterial communication and infection. Their findings add a new word to pneumococcus' molecular dictionary and may lead to novel ways to manipulate the bacteria and prevent infection. The findings, from the lab of Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Luisa Hiller, are published in the Oct. 11 issue of PLOS Pathogens.

Organisms worldwide communicate in their own unique ways: humans use words, bees dance and fireflies glow. Decoding a community's common language provides the ability to understand and influence the community's behavior.

What if bacteria also have their own language? By understanding that syntax, could we simply ask the bacteria to stop making us sick?

These questions are at the core of Hiller's research. Her lab is investigating "bacterial linguistics," attempting to identify the "words" that bacteria use to communicate. They hope to assemble a dictionary that will give researchers the vocabulary they need to manipulate deadly pathogens.

The Hiller lab is unraveling how bacterial communication contributes to disease and antibiotic resistance, focusing on the bacterium pneumococcus.

Pneumococcus frequently colonizes children and the elderly. It can inhabit the back of the throat without causing any symptoms, but when it spreads to tissues beyond the throat, it can cause mild to severe disease. Pneumococcus is the leading cause of upper respiratory disease and a common cause of pneumonia and pediatric ear infections. Worldwide, it is responsible for more than one million deaths each year.

Pneumococcus forms and thrives in communities called biofilms. The community provides an environment where cells communicate, cooperate and battle. The biofilm also protects the bacteria from antimicrobial interventions and serves as a breeding ground for antibiotic resistance.

In the biofilm, pneumococcus secretes many molecules that appear to be used for communication — telling cells to migrate, multiply and adapt. Despite their potential role in the spread of disease, much about these molecular words is a mystery.

"If we know the meaning of bacterial words, maybe we can remove them from the system or manipulate them so pneumococcus doesn't become pathogenic," Hiller said.

In the PLOS Pathogens study, Biological Sciences graduate student Surya Aggarwal identified a previously uncharacterized pneumococcal molecule — a new word — he named BriC. He and his colleagues in the Hiller lab found BriC plays a critical role in biofilm development by signaling to bacteria to produce more biofilm during competence, a metabolic state that makes multiple cellular functions, including DNA exchange, possible. BriC is researchers' first clue to understanding how cells in competence interact with other cells to organize themselves into a biofilm.

The study authors also found that in the context of disease, BriC appears to make pneumococcal infections more robust.

"Cells growing within a biofilm are highly recalcitrant to antibiotic treatment" Aggarwal said. "Given this link, BriC assumes greater significance. It could possibly be a target to render bacteria more sensitive to antibiotic treatment."

In a final twist, the researchers also found that bacteria may also be making semantic changes to their words. They determined that some critically important clinical strains evolved a modification to produce BriC outside of competence. They also produced more BriC, and produced it more often, which enhanced biofilms. The researchers are currently investigating what this variation could mean to the development of disease in children.

"We're at the very beginning of the dictionary," Hiller said. "We will continue to dig into the meaning of BriC, and related bacterial words, as a means to manipulate bacterial language and control disease."

Additional study authors include: Rory Eutsey, Jacob West-Roberts, Wenjie Xu and Aaron Mitchell from Carnegie Mellon; Arnau Domenech and Jan-Willem Veening from the University of Lausanne; Iman Tajer Abdullah and Hasan Yesilkaya from the University of Leicester and University of Kirkuk; and Hasan Yesilkaya from the University of Leicester. Hiller is also a member of the Center for Excellence in Biofilm Research at the Allegheny Health Network.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (DC-011322), the Stupakoff Scientific Achievement Award and Department of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon.

Tue, 16 Oct 2018

Carnegie Mellon University celebrated new space for the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship and groundbreaking scientific startups at LaunchCMU, an entrepreneurial showcase featuring technology and research.

Titled "Science@CMU," this year's event featured companies such as LumiShield Technologies, a Carnegie Mellon spinoff developing sustainable aluminum electroplating to be used as an alternative to heavy metal-based anti-corrosion coatings.

"The Swartz Center recognizes and celebrates the changing role of universities, not only as originators and keepers of knowledge, but also as engines for discovery and innovation," said Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian during the event. "In the last five years alone, CMU has generated 1,900 invention disclosures; more than 1,500 patents; and more than 1,300 licenses, options and other agreements executes for more than 2,300 inventors. And since 2008, more than 280 companies have been started."

A Tradition of Interdisciplinary Collaboration

LaunchCMU, sponsored by Latham & Watkins in collaboration with Oracle and Insperity, occurs each spring in Silicon Valley and each fall at CMU's main campus in Pittsburgh. Dave Mawhinney, associate teaching professor of entrepreneurship and executive director of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, said Carnegie Mellon plans to introduce a third LaunchCMU in New York City.

"We are entering a new era of entrepreneurial excellence at Carnegie Mellon," said Mawhinney, who praised the new Swartz Center space as an ideal hub for innovative work. "The Swartz Center was conceived to be a community gathering place for Carnegie Mellon's world-renowned interdisciplinary collaboration. The Swartz Center is at the geographic center of our campus - it is now even easier for our engineers, designers, life scientists, computer scientists, artists and business people to come together, innovate and create great startup companies that deliver value to our communities."

Laurie Weingart, interim provost for Carnegie Mellon and the Richard M. and Margaret S. Cyert Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory, highlighted the culture of interdisciplinary collaboration endemic to the Swartz Center and to Carnegie Mellon as a whole.

"When the Swartz Center opened a few years ago, it brought together entrepreneurial activities from all across campus. It exemplifies Carnegie Mellon's tradition in promoting excellence in education, research and scholarship," she said.

CMU Ventures on Display

Lenore Blum, Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon, introduced the LaunchCMU showcase speakers. Blum founded Project Olympus at CMU, an early-stage innovation center that is now a part of the Swartz Center, where she is a faculty director.

"My vision was to create a sandbox where students and faculty could practice their ideas and make connections with the business community," Blum said.

In addition to the showcase talks, LaunchCMU includes demo and poster sessions with local and CMU-affiliated startups. Some of the featured companies have dedicated "garage" space in the Swartz Center — a key component of the center's design — including NoRILLA, Nabla Ascent, Zensors and Delta Band.

One of the companies presenting at the poster sessions was Root Health, a mobile application co-founded by Raj Sharma, who graduated earlier this year with an MBA. Root's chief operating officer and second-year MBA student Parul Aggarwal called Root Health "the next best app for patient management in clinical trials."

Aggarwal spoke very highly of the support she has received as a Tepper School of Business student.

"There is no limit to the opportunities, no limit to the people who want to help," she said. "The first day I came for a school visit — the day of my interview — was the very day I knew I wanted to be here. I made it known that I wanted to be here, no matter what."

JJ Xu, who graduated with an MBA earlier this year, presented her startup, TalkMeUp, during the poster sessions.

"We equip our end user with an AI-based smart coach on their mobile devices to provide training in communications skills, which better prepares them for situations such as job interviews or sales pitches," she said. "The coach provides real-time, detailed feedback based on a consistent rubric. Our service is 10 times cheaper, but five times better, than what most communications consultants can offer."

Roots of Entrepreneurial Support

Xu was a 2016-2017 Swartz Entrepreneurial Fellow, one of a cohort of Carnegie Mellon students driven to pursue technology ventures. The fellowship program is one of a number of professional and educational resources offered by the Swartz Center, and is supported by a generous gift from alumnus and entrepreneur Jim Swartz, a 1966 graduate of CMU's business school, and his wife, Susan.

"These efforts have one and only one objective: to make Carnegie Mellon the destination of choice for the best entrepreneurs of the world," Swartz said during his remarks at the grand opening. "With world-class faculty in the technologies of the future, CMU attracts the best world-class academic and research programs. Now these research programs will be matched by world-class entrepreneurship programs."

In its new space, the Swartz Center will have more opportunity to continue its support of CMU-connected entrepreneurs.

"Our aspirational plans for the Swartz Center include dramatically increasing the expertise our startups have access to through programs like our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, providing more early-stage funding for our startups, creating bridges to the Silicon Valley and New York City startup ecosystems where we have many thousands of alumni and access to capital, and continuously improving our educational offerings," Mawhinney said. "These efforts will secure our leadership position among the best startup universities."

Tue, 16 Oct 2018

Carnegie Mellon University researchers are working to learn how neurons in the brain work together to understand and treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Using novel engineering models, methods and software, Ge Yang, associate professor of biomedical engineering and computational biology, and Jessica Zhang, professor of mechanical engineering, are studying how essential materials, such as chemical signals and cell parts made in the nucleus, are transported within the complex geometry of neurons and creating simulations that represent this transport system. For their efforts, they were awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to continue their research for three years.

Neurons come in many shapes and sizes, but each has the same foundational structure. The axon is a thin, long wire-like structure that transports information, signals and materials from the cell body to communicate with other neurons. Similar to how an urban center distributes materials throughout metropolitan areas and collects garbage and recycling from these areas, a neuron sends out and collects materials and signals. This transport system is critical for brain function and ultimately human survival and is at the center of Yang and Zhang's research.


The simulation result in a mouse cerebellum Purkinje neuron showing the dynamic material transport process for 340 seconds.

"This process is literally a matter of life and death for a neuron," Yang said. "If this process shuts down, then the neurons will die. For example, with Alzheimer's disease, the brain is smaller size-wise, but it also has many holes. These holes are made due to massive death of neurons. There are all kinds of theories about Alzheimer's, and one of the theories which has received fairly strong experimental data support is that there's a traffic problem."

To better understand how the complex geometry of different neurons affect how data is transported and distributed, Yang and Zhang are developing computer simulations of how materials are transported through the neuron geometry.

"We're using a very advanced method called isogeometric analysis," Zhang said. "The neurite tree of a neuron is very complex - we use more than 1,000 processors for the simulations."

Isogeometric analysis (IGA) is a computational method that allows numerous models to be designed and tested from a data set all at once. Using IGA, Yang and Zhang simulate the flow of materials inside a neuron. The warmer the color, the higher the density of flow. As the materials flow from branch to branch away from the cell body, the color cools. At branch junctions, where there is more traffic, there is higher flow and thus a warmer color.


Examples of complex neuron geometry

"Jessica's lab is using the supercomputer in the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center because the calculations are very complex," Yang said. "When we do this, it involves millions of units in the calculations. We're really pushing the limits of the technology right now. If the computer simulation is done properly, it is going to have a very large impact on people's understanding of the neuron's geometry."

In 2016, Yang and Zhang received seed support from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, which allowed them to take on a Ph.D. student, Angran Li, who has worked on developing software and simulations for this project.

Overall, Yang and Zhang have two main goals. First, they want to better understand the transport process of neurons, which can provide new insight on the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Second, when it comes to neurodegenerative disease, they hope to learn more about how drug delivery can be effectively distributed in the complex structure of neurons.

"It's a fundamental scientific and engineering question," Yang said. "The long-term goal is to develop a whole theory on how material is transported. This complex structure, with the physiology of neurons — it has a fundamental impact on life."

Mon, 15 Oct 2018

Carnegie Mellon University Professor Leman Akoglu specializes in anomaly detection models. The Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy faculty member is an expert on machine learning and data mining and uses that knowledge to explain how algorithms make decisions.

A successful anomaly detection model will comb through transactions on those reports and flag items that seem out of place so they can be investigated. Anomaly detection can apply to many domains and in some cases directly impact people's lives, such as alerting a social worker when a report of child abuse significantly stands out from the others, or when data from emergency rooms and social media might indicate a potential disease outbreak or societal unrest.

Akoglu's work in this area spans many topics, from identifying emerging news that could constitute risk for corporate partners, to identifying fraudulent users and fabricated reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

But it is not always enough to know that an anomaly exists, Akoglu said. Humans using the outcomes of detection models must understand what the anomaly means.

"If an auditor is looking at an insurance claim or expense report detected by an algorithm as anomalous, they cannot simply say 'this is anomalous, so we are not paying it.' They have to investigate, verify and specifically pinpoint the misinformation in the report if any. Similarly, if a user account is flagged as anomalous by a detector, the system administrator would not simply want to shut down the account, but rather investigate and validate the suspicious behavior if any. In such cases it is beneficial to be able to tell why something is anomalous," she said. "If the algorithm can tell not only that there is a potential error or suspicious activity, but explain why it thinks that, and how the anomalies stand out, the human analyst can make sense of the situation and look into it."

Explanations are essential particularly for these types of anomaly detection scenarios, which cannot be fully automated and require a human in-the-loop (like an auditor) for verification. However, explanations can help beyond sense-making. In some cases, they may bring up issues with the detection algorithm itself, by exposing reliance on unexpected or undesirable clues for detection purposes - for example, claiming terrorist activity based on someone's nationality or biometric data.

The problem? Many algorithms exist in what's called "black boxes," meaning the human beings who use the algorithm may know what its outcome was, but not necessarily how it reached that determination.

Akoglu said explanations are a step toward algorithmic transparency, a societal issue that touches many disciplines and is of great concern to many at Heinz College and the new Block Center for Technology and Society.

Akoglu said a better explanation relies in part on the creation of "interpretable rules."

"We can determine what are the distinctive characteristics of an anomaly, and determine instances that exist that are similar to an anomalous instance and yet are not anomalous," Akoglu said. "While the former shows how an anomaly stands out from the rest, the latter outlines how far it is from being considered a non-anomaly in an interpretable way."

This could be useful for reducing false positives (when a decision model predicts an outcome that is unlikely to occur) and false negatives (when an outcome occurs after being classified by a model as unlikely). It could also give us insight into why an algorithm took a specific action - or didn't take a specific action - in contrast to what a human being might have taken in the same situation with the same input.

In some contexts, this can directly benefit consumers.

"Say a mortgage application is marked for rejection by an algorithm, the consumer can be given useful information about why they were tagged that way and what they could seek to change to get a better outcome," Akoglu said.

The inner-workings of machine learning algorithms can be opaque, which leads to many ethical concerns. However, Akoglu said she believes that "explainable AI" is both possible and desirable. Devising clearer explanation frameworks for algorithms will provide those using these algorithms and those affected by the outcomes of the algorithms with better information, and could improve trust in these technologies over time.

"We have to trust that our systems are truly doing things that are logical in their context, and that can be understood by a human at the end of the process," Akoglu said.

Mon, 15 Oct 2018

Carnegie Mellon University chemist Krzysztof Matyjaszewski has been named the recipient of the 2019 American Chemical Society Award in the Chemistry of Materials, sponsored by DuPont.

The award recognizes creative work and outstanding contributions in the chemistry of materials, with particular emphasis on research related to materials that have actual or potential technological importance.

"Kris' contributions have profoundly impacted various fields of materials chemistry, including nanostructured carbons, bioconjugates and organic-inorganic hybrids prepared under environmentally benign conditions that could be controlled by external stimuli," said Jeffrey Pyun, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Arizona. Pyun, who earned his doctoral degree from the Mellon College of Science's Department of Chemistry, nominated Matyjaszewski for the award.

Matyjaszewski is best known for his discovery of atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP), a novel method of polymer synthesis that has revolutionized the way macromolecules are made. ATRP allows scientists to easily form polymers by putting together monomers in a piece-by-piece fashion. This controlled method of polymerization has allowed scientists to create a wide range of materials with highly specific, tailored functionalities and has led the way for the production of "smart" materials.

"In the mid 1990s, Kris' group demonstrated a "holy grail" in the field of polymer chemistry, which was a controlled/living radical polymerization of a diverse range of commercially available monomers," Pyun said. "His invention of atom transfer radical polymerization has led to a profound change in the way that polymeric materials have been prepared and resulted in myriads of (co)polymers with precisely controlled architecture, including novel block copolymers[1] with proteins and nucleic acids, molecular bottlebrushes as supersoft elastomers, hairy nanoparticles, or intelligent surfaces."

Matyjaszewski's research group has continued to develop ATRP since its discovery in 1994, improving the technique and extending its use to many applications in the automotive, building materials, medical, energy and environmental fields. In 2001, he founded the CRP Consortium to expedite the transfer of controlled radical polymerization techniques to industry.

Matyjaszewski, who is the J.C. Warner University Professor of Natural Sciences, will be honored at an awards ceremony on April 2, 2019, during the 257th American Chemical Society National Meeting in Orlando.

Mon, 15 Oct 2018