A new Engineering Research Center (ERC), the Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems (CenSSIS), has been established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop novel technologies that will revolutionize the ability to detect and image objects and conditions underground, underwater, or embedded within living tissue and manmade structures. CenSSIS Director Michael Silevitch said, "This research could result in advances in a new generation of medical imaging for a better and less invasive diagnosing of cancer and heart disease, methods to improve invitro fertilization and sensors to detect underground pollution or hidden highway bridge damage."
Under a five-year grant worth $16.2 million, CenSSIS will receive $2.6 million from NSF for the first year with support from industry partners, partnering universities and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The combined first year operating level of funding is estimated at more than $8 million.
CenSSIS unites researchers from four academic core partners - Northeastern University (lead partner), Boston University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and four strategic affiliates - Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, (Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The multi-institutional, interdisciplinary engineering research effort is one of only two such centers of excellence nationwide to be funded by NSF for 1999-2000 and will focus on next-generation advances in complex engineered systems. Since 1987 NSF has launched 37 ERCs that provide opportunities for interdisciplinary teams to collaborate with industry on research and education. The CenSSIS ERC headquartered at Northeastern University joins a distinguished group of nationally-recognized research institutions with ERCs - M.I.T., Johns Hopkins University and The California Institute of Technology. These centers have significantly boosted the competitiveness of partner firms, and graduates of the centers have an excellent record of technological innovation in industry.
Northeastern University's Michael Silevitch, CenSSIS Director, will lead a team of investigators in a wide range of interdisciplinary research projects. He brings a strong background in math and science curriculum development and has served as the director of the Center for Electromagnetics Research at NU for more than fifteen years. He describes the over-arching goal of the Center, "CenSSIS is designed to systematically identify and break barriers in order to make breakthroughs in subsurface diagnoses and assessments. The CenSSIS goal is to achieve similar solutions for diverse sensing problems by developing shared tools and methods."
Each CenSSIS academic partner and strategic affiliate brings unique expertise to the mission. Northeastern brings experience in wave propagation, signal processing, database structures and scalable computation. CenSSIS Associate Director Carey Rappaport leads NU’s humanitarian demining research effort, which integrates electromagnetic, acoustic, and optical sensing modalities to detect subsurface explosives. He will design sensing systems that incorporate carefully tailored signal processing algorithms that specifically take the sensor and wave physics into account.
Bahaa E. A. Saleh, chairman of electrical and computer engineering at Boston University and CenSSIS Deputy Director explains BU’s role, "Our work in the area of ultrasonic imaging in combination with the groundbreaking research in entangled-photon fluorescence microscopy, provides a promising array of approaches for the development of new, highly effective sensors for use in a variety of sub-surface environments. We also have an outstanding team with great expertise in solving the problems associated with extracting information from blurred and noisy data. This is vital to interpreting data collected by the sensors so the structure of the imaged objects can be clearly seen."
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Image Processing Research is led by CenSSIS Associate Director James Modestino. This group is nationally recognized for its creation of methods to compress large images to enable their real time transmission over complex routes such as the Internet or wireless links.
CenSSIS Associate Director Luis Jiménez leads the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez Laboratory for Remote Sensing and Image Processing, which has concentrated on methods to remotely assess critical environmental issues such as the widespread erosion of submerged coral reefs and the flow of pollutants from rivers into the open ocean. Harvard Medical School faculty at the strategic affiliates Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital will apply CenSSIS advanced sensing and imaging tools to biomedical problems. An example of this synergy is the need to develop methods to non-invasively sense and image the presence of vulnerable cardiovascular plaque, considered to be a significant trigger of sudden heart attacks. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will work to improve an understanding of how contaminants migrate into groundwater tables that result in the pollution of water resources. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will leverage assets associated with the National Deep Submergence Facility to advance the imaging needs of its geological, biological, archaeological and forensic user communities.
The Center will integrate research with a strong focus on education and curriculum development as well as establishing industrial partnerships to create new technology products. In an effort to better prepare students ranging from middle school age through to the graduate level and beyond, CenSSIS will implement programs that familiarize students with a systems approach to technology development. Four major program elements will be created: research internships in industry, undergraduate educational laboratories featuring imaging technology and real problem solutions, undergraduate and graduate level interdisciplinary team-taught courses, and design competitions and summer pre-engineering programs for middle and high school students.
Biomedical researchers collaborating with CenSSIS engineers will develop better microscopes and ultrasound imagers to study subcellular biology, functional deep brain imaging, help in early tumor diagnosis and heart attack prevention. These innovations can be shared with environmental and civil engineers who need techniques like CAT scans to monitor the structural integrity of bridges, roads and buildings. These same advances can help further humanitarian demining efforts. Marine biologists and archeologists need new sonar technology to explore the regions above and beneath the ocean floor. Similarly, new seismic imagers are needed to effectively uncover oil and gas deposits deep in the earth or to obtain three-dimensional groundwater pollution maps. The CenSSIS strategy of diverse problems-similar solutions was evaluated by NSF-ERC reviewers as having the potential for revolutionary impact.
CONTACTS: Kevin Myron, Northeastern University617-373-5739, [email protected]
Shauna LaFauci, Boston University 617-353-2399, [email protected]
The above story is based on materials provided by Northeastern University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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