ESE Colloquia & Events

Spring 2017

ESE colloquia are held on Tuesdays from 11-12:00pm in Towne 337, unless otherwise noted. For all Penn Engineering events, visit the Penn Calendar.

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*Schedule to be Announced*


Fall 2016

Tuesday, September 27th
Gad Allon
University of Pennsylvania, M&T Program Director
Managing Service Systems in the Presence of Social Networks

Read the Abstract and Bio

Abstract: We study the optimal service differentiation policy for service organizations with the presence of social networks. In our framework, customers' beliefs of the service quality evolve over time according to their own experiences and the reported experiences from their friends in the network. We characterize the conditions under which such belief system converges and the corresponding optimal service differentiation policy. Our main results can be summarized as follows. First, contrary to the existing literature, we show that, when customers directly report their experiences, the importance of a customer only depends on his economic value and his friends' economic values. In other words, the optimal policy only needs first-order friendship. Second, we demonstrate that the value of knowing social network structures critically depends on the correlation between customers' economic and social values. The social network value is higher if the correlation is lower. Third, we use a novel data set with more than 15,000 customers to show empirically that for many service providers, specifically those targeting mid and high end customers there are negative correlations between the social values and economic values of their customers. We also provide an intuitive explanation, with empirical justifications, of the differences between firms’ correlations.

Bio: Gad Allon is the Jeffrey A. Keswin Professor and Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions. He received his PhD in Management Science from Columbia Business School in New York and holds a Bachelor and Master degree from the Israeli Institute of Technology.
His research interests include operations management in general, and service operations and operations strategy in particular. Professor Allon has been studying models of information sharing among firms and customers both in service and retail settings, as well as competition models in the service industry. His articles have appeared in leading journals, including Management Science, Manufacturing and Service Operations Management and Operations Research. Professor Allon won the 2011 "Wickham Skinner Early-Career Research Award" of the Production and Operations Management Society. He is the Operations Management Department Editor of Management Science and serves on the editorial board of several journals. Gad is an award-winning educator, teaching courses on scaling operations and operations strategy. He is the co-founder of ForClass, a platform that enables professors to drive higher student engagement and accountability in their classrooms.

Tuesday, October 4th
Matteo Rinaldi
Northeastern University
Paradigm Shift in MEMS toward Multi-Functional and Near-Zero Power Integrated Microsystems

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Abstract: Sensors are nowadays found in a wide variety of applications, such as smart mobile devices, automotive, healthcare and environmental monitoring. The recent advancements in terms of sensor miniaturization, low power consumption and low cost allow envisioning a new era for sensing in which the data collected from multiple individual smart sensor systems are combined to get information about the environment that is more accurate and reliable than the individual sensor data. By leveraging such sensor fusion it will be possible to acquire complete and accurate information about the context in which human beings live, which has huge potential for the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) in which physical and virtual objects are linked through the exploitation of sensing and communication capabilities with the intent of making life simpler and more efficient
for human beings.

This trend towards sensor fusion has dramatically increased the demand of new technology platforms, capable of delivering multiple sensing and wireless communication functionalities in a small foot print. In this context, Micro- and Nanoelectromechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS) technologies can have a tremendous impact since they can be used for the implementation of high performance sensors and wireless communication devices with reduced form factor and Integrated Circuit (IC) integration capability.

This talk presents a new class of MEMS/NEMS devices that can address some of the most important challenges in the areas of physical, chemical and biological detection and can be simultaneously used to synthesize high-Q reconfigurable and adaptive radio frequency (RF) resonant devices. By combining the unique physical, optical and electrical properties of advanced materials such as thin film piezoelectric materials, graphene, photonic metamaterials, phase change materials and magnetic materials, multiple and advanced sensing and RF communication functionalities are implemented in a small footprint. Furthermore, a new class of sensors that can remain dormant, with near zero power consumption, until awoken by an external trigger or stimulus are presented as a solution to fundamentally break the paradigm of using active power to sense infrequent events and
enable a nearly unlimited duration of operation for unattended ground sensors.

Bio: Matteo Rinaldi received his Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Systems Engineering from the
University of Pennsylvania in 2010. He joined the Electrical and Computer Engineering
department at Northeastern University as an Assistant Professor in January 2012.

Dr. Rinaldi’s research focuses on understanding and exploiting the fundamental properties of
micro/nanomechanical structures and advanced nanomaterials to engineer new classes of
micro and nanoelectromechanical systems (M/NEMS) with unique and enabling features
applied to the areas of chemical, physical and biological sensing and low power
reconfigurable radio communication systems. In particular, his group has been actively
working on experimental research topics and practical applications to ultra-low power
MEMS/NEMS sensors (infrared, magnetic, chemical and biological), plasmonic micro and
nano electromechanical devices, medical micro systems and implantable micro devices for intra-body networks, reconfigurable radio frequency devices and systems, phase change material switches, 2D material enabled micro and nano mechanical devices.

The research in Dr. Rinaldi’s group is supported by several Federal grants (including DARPA, NSF, DHS) and the Keck foundation.

Dr. Rinaldi has co-authored more than 70 publications in the aforementioned research areas and also holds 2 patents and more than 10 device patent applications in the field of MEMS/NEMS.

Dr. Rinaldi was the recipient of the IEEE Sensors Council Early Career Award in 2015, the NSF CAREER Award in 2014 and the DARPA Young Faculty Award class of 2012. He received the Best Student Paper Award at the 2009, 2011 and 2015 (with his student) IEEE International Frequency Control Symposiums and the Outstanding Paper Award at the 18 th International Conference on Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems, Transducers 2015 (with his student).

Tuesday, October 11th - CANCELLED
Tomas Palacios
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Bio: Tomás Palacios is the Emmanuel E. Landsman Career Development Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Masscahusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is affiliated with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and with the Microsystems Technology Laboratory. He studied Telecommunication Engineer in the Polytechnic University of Madrid, and he received his MS and PhD degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of California - Santa Barbara in 2004 and 2006, respectively.
Tomás´ research interests include the design, processing and characterization of new electronic devices based on wide bandgap semiconductors for power amplification and digital applications beyond 100 GHz. When not at MIT, Tomás enjoys reading, listening to classical music, hiking and attending plays and concerts.
He is also author or coauthor of more than 130 scientific papers in international journals and conferences, three book chapter and multiple invited talks and patents. Recently Tomás has been awarded the DARPA Young Faculty Award (March 2008), the Office of Naval Research’ Young Investigator Award (March 2009) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award (July 2009).

Thursday, October 20th
The Jack Keil Wolf Lecture in Electrical and Systems Engineering
Thomas Kailath
Stanford University
The Process of Making Breakthroughs in Engineering
3pm, Wu and Chen Auditorium. Reception to follow in Levine Lobby

Read the Abstract and Bio

Abstract: This presumptuous title was first suggested as a challenge, followed by an offer that I could not refuse. So, while there is no magic formula for making breakthroughs in any field, it is possible to glean some useful pointers from past experiences. Several factors come into play, technology being only one of them. The talk will examine these via a review of several case histories.

Bio:Thomas Kailath received a B.E. (Telecom) degree in 1956 from the College of Engineering, Pune, India, and S.M. (1959) and Sc.D. (1961) degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then worked at the Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena, CA, before being appointed to Stanford University as Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering in 1963. He was promoted to Professor in 1968, and appointed as the first holder of the Hitachi America Professorship in Engineering in1988. He assumed emeritus status in 2001, but remains active with his research and writing activities. He also held shorter-term appointments at several institutions around the world: UC Berkeley, Indian Statistical Institute, Bell Labs, Indian Institute of Science, Cambridge University, K. U. Leuven, T.U. Delft, Weizmann Institute, Imperial College, MIT, UCLA ,T. U. Munich. 

His research and teaching have ranged over several fields of engineering and mathematics: information theory, communications, linear systems, estimation and control, signal processing, semiconductor manufacturing, probability and statistics, and matrix and operator theory. He has also co-founded and served as a director of several high-technology companies. He has mentored an outstanding array of over a hundred doctoral and postdoctoral scholars. Their joint efforts have led to over 300 journal papers, a dozen patents and several books and monographs, including the major textbooks: Linear Systems (1980) and Linear Estimation (2000). 

He received the IEEE Medal of Honor in 2007 for "exceptional contributions to the development of powerful algorithms for communications, control, computing and signal processing." Among other major honors are the Shannon Award of the IEEE Information Theory Society; the IEEE Education Medal and the IEEE Signal Processing Medal; the 2009 BBVA Foundation Prize for Information and Communication Technologies; the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award; election to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; foreign membership of the Royal Society of London, the Royal Spanish Academy of Engineering, the Indian National Academy of Engineering, the Indian National Science Academy, the Indian Academy of Sciences, and TWAS (The World Academy of Sciences). 

In November 2014, he received a US National Medal of Science from President Obama "for transformative contributions to the fields of information and system science, for distinctive and sustained mentoring of young scholars, and for translation of scientific ideas into entrepreneurial ventures that have had a significant impact on industry."

Tuesday, October 25th
Grace Hopper Lecture Series
Muriel Medard
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Network Coding - A Personal Account of Combining Theory and Practice
3pm, Wu and Chen Auditorium

Read the Abstract and Bio

Abstract: This talk seeks to illustrate the interplay between theoretical development and engineering implementation, with a personal slant. It centers on Network Coding (NC), a modern information theoretic development that leverages algebraic data manipulation during transport through a network to enhance resource usage. The addition of data manipulation to network modeling went beyond traditional graph theoretic considerations, allowing a significant relaxation of constraints that had original been treated as essential and, consequently, to the circumvention of impasses. The new model afforded opportunities for improved resource usage in existing networks through developments such as our Random Linear Network Coding (RLNC). While RLNC provided provably optimal throughput within standard theoretical frameworks, introducing it into the most common Internet transport protocol, Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), required an inventive reinterpretation of TCP’s control signals. Our recent theoretical results in Equivalence Theory show there is no benefit, in terms of throughput, in combining NC with the type of coding commonly used to palliate mistransmissions in error-prone media such as wireless links. These results confirm the sense behind current operational practice, but contradict long-standing folk-theorems regarding the benefit of joint coding. However, when other performance metrics such as energy consumption are taken into account, in practice we have shown that combining NC with coding for wireless links leads to marked, cumulative gains. We shall conclude the talk with open challenges and research directions driven by the coming convergence of data storage and networking. No background knowledge will be assumed.

Bio: Muriel Médard is the Cecil H. Green Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at MIT and leads the Network Coding and Reliable Communications Group at the Research Laboratory for Electronics at MIT. She has co-founded two companies to commercialize network coding, CodeOn and Steinwurf. She has served as editor for many publications of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), of which she was elected Fellow, and she is currently Editor in Chief of the IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications . She was President of the IEEE Information Theory Society in 2012, and served on its board of governors for eleven years.  She received the 2009 IEEE Communication Society and Information Theory Society Joint Paper Award, the 2009 William R. Bennett Prize in the Field of Communications Networking, the 2002 IEEE Leon K. Kirchmayer Prize Paper Award and several conference paper awards. She was co-winner of the MIT 2004 Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award. In 2007 she was named a Gilbreth Lecturer by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

Tuesday, November 15th
Douglas Densmore
Boston University
Circuits in Cells, Bits in Bugs - How (Synthetic) Biology is a Computing Platform
*Joint ESE - BE Seminar*

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Abstract: Successful computing systems leverage their underlying technologies to solve problems humans simply cannot. Electronic systems harness the power of electrons and semiconductors. Mechanical systems use physical force and physical interactions. Biological systems represent a computing paradigm that can harness evolution/adaptation, redundancy/replication, chemistry/natural processing, and living material/organisms. Engineered, living biological systems which make decisions, process “data”, record events, adapt to specific inputs/outputs, and communicate to one another will deliver exciting new solutions in bio-therapeutics, bio-materials, bio-energy, and bio-remediation. This is engineering of biological systems has been dubbed “Synthetic Biology”. In this talk, I will outline my vision for “Bio-Design Automation” for synthetic biology. Specifically I will highlight my research’s efforts in the specification, design, assembly, verification, and data management involved in automating synthetic biology. These challenges are addressed by a suite of software tools which draw inspiration from Electronic Design Automation. I will discuss how to leverage traditional logic synthesis techniques to create genetic circuits for synthetic biology using a tool called “Cello”. I will also outline hybrid microfluidic bio-computation captured in a workflow called “Fluigi”. I will close by discussing community and commercial involvement mechanisms via the Bio-Design Automation Consortium, the Nona Research Foundation, and Lattice Automation, Inc.

Bio: Douglas Densmore is a Kern Faculty Fellow, a Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science and Engineering Junior Faculty Fellow, and Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Boston University. His research focuses on the development of tools for the specification, design, and assembly of synthetic biological systems, drawing upon his experience with embedded system level design and electronic design automation (EDA).

He is the director of the Cross-disciplinary Integration of Design Automation Research (CIDAR) group at Boston University, where his team of staff and postdoctoral researchers, undergraduate interns, and graduate students develop computational and experimental tools for synthetic biology. His research facilities include both a computational workspace in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as experimental laboratory space in the Boston University Center of Synthetic Biology (CoSBI).

His research interests include Computer Architecture, Embedded Systems, Logic Synthesis, Digital Logic Design, System Level Design, and Synthetic Biology.

Thursday, November 17th
Alexandros Dimakis
University of Texas at Austin
Discovering Causality in Data Using Entropy
3-4pm, Towne 337

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Abstract: Causality has been studied under several frameworks in statistics and artificial intelligence. We will briefly survey Pearl’s Structural Equation model and explain how interventions can be used to discover causality. We will also present a novel information theoretic framework for discovering causal directions from observational data when interventions are not possible. The starting point is conditional independence in joint probability distributions and no prior knowledge on causal inference is required.

Bio: Alex Dimakis is an Associate Professor in the Electrical & Computer Engineering department at The University of Texas at Austin. Prof. Dimakis received his Ph.D. in 2008 and M.S. degree in 2005 in electrical engineering and computer sciences from UC Berkeley and the Diploma degree from the National Technical University of Athens in 2003. During 2009 he was a CMI postdoctoral scholar at Caltech. He received an NSF Career award in 2011, a Google faculty research award in 2012 and the Eli Jury dissertation award in 2008. He is the co-recipient of several best paper awards including the joint Information Theory and Communications Society Best Paper Award in 2012.

Tuesday, November 22nd
Volker Sorger
The George Washington University
Orthogonal Physics Enabled Nanophotonics (OPEN): Attojoule Optoelectronics, Analogue Optical Compute Engines, and Smart Contact Lens IoT System

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Abstract: In nanophotonics we create optical material-systems, which are structured at length-scales smaller than the wavelength of light. When light propagates inside such sub-diffraction limited waveguide modes or cavities numerous novel and exciting physical phenomena emerge including unity-high index modulation, strong Purcell enhancement, and selective exciton-polariton modifications. However, in order to make use of these opportunities for real-world applications, one has to have the ability to integrate nanophotonic structures into functional devices, synergistic links and circuits. In this talk, I present some of our recent theoretical and experimental progress in exploring thresholdless lasing, attojoule-per-bit efficient modulators, and plasmonic and Soliton-based switching. Furthermore, I will show fundamental scaling laws of nanophotonic devices and derive a Figure-of-merit for optical information flow. Using the bosonic character of photons we develop in-the-network information processing engines. Here we map the computational algorithm onto the photonic hardware to demonstrate optical analogue compute engines based on residue arithmetic and neuromorphic computing. Lastly, I discuss scalable multi-adaptive and reconfigurable IOT devices and systems such as a micron-scale THz antenna, and a smart contact lens head-up display for augmented reality.

Bio: Volker J. Sorger is an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the director of the Orthogonal Physics Enabled Nanophotonics (OPEN) lab at the George Washington University. He received his PhD from the University of California Berkeley. His research areas include opto-electronic devices, plasmonics and nanophotonics, including novel materials. Amongst his breakthroughs are the first demonstration of a plasmon laser (Nature 2009), Semiconductor plasmon laser (Nature Mat.) sub-wavelength scale waveguides (Nature Photonics, 2008; Nature Communication, 2011) and Transparent Conductive Oxides electro-optic modulation (Nanophotonics, 2012; Laser Photonics Reviews, 2015). Dr. Sorger received multiple awards among are the Intel graduate award 2007, SPIE BACUS scholarship 2009, MRS Gold award 2011, AFOSR Young Investigator award 2014, Outstanding Young Researcher Award at GWU 2016, and the Hegarty Innovation Prize 2016. Dr. Sorger is the OSA executive co-chair for technical group development, and member of the Board-of-Meetings at OSA and SPIE. He is the editor-in-chief for the journal ‘Nanophotonics’, CTO of BitGrid LLC, and member of IEEE, OSA, SPIE, and MRS. He is the founder of the photonic-materials subcommittee at the Integrated Photonics Research conference, and served on a task force of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI).

Tuesday, November 29th
Andrea Alù
The University of Texas at Austin
From Cloaking to One-Way Propagation: the Fascinating Physics and Engineering of Metamaterials

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Abstract: Metamaterials are artificial materials with properties well beyond what offered by nature, providing unprecedented opportunities to tailor and enhance the interaction between waves with materials. In this talk, I discuss our recent research activity in electromagnetics, nano-optics, acoustics and mechanics, showing how suitably tailored meta-atoms and arrangements of them open exciting venues to manipulate and control waves in unprecedented ways. I will discuss our recent theoretical and experimental results, including metamaterials for scattering suppression, nanostructures and metasurfaces to control wave propagation and radiation, large nonreciprocity without magnetism, giant nonlinearities in properly tailored metamaterials, and parity-time symmetric meta-atoms and metasurfaces. Physical insights into these exotic phenomena, new devices based on these concepts, and their impact on technology will be discussed during the talk.

Bio: Andrea Alù is the Temple Foundation Endowed Professor #3 at the University of Texas at Austin. He received his Laurea (2001) and PhD (2007) from the University of Roma Tre, Italy, and, after a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania, he joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin in 2009. His current research interests span over a broad range of areas, including metamaterials and plasmonics, electromagnetics, nano-optics, photonics and acoustics. Dr. Alù is a Fellow of IEEE, OSA, and APS, and has received several scientific awards, including the NSF Alan T. Waterman award (2015), the OSA Adolph Lomb Medal (2013), and the URSI Issac Koga Gold Medal (2011).

Thursday, December 1st
Todd Coleman
University of California, San Diego
The Interplay between Data Science, Technology, and Health
11am-12pm, Towne 337
*Joint ESE - BE Seminar*

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Abstract: Dr. Coleman will discuss his research group’s efforts in developing flexible multi-functional flexible electronics and scalable inference tools to provide vulnerability profiles and decision support tools for improved interpretation of health and promotion of decision-making. Recent work in advancing flexible physiologic sensors, antennas, and integrated circuits will be discussed, with an emphasis on approaches that are clinically viable, and are compatible with scalable industry-adopted fabrication methods. Dr. Coleman will also discuss novel applied probability methods of interpreting such acquired physiologic data for prediction, diagnosis, and improving health outcomes. An emphasis will be placed on engineering aggregate systems that address socioeconomic and scalability challenges. A few examples will be provided, that include: developing inexpensive and easy-to-deploy physiologic screening tools to predict delayed neurodevelopment in infants; and developing new approaches to measure and interpret electrical activity of the digestive system for disambiguating and identifying physiologic abnormalities underlying GI disorders. Throughout the talk, Dr. Coleman will emphasize the inter-disciplinary nature of this research, involving themes from applied mathematics, electrical engineering, bioengineering, and medicine.

Bio: Todd P. Coleman received B.S. degrees in electrical engineering (summa cum laude) and computer engineering (summa cum laude) from the University of Michigan. He received M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from MIT in electrical engineering, and did postdoctoral studies at Mass General vccvHospital in quantitative neuroscience. He is currently an Associate Professor in Bioengineering at UCSD, where he is the co-director of the Center for Perinatal Health within the Institute of Engineering in Medicine. His research has been featured on CNN, BBC, and the New York Times. In 2015, Dr. Coleman was recognized by the National Academy of Engineering as a Gilbreth Lecturer; by the Root as "one of 100 African-Americans most responsible for 2015's most significant moments, movements, and ideas"; and by TEDMED as an invited speaker.


Tuesday, December 6th
Alex Zettl
University of California, Berkeley
Exploring sp2-bonded materials: From graphene liquid cells to quantum craters and atomic collapse

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Abstract: I will discuss recent experiments on nanostructures based on sp2-bonded carbon and boron nitride, including determination of the detailed (dynamic) atomic structure in graphene and BN sheets using transmission electron microscopy, the imaging of foreign atoms and molecules within nanoscale environmental liquid cells, the creation of customized "quantum craters" for relativistic Dirac fermions, and the observation of atomic collapse long ago predicted for ultra-heavy nuclei.

Bio: Alex Zettl received his B.A. from UC Berkeley in 1978 and his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1983. He joined the Physics Department faculty at UC Berkeley in 1983. Currently he is Professor of Physics at UC Berkeley, Senior Scientist at LBNL, and Member of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute at Berkeley. Awards and Honors include Presidential Young Investigator Award (1984-89), Sloan Foundation Fellowship (1984-86), IBM Faculty Development Award (1985-87), and Miller Professorship (1995), Lucent Technologies Faculty Award (1996), Fellow of the American Physical Society (1999), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Outstanding Performance Award (1995 and 2004), James C. McGroddy Prize for New Materials (2006), Miller Professorship (2007), and R&D 100 Award (2004 & 2015).