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Charles Edison Lecture Series


Rosalind W. Picard

Founder and Director of the Affective Computing Research Group at the MIT Media Laboratory, Co-founder of Affectiva, Co-founder and Chief Scientistof Empatica

"Emotion Technology, Wearables, and Surprises"

131 Debartolo Hall - 3:30 p.m. 
October 6, 2016

Years ago, my students at MIT and I began to design, build, and test both wearable and other sensors for recognizing emotion. We designed studies, gathered data, and developed signal processing and machine learning techniques to see what could be reliably extracted and what insights could be obtained - especially studying stress. In this talk I will highlight several of the most surprising findings during this adventure. These include new insights about the “true smile of happiness,” discovering that regular cameras (and your smartphone, even in your handbag) can compute some of your biosignals, finding electrical signals on the wrist that give insight into deep brain activity, and learning surprising implications of wearable sensing for autism, anxiety, depression, sleep, memory consolidation, epilepsy, and more. I’ll also describe our next focus: how might these new capabilities help prevent the #1 disease burden in the future?

Bruce R. Ellingwood

Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Co-Director of the NIST-sponsored Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning, Colorado State University

"Life-Cycle Performance Goalsfor Civil Infrastructure: Managing Risk in an Era of Climate Change"

208 DeBartolo Hall - 3:30 p.m.
March 14, 2016

Civil infrastructure facilities are essential to the health of modern society.  Time-dependent effects of aging and climate change complicate the performance assessment of such facilities significantly.  Moreover, the service lives for certain civil infrastructure projects (e.g., large dams, critical flood-control structures, toxic waste repositories), may be substantially longer than the customary 50 to 75-year lives of typical buildings and bridges. Such considerations may extend time-dependent reliability assessments and the potential consequences of engineering decisions to future generations, far beyond customary budget cycles for public investment.  Improved decision-theoretic approaches and life-cycle engineering models are required for steering the investments of public funds toward constructing and maintaining civil infrastructure for such extended service periods.  This seminar will introduce a number of issues in this context that arise in risk-informed decision-making aimed at ensuring equity over multi-generational time frames.

Michael L. Corradini

Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

"Interesting Issues in Reactor Design for Medical Isotope Production"

Geddes Hall Auditorium - 3:30 p.m.
February 9, 2016

Aqueous reactors using solutions of uranium salts can provide a new supply chain to fill potential shortfalls in the availability of the most common radiopharmaceuticals currently in use worldwide, Technicium-99, which is a decay product of Molybdenum-99 (99Mo). In a fissioning aqueous solution, the power generated from fission determines the absolute yield of daughter isotopes produced, including 99Mo. The fissioning of the uranium in these solutions creates 99Mo but also generates hydrogen and oxygen gases from the radiolysis of the water. When the dissolved gases reach a critical concentration, bubbles will form in the solution. Bubbles in the solution affect both the fission power and the heat transfer out of the solution. As a result, the effects of the bubbles on heat transfer must be understood for reliable performance and safe operation. This will be the focus of the talk and how it affects the overall engineering design.



Dennis E. Discher

Robert D. Bent Professor, Molecular & Cell Biophysics LabSchool of Engineering & Applied Science
Physical Sciences in Oncology Center @ Penn
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

"From the Mechanics of Development to the Physics of Cancer"

Geddes Hall Auditorium - 3:30 p.m.
November 3, 2015

Soft tissues such as fat bear little physical stress, whereas stiffer tissues like muscle and bone sustain high stress. We have begun to uncover systematic relationships between such tissue properties in development and differentiation, having first shown that a soft matrix helps specify soft tissue lineages while a stiff matrix helps specify stiff tissue lineages. Broad analyses of protein levels in embryonic and mature tissues have revealed that while collagens directly determine tissue elasticity E, a nuclear structure protein related to keratin (in hair and fingernails) and called lamin-A follows polymer physics-type scaling versus E.  Lamin-A has evolved to regulate nuclear plasticity. It has been reported for decades to vary widely between tissues, and mutations in lamin-A can cause diseases of multiple stiff tissues as well as accelerated aging syndromes with defects in stiff tissue repair. Differentiation of various stem cell types is generally modulated by lamin-A levels downstream of matrix E and soluble factors such as retinoids, with various pathways being co-regulated by lamin-A.  Complementary insights are obtained in structure-property analyses of cell migration, from stem cells to cancer cells, with surprising new results emerging for mutations in cancer.

Michael S. Strano

Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering
Department of Chemical Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"New Concepts in Biosensing Using SingleWalled Carbon Nanotubes and Graphene"

Snite Museum of Art, Annenberg Auditorium - 3:30 p.m.
November 2, 2015

Our lab at MIT has been interested in how the 1D and 2D electronic structures of carbon nanotubes and graphene respectively can be utilized to advance new concepts in molecular detection. We introduce CoPhMoRe or corona phase molecular recognition as a method of discovering synthetic antibodies, or nanotube-templated recognition sites from a heteropolymer library. We show that certain synthetic heteropolymers, once constrained onto a single-walled carbon nanotube by chemical adsorption, also form a new corona phase that exhibits highly selective recognition for specific molecules. To prove the generality of this phenomenon, we report three examples of heteropolymers–nanotube recognition complexes for riboflavin, L-thyroxine and estradiol. The platform opens new opportunities to create synthetic recognition sites for molecular detection. We have also extended this molecular recognition technique to neurotransmitters, producing the first fluorescent sensor for dopamine. Another area of advancement in biosensor development is the use of near infrared fluorescent carbon nanotube sensors for in vivo detection. Here, we show that PEG-ligated d(AAAT)7 DNA wrapped SWNT are selective for nitric oxide, a vasodilator of blood vessels, and can be tail vein injected into mice and localized within the viable mouse liver. We use an SJL mouse model to study liver inflammation in vivo using the spatially and spectrally resolved nIR signature of the localized SWNT sensors. Lastly, we discuss graphene as an interfacial optical biosensor, showing that it possesses two pKa values in alkaline and basic ranges. We use this response to measure dopamine in real time, spatially resolved at the interface with living PC12 cells which efflux dopamine, indicating graphene’s promise as an interfacial sensor in biology.

Ishwar K. Puri

Dean of Engineering and Professor McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

"Our Creeping Future: Stokes Flow Enabling Tomorrow’s Materials"

Snite Museum of Art, Annenberg Auditorium - 4:00 p.m.
August 26, 2015

Nature leverages structure-property relations to produce materials that are tailored to its needs. For instance, the high damage-tolerance of bone results from complex nanoscale heterogeneities in stiffness. The exceptional resilience of resilin, a protein that enables high-frequency wing movements in insects, occurs due to structural features in its molecule. These examples point to strategies to produce superior materials that are tailored to a specific need. While the means to control microstructure are more limited at the molecular scale, the use of nanomaterials, such as nanoparticles, can overcome this restriction. These particles can be used as the building blocks of larger matter, the bulk properties of which depend upon the organization of the constituent nanoparticles. This Edison Lecture focuses on the development of scalable self-assembly methods to organize nanomaterials in a liquid bath. This involves a reintroduction to the century-old Stokes flow motion of particles of negligible inertia in a fluid. We will discuss how this flow is used to engineer next-generation materials. Specifically, we will consider (1) the organization of magnetic nanoparticles into microstructures of desired morphology within a polymer composite to develop an anisotropic property field, and (2) the organization of magnetically labeled cells with the intent to generate an artificial tissue of desired architecture.

Thomas J. Meyer

Arey Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Energy Frontier Research Center on Solar Fuels, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Making Oxygen from Sunlight and Water"

107 Carey Auditorium, Hesburgh Library - 4:00 p.m.
April 16, 2015

The sun could be our ultimate renewable energy source but, as an energy source, suffers from its low intensity, and the massive collection areas required to meet the needs of powering the world’s growing economies. The sun is also intermittent, going down at night, which creates a need for energy storage on massive scales. Inspired by natural photosynthesis, a way to meet the energy storage challenge is by using the energy of the sun to produce “solar fuels” by “Artificial Photosynthesis” with energy stored in the chemical bonds of high energy molecules - hydrogen from water splitting or carbon-based fuels from reduction of CO2.

In this presentation, a hybrid approach to solar fuels is described. It is based on the integration of molecular assemblies for light absorption and catalysis with the band gap and surface properties of mesoscopic, nanoparticle films of inert metal oxides – TiO2, SnO2, NiO. In the resulting Dye Sensitized Photoelectrosynthesis Cells (DSPEC), light absorption by the chromophore and excited state injection into the conduction band of TiO2 initiates a series of electron transfer events. Transfer of the injected electron transfer to a cathode results in H2 evolution. With appropriate design features built in, including surface stabilization of the assembly and use of core/shell structured oxide films, relatively high per photon-absorbed efficiencies for visible light water splitting into hydrogen and oxygen has been achieved.

Zdeněk P. Bažant

McCormick Institute Professor and Walter P. Murphy Professor of Civil and
Environmental Engineering Mechanical Engineering and Material Science
Northwestern University

"Why Fracking Works and Why Not Well Enough"

Geddes Hall Auditorium - 3:30 p.m.

March 31, 2015

The astonishing success of the U.S. industry with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, drastically improves the energy prospects of the U.S. Many aspects of fracking, including the propagation of a single crack with the flow of pressurized incompressible fluid through the crack, are well understood by now. However, the geometry and evolution of the crack system still remains an enigma. This makes mechanicians wonder: Why fracking works? The answer must be sought in the stability of interacting hydraulic cracks. Based on: 1) the known gas permeability of shale, 2) the known percentage of gas extraction from shale stratum, 3) the observed time to peak flux of gas at the wellhead  and 4) the observed halftime of flux decay, it is shown that the crack spacing must be only about 10 cm, which roughly coincides with the spacing of rock joints. Attainment of such a small spacing requires preventing localization in parallel crack systems. This is a stability problem analogous to a system of parallel cooling or shrinkage cracks studied at Northwestern long ago. Formulated is a hydro-thermal analogy which makes it possible to transfer solutions from cooling to hydraulic cracks. From this analogy, and from new numerical solutions of stability of a system of pressurized circular equidistant vertical cracks, it is concluded that the localization instability can be avoided if the hydraulic pressure profile along the cracks can be made almost uniform. Whether it can depends on the rate and history of pumping of the fracking water, as well as the proppants, gellants and acids in the fracking water. Preventing localization in a vast system of growing cracks interacting with the flow of fracking water through the cracks (or open rock joints) is, from the fracture mechanics viewpoint, what makes fracking work. But not well enough, since currently only 5-15% of gas gets extracted from the shale strata. Thus  the localization is being suppressed only to a limited extent. More extensive suppression will be one way to increase the gas extraction percentage. This will also diminish the potential for seismicity and reduce the amount of fracking water per unit amount of extracted gas, thus mitigating the environmental footprint. Finally, the similarity of some problems with deep sequestration of waste fluids is pointed out.



John Donovan

Senior Executive Vice President of AT&T Technology and Network Operations at AT&T Inc.

"Insights into the Next Evolution in Networking Technology"

DeBartolo Hall, Room 141 - 3:15 p.m.

October 3, 2014

John Donovan, senior executive vice president of AT&T’s technology and network operations, will speak about the significant changes AT&T — a Fortune 11 company — is seeing in its industry and the same forces that are driving change in other industries. The proliferation of connected people and things is generating vast amounts of data yielding unprecedented insight. The explosion of video is powering immersive content for consumers and businesses. Intelligence is moving from devices into the cloud, where customers access it on demand. These changes are creating new demands on a network that also must migrate from TDM to IP. Those are the challenges. The promise comes from emerging technologies like network function virtualization (NFV), software defined networking (SDN), and big data as a service (BDaaS) that require new levels of collaboration, flexibility, and speed. The companies that embrace this change set themselves up to be the leaders of the next evolution in the technology space.

Robert H. Davis

Dean and Tisone Endowed Chair in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder

"Selected Problems in Low-Reynolds-Number Fluid Mechanics"

Eck Visitors' Center, Auditorium - 3:30 p.m.
September 18, 2014

For fluid flow at low Reynolds numbers, viscous forces dominate over inertia. These conditions occur when the flow is very slow, the fluid has a large kinematic viscosity, and/or the flow domain is very small. In this talk, Davis will describe selected problems in low-Reynolds-number fluid mechanics studied by his research group over the past several years. Many of these problems are motivated by biological and energy applications and include examples such as novel bioreactors for production of proteins and ribonucleic acids, membrane separations for cell harvesting and protein separations, microfluidic flows for biological analyses and detection, and emulsion flows in porous media and other confined geometries. Interspersed with these technical subjects will be a few comments on leadership and planning.



R.K. Hanson

Woodard Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University

"Laser-based Diagnostics for Combustion and Propulsion: Absorption and Fluorescence"

Lower Level Auditorium, Geddes Hall - 3:30 p.m.

April 30, 2013

Non-intrusive laser-based diagnostics play a major role in current combustion and propulsion research and development. This presentation will focus on two of the most commonly used methods, namely absorption and fluorescence, and provide a historical perspective on the development of these methods as well as several examples illustrating the state-of-the-art. Absorption methods generally rely on wavelength-tunable continuous-wave diode lasers providing access to visible, near-infrared and mid-infrared wavelengths, with the potential for accurate and sensitive measurements of multiple flow field quantities including temperature, species concentration and velocity, all along a line-of-sight. By contrast, fluorescence strategies typically utilize pulsed laser sources in the ultraviolet aimed at providing temporally and spatially resolved planar (i.e.,two-dimensional) images of properties including temperature and species concentrations. Although fluorescence methods are most often applied in laboratory environments, absorption can be applied in large-scale engineering systems, some of which are hostile environments, as well in fundamental laboratory experimental facilities. Example applications to be presented include reactive and non-reactive flows in hypersonic shock tunnels, shock tubes, internal combustion engines, coal-fired combustors, scramjet combustors, and others.

David P. Billington

Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering Emeritus at Princeton University

"Engineers and the Making of the Twentieth Century"

DeBartolo Hall, Room 102 - 3:30 p.m.
April 5, 2013

This lecture will describe major engineers who made radical innovations that  built the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. Examples include Robert Fulton, Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, Othmar Ammann, Hyman Rickover, Jack Kilby, and Robert Noyce. It will bring out how these engineers came to their innovative ideas, as well as what their work tells us about how breakthrough innovation occurs.



Nicholas J. Altiero

Dean of Science and Engineering at Tulane University

"Survival to Renewal: How a University and a City Recover from Hurricane Katrina"

Eck Visitors' Center Auditorium - 2:00 p.m.
May 9, 2012

Dean Altiero will discuss the challenges that Tulane faced following the storm and its horrific aftermath and how that event has reshaped the institution and its relationship to the city of New Orleans. In particular, he will address the re-thinking of science and engineering education at Tulane in context of the university's post-storm Plan for Renewal.



Michael Griffin

Former NASA Administrator and Incoming President of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

"System Engineering: What It Is, What It Is Not"

Geddes Hall, Room B001 - 4:00 p.m.
September 8, 2011

During this installment of the Edison Lecture Series, Michael Griffin will discuss the relationship between engineering science and engineering design, focusing on how the modern discipline of system engineering provides a link between these two major branches of the engineering profession. He will also explore the relationship of engineering process control to engineering design, and how system engineering properly combines these two responsibilities in the design, development, fabrication, test, and operation of modern complex engineered systems.

Sébastien Candel

Ecole Centrale Paris, EM2C Laboratory, CNRS

"Fundamental Issues in Combustion Dynamics and Practical Applications"

DeBartolo Hall, Room 138 - 3:30 p.m.
April 5, 2011

The interaction between acoustics and combustion gives rise to dynamical phenomena which can have a detrimental impact on the operation and integrity of combustion systems. Many of the current issues in this area arise from the introduction of advanced combustion systems in modern gas turbines. These machines now rely on premixed combustion to reduce NOx emissions, and this combustion mode is more sensitive to resonant acoustic coupling leading to instability. Dynamical phenomena are also found in may other configurations like aero engines or liquid rocket thrust chambers. Their serious effects often lead to degraded operation and in extreme cases to important damage. Many aspects of this subject have been investigated for their fundamental and practical implications. Advances have been made recently in the experimental investigation of the driving and coupling mechanisms, in the modeling of the various processes and in the exploration of large eddy simulations applications to this problem. After a review of issues in combustion, this lecture proposes a synthesis of recent progress including: (1) investigations of perturbed flame dynamics; (2) studies of swirling flames response to incident distrubances; (3) application of describing function nonlinear methods to the prediction of limit cycle amplitudes, triggering, and mode switching; and (4) experiments on the fundamental high-frequency coupling processes in liquid rocket engines.

Advances in computational flame dynamics will be illustrated by calculations of perturbed flames and of self-sustained oscillations. This understanding of combustion dynamics has led to new concepts for the dynamical control of instabilities.

Anjan Bose

Regents Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Washington State University

"The Evolution of Control for the Smart Transmission Grid"

Fitzpatrick Hall, Room 258 - 3:30 p.m.
April 1, 2011

The smart transmission grid is a major topic of discussion, but a comprehensive description of such a grid is still developing. It is expected that such a transmission system will have significantly more measurements, communications, and control than the present grid, yet no consensus has been reached on what the specifications of such a new functionality should be. Of course, the technical specifications depend on the new applications of  monitoring and control that we would like to see for the operation of the grid. Matching the available technology of measurement, communication, and control to our wish list of applications is the way to develop this technical vision of the smart grid.

In this presentation, Bose will describe a specific view of what the smart transmission grid will look like and what new monitoring and control functions will be feasible with existing technologies of measurements, communications, computers, and controllers. The new development will be mainly in software, which will also be covered.

Robert H. Dodds Jr.

M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Endowed Chair of Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"3D Models of Steady Crack Advance in Ductile Metals"

DeBartolo Hall, Room 138 - 3:30 p.m.
February 15, 2011

During sustained ductile tearing, high-performance structral metals (e.g., Al, Ti alloys) in thin panel applications generally have in-plane plastic zone sizes quite small relative to the panel dimensions but comparable to the thickness, B. Near the crack front, and over a region of no more than a few multiples of B, the strain-stress fields reveal strongly 3D features. At larger distances from the advancing crack front, the fields become linear-elastic and plane-stress.

At steady conditions, the crack front loading remains fixed, and the near-front fields appear invariant with respect to an observer situated on the crack front and moving with it at a constant velocity. For small deformations, the temporal rate of change for any field quantity equals the spatial rate of change parallel to the direction of crack growth for that same quantity. This relationship leads to an efficient numerical framework to compute the elastic-plastic, near-front fields for steady-state crack growth.

In these first p ublished analyses for 3D steady growth, the crack front remains well contained within a linear-elastic, plane-stress region where the mechanical fields are described by the remobe K1 and the non-singular T-stress. A 3D "boundary layer" setting supports exploration of the crack front fields. The thickness (B) provides the only, natural geometric length-scale, and it links in the in-plane loading levels with 3D effects near the crack front.

The presentation summarizes concepts of the 3D steady-state formulation and key features of the first solutions obtained using the model with particular reference to the non-dimensional loading parameters.