María Suarez in her garden.
María Suarez in her garden.
María Suarez in her garden.

By Izzy Lopez

When the coronavirus pandemic began in March, María Suarez, junior in bioengineering, left Penn’s campus and returned home to Costa Rica. What should have been the final weeks of club activities, social events and end-of-year celebrations shifted to months spent at home, far away from Philadelphia. But Suarez, like many others, wanted to do something productive with her time in quarantine. Drawing on her bucolic roots, she decided to start a garden.

“I was born and raised in a very rural area,” Suarez says. “There is a huge river in my backyard where I learned how to…


Hsieh
Hsieh
Ani Hsieh

M. Ani Hsieh, research associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, has been named Deputy Director of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory. Hsieh assumes the role as former Deputy Director CJ Taylor transitions to his new position, Penn Engineering’s first Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Hsieh, who began her tenure in the GRASP Lab as a graduate student, is an expert in the control and planning of multi-agent robotic systems. She is particularly interested in marine robotic systems and their applications in environmental monitoring.

Video: Denise Henhoefer

Though the open…


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Kristian Lum

Kristian Lum, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Science, was recently featured on ACM ByteCast, a podcast series from the Association for Computing Machinery that covers a range of topics at the intersection of computing research and practice.

Host Rashmi Mohan spoke with Lum about her unique path to Penn Engineering and her prior work as the lead statistician at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, where she used data science to uncover racial biases in the United States criminal justice system. …


An illustration of the researchers’ microscopic robot.
An illustration of the researchers’ microscopic robot.
Too small to see with the naked eye, this illustration shows the robot’s components: a circuitboard that serves as its torso and brain, platinum strips with rigid panels that serve as jointed legs, and photovoltaic panels that cause the legs to flex when hit with a laser.

Yesterday, Marc Miskin, assistant professor in Penn Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, published a paper in the journal Nature detailing a new kind of robot he developed with his colleagues and former advisors at Cornell.

Along with the paper, Nature published academic commentary explaining the significance of the paper, as well as a video illustrating how the researchers leveraged the well-understood technology of the semiconductor industry to make their robots’ bodies and added their own twist to form their legs. …


Microscopic images of the researchers’ robot flexing its legs and crawling.
Microscopic images of the researchers’ robot flexing its legs and crawling.
The researchers’ microscopic robots have strips of platinum only a few atoms thick that serve as legs. Shining a laser on a photovoltaic panel on the robot’s back provides voltage that causes one pair of legs to flex. Alternating between the panels allows the robot to crawl.

Advances in robotics are often looked at through the lens of our own biology. Is a new humanoid robot’s gripper gentle enough to safely give a handshake? Can it keep its balance as well as a toddler?

Researchers from Penn Engineering and Cornell are looking through this lens at an even more fundamental level: creating robotic systems that are on the scale of biological cells.

They have created the first microscopic robots that are made with semiconductor processing and can be controlled — and made to walk — with standard electronic signals. …


The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Collaborative Pairs Pilot Project Award is part of its Neurodegeneration Challenge Network

Logo of the CZI Neurodegeneration Challenge Network Collaborative Pairs Project
Logo of the CZI Neurodegeneration Challenge Network Collaborative Pairs Project

More than 30 inherited disorders are caused by the unstable expansion of repetitive DNA sequences, including Huntington’s disease, ALS, Fragile X syndrome, and Friedreich’s ataxia. Jennifer E. Phillips-Cremins, associate professor in Penn Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering and in the Perelman School of Medicine’s Department of Genetics, has shown another link between these disorders: the location of these expanding genes relative to the complicated folding patterns the genome exhibits to fit inside the nucleus of a cell.


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The School of Engineering and Applied Science’s PRECISE Center and the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania have formed a partnership with medical device leader Hillrom to develop technical solutions for health care challenges in multiple domains, including critical care, diabetes, mental health, and cardiology.

This collaboration will accelerate the adoption of new technologies by clinicians via unobtrusive, frictionless sensors that respect the natural workflow of caregivers.

PRECISE’s research on the internet-of-things and medical cyber-physical systems aims to provide verifiably safe healthcare solutions that leverage data, machine learning, and formal analysis. …


In a ‘Wired’ feature, Bassett helps explain the growing field of network neuroscience and how the form and function of the brain are connected.

Danielle Bassett
Danielle Bassett
Danielle Bassett

Early attempts to understand how the brain works included the pseudoscience of phrenology, which theorized that various mental functions could be determined through the shape of the skull. While those theories have long been debunked, modern neuroscience has shown a kernel of truth to them: those functions are highly localized to different regions of the brain.

Now, Danielle Bassett, J. Peter Skirkanich Professor of Bioengineering and Electrical and Systems Engineering, is pioneering a new subfield that goes even deeper into the connection between the brain’s form and function: network neuroscience.

In a recent feature article in Wired, Bassett explains the…


A screen-shot of Cherie Kagan giving a tour of her lab in an NSF “Scientist Selfie” video.
A screen-shot of Cherie Kagan giving a tour of her lab in an NSF “Scientist Selfie” video.
Cherie Kagan recently recorded a “Scientist Selfie” video for the NSF. The series aims to give young people a first-hand look into different scientific careers.

Last week, the National Science Foundation announced the Penn-headquartered IoT4Ag (Internet of Things for Precision Agriculture) Center. As one of the NSF’s Engineering Research Centers, IoT4Ag researchers will not only work on interconnected technologies designed to address food, water and energy challenges, but also forge connections between experts in a variety of fields, members of the agriculture industry, and the next generation of researchers that will take up this charge.

Cherie Kagan, Stephen J. Angello Professor in Penn Engineering’s departments of Electrical and Systems Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, is the IoT4Ag Center’s director and principal investigator. …


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Danielle Bassett

Danielle Bassett, J. Peter Skirkanich Professor in the departments of Bioengineering and Electrical and Systems Engineering, has been called the “doyenne of network neuroscience.” The burgeoning field applies insights from the field of network science, which studies how the structure of networks relate to their performance, to the billions of neuronal connections that make up the brain.

Much of Basset’s research draws on mathematical and engineering principles to better understand how mental traits arise, but also applies them more broadly to other challenges in neuroscience.

In her latest paper, “Defining and predicting transdiagnostic categories of neurodegenerative disease,” published in the…

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