Author Archives: richb

The National Science Foundation Expeditions in Computing Program has awarded $10 million to a Rice University-led team that plans to create wearable and point-of-care microscopes that use on-chip illumination and sensing to non-invasively aid in the diagnosis and monitoring of nearly 100 health conditions that today require a biopsy or blood test.

“The project will produce a platform technology for in vivo, 3-D tissue imaging, with the aim of being able to point a camera to a part of the body and see live biology below the skin without making an incision or drawing blood,” said Rice Professor Ashutosh Sabharwal, the principal investigator on the grant.

The team of 11 co-investigators from Rice, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, MIT and Cornell is one of three groups to win new five-year grants today from the NSF’s Expeditions in Computing program. Expeditions is an interdisciplinary NSF effort that constitutes the agency’s largest single investment in computer and information science research. Rice co-investigators include Richard Baraniuk, Rebecca Richards-Kortum, and Lin Zhong. Carnegie Mellon co-investigators include Artur Dubrawski, Ioannis Gkioulekas and Rice DSP alum Aswin Sankaranarayanan. Additional co-investigators include Cornell’s Al Molnar, Harvard’s Latanya Sweeney, and MIT’s Ramesh Raskar.

Anyone who has pointed a flashlight at their palm to make their hand glow knows that light can travel through the body. But visible light scatters so much as it passes through soft tissue that it has not been useful for medical imaging. The team aims to unravel this scattered light puzzle with a technique the team calls “computational scatterography” that is a combination of machine learning algorithms and new camera designs.

“Basically, we’re trying to ‘de-scatter’ the light,” said computational imaging expert and Rice DSP faculty member Ashok Veeraraghavan, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “In engineering, we call this an inverse problem. Geoscientists use similar inverse techniques on seismic waves to resolve pictures of Earth’s deep interior. Our task, in some ways, is even more complicated because the amount of light scattering that takes place in even a few millimeters of tissue far exceeds other problems.”

White blood cell count (WBC) tests are an example of the project’s potential impact. In the U.S., oncologists use millions of WBC tests each week to monitor chemotherapy patients. WBC tests require a finger prick or blood draw and a laboratory, which means they can be performed only at hospitals and clinics. “Imagine a wearable device no larger than a watch that uses sensors to continuously measure white blood cell count and wirelessly communicate with the oncologist’s office,” Sabharwal said. “The patient could go about their daily life. They’d only have to go to the hospital if there was a problem.”

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Rice DSP PhD Eva Dyer (PhD, 2014) has accepted an assistant professor position at Georgia Tech in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.  She has spent the past two years as a postdoc and research scientist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Northwestern University.  Eva joins DSP PhD alums Jim McClellan, Doug Williams, Justin Romberg, Chris Rozell, and Mark Davenport and ECE PhD alum Rob Butera.

Rice Assistant Professor Ashok Veeraraghavan has received an NSF CAREER award for his project "A Signal Processing Framework for Computational Imaging: From Theory to Applications." The project will develop a signal processing framework to develop new imaging systems that see deeper into nature with enhanced microscopes and farther out through consumer cameras for bio-medical, remote sensing, machine vision, and surveillance applications. Since joining Rice from MERL in 2010, Ashok has made his mark at the university through his lab’s development of mobileVision, a simple device to monitor eye health, and FlatCam, a lens-less camera platform project with colleague Richard Baraniuk. Ashok has also been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, effective July 2017.

DSP alum Christoph Studer (postdoc 2010-2012, Assistant Professor at Cornell University) has received an NSF CAREER award for his project "Hardware Accelerated Bayesian Inference via Approximate Message Passing: A Bottom-Up Approach." The project will bridge the ever-growing gap between theory and practice in Bayesian signal processing using a holistic approach that spans the circuit design, algorithm, and theory levels. In addition to improving the efficiency and quality of Bayesian inference in real-time applications, the project will advance future wireless systems through collaboration with the telecommunications industry, along with the development of new tools that are accessible to experts on all levels.

DSP group alum Aswin Sankaranarayanan (Postdoc 2009-2012, Assistant Professor at CMU) has received an NSF CAREER Award for his project "Plenoptic Signal Processing — A Framework for Sampling, Detection, and Estimation using Plenoptic Functions." He will be exploring how light interacts with objects in a scene by studying characterizations of light that go beyond images. A key objective is to study light-object interactions at unprecedented space and time resolutions, thereby advancing research in many disciplines including computer vision, graphics as well as 3D acquisition and printing. Congratulations!

DSP group alums Mark Davenport (PhD 2010, Assistant Professor at Georgia Tech) and Tom Goldstein (Postdoc 2012-14, Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland) have been named 2017 Sloan Research Fellows. The 2017 class of fellows comprises 126 early-career scholars representing the most promising scientific researchers working today (not all have beards). Their achievements and potential place them among the next generation of scientific leaders in the U.S. and Canada. Since 1955, Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win 43 Nobel Prizes, 16 Fields Medals, 69 National Medals of Science, 16 John Bates Clark Medals, and numerous other distinguished awards. Congratulations!

John Treichler, Rice DSP alum, distinguished visiting professor, and pioneer in the development of digital signal processing (DSP), has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Now the president of Raytheon Applied Signal Technology of Sunnyvale, Calif., Treichler was cited by the NAE for his “contributions to digital signal processing and its applications to national intelligence gathering.” John is celebrated for inventing the “constant modulus” adaptive filtering algorithm, which is used to compensate for interference, such as multipath echoes, on communication signals.

DSP alum Chinmay Hedge (PhD, 2012) has won the Best Paper Award at the 2015 International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) for the paper "A Nearly-Linear Time Framework for Graph-Structured Sparsity" written with his collaborators Piotr Indyk and Ludwig Schmidt from MIT.

This is great momentum for starting in as an Assistant Professor at Iowa State University. Congratulations, Chin!