The EFRI projects announced are as follows:
SYSTEMS THAT MODIFY THEMSELVES: Five grants are
awarded in the Autonomously Reconfigurable Engineered Systems Enabled
by Cyberinfrastructure (ARES) topic.
An Efficient Air Transportation System
Led by Cynthia Barnhart of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT), along with Dimitris Bertsimas (MIT), Constantine Caramanis
(University of Texas at Austin), Amedeo Odani (MIT), and Georgia
Perakis (MIT Sloan School of Management) and titled, “Theory
and Algorithms for Autonomous Reconfigurability of the National
Air Transportation System” (grant #0735905).
Recent studies suggest that congestion and delays can render the
national air transportation system unstable and limit its growth.
The team will work to understand how the system could automatically
correct for unplanned disturbances and realize maximum efficiency
on a daily basis.
Testing Autonomous Reconfigurability in a Wireless
Led by Christos Cassandras (Boston University), along with Azer
Bestavros (Boston University), Robert X. Gao (University of Massachusetts-Amherst),
Weibo Gong (University of Massachusetts-Amherst), and Ioannis Paschalidis
(Boston University) and titled, “Event-Driven Sensing for
Enterprise Reconfigurability and Optimization” (grant #0735974).
This project seeks a fundamental understanding of how an enterprise,
which itself encompasses a number of processes, can be made not
only flexible but also responsive to unexpected events. An enterprise
here is defined as any organization created to fill a demand for
services—an increasingly common type of enterprise in today’s
knowledge-based, service economies. A city is an example of such
an enterprise. The team will use as a testbed OpenAir Boston, a
project to create a public wireless network ensuring wireless access
throughout the city.
Foundations for Cyber-Physical Systems
Led by Munther A. Dahleh, Daron Acemoglu, Carlo F. Ratti (MIT),
and John Doyle (CalTech) and titled, “Foundations for Reconfigurable
and Autonomous Cyber-Physical Systems: Cyber-Cities and Cyber-Universities”
This research aims to provide a theoretical foundation that will
be useful to many other projects. Cyber-physical systems combine
computational systems with physical and engineered systems and can
include bionics, automated manufacturing, or systems for monitoring
critical infrastructure. This project aims to address the key challenge
of realizing a foundational, mathematical understanding of the interaction
between the cyber and the physical in these systems in order to
both configure a system to respond to unexpected events, and also
to quantify the system’s limits in responding.
Innovative Management of Ground Transportation
Led by Michael P. Hunter (Georgia Institute of Technology), along
with Christos Alexopoulos, Richard M. Fujimoto, and Randall Guensler
(Georgia Institute of Technology), and titled, “Embedded Distributed
Simulation for Transportation System Management” (grant #0735991).
Distributed simulation has long been used by the U.S. military
to simulate battle by allowing one simulator to interact with others.
This project takes distributed simulation to the next level by working
to realize the foundational theory and algorithms needed for successful
ad hoc distributed simulation. Using a testbed on the Georgia Tech
campus, vehicles are embedded so that they are the components of
a distributed simulation system, supplying changing information
to the system in real-time to which the system must respond. One
goal is to understand how ground transportation systems could reconfigure
in response to unplanned events ranging from traffic jams to catastrophes
such as hurricanes.
Robots that Think and Build
Led by Daniela Rus (MIT), along with Eric Klavins (University of
Washington), Hod Lipson (Cornell University), and Mark Yim (University
of Pennsylvania) and titled, “Controlling the Autonomously
Reconfiguring Factory” (grant #0735953).
This project offers a radical approach to creating autonomous reconfigurability
based on the team’s work with small robots. The Rus team proposes
a new kind of robotic system for construction in which available
materials and the final structure are not clearly known. The robots
sense changes and variables, diagnose them, adapt and, together,
successfully build themselves into a structure best suited for its
environment. Such a system could be a tool not only for future construction
challenges, but also for optimizing current construction practices.
HOW CELLS WORK: UNITING BIOLOGY AND ENGINEERING
Seven grants are awarded in the Cellular and Biomolecular Engineering
Using Engineering to Understand How Bacteria Communicate
Led by William E. Bentley (University of Maryland, College Park),
along with Reza Ghodssi (University of Maryland, College Park),
Gregory F. Payne (University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute),
Gary W. Rubloff (University of Maryland, College Park), and titled,
“Biofunctionalized Devices: On Chip Signaling and ‘Rewiring’
Bacterial Cell-Cell Communication” (grant #0735987).
The next generation of antimicrobial development will interrupt
the cell-to-cell signaling among bacteria that allows them to function
as resistive communities. As a first step in creating microdevices
that can communicate with bacterial signaling, this team will design
microelectrical-mechanical versions of the components of a bacterial
cell-to-cell signaling system, and will use electric signals to
steer the designed biosynthetic community to toward a specific task,
such as forming a biofilm.
Cell Functions and Brain Disease
Led by Michael J. Betenbaugh (Johns Hopkins University), along with
Dilipkumar Asthagiri (Johns Hopkins University), Allan Gottschalk
(University of Pennsylvania), Karen B. Palter (Temple University),
Esperanza Recio-Pinto (New York University), and titled, “An
Integrated Computational and Experimental Model for Biochemical
and Electrical Interactions in Ion Channels and the Impact of Sialic
Acid on Neuronal Function” (grant #0736000).
Sialic acid is the first juncture between the cell and its surroundings.
Combining computation and experimentation, this study will investigate
how changes in a cell’s environment are related to changes
in the cell’s ion channels—how it allows some electric
signals to pass through and not others—and in turn related
to the formation of neurological defects. This work aims to develop
a foundational understanding for the treatment of brain diseases,
such as epilepsy and memory and learning loss, at the molecular
Simulating and Watching the Growth of Cancer Cells
Led by Karen J. Burg (Clemson University), along with Thomas Boland
(Clemson University), Didier Dreau (University of North Carolina-Charlotte),
M. Ross Leadbetter (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill), and
Jason D. McNeill (Clemson University), and titled, Emerging Frontiers
in 3-D Breast Cancer Tissue Test Systems” (grant #0736007).
This team will advance our fundamental understanding of the formation
of cancer cells by first building an engineered tissue structure
that will duplicate the behavior of the normal and cancerous cells,
and that can be manipulated to test environmental parameters and
cause-and-effect models. This information will fuel computational
simulation of the growth of cancer cells. One goal in understanding
disease formation is to quantify the link between oxygen levels
and stiffness of tissues and the migration and proliferation of
cancer cells in those tissues, which may provide clues to new treatment
Finding the Mechanism that Directs Blood Vessel Growth
Led by Roger D. Kamm (MIT), along with Harry Asada and Douglas A.
Lauffenburger (MIT), and titled, “A Multifaceted Approach
to the Modeling of Angiogenesis” (grant #0735997).
A key area for development in angiogenesis (i.e., blood vessel
formation) and regenerative medicine are complete and predictive
models of tissue formation. This project will model blood vessel
formation based on the role of cell-to-cell communication. Such
a model is a gateway to understanding the aggregate effect of cell
behavior on capillary formation, and in turn realizing a systems-based
approach to angiogenesis.
Regenerating Complex Tissues from the Nanoscale
Led by Cato C. Laurencin (University of Virginia), along with Edward
A. Botchwey, Yusef Khan, Lakshmi Nair, and Nathan S. Swami (University
of Virginia), and titled, “Biological, Chemical, and Mechanical
Surface Cues for Cell Migration, Proliferation, and Differentiation:
An Integrated Approach to Regeneration of New Tissues” (grant
This team combines several disciplines in order to successfully
regenerate tissues having complex structure. The project focuses
on the anterior cruciate ligament, a stabilizing knee ligament that
connects the thigh bone to the leg bone and rarely heals naturally
when torn. The tissue would be constructed from the nanoscale—between
the size of an atom and hundreds of molecules. Our ability to manipulate
materials at the nanoscale is evolving, and to maximize precision
and control over the way the tissue takes shape, the researchers
will combine advances in polymer chemistry for synthesizing nanoscale
fibers, in using electric fields to group nanoscale fibers, and
in using ion beams to control surface chemistry at the nanoscale.
The goal is to realize a method for regenerating complex tissues,
one that mimics biology and builds the tissue with precision from
the nanoscale up. Meeting this goal will require an understanding
of the biological, mechanical, chemical, thermal and electrical
effects on the tissue’s structure.
To Change or Replicate? Decoding How Cells Grow
Led by Sean P. Palecek (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Nicholas
L. Abbott (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Daniel A. Beard (Medical
College of Wisconsin), Juan J. De Pablo, and Timothy Kamp (University
of Wisconsin-Madison), and titled, “Regulating Human Embryonic
Stem Cells Differentiation via the Mechanical Microenvironment”
Using Federally approved human embryonic stem cells, this study
aims to understand these cells in the environmental context: How
do they integrate environmental stimuli and how do these stimuli
determine whether a stem cell self-renews or whether it differentiates
into a new cell having a different function? How do physical and
chemical changes determine what type of cell will result? Answers
to these questions can help in designing specific culture systems
for embryonic stem cell research, and in providing additional information
that will promote the refinement of mathematical models describing
the complexity of signals and pathways regulating embryonic stem
How a Cell’s Environment affects its Development
Led by Beth L. Pruitt (Stanford University), Sarah C. Heilshorn,
Ellen Kuhl, Joseph Wu, and Christopher K. Zarins (Stanford University),
and titled, “Engineering of Cardiovascular Cellular Interfaces
and Tissue Constructs” (grant #0735551).
This study aims to understand how electrical and mechanical stimuli
in a stem cell’s environment affect how these cells proliferate
and differentiate to form specific types of tissues. The goal is
to understand the parameters of the ideal engineered environment
for regenerating specific kinds of tissue. This understanding will
enhance knowledge of cell signaling and differentiation, which will
ultimately enable regenerative therapies for victims of heart disease.