Algorithm For Reading Emotions

The acoustic lab’s anechoic chamber
is among the quietest places on Earth.

About Ron Miles

Background: Noise control

Research: Improving the way directional microphones work in hearing aids, which will allow users to more easily follow sounds they want to hear — such as conversations — in places with abundant and often overwhelming background noise

Next steps: Increase microphone directionality and find practical ways to manufacture it

Outside of work: Plays the violin, owns a farm

Definition: Anechoic | an-eCHO-ik | adjective.
Free from echoes and reverberations.

Purpose: For testing the sensitivity of microphones being developed to improve hearing aids.

Researcher: Ron Miles, distinguished professor of mechanical engineering and associate dean of research

Location: The chamber is isolated underground, 2½ feet beneath the floating cement pavers at the entrance of the Engineering and Science Building.

Inside: More than 600 fiberglass wedges absorb and minimize sound-wave reverberations down to 80 hertz. (Speech is between 500 and 5,000 hertz.) The floor is wire mesh (with wedges underneath), and a removable plank system allows tables and equipment to be moved in and out of the room.

Outside: The chamber is inside a sound-stopping shell, which is inside a lab, which is underground. Thick walls of concrete and layers of insulation help block vibrations and noise. Going into the chamber requires going through four sets of doors; the heaviest doors are 260 pounds each.

Bottom: The 250-square-foot chamber “floats” on nine 4x4-inch springs that serve as shock absorbers.

Top: A microphone positioning system that moves on five axes in the chamber can create 3-dimensional maps of sound fields. The maps show how sound radiates from complex noise sources and loudspeakers.


DoironInto the Lab — Bioengineering

Tracking nanoparticles

Imaging studies, such as MRI and CT scans, rely on contrast agents to improve the visibility of structures, tissues and diseases in the body, and that helps doctors identify patients who are at risk for a heart attack or stroke. The more effective these agents are in detecting dangerous plaques, the more effective doctors can be when making decisions about appropriate care and treatment.

Amber Doiron, assistant professor of bioengineering, is researching nanoparticles and their ability to act as contrast agents and carry a payload of drugs to disease sites. Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Doiron also is working with bioengineering colleague Assistant Professor Gretchen Mahler to better understand the interaction of nanoparticles with human cells and tissues. Though increasingly used in consumer products and research, the effect of nanoparticles on the body is not well understood. Read more about Doiron's research here.


zhuInto the Lab — Computer Science

Powering down

Nearly 70 percent of electricity in the United States is generated by burning coal, petroleum
or natural gas; 21 percent is generated by nuclear power stations. These conventional sources of energy have a number of negative environmental, economic and geopolitical

The biggest users of that electricity are buildings, accounting for 72 percent of consumption. Of those buildings, 54 percent are residential
homes. Ting Zhu, assistant professor of computer science, says homes and buildings can become more sustainable by monitoring and controlling energy usage.

Zhu’s group tracks and profiles energy consumption of different appliances — refrigerators, ovens and coffee makers — to identify wasted electricity in a building. They then automatically schedule the workload of these appliances to work at times when the off-peak demand, and thus cost, is lower, and integrate renewable energy sources such as solar and wind to further reduce reliance on the traditional power grid. Finally, they are developing a secure method to protect the consumer’s energy usage information.



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