A rainbow of feathers floats upward like a psychedelic butterfly. Fingers of color, violet and lime green, seem to flow outward from the tips of the wings. If you didn’t know better, you might assume it is a work of art. Beyond their beauty, for Shawn Christ these images taken at MU’s new Brain Imaging Center reveal the brain’s activity and connections. In his role as Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of MU’s Clinical Neuropsychology Laboratory, Christ studies how the relationship between the brain and behavior changes as we develop. Christ chose a career in psychology because it would combine two passions— working with kids and solving puzzles.
Bin Wu has been responding to real-world problems related to industrial systems design for twenty years. “When we talk about industrial system design,” he explains, “we are talking about how to put facilities, people, and information systems together so that this system can function for whatever purpose it was designed to serve,” whether to manufacture or to supply. Traditionally, says Wu, when designing an industrial system our main consideration was always productivity – how to produce or manufacture things more efficiently. Three years ago, however, the MU Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering received a wake-up call that changed the direction of his work.
Great celestial bodies populate the solar system. For an untrained eye staring at the heavens, the starlight spectacles and endless seas of blackness are nothing short of a miracle. Researchers, however, have developed mathematical equations that may help us understand such mysteries of the universe. From Isaac Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation to Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, the scientific community has paved the way for a greater understanding of the great beyond.
Craig Kluever’s dream was born as he found himself awestruck in front of a grainy black-and-white television screen watching Apollo 11 land on the moon. He was in kindergarten. As he puts it, “that just made a big impact on me. Of course, the first thing I wanted to be was an astronaut.” Those early dreams of becoming an astronaut turned instead into a pursuit of the science behind the rockets. Today, the MU Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering works behind the scenes to solve the kind of problems involved in designing space travel—such as how to take off, how to reach a target, and, more importantly, how to return safely to Earth.
James M. Keller, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been engaged in interdisciplinary and collaborative research throughout his career. Currently, he is working on a project that draws upon the latest technological advances to improve elder care with a team led by fellow electrical and computer engineer Marjorie Skubic and a group of people from MU’s Schools of Nursing, Social Work, Health Management and Informatics, Physical Therapy, and Engineering, along with colleagues from the Medical Automation Research Center (MARC) at the University of Virginia.
Christ works with at least thirteen other departments on the MU campus. His collaborators range from the College of Education to the department of Religious Studies. The one thing they all share is a fascination with the way the brain works and the desire to watch it work.
Inniss’ students are regularly involved in his research projects, graduates and undergraduates alike. “They want to see what we’re doing outside of the classroom; they want to see the applications of the stuff that we’re actually teaching them,” he says.
Following years principally involved in research, Wu now spends more time working with both students and the public on energy efficiency and the environment. As he puts it, “I feel very strongly that every one of us needs to do something and behave in responsible ways, individually or collectively, [to] do something about it.” As an educator, Wu gets the message out to his students, who he says are the future: , “It’s really a very fulfilling thing to do. I have been a professor for all of my professional life—doing research, writing books and other publications, and teaching. I can honestly say that what I’m doing now regarding energy efficiency is absolutely the most fulfilling.”
Wu has published four books, all in the area of manufacturing and systems design, several of which have become internationally adopted as textbooks: Manufacturing Systems Design and Analysis (1992, 1994), Manufacturing and Supply Systems Management (2000), and Handbook of Manufacturing and Supply Systems Design (2001).
Wu teaches a number of classes, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, in the area of industrial systems analysis and design.
Chicone contributes to other fields of science outside of mathematics, cooperating, for example, with MU’s Medical School and School of Engineering to produce the kind of mathematical models that now play an integral role in designing predictions for scientific experiments.
In the most basic definition of his field, Kluever explains that engineers apply math and science knowledge to real problems, taking existing knowledge from mathematics and the physical sciences to construct some real device or to make some system better. “What do engineers do at work?” he laughs irreverently, “they go to a lot of meetings, they work on projects, and they try to stay on budget!”
Asked how he was drawn to aerospace engineering, Kluever responds: “Well, really it’s from the Apollo days. When I was in kindergarten, I remember watching the Apollo 11 landing—the first lunar landing—on a grainy black-and-white TV. That just made a big impact on me, and of course the first thing I wanted to be was an astronaut, and when that didn’t work out I found out that engineers are really what’s needed to design these missions, so aerospace engineering just seemed like a logical thing for me.”
The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering has recently developed an emphasis area in aerospace engineering. Kluever teaches such required courses in the general areas of dynamics (how bodies move and how forces produce certain velocities and accelerations) and controls (how to design a control system to do a particular task), and he teaches such elective courses as Space Flight Mechanics and Aircraft Flight Mechanics (how to design a space mission or determine such performance characteristics as take-off, landing, range, endurance, and stability with an airplane).
The first space mission to use electric propulsion was Deep Space I. Launched in 1998, it was a test mission for electric propulsion, one on which a lot of people worked to see the mission to success. “It had a very modest target,” Kluever says – basically just to fly by an asteroid – “and it was able to complete that mission.” Since then there have been some very big plans to send spacecraft to Jupiter or other outer planets using electric propulsion. “But the problem with electric propulsion (and NASA) is that these technologies cycle,” observes Kluever. “Sometimes they’re politically in favor and sometimes not. Right now they’re out of favor,” largely due to budgetary restraints.
The potential at MU to create profoundly innovative and viable research collaborations, for example, with MU’s Veterinary School, Medical School, College of Engineering, and Department of Anthropology. More specifically, Ward discusses the exciting joint project to examine the effect of exercise and mechanical load (weight) on joint and bone growth, with implications for arthritis treatment.
Using sensors. The problem of possessing an overload of sensory data and how to effectively summarize sensory data.
Applying image processing and pattern recognition to new challenges: roadside bombs.
How “fuzzy set theory” and “fuzzy logic” are useful in dealing with events that are vague or contain variation. Getting computers to think more like humans do. How fuzzy logic is used in modern technology (e.g., video camcorders). Why many scientists in the West have been suspicious of fuzzy logic. More on why it is a useful tool to make so-called “soft decisions” that call for intervention.
Being a mathematician in an engineering department.
Using technology for early detection of “lazy eye” in infants.
Applying fuzzy logic to landmine detection.
Funding for the TigerPlace project and how fuzzy logic technology is beginning to be implemented in elder care (e.g., assessing mobility and range of motion, detecting accidents, and identifying the need for early intervention by health care providers).
Interdisciplinary and collaborative projects on technology for elder care at TigerPlace, especially applying “fuzzy logic” to these problems.