THE FUTURE 2019
CALLING ALL OPTIMISTS 1
Novel approaches to society’s
toughest challenges: Health,
Security, Intelligent Systems,
EXPANDING OUR REACH
Bigger and bolder than ever,
Duke ECE is growing into the
community and the world...p6
THE SHIFT TO COGNITION
New faculty member Maria
Gorlatova adds AR/VR expertise
to the Duke ECE portfolio. Meet
all our new faculty on page 3.
Dear colleagues and friends,
What could be more exciting than inventing the future? At Duke ECE, there’s a great sense
of energy and optimism among our faculty and students as we partner with colleagues across the university and in industry
to lead the way in research that serves society. In this publication, you can read how Duke faculty are harnessing machine
learning, data science and advanced computing to improve human health, enhance our security, and design intelligent,
autonomous systems to improve quality of life. Meanwhile, we are pushing the boundaries of engineering physics to
pioneer advances in metamaterials and quantum computing—two new fields we believe will revolutionize the future in
ways we can only imagine.
With faculty mentors like these, Duke ECE students learn firsthand that imagination and creativity are essential to innovation.
We have introduced new courses in engineering design, data science and computational thinking that engage students
early in real-world, open-ended problem-solving, and helped create innovative co-curricular programs like Data+ and Duke
Technology Scholars that give Duke students not only a strong technical foundation, but inspiration and motivation to
pursue these studies that empower them to make a positive difference in the world.
I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about Duke ECE’s impactful work, transformative growth and ambitious plans for the
future in the pages that follow.
William H. Younger Professor and Chair,
Duke Electrical and Computer Engineering
NEW Kenneth Brown,
FACULTY Associate Professor,
works on the
Duke ECE’s faculty is growing, with seven development of robust
outstanding hires in the past two years. quantum computers
We’re proud to welcome: and studies molecular
properties at cold and
Shaundra Daily, Associate Professor Maria Gorlatova, Assistant Natasha Litchinitser, Professor,
of the Practice, uses affective Professor, focuses on the Internet engineers metamaterials that
computing and virtual environments of Things, and the challenges and manipulate the visible portion of the
to enrich the classroom experience, opportunities associated with adding electromagnetic spectrum
and spearheads diversity in connectivity and intelligence to every
engineering initiatives device, big and small
Iman Marvian, Assistant Vahid Tarokh, Rhodes Family Rabih Younes, Assistant Professor
Professor, works to explore and Professor, develops unique of the Practice, develops practical,
harness quantum phenomena for algorithms and predictive models to in-the-wild, reusable, wearable
technological applications extract insights from Big Data technology
17 IEEE FELLOWS
(THAT’S 50% OF OUR
TENURED & TENURE-
$21M IN NEW RESEARCH
AWARDS FOR FY18
35% 35% GROWTH IN
PHD STUDENTS AND
IN MS STUDENTS
264% MATRICULATING IN
THE PAST 5 YEARS—
WITH NEW MASTER’S TRACKS IN SOFTWARE
ENGINEERING, MACHINE LEARNING
100% of 2018 Duke EC
employment had job off
5% were starting their o
5 MAJOR EXTERNALLY
QUANTUM COMPUTING (2)
WATER, SANITATION & HYGIENE
COMPUTATIONAL METHANE SENSING
*$1M PER YEAR FOR 3+ YEARS
#3 IN U.S. FACULTY
(TIE) ENGINEERING &
#6 IN ELECTRICAL
IN U.S. FACULTY
(FUNDAMENTAL DATA: ACADEMIC ANALYTICS)
CE seniors seeking
ffers before graduation.
EXPANDING NEW BUILDING
OUR REACH FITZPATRICK
Over the past five years, ECE’s footprint has grown
dramatically. Though our home base remains Duke’s
Harrington Quad, located on the university’s historic
West Campus, our physical presence has expanded
throughout the university, the community, and the world.
2020: Our new Engineering building will add 150,000 gross square feet; LEVINE
a Research Neighborhood dedicated to Computing & Intelligent Systems SCIENCE
will occupy an entire floor. RESEARCH
2018: Duke and Duke Kunshan Universities jointly DUKE KUNSHAN
launch a new ECE master’s degree program, UNIVERSITY, CHINA
expanding our international reach and training a
new generation of global tech leaders.
2013-15: Duke Engineering adds two floors of research 2016: Selected faculty move into the Levine Science
space in Gross Hall, giving homes to many of the Research Center, and our Robotics group occupies
ECE faculty who drive iiD, the Information Initiative the North Building, adding nearly 110,000 net square
at Duke. The Foundry later adds 7,600 net square feet for interdisciplinary collaboration.
feet of makerspace where students can bring design
ideas to life.
2017: The new Design Pod, Bryan Lab, and the
Chesterfield Phase I afford us another 12,800
net square feet.
GROSS 2018: Chesterfield Phase 2 welcomes researchers
to 26,000 net square feet of state-of-the-art lab
space. Microsoft announces plans to locate its
own “Innovation Hub” here, to facilitate Duke
collaborations in research and cognitive services.
Imagine a perfect world.
Cars are perfectly safe, and drive themselves. Computers are
exponentially faster than ever before. Children in developing
nations no longer die from diseases caused by poor
sanitation. Global challenges call for more than creative
approaches—they call for optimistic outlooks. In Duke
ECE, we imagine how things could be, in a more perfect
world—and then begin the work of turning these visions
into reality. Read on to learn how we are pioneering
advances in HEALTH, SECURITY, INTELLIGENT
SYSTEMS & PHYSICS.
Improving Health “We can save lives, improve child health and ensure
greater dignity, privacy and personal safety, particularly
...through AI and data-driven approaches to sanitation, for women and girls,” Stoner said.
smart screening, disease detection and diagnosis
IMAGE PROCESSING SCREENS FOR AUTISM
ENGINEERING A SMARTER TOILET VIA APP
Around the world, 2.4 billion people lack improved Early diagnosis of autism is crucial to getting children
sanitation. They share public or pit latrines, or have no and their families the resources they need, and early
facilities at all. It’s an issue that transcends sensibility alone; intervention has been shown to improve a child’s overall
315,000 children die every year from diarrheal diseases development. Professor Guillermo Sapiro worked with
caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water. Duke-based Duke School of Medicine faculty to develop an iOS app
Center for WaSH-AID (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and that might aid in early detection of autism indicators. The
Infectious Disease) is a multidisciplinary team developing large team worked in close partnership with Apple during
prototype systems for safe, sanitary and affordable waste the development of the app.
treatment, and is led by ECE Research Professor Brian
R. Stoner and Professor Jeff Glass. WaSH-AID is a Bill The “Autism and Beyond” app uses the smartphone’s
& Melinda Gates Foundation grantee with over $10.7 camera to collect videos of children’s reactions while
million in awards to address on-site sanitation solutions, they watch movies designed to elicit autism risk
including the development of a better toilet, as part of the behaviors—such as patterns of emotion and attention—
foundation’s “Reinvent the Toilet” challenge. Part of the on the device’s screen. Behavioral coding software then
WaSH-AID mission is to create a toilet that converts human automatically tracks the movement of “video landmarks”
waste into burnable fuel, stored energy and disinfected, on their faces and quantifies the data. For example, when
non-potable water. The system will not require piped-in a child watches a cloud of bubbles float across the screen,
water, a sewer connection or outside electricity. the video coding algorithm looks for movements of the
face that would indicate joy.
“One of the exciting aspects of this work is the integrated
approach to solving complex, high-impact sanitation The researchers’ initial goal is to develop a widely
problems; from the basic research that informs the user- accessible screening tool for autism, which will result in a
centered design, all the way to constructing a complete referral to a trained clinician.
engineering prototype,” said Glass.
“This technology has the potential to transform how we
RTI International is collaborating with Duke to test the screen and monitor children’s development,” said Sapiro.
off-grid toilets in communal spaces in India, including a
women’s dormitory at a textile mill in Coimbatore, and After validating the app’s feasibility as a screening tool,
will soon expand to a township in South Africa. the team is starting large-scale clinical testing of a new
version of the app at the Duke University NIH Autism
The team recently implemented technology to remotely Center of Excellence directed by Geraldine Dawson, co-
control and monitor toilet operation, and envisions that lead of the app and study.
eventually the system could be used to detect emerging
pathogens and prevent disease outbreaks in crowded DEEP LEARNING FINE-TUNES DIAGNOSIS
areas—creating a sort of “Internet of Toilets.”
Digital pathology is coming.”
We can save lives, improve
health and ensure greater Deep learning is nothing new, according to Duke ECE
dignity.” professor and Vice Provost for Research Lawrence Carin.
The core concepts have been around since the mid-1990s,
and have been subject to periods of waxing and waning
CALLING ALL OPTIMISTS | HEALTH 9
Brian Stoner and Jeff Glass direct Duke’s Center for WaSH-AID, which engineers tech-based health solutions for developing regions.
enthusiasm. But right now, we are in the midst of a deep experiment seeking to predict accurate cytological
learning revolution, one made possible by the use of diagnoses from images made from slides.
graphical processor units that can read the vast amounts
of digital data at our fingertips. “Digital pathology is coming,” said Carin. “I can promise
“As a consequence of data at scale and remarkable
computing capabilities, this technology is ready for prime MACHINE LEARNING ALGORITHMS FOR
time,” said Carin during a recent presentation at The UNDERSTANDING THE BRAIN
Forge, Duke’s center for health data science.
Vahid Tarokh is an inventor of engines. Not the
Health systems are a treasure trove of health data, both mechanical kind that has moved mankind across the
simple (like blood pressure readings) and complex (like planet for hundreds of years, but the informational/
echocardiograms). Carin wants to train algorithms to algorithmic kind that will see it into the next era of human
generalize from all the collected information and predict development.
health outcomes for patients, freeing up doctors to
concentrate on their most challenging cases and reducing The term “machine learning” can be applied to a vast array
unnecessary interventions. of techniques as different from one another as steam
engines are from rocket boosters. At the heart of these
For example, Carin is collaborating with Duke physicians powerful data analytics tools are algorithms based on
and pathologists to investigate how the analysis of various mathematical approaches.
pathology slides for thyroid cancer could be automated.
Samples taken to check for thyroid cancer are It is the goal of ECE new faculty member Vahid Tarokh
indeterminate one-third of the time; half of the patients to see through the complexities of each unique problem
with indeterminate results undergo surgeries, and 75 and develop an algorithm to churn through its data
percent of those growths prove benign. That equals many challenges. And with the proximity of his new position
unnecessary invasive surgeries. But Carin is encouraged at Duke to a world-class hospital and biomedical
by outstanding early results from a machine learning engineering department, Tarokh hopes to have a big
impact on healthcare.
10 CALLING ALL OPTIMISTS | HEALTH
One project investigates the relationship between sleep Graduate Snapshots
deprivation and the immune system. With a mountain of
metabolic and biomedical data, Tarokh wants to be able Duke ECE graduate students drive pioneering research
to predict which people are most susceptible to getting across the spectrum, from health to robotics.
sick when they’re running low on sleep.
PhD candidate Callie Woods works with Nan Jokerst to
He is also working to improve brain-computer interfaces. develop custom photodetectors for sensing applications.
For instance, he is trying to predict whether a macaque Woods designs, fabricates, and tests silicon photodetector
monkey will be able to successfully solve a puzzle to earn arrays and algorithms for the detection of cytochrome
a treat, based on nothing more than one second’s worth c oxidase, an important enzyme in cellular respiration.
of brain waves. Being able to accurately quantify this enzyme would give
physicians the ability to provide higher quality of care to
“It’s not easy to classify brainwaves,” said Tarokh. “There patients by more precisely tracking the health of their vital
is so much uncertainty. But if you apply robust organs such as the brain, heart, and kidneys.
estimation theory, you get better answers.” His success
in this area could underpin future applications like PhD candidate Fan Wang works with Kris Hauser in
brain-controlled prosthetics. Duke’s Intelligent Motion Lab, developing state-of-the-art
computer vision and manipulation algorithms to expand
PROCESSING SOUND FOR HEARING AND capabilities of robots working in unstructured and unfamiliar
HEART DEVICES environments. Wang concentrates her research energies on
developing fully autonomous robotics picking and packing
With enough audio clips in solutions in industrial settings; she traveled to Nagoya, Japan
action, machine learning can last year to participate in the Amazon Robotics Challenge,
find patterns leading to the early an international scientific initiative to advance intelligent
detection of problems. robots, with a focus on warehouse automation.
An LVAD is a device used for patients that have reached 1111
end-stage heart failure. Implanted into the left ventricle
through open-heart surgery, the battery-operated
mechanical pump helps send blood throughout the rest
of the body.
While the devices do help prolong and provide a
better quality of life, nearly 60 percent of patients are
readmitted within the first year of receiving an LVAD,
most with complications that have already progressed
to life-threatening stages. One of the most common
complications occurs when blood clots form in the device.
This forces the motor to compensate, which creates
“When a lawnmower goes over a thick patch of grass,
the rotor blades struggle to spin and the motor creates
a different sound,” said ECE professor Leslie Collins.
“Those changes in the acoustic spectrum can be expressed
through principles governing pump frequency. We just
have to be able to hear them and then work to understand
what the audio cues mean for the patient.”
CALLING ALL OPTIMISTS | HEALTH
Left to right: Mahmoud Elfar, Miroslav Pajic, Lang Qin and Siddhartha Nalluri work in Pajic’s Cyber-Physical Systems Laboratory.
A pilot study recording LVADs before and after being life easier for those of us using these futuristic devices, it’s
replaced due to clotting has already shown clear also making life easier for hackers.
differences in the acoustic harmonic frequencies;
Collins’ hope is that with enough audio clips of LVADs in Take, for example, autonomous vehicles. Automotive
action, machine learning can find patterns leading to the applications require an enormous amount of real-time
detection of problems well before symptoms appear. data processing. Cameras and LiDAR scan and image
the environment, and have to immediately process
Strengthening security that data to make predictions and decisions, like when
to swerve or apply the brakes. That kind of awareness
in cyberspace and the physical world demands complex computation, which is performed
in the cloud. But the cloud is vulnerable to malicious
EMBEDDING CONTROLS IN THE CLOUD attacks, explained ECE professor and department chair
AND CONNECTED DEVICES Krishnendu Chakrabarty.
From your watch to your refrigerator to your dog, it’s “FGPAs—field programmable gate arrays—are chips that
becoming increasingly difficult to find things in the modern you can program in the field,” said Chakrabarty. “They
world without some sort of sensor or microprocessor give users a lot of control over what applications to run
embedded into them. Even people, with medical on them. And now on the cloud there are companies such
technology like pacemakers and neural stimulators, are as Microsoft and Intel that use FGPAs for computing.”
becoming more digitized.
The vulnerability lies in the fact that the FGPAs in the cloud
This level of digital interconnectedness isn’t just making
12 CALLING ALL OPTIMISTS | SECURITY
are mapped with complex design blocks called intellectual Intel, whose processors power billions of smart devices, collaborates
property blocks (IP blocks, or IPs for short), which can be on projects with both Pajic and Chakrabarty. Rana ElNaggar, pictured
provided by many different companies; all these IPs can with Intel collaborators, is a PhD student in the Chakrabarty lab who
reside within the same system. is working in a six-month internship at Intel’s Oregon location.
“The problem is, what if a malicious IP slips in?” asked too much to an already taxed system. Our goal is to find
Chakrabarty. “Once the IPs are on the cloud, they can ways to utilize intermittently available open slots to piece
access other IPs and affect overall system operation, or together sufficient security protocols, in order to provide
even cause a system to malfunction or fail.” strong security guarantees without reducing the overall
The possibility of a system malfunction isn’t the only risk
posed by hackers, added Chakrabarty. Tech companies Designing smarter
expend considerable resources to develop algorithms systems
or hardware that is highly optimized for a particular
application. But a competitor can steal that work by ... making the technology that surrounds us discerning,
masquerading as an authorized entity, acquiring trust, more intuitive, and more interactive
and then making off with the intellectual property. Once
that happens, mass production and counterfeiting PROCESSING IMAGES
Ingrid Daubechies won the 2018 Fudan-Zhongzhi
Chakrabarty’s lab develops solutions for efficient hardware Science Award and the 2018 William Benter Prize in
and software patching, techniques based on machine Applied Mathematics for transforming data analysis and
learning to predict security vulnerabilities, and efficient scientific computing through her contributions to wavelet
countermeasures based on secure authentication; his theory and modern time-frequency analysis.
colleague Miroslav Pajic, the Nortel Networks Assistant
Professor in ECE, aims to secure complex integrated Ingrid’s deep understanding of multiresolution harmonic
systems that interact with the physical world. analysis finds application in modern image compression,
transmission and analysis. Her ideas have been
Pajic’s approach is to take advantage of a device’s enthusiastically adopted by engineers because they are
interactions with its physical environment to detect algorithmic and designed for fast implementation. Some
attacks and provide resiliency against them. In a driverless wavelet bases she constructed have become a household
car, a digital assailant could compromise the GPS to take
the vehicle off course. But by using additional sensors,
Pajic and his team showed that the car will be able to
recognize the false data, and act accordingly.
Adding complexity to these efforts of securing modern
vehicles with varying levels of autonomy, is the
computational and communication limits of a car’s
electronics. Consumers don’t want to pay the added price
for extra CPUs or faster communication networks, nor do
they want to sacrifice their car’s performance to allow it to
execute these security-related algorithms. The second half
of Pajic’s work, then, is to find ways to slip these processes
in to the car’s existing moments of computational and
“Most of the cost of a modern car is tied to its software,”
said Pajic. “And adding significant security overheard adds
CALLING ALL OPTIMISTS | SECURITY & INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS 13
name in signal analysis (Daubechies wavelets); these and SENSING DANGER BEFORE
other computational techniques she developed have ACCIDENTS HAPPEN
been incorporated into the JPEG 2000 standard for image
compression. The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics recognized Li is using technology to combat the cost of fatigue in
the discovery of gravitational waves, and this discovery other realms, as well. His lab team is working to create a
was made possible by wavelet signal processing. helmet that uses dry sensing techniques to detect when
its wearer becomes drowsy or falls asleep, and sounds
Along with her commitment to educating and mentoring an alert. For people who must remain vigilant for very
the next generation of mathematicians, Daubechies long shifts—like soldiers, construction workers or crane
continues to break new ground in mathematics research operators—such a safety net might be a literal life-saver.
and expand its impact outside of her discipline, focusing
on the analysis of signals and inverse problems in a wide Sensors could warn a driver
range of settings, from fMRI, geophysics and paleontology that a tire needs to be replaced
to the study of fine art paintings. before a potentially catastrophic
Using intelligent algorithms to
spot defects would keep the cost Associate professor Aaron Franklin also has his sights
of manufacturing down, even set on safety, though he is deploying a different kind of
as global labor costs continue sensing technology to get there. Franklin is the co-founder
to rise and Chief Technology Officer of Tyrata, a company whose
sensor technology allows monitoring and reporting on
DETECTING DEFECTS tire tread wear in real time. Tyrata’s sensors use carbon
nanotubes (tiny cylinders of carbon atoms just one-
Data analytics expert, ECE professor and director of the billionth of a meter in diameter) to track millimeter-scale
new Institute of Applied Physical Sciences and Engineering changes in tread depth, with high accuracy and sensitivity.
(iAPSE) and the Data Science Research Center (DSRC) The sensors could signal a driver that a tire needs to be
at Duke Kunshan University Xin Li believes that image replaced before a potentially catastrophic blowout occurs,
processing also has applications for smart manufacturing. or report information about uneven and often dangerous
Many manufacturers of technological products still
check for defects in their products by inspecting each Tyrata recently secured $4.5 million in financing, led
component visually. It’s a method that grows less reliable by Cleveland-based Dealer Tire. The funding will help
as a shift progresses and eyes tire; it’s also labor- and the start-up develop its sensor technology further, and
time-intensive, accounting for 40 to 50 percent of total prepare for large-scale manufacturing.
To keep self-correcting robots whole and undamaged,
Li is developing methods to identify defects using ECE associate professor Kris Hauser is teaching them to
image processing—taking photographs of components use their hands to stop themselves from falling.
and analyzing the resulting data for outliers that could
indicate defects. His approach could increase the yield, or “If a person gets pushed toward a wall or a rail, they’ll
units of saleable products, of goods like smartphones and be able to use that surface to keep themselves upright
automobiles, while keeping labor costs down. with their hands. We want robots to be able to do the
same thing,” said Hauser. “We believe that we’re the only
research group working on having a robot dynamically
choose where to place its hands to prevent falling.”
14 CALLING ALL OPTIMISTS | INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS
Aaron Franklin (right) developed sensors that can track millimeter-scale changes in tire tread depth.
While such decisions and actions are second nature to us, what’s around it and reason about how to protect itself
programming them into a robot’s reflexes is deceptively from falling in arbitrary environments,” he said.
difficult. To streamline the process and save computation
time, Hauser programs the software to focus only on the REVOLUTIONIZING ENTERTAINMENT
robot’s hip and shoulder joints.
If ECE professor David Brady has his way, your humdrum
As long as the robot isn’t twisting as it falls, there are only television will soon get a super-smart makeover.
three angles that the stabilization algorithm has to take
into account—the foot to the hip, the hip to the shoulder, Brady’s company, Aqueti, produces camera arrays that
and the shoulder to the hand. The robot must identify capture video at super-high resolution, with wide depth
nearby surfaces within reach and then quickly calculate of field. But the view isn’t static; viewers can manipulate
the best combination of angles to catch itself. The final them to zoom in from a wide view—like a full stadium
solution minimizes impact when the robot’s hands make at a boxing match—to the tiniest details, like the cracks
contact, and also minimizes the chance of its hands or in the leather of the boxers’ gloves. Because the image
feet slipping. processing is performed in the cloud, the display itself can
remain simple and streamlined.
Hauser hopes to challenge the robot to navigate a live
obstacle course by this year’s end. Brady likens the experience to an “intelligent window” that
doubles as a magnifying glass to let users examine areas
“We’ll be trying to have the robot both dynamically map of interest within the frame. He believes his cameras have
the potential to revolutionize our media consumption,
CALLING ALL OPTIMISTS | INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS 15
Maiken Mikkelsen (second from right) pioneers research in metasurfaces.
which in recent years has shifted from television to One such approach is harnessing the powers of quantum
smartphones and tablets. “The future of television is to physics to create an entirely new type of computer, and
have more open-format, interactive media, and these ECE’s Jungsang Kim and Kenneth Brown—who recently
cameras can create that kind of media,” said Brady. moved to Duke to join forces with Kim—are developing
the new technologies to enable quantum computing,
The concept was tested with NBC a few years ago, at a which can solve certain problems exponentially faster
boxing match. The resulting media experience allowed than classical digital computing.
viewers to travel from one side of the ring to the other,
and to see important moments from any perspective. The strategy Kim and Brown are pursuing is individually
trapped ions—atoms with electrons stripped away to give
Now, Brady’s lab is working to integrate AI into the it a positive electric charge. That charge allows researchers
cameras to make navigation smoother for the end user. to suspend the atoms using an electromagnetic field in an
Once that barrier is overcome, and the necessary cloud ultra-high vacuum, and use precise lasers to manipulate
services are in place, says Brady, phones and tablets could their quantum states.
work alongside high-resolution display arrays for a totally
new and immersive entertainment experience. More than $80 million in grant funding has allowed Kim
and Brown to work at translating these ideas into large,
Pioneering Physics scalable quantum computers. They’re not alone—many
other big companies like Google, IBM, Microsoft and
Engineering waves and particles to revolutionize Intel are pursuing their own approaches to creating
computing, communications and beyond quantum computers.
QUANTUM COMPUTING GETS CLOSER With the recent faculty additions of Brown and Iman
Marvian, an expert in quantum information theory, Duke
Moore’s Law states that the overall processing power Engineering’s quantum computing research program is
for computers will double every two years. But with growing even stronger, and is drawing in collaborators
traditional silicon transistors nearing their theoretical from across the university. An interdisciplinary working
physical limits, radically new approaches are needed to
continue this breakneck speed of improvement.
16 CALLING ALL OPTIMISTS | INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS & PHYSICS
Left to right: Iman Marvian, Jungsang Kim and Kenneth Brown drive a powerful new quantum computing initiative that has captured nearly $57
million in outside funding over the past three years.
group interested in quantum computing and quantum about the size of a stop sign that can replace maritime
information has coalesced; Robert Calderbank (ECE and communications technology. There are plans for similar
Computer Science), Henry Pfister (ECE and Mathematics), metamaterial antennas to start providing satellite
Jianfeng Lu (Mathematics), and Thomas Barthel (Physics), connections to busses, trains, airplanes and even cars in
meet regularly to explore collaborations and future research the near future.
programs, driving a campus-wide research initiative in
quantum information. But that’s only the beginning. Metamaterials can manipulate
all sorts of waves, and ECE faculty are exploring this new
MASTERMINDING METAMATERIALS frontier. Steve Cummer shapes and redirects sound waves
with acoustic metamaterials, while Natasha Litchinitser
As more powerful processors have allowed digital devices engineers metamaterials that manipulate the visible portion
to become much smaller, improvements in wireless of the electromagnetic spectrum and Willie Padilla has
communications have allowed them to become mobile. At learned to control terahertz waves via dynamically tunable,
the heart of every laptop or cellular phone is an antenna that metal-free surfaces. Maiken Mikkelsen also works with
manipulates radio waves to send and receive information. these “metasurfaces,” investigating how nanoparticle-
based coatings can achieve near-perfect absorption of
Duke’s David Smith is taking a radically new approach electromagnetic waves in the visible and near infrared
harnessing all sorts of waves called metamaterials. realms. Their work has a stunning range of potential
Translating literally to “beyond materials,” this technology applications, from compact and high-performing consumer
uses a material’s structure rather than its chemical electronics to thermal imaging and heat signature masking,
composition to manipulate waves. and beyond.
After making a big splash in 2006 by creating a cloaking
device for microwave frequencies, Smith turned to more
practical applications of the technology. The forerunner of
these efforts is a company called Kymeta that produces a
device called the mTenna—a flat-panel satellite antenna
CALLING ALL OPTIMISTS | PHYSICS 17
THE SHIFT TO
The Duke Center for Evolutionary Intelligence (CEI) led by While other cognitive computing researchers around
ECE Professors Hai “Helen” Li and Yiran Chen is generally the world focus on software alone, CEI occupies a tiny,
quite busy, with more than two dozen graduate students influential niche in which its software development
on its roster. But on this sultry June day in Durham, CEI’s experience is matched by expertise in hardware
state-of-the-art research suite is calm and quiet. The and deployment. Both Li and Chen have industry
racks of servers that would normally be pushing the backgrounds. Chen is an award-winning electrical design
temperature even higher are cool and silent. automation designer who notably created an analysis tool
for simulating the timing and performance of the types
“I underestimated how popular our students would be of groundbreaking neuromorphic microchips that Li
this summer,” said a slightly bemused Li. develops; his second area of research focuses on power-
saving technologies for mobile devices.
CEI explores the research frontiers in emerging computing
platforms for neuromorphic systems—computer Their across-the-board expertise has attracted additional
architecture and materials that mimic the human brain collaborations from companies like Intel, which is seeking
in the way they convey information. Neuromorphic, or to improve its microprocessors’ efficiency, and Samsung,
“cognitive,” computing employs a compact architecture which is working with CEI to tweak the amount of current
that allows tasks to be accomplished much more quickly, used by its screens to display color, in order to bring down
using less energy. the devices’ energy consumption.
We’re teaching machines to “Not only do companies expect collaboration with CEI to
learn.” benefit the company in a long run, but they will jointly
publish high-quality papers and attract talented graduate
“We’re teaching machines to learn,” said Li simply. students to join the company as permanent employees,”
For example, some systems being developed in the CEI
lab can effectively process and recognize patterns in data ECE professor Benjamin Lee has also seen a healthy
to identify and classify objects, and further generalize amount of interest in his PhD students. His lab focuses
the knowledge to other domains. It’s something that on understanding the nature of cognitive computing
mainstream computers have never been very good at, workloads and how different business entities compete
so CEI has found eager collaborators in data giants like for resources within shared systems. Imagine a large
Facebook, which has scooped up students from Li’s group company that aggregates and processes data for both
for summer internships designing tutorials for its deep search and mail applications, for instance; the two
learning models, and the US Air Force, which is interested in business units might be tempted to each purchase its
the potential security applications of being able to identify own computing cluster to guarantee performance when
the potential attack and defense computing systems. they need it, but according to Lee, they would spend less
money and use less power if they pooled their processors,
memory, and network resources.
BENJAMIN LEE HAI LI
ECE researchers pursuing maximum speed and efficiency in computing
draw significant attention from industry leaders.
“Sometimes you’ll be using less, sometimes more,” said Lee.
“The question is, what does it mean to be fair? What does it
take to allocate resources fairly? A lot of our work has been
trying to understand this competition for resources, and
structuring the allocation program so we provide incentives
for users to share.”
As one might guess, several data-oriented companies with
matrixed business structures—including Intel, Microsoft,
Samsung, Qualcomm and Facebook—are involved in
projects with Lee’s lab.
The outcome of these collaborations will help direct the
future of computing—a future that’s as smart, quick, and
efficient as the scientists behind the research.
GIRL SCOUTS STEM DAY MOOCS BY DUKE
More than 100 girls and Girl Scouts seized the opportunity to “As Sir Francis Bacon famously said, ‘Knowledge is power,’
earn new STEM badges this year at Girls STEM Day @ Duke, led and we want more people to have the knowledge of
by Duke ECE professor Nan Jokerst. Triangle Women in STEM what’s possible through our programs,” said Nan Jokerst,
engaged more than 100 volunteers, most of them women working ECE professor and executive director of Duke’s Shared
professionally in STEM roles, to act as coaches during the event. Measurement Instrumentation Facility, or SMIF. Jokerst
Some of the volunteers created a fictitious crime scene of “dog- leads the course, in partnership with colleagues from the
napping” for the forensics badge; the girls gathered evidence, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina
then performed ink chromatography on a ransom note and used State University. The course features six-to-eight-minute
microscopes to review fingerprints, hair and dirt samples from videos that highlight some of the sophisticated technology
suspects. Girls earning robotics badges with IBM sponsors learned available at SMIF—like photolithography, electron
to program small working robots. Those who participated in the microscopy and Micro-Computed Tomography (MicroCT)
digital photography workshop used software to edit photographs scanning—and shows faculty using the equipment.
taken with a cell phone, a light microscope and a scanning electron
microscope in Duke’s Shared Instrumentation Facility, which is part Through a massive open
of the Research Triangle Nanotechnology Network. online course platform
called Coursera, anyone,
20 anywhere can learn to be a
nanotechnology maker or a
For free use, those interested can submit one-page proposals
and be awarded training and time to complete their projects
at SMIF, an NSF-funded site of the National Nanotechnology
Coordinated Infrastructure network (NNCI).
“These facilities are extremely high-tech, but everyone can
use them, from high-school students to local businesses,”
ECE faculty members Genevieve Lipp and Drew Hilton
also instruct via Coursera. Hilton, who literally wrote the
book on programming (he co-authored All of Programming,
a widely used textbook, with Cornell’s Anne Bracy) designed
his courses to give even those with no programming
knowledge a solid foundation from which to progress.
From the introductory “Programming Fundamentals” to
more advanced courses like “Java Programming: Solving
Problems with Software,” Hilton’s classes have proven
wildly popular on the platform.
INSPIRING ENGINEERS more optimal conferences, based on parameters from distance to
scholastics to number of students. This class takes inspiration from
Duke’s signature undergraduate experience immerses engineering the Information Initiative at Duke’s groundbreaking summer Data+
students in hands-on design, data, computing, research and program, which won a gold award in the 2016 Reimagine Education
entrepreneurship experiences from the very beginning. global competition recognizing “projects that enhance learning and
Last year, Duke Engineering launched a new course—the First- employability and are both innovative and scalable.”
Year Design Experience, in which students apply engineering skills
and concepts to solve real challenges for real clients. The Duke Computational Methods in Engineering, led by Duke ECE’s
Engineering Design Pod, a 5000-square-foot workspace outfitted Shaundra Daily and Michael Gustafson—takes the same hands-on
with workbenches, laser cutters, 3D printers and other tools, serves approach to introductory computing, encouraging students to apply
as an active-learning classroom for the course. ECE 110L follows the the fundamentals of programming to a wide array of fields to make
design experience course and continues to build design-thinking a positive social impact.
and project management skills, which students apply to ECE-specific
design challenges. In their senior year, all ECE students take on a capstone design
project that requires a synthesis of fundamental engineering
Another new course, Data & Decision Sciences—co-taught by Duke knowledge and creative problem solving.
ECE’s Stacy Tantum and math faculty member Paul Bendich—
teaches students to leverage statistical analysis to glean insights ECE graduates are comfortable with design, data and computational
from complex datasets. Team-based labs challenge students to find tools; combined with unparalleled opportunities to conduct original
solutions to real-world, potentially messy challenges—like gathering, research and build entrepreneurial confidence, they are equipped
analyzing and visualizing datasets to sort college football teams into and ready to solve the world’s toughest challenges.
Duke helps brilliant ideas become breakthrough businesses. The
Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative seeks to support and
empower the entrepreneurial endeavors of students, staff, faculty
and alumni across the entire Duke community with education, space,
and resources. At Duke Engineering, we’ve developed additional
unique resources specifically for the engineering community: the
Duke Engineering Entrepreneurial Pipelines Startup Entry Accelerator,
or “DEEP SEA,” provides up to $75k for accepted proposals from ECE
graduate students; our Entrepreneurship @Duke Engineering office
is dedicated solely to developing entrepreneurial confidence in the
Our faculty build start-ups, too.
To date, 18 spin-off companies ranging
from home automation to lab-on-a-chip
diagnostic technology have grown from
their work at Duke.
INTERNATIONAL POWERHOUSE SCHOLARS: Software (EMSOFT) • Miroslav Pajic
INVITATIONALS: and PhD students Vuk Lesi and Ilija
#1 team for papers accepted (10), Jovanov
Fellowship (Short-term S: Nobel Prize 31st Annual Conference on Neural
Level), Japan Society for the Promotion Information Processing Systems (NIPS) Best Paper Award, Asia and South Pacific
of Science (Japan), Honorary Professor, • Lawrence Carin Design Automation Conference (ASP-
Xidian University (China) DAC 2018) • Yiran Chen, Hai “Helen” Li
• Krishnendu Chakrabarty Top 1% of Highly Cited Researchers and PhD student Fan Chen
(Clarivate Analytics, formerly Thomson
Humboldt Research Fellowship for Reuters) • David Smith INDUSTRY AWARDEES:
Experienced Researchers (Germany)
• Yiran Chen 2017 Best Paper award, Cadence Design Systems Academic
ACM Transactions on Design Automation Collaboration Award • Xin Li
Scientific Advisory Panel, Fields Institute of Electronic Systems
(Canada) • Vahid Tarokh • Krishnendu Chakrabarty and former Semiconductor Research Corporation
PhD student Fangming Ye Technical Excellence Award •
Specially Appointed Professor, School of Krishnendu Chakrabarty
Informatics and Data Science, Hiroshima Best Paper Award at the 2017
University (Japan) • Kishor Trivedi Association for Computing Machinery IBM Faculty Awards • Krishnendu
Embedded Systems (ACM SIGBED) Chakrabarty, Miroslav Pajic
International Conference on Embedded
INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED FACULTY: OUR LATEST HIGHLIGHTS
Yiran Chen Ingrid Daubechies Lisa Huettel Benjamin Lee Xin Li
IEEE Fellow William Benter Prize in 2019 IEEE IEEE Computer Society’s IEEE Fellow
Applied Mathematics, Undergraduate Teaching High Performance
and 2018 Fudan-Zhongzhi Award (Technical Computer Architecture
Science Award Field Award) Hall of Fame
Qing Liu Maiken Mikkelsen Galen Reeves Guillermo Sapiro
IEEE Harrington-Mittra Maria Goeppert Mayer NSF Faculty Early American Academy
Award in Computational Award (American Physical CAREER Award of Arts and
Electromagnetics; Society), SPIE Early Career Sciences Fellow
ACES Computational Achievement Award
Electromagnetics Award & 23
Technical Achievement Award
Pratt School of Engineering
305 Teer Engineering Building
Box 90271, Durham, NC
DTECH SCHOLARS WITH DUKE ALUM EDDY CUE, APPLE’S SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF INTERNET SOFTWARE
100% We’re closing the gender
gap in tech.
OF DTECH GRADUATES
HAVE GONE ON TO DTech was formed in 2016 as a partnership between Duke’s
CAREERS IN THE Departments of Computer Science and Electrical & Computer
TECH SECTOR Engineering to attract and retain women in computing
studies and create a talent pipeline of highly skilled women
24 to meet industry demand. DTech connects students with a
network of mentors, paid summer internships and shared
housing, allowing the cohort to build a community of support
Learn more about how we’re empowering
tomorrow’s engineers, inside.