The School of Engineering Research News - Fall 2014

Spotlight on Recent Breakthroughs and Publications

This is the fall 2014 edition of a bulletin highlighting recent research and publications by the School of Engineering faculty and students. To suggest items for future editions, please e-mail

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University of Strathclyde and NYU to Collaborate on Research
John Sexton, president of New York University, and Professor Sir Jim McDonald, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, signed an agreement to a partnership for a range of research and collaboration opportunities. It focuses on five key themes in which the universities share strengths: sustainable and future cities, biomedical engineering, energy and power systems, policy development and engagement, and business incubation and innovation. The initiative will involve schools across NYU, most notably its Tandon School of Engineering, which has identified bioengineering and urban systems among its core areas of study and research and which maintains a thriving network of incubators
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Applied Physics

Max Planck Seminar Recognizes the Work of Professors Arnold and Teraoka
The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light held a weeklong seminar on biosensing at the very smallest extremes, during which research developed at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering played a key role. Professor Stephen Arnold presented his research on the Whispering Gallery Mode Resonator, which senses at the molecular level. Iwao Teraoka, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering who collaborated in early work on the Whispering Gallery Mode Resonator, was invited to present research on a new biosensor that he is developing.
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Academic Publisher Appoints Kurt Becker to Editor Positions
Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global scientific, technical, and medical publisher, has selected NYU Tandon School of Engineering Professor of Applied Physics and Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs Kurt H. Becker for two editor positions. He will serve on the Board of Editors of the European Physical Journal ST (Special Topics) and will be a series editor for Graduate Texts in Physics.
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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Researchers Engineer a Protein to Prevent Brain Damage from Toxic Chemicals
A partnership between NYU School of Engineering Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering Jin Kim Montclare and Richard Bonneau, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Biology and a member of the computer science faculty at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, has resulted in research that promotes the advancement in detoxifying organophosphate compounds used in industrial pesticides and chemical warfare agents. Their work centers on phosphotriesterase proteins, which have the unique capability of degrading organophosphates, breaking the usually irreversible bond between the compounds and neurotransmitters in the brain. Plans are under way to develop therapeutic applications.
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Civil and Urban Engineering

New York State Funds Storm Resiliency Research
New York State issued a second grant, of $1.26 million, to the NYU Tandon School of Engineering to support a new hub of research and education on emergency preparedness. The New York State Resiliency Institute for Storms & Emergencies (NYS RISE) launched late in 2013 and brings together academic thought leaders as well as government officials, national experts, and emergency response leaders to conduct research and provide scientific information and intellectual resources to develop comprehensive plans to better protect communities.
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Researchers Calculate the Taxpayer Cost of Road Design Choices
Which costs taxpayers more: in-house design of road construction projects or hiring a consulting firm? In 2011, NYU Tandon School of Engineering Professor of Construction Engineering and Management Fletcher (Bud) Griffis completed an exhaustive study of the costs to the New York State Department of Transportation in both scenarios. Under Griffis’s direction, two of his graduate students, Elena Pizzoli and Giulia Luci, have embarked on an ambitious plan to perform similar calculations in all 49 remaining states. Under the auspices of the American Council of Engineering Companies and with a $300,000 grant, they are gathering the data including direct salaries, benefits, and overhead costs.
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Computer Science and Engineering

Visualization Conference Selects 8 NYU School of Engineering Papers
The premiere conference for data visualization will feature eight research papers co-authored by NYU Tandon School of Engineering faculty members from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. The papers will be presented at the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) VIS 2014, which will be held November 9-14, 2014, in Paris, and includes conferences on Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST); Information Visualization (InfoVis), and Scientific Visualization (SciVis).
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NSA Names NYU School of Engineering to Exclusive List of Cyber Security Programs
The National Security Agency and the United States Cyber Command recently named the NYU Tandon School of Engineering as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations, the first in New York and one of only a handful in the country to earn all three Center of Excellence designations from NSA. The new honor signals that a school maintains a deeply technical, interdisciplinary graduate-level program with extensive opportunities for hands-on learning.
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Engineering a Security Scheme to Thwart Password Cracking
Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Justin Cappos has introduced PolyPasswordHasher, an open-source password protection scheme for institutions and corporations that offers an unprecedented level of security for password servers, making it immensely difficult for hackers to decode even small numbers of individual passwords. It takes an approach where it never directly stores password information in a database. Instead, the information is used to encode a cryptographic “store” that cannot be validated unless a threshold number of passwords are entered. A would-be attacker would need to crack groups of passwords simultaneously—a task so labor-intensive as to be nearly insurmountable—in order to verify any single hash. PolyPasswordHasher is being tested as part of the Password Hashing Competition, a global effort organized by security professionals to improve security practices.
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NYU Researchers Uncover Privacy Flaw that Reveals eBay Purchases
Researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and NYU Shanghai discovered a privacy flaw that allows site visitors to view a buyer’s complete purchase history—including sensitive items like gun accessories and at-home medical tests for pregnancy or HIV. Keith W. Ross, dean of engineering and computer science at NYU Shanghai and the Leonard J. Shustek Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the NYU School of Engineering, presented a paper at the Privacy Enhancing Technology Symposium in Amsterdam. Co-authored with doctoral candidate Tehila Minkus, they revealed a substantial privacy loophole in the eBay marketplace, which could possibly be used for the exploitation of buyers.
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Method of Optimizing Digital History Wins Best Paper Award
This September, research on persistence by three members of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Computer Science and Engineering faculty will receive the best paper award at the European Symposium on Algorithms in Wroclaw, Poland. Professor John Iacono, Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow Özgür Özkan, and Postdoctoral Researcher Pooya Davoodi authored the paper, along with Jeremy Fineman of Georgetown University. The European Association for Theoretical Computer Science (EATCS) chose their paper, Cache-Oblivious Persistence, from more than 250 submissions to the symposium.
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Student Co-Authors Research on the Protein Universe
While scientists now know the sequence of millions of proteins--having deciphered which amino acids comprise the proteins, for example, and in what order—their knowledge is far from complete. The structure—the 3D coordinates of every atom of a protein when it is folded in nature—is known for merely 100,000, because decoding the structure of a protein is costlier and more complex than sequencing it.
Sergey Nepomnyachiy, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, is helping to make strides in that area. Along with computational biologists Nir Ben-Tal and Rachel Kolodny, he is applying network theory to the task. Their Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences research paper, “Global View of the Protein Universe,” prominently features Nepomnyachiy’s contribution, which included weeks of running massive amounts of data through a cluster of 32 computers.
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NSF Grant Introduces Secondary School Teachers to Cyber Security
Aiming to address the shortage of cyber security experts, the NYU Tandon School of Engineering has launched a training program for secondary school teachers so that they may engage students at a young age. The program lays the groundwork for teachers to involve their students in the School of Engineering’s annual Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW) forensics competition. The largest set of student competitions in the world, CSAW gives students the chance to interact with top professionals and older cyber security students, as well as to attend academic conference sessions. Principal investigator for the project is Professor Nasir Memon, head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.
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Google Funds Professor Torsten Suel’s Quest for Search Efficiency
Google has granted a Faculty Research Award to Professor Torsten Suel to support his study of new index pruning and index tiering techniques that could significantly reduce hardware and energy costs for large web search engines. This is the third Google award given to Professor Suel, who holds a Diplom degree from the Technical University of Braunschweig and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. Google bestowed the Faculty Research Award upon Suel along with a grant for $55,500.
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Digital Fidgeting for Productivity
Researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering’s Game Innovation Lab have introduced a project called “Fidget Widgets,” which employs small, playful, programmable devices to marry digital and physical play to enhance work. To gain a better understanding of the playful, tactile experiences in which people engage while at work, the researchers are collecting examples from the public. Mike Karlesky, a computer science doctoral candidate, is working on the project with Katherine Isbister, director of the Game Innovation Lab and associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and Kacie Kinzer, a doctoral candidate in the Administration, Leadership, and Technology Department of NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
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Electrical and Computer Engineering

Student Security Research Takes a Top Honor
A three-pronged approach to hardware security, presented by NYU Tandon School of Engineering doctoral student Jeyavijayan (JV) Rajendran, was honored at a research competition held by the leading organization for computing professionals. Rajendran’s research explores ways to design and manufacture hardware that cannot be easily reverse engineered to pirate the design. Up to $4 billion is lost each year because of intellectual property violations, according to one study conducted by SEMI, a trade association of the micro- and nano-electronic industries. Rajendran is advised by Professor Ramesh Karri in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
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Finance and Risk Engineering

Research Examines Wealth Divide in Financial Markets
New research in quantitative finance indicates that the wealth divide in financial markets may be both mental and structural--not a matter of large investors’ access to faster computers for stock trading or a factor of their personal connections. In a paper to appear in Quantitative Finance, NYU Tandon School of Engineering Professor Charles S. Tapiero examined a classic financial pricing model in which investors were not financial equals. His analysis showed that investors big enough to affect a market hold an arbitrage advantage.
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Zhaoxia Xu Wins Economic Research Grant
The National Bureau of Economic Research Innovation Policy recently selected NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s Zhaoxia Xu as one of two recipients worldwide of a research grant of $10,000 for the academic year 2014-2015. Xu, an assistant professor in the Department of Finance and Risk Engineering, focuses her research on government economic policy and corporate innovation.
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Engineering Researcher Unearths Timely Advice for Portfolio Managers
Economists have long debated the risks and rewards of investing using the momentum strategy, an approach based on the belief that market trends will continue: that further gains will follow large increases in the price of a security and that declining prices will persist in declining. Now, Philip Z. Maymin, an assistant professor of Finance and Risk Engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and his collaborators have shown that the exact day on which a portfolio manager chooses to begin tracking those trends has a profound impact on whether or not the strategy will ultimately be successful. The research, “Momentum’s Hidden Sensitivity to the Starting Day,” was co-authored with Zakhar G. Maymin, head of research, and Gregg S. Fisher, chief investment officer, both at Gerstein Fisher in New York.
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Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Swimming Zebrafish May Advance Understanding of How Alcohol Affects Social Behavior
Researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering have published findings illuminating the complex relationship between alcohol and social behavior. The team, led by Maurizio Porfiri, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, believes the work may lead to new therapies for mitigating the negative impacts of alcohol use. Their experiments, published in the journal Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research, center not on human subjects, but on simpler creatures: zebrafish. The paper, “Sociality Modulates the Effects of Ethanol in Zebrafish,” details a new experimental paradigm that allowed Porfiri and his collaborators to analyze a single, alcohol-exposed zebrafish amid a school of “sober” peers, providing surprising insights regarding how alcohol shapes social responses.
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Nikhil Gupta Joins Editorial Board of ASTM Journal
NYU Tandon School of Engineering Associate Professor Nikhil Gupta recently joined the editorial board of the journal Materials Performance and Characterization published by ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). This flagship materials-related journal of ASTM is aimed at addressing practical aspects of the processing, structure, properties, and performance of materials used in mechanical, transportation, energy and medical devices. The society establishes standards, test methods, specifications, guides, and practices that support industries and governments worldwide, and publishes eight different peer-reviewed journals.
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Novel Computational Approach Aims to Improve Prosthetics and Aid Troops
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Joo H. Kim of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering has won a three-year, $350,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop a novel joint-based method of modeling and computing human metabolic energy expenditure. Kim’s computational model takes a novel engineering approach with mathematical rigor to overcome those limitations. It integrates the laws of thermodynamics and the principles of complex system dynamics, and enables real-time calculations of instantaneous metabolic rate. His studies are expected to result in an algorithm (which he intends for open-source release) that will optimize lower-limb prosthetic design and minimize the metabolic cost of walking with a prosthetic limb.
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Grants Advance Research into Composites to Protect Vehicles and Troops
Nikhil Gupta, an associate professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, has won grants from both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to study magnesium matrix composites, lightweight materials that hold potential to revolutionize the production of military vehicles and armor. Gupta’s DOE grant, totaling $150,000, comes under the auspices of the Small Business Innovation Research program and will fund collaborative work with the company Materials Modification, Inc.
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A Safer, Cheaper Way to Track Defects in Aircraft Structures
Nikhil Gupta, of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, developed a fiber-optic sensor that provides a safe way for engineers to closely monitor the safety and durability of the composite materials used in aircraft and spacecraft. The patented extensometer (so called for its ability to measure the extension of a material) is exceptionally sensitive, able to detect a single micron in displacement. Earlier this year, Gupta earned a second patent for a method of using his device, which works by sending out a beam of light and measuring how much passes through the material being tested.
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Metal Matrix Syntactic Foams: Processing, Microstructure, Properties and Applications
Edited by Nikhil Gupta and Pradeep K. Rohatgi

DEStech Publications, Inc., 2014

Focusing on a specialized type of composite foam material, Metal Matrix Syntactic Foams: Processing, Microstructure, Properties and Applications investigates the elements, synthesis, and practical applications of metal matrix syntactic foams. The book comprehensively covers all aspects of metal matrix syntactic foams, including manufacturing and properties of hollow ceramic particles, applications of syntactic foams, and potential of weight saving in engineering applications by using syntactic foams. Five chapters written by leading authorities in their fields discuss synthesis and properties of aluminum, magnesium, zinc, titanium, and iron matrix syntactic foams.
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New Key to Unlocking the Mysteries of Physics? Quantum Turbulence
The recent discovery of the Higgs boson confirmed theories about the origin of mass and, with it, offered the potential to explain other scientific mysteries. But scientists are continually studying other, less-understood forces that may also shed light on matters not yet uncovered. Among these is quantum turbulence, writes Katepalli Sreenivasan, an NYU University professor and dean of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, in the cover story of a special issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Sreenivasan’s introductory analysis, written with issue co-editors Carlo Barenghi of Newcastle University and Ladislav Skrbek of Prague’s Charles University, examines the direction and promise of this phenomenon.
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Technology Management and Innovation

National Academies Selects Oded Nov for Keck Initiative
The annual National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) brings together some of the nation’s best researchers from academic, industrial, and government laboratories to explore and discover interdisciplinary connections in important areas of cutting-edge research. Only about 100 attendees are invited each year, and Associate Professor Oded Nov of the Department of Technology Management and Innovation will be among them in November 2014, when the conference will center on collective behavior. Nov’s work focuses on social computing and explores the social dynamics that shape technology-enabled collaborations
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Technology Management and Innovation with Computer Science and Engineering

NYU Tandon School of Engineering Professors Win Grant to Study Phishing Attacks
Internet users have long been warned about phishing scams, in which criminals indiscriminately send out mass emails to trick consumers into revealing sensitive personal data like social security and credit card numbers. Two faculty members at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering—Associate Professor Oded Nov of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Department of Technology Management and Innovation and Professor Nasir Memon, head of the school’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering—won a National Science Foundation grant of $203,648 to study ways to address the threat.
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