Our Areas of Research Excellence | NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Our Areas of Research Excellence

Our researchers are building a better world — not just by creating new technology, but by using that technology in a mission for justice, transparency, health, and safety. So, while it’s been an unprecedented year requiring attention to unprecedented and pressing challenges, we never lost sight of our focus on our core aims: exploring vital research areas, the intersections between them, and the tools needed to create world-changing solutions.

engineerings in construction hats measuring


Our academic research center NYU WIRELESS offers its faculty, students, and its many major industrial- affiliate sponsors a world-class environment that is creating the fundamental theories and techniques for next-generation communications.

By next generation, we don’t mean 5G (been there, helped pioneer that). NYU WIRELESS researchers are now beginning to imagine the possibilities of the sub-terahertz spectrum starting at 95 GHz, and the futuristic 6G applications that it can support, with some predicting mind-boggling speeds of 8,000 gigabits per second. Never mind that 5G enables a movie to download in a few seconds; with 6G speeds you could download almost 150 hours worth of screen programming, not to mention previously unimaginable medical and IoT applications.

Consider the caliber of its researchers, and you’ll see that if science fiction writers can envision it, NYU WIRELESS can probably make it happen. Among them are:

  • Founder Theodore “Ted” Rappaport, a Wireless Hall of Fame inductee whose original research broke the ground for 5G
  • Director Thomas Marzetta, a member of the National Academy of Engineering often referred to as the Father of Massive MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output) technology
  • Associate Director Sundeep Rangan, a co-founder of Flarion Technologies, a spinoff of Bell Labs and developer of one of the first cellular OFDM (orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing) data systems and the precursor to LTE
  • Institute Professor Elza Erkip, who has made many seminal contributions to the theory and practical design of cooperative and MIMO communications and who is often included on lists of the most-cited researchers in her field.

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It’s become a truism that almost every business is now a tech business, given how deeply dependent every sector has become on digital systems. And with every facet of our lives now affected by those systems, it’s more important than ever to make sure they don’t go unguarded. This year our researchers tackled the dangers of automatic software updates, DNA fingerprinting, and much more.

  • Software updates have long been prime targets for hackers, and the threat posed by such attacks has grown as Internet-connected devices have moved beyond computers and smartphones to include medical equipment, automobiles, and many other devices. Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Justin Cappos’s open-source technology, The Update Framework (TUF), is the industry standard for securing software update systems and is now used by the leading providers of cloud-based services, including Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. This year, TUF achieved an important milestone: it became the first specification project to graduate from the Linux Foundation’s Cloud Native Computing Foundation. (A specification — common examples of which are HTML and HTTP — allows different implementers to create core functionality in a common, precisely defined way to solve a task.)
  • Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Ramesh Karri is addressing the risks that arise at the frontier between cyberspace and DNA biology. DNA fingerprinting, a key process in a nearly $10 billion global business that includes players like 23andMe and AncestryDNA, identifies individuals from very small spans of their genetic material.

    gloved hand holding small vile

    This roughly 0.1% of the human genome unique to each individual can also be used to prove that a DNA sample has not been tampered with or swapped between collection and delivery to labs, a risk researchers identified a decade ago. Karri and his colleagues recently demonstrated a system for flagging any tampering by creating “genetic barcodes” based upon these tiny regions.

  • Thieves have several ways of obtaining data from the magnetic stripes on our credit cards and can then use it to produce counterfeit cards or to monetize data through other illicit activities. Damon McCoy, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, and his team analyzed a large set of data extracted from an illicit online bazaar for buying stolen and leaked credit card information and discovered that chip-enabled cards are no guarantee of security. Among their other discoveries: cards issued in specific states — like South Carolina — were more likely to have their data purchased and cards issued by certain banks are considered more desirable than others to thieves.

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Emerging Media

Students and researchers in NYU Tandon’s Integrated Digital Media (IDM) program are encouraged to experiment with Image, sound, narrative, and interactivity — and entirely new ways of creating, experiencing, and relating to media end up emerging.

We combine artistic inquiry with scientific research and technological practice — it’s not STEM, it’s STEAM — and explore the social, cultural and ethical potentials of transformative technologies like augmented and virtual reality, social gaming, motion capture, user experience design, and more.

Faculty members include renowned artists and composers like IDM co-director R. Luke DuBois, whose work has been exhibited at such venues as the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern in Spain, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Aspen Institute; user experience experts like Reginé Gilbert, author of Inclusive Design for a Digital World: Designing with Accessibility in Mind; activist technologists like Benedetta Piantella, who has partnered with UNICEF and the Earth Institute, among other institutions, on projects around the world; and many others.

We don’t only modify and transform industry-standard technologies, we create new ones, and we’re doing it across every sector, including entertainment, health, commerce, architecture, education, urban planning, and communications.

Made up of a consortium including New York University, Columbia University, The New School, CUNY, School of Visual Arts, Manhattan College, and Pratt Institute, the NYC Media Lab at NYU Tandon facilitates prototyping projects across a wide range of disciplines and programs. Media Lab members are envisioning new ways of experiencing music, improving accessibility options for media consumers, pushing the boundaries of augmented reality and plenty more. The future of media can be found here in Brooklyn.

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This year we welcomed a new chair of biomedical engineering, Andreas H. Hielscher, who arrives with decades of experience in translational, lab-bench-to-bedside and an impressive record of developing new biophotonic technologies applicable to breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and peripheral artery disease, among other conditions. Tandon researchers in his department and others have made enormous strides in recent months, and among their vast body of work has been:

  • Developing a machine learning model that could improve the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological movement disorders

  • Conducting research focused on optimizing modified T-Cell lymphocytes for the immunotherapeutic treatment of cancer

  • Improving telehealth services for stroke victims by designing novel control architectures for safe, remote sensorimotor rehabilitation

  • Finding Imaging biomarkers for very early changes in the optic nerve area, well before glaucoma can cause loss of vision

Multiple Brain Scans

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Robotics/Data Science/AI

We’ve built a collaborative ecosystem aimed at harnessing the collective power of data, machine learning techniques, and autonomous systems, and our researchers are blazing new trails: at the Medical Robotics and Interactive Intelligent Technologies (MERIIT) Lab, for example, we’re augmenting human capabilities well beyond the norm, with a particular focus on neuro-rehabilitation and surgical robotic systems. At the Agile Robotics and Perception Lab, unmanned ground and aerial vehicles roam, and increasing autonomy is a major goal. Our Machines in Motion Laboratory asks: What are the algorithmic principles that would allow a robot to run through a rocky terrain, lift a couch while reaching for an object that rolled under it or manipulate a screwdriver while balancing on top of a ladder?

And they’re all working in concert with our data scientists, who are discovering innovative and ethical ways to analyze, visualize, and utilize the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data the world generates each and every day.

In recent months, among numerous other major accomplishments, we’ve:

  • Knocked over the hurdles to making 5G networks a viable bridge between robotic systems and cloud servers — a feat that presents tantalizing operational benefits, such as allowing robots to perceive the environment, perform complex operations, and make decisions autonomously, all without incurring major energy and weight costs from onboard computational and power-generation equipment

  • Designed Solo 8, a relatively low-cost, easy-and-fast-to-assemble quadruped robot that can be upgraded and modified, opening the door to sophisticated research and development to
    teams on limited budgets, including those at startups, smaller labs, or teaching institutions

  • Demonstrated the potential dangers of incorporating deep neural networks into automotive systems, and revealed backdoor vulnerabilities in the AI behind automotive computer vision systems

  • Gained insights about what kinds of cues influence social behavior in the animal kingdom by deploying an innovative system, called “behavioral teleporting” — the transfer of the complete inventory of behaviors and actions (ethogram) of a live zebrafish onto a remotely located robotic replica

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At a time when climate change poses a grave threat to the planet, and the viability of our water, energy, transportation, and agricultural systems seems in grave danger, one major question looms: how do we effectively meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own?

Tandon researchers are developing new ways to generate clean energy, keep our water supplies safe, decrease our carbon footprint and more. Their recent research includes:

  • Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Ryan Hartman is designing an intelligent microsystem that uses a lab reactor, liquefied catalyst, and machine learning techniques to make industrial chemical processes faster and greener
  • Assistant Professor of Civil and Urban Engineering Andrea Silverman, along with Industry Assistant Professor Tega Brain and Assistant Professor Elizabeth Hénaff (both from the Department of Technology, Culture, and Society), is studying how the effects of flooding — a near-certain result of global warming — impact public health and infrastructure in urban areas
  • Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering André Taylor is improving hydrogen fuel cell technologies and paving the path to a future that features vehicles whose only exhaust fumes are water vapor; greatly increasing the power conversion efficiencies of perovskite solar cells; and finding ways to harvest sunlight underwater

Andre Taylor with students in lab

The Urban Future Lab is a major driver of the Carbon to Value Initiative (C2V Initiative), a unique partnership aimed at creating a thriving innovation ecosystem for the commercialization of carbontech — technologies that capture and convert carbon dioxide into valuable products or services. Supported by the State of New York, the C2V Initiative will help innovative young companies enable rapid commercialization of carbontech, bringing potentially planet- saving technologies to market faster. It’s just one more way we are engineering a brighter future.

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NYU Tandon researchers are finding ways to make the cities of the future smarter, greener, better connected, and more resilient — goals with added urgency now that more than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, and that figure is only expected to grow over the coming decades. (U.N. projections state that it will be more than 70% by mid-century.)

Few engineering schools can claim the entirety of New York City as a living lab, as we can, and we leverage our locale as a staging ground to find solutions for the global urban communities of the future. We know the cities of tomorrow will be increasing dense and increasingly challenging, but we’re working on several fronts to ensure, for example, that

  • Transportation infrastructure and systems are secure, efficient and resilient — work being conducted at C2SMART, our U.S. Department of Transportation Tier 1 University Transportation Center
  • Environmental pollution, public health, building safety, and the myriad other issues affecting livability are addressed using data- driven, technologically advanced, scalable methods — the focus of our Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP)

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