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Conference Details - Agenda

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2011 MIT Research and Development Conference

November 15-16, 2011
 

8:00 am

Kresge Lobby

Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:50 am

Kresge Auditorium

Welcome & Introduction

9:00 am

Going to Extremes: Challenges and Opportunities for Materials in Extreme Environments
Rapid progress in the development of new energy solutions, electronic miniaturization, military readiness, and even medical diagnostics has led to increasingly challenging demands on materials performance. Extreme environments including high or low temperatures, large stresses or strain rates, rapid ion fluxes, dramatic swings in pH, or staggering exposures to radiation levels are now commonplace exposure conditions for advanced materials. How can we understand the ways in which materials change under such conditions, and how can we design new materials that will maintain critical performance metrics (e.g., stiffness, or conductivity, or biological activity) in the face of such extremes? The MIT Center for Scientific Investigation of Materials in Extreme Environments (CeSIMEE, pronounced like 'sesame') is dedicated to answering these questions, by connecting faculty from a range of science and engineering disciplines with industry, military, and medical experts who are grappling with fundamental questions or applications in extreme environments. Here, I will share our vision and highlight several existing research initiatives at MIT who have helped to define this emerging cross-disciplinary area.
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9:30 am

The Materials Project: A Materials Genomic Approach
The need for novel materials is the technological Achilles Heel of our strategy to address the energy and climate problem facing the world. The large-scale deployment of photovoltaics, photosynthesis, storage of electricity, thermoelectrics, or reversible fuel catalysis can not be realized with current materials technologies. The "Materials Genome" project, started at MIT, has as its objective to use high-throughput first principles computations on an unparalleled scale to discover new materials for energy technologies. Only computationally driven materials design can deal with the scale and urgency of the materials discovery problem. I will show how several key problems such as crystal structure prediction and accuracy limitations of standard Density Functional Theory methods have been overcome to perform reliable, large scale materials searching.

I will show successful examples of high-throughput calculations in the field of lithium batteries, show several new materials that have been discovered, and discuss our developments in other fields. In addition, I will discuss the public release version of the Materials Genome project which will be making large quantities of computed data freely available to the materials community.
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10:00 am

Break

10:30 am

Panel Discussion: Managing the Global Research Enterprise
As corporate research and development organizations become increasingly de-centralized, companies in all industries seek to maximize the benefits provided by these structures (24 hour research, access to worldwide talent, proximity to market. etc.) while minimizing the obstacles (differences in time zone, culture, and language) and resource redundancy. This panel brings together research executives from a variety of industries and regions to discuss the benefits provided by their globally dispersed research centers and highlight lessons learned.
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12:00 pm

6th Floor,
MIT Media Laboratory (E14)

Lunch and Start-up Exhibition

TRACK 1 - Large Scale Computing

2:00 pm

Quantifying Uncertainty in Computational Simulation
Computational simulation has become an essential tool for design and decision-making in numerous industries and applications. Yet computational models inevitably contain many sources of uncertainty, ranging from the characterization of input parameters to questions of model scope, resolution, and structure. In this context, reliance on “single-point” deterministic computational predictions may be misleading and unreliable. Instead, computational predictions must be accompanied by the degree of confidence we have in them.

I will discuss new algorithms for assessing uncertainty in simulation-based predictions, and for refining and validating models from heterogeneous sources of observational data. I will also discuss computational requirements of these algorithms and their relationship to future “exascale” computational hardware. Examples will be drawn from a range of applications, including detailed physical modeling and systems-level analysis of energy conversion processes and large-scale inverse problems arising in environmental modeling and prediction.
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TRACK 1 - Large Scale Computing

2:40 pm

Julia: A Fresh Approach to Technical Computing
Modern cloud infrastructure creates new opportunities for technical computing performance, setup, and numerical accuracy. Traditionally it has been too difficult to take advantage of large-scale computing resources. Buying, administering, and sharing clusters is expensive and subject to organizational hurdles.

Cloud computing has the potential to make supercomputing as easy and routine as desktop computing. The goal of our work is to provide access to scalable resources from a high-level technical computing language. This is technical computing infrastructure from the “ground up.” We use cloud APIs, an elastic model of parallelism, and high-level programming primitives to allow users to develop scientific code within their own personal virtual clusters. These personal clusters require no installation or maintenance and can grow and shrink as needed.

High productivity is often associated with lower performance. We are working towards showing that this is a happenstance rather than a requirement.
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3:20 pm

Stratton Balcony

Break

TRACK 1 - Large Scale Computing

3:40 pm

Challenges and Opportunities of Petascale Data for Science
In the last decade major progress has been made in integrating large scale computer systems and in developing integrated sensor devices with unprecedented pixel counts. Both these innovations enable compute applications for science and engineering that can produce unprecedented volumes of digital information. In this talk I will illustrate various sorts of petabit and exabit scale data activities that are capturing new levels of detail about physical systems ranging from microscopic to universe scale processes. I will examine in more detail cutting edge activities in the field of Earth science and discuss the large-scale computing technologies that we are deploying to support these activities.
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TRACK 1 - Large Scale Computing

4:20 pm

Coding and Computation - A Basis For the Cloud
The general problem of cloud computing is that of balancing the elements of computation, storage and communication in a network for performance, cost and resilience. In this talk, we present some novel algorithms that allow us to consider jointly those three elements. We present some new advances in distributed computing designed to reduce transmissions in the network (functional compression) and new approaches to storage based on network coding, in which data is coded both at the source and inside the network. We show how these approaches can be taken from general principles to specific algorithms and to demonstrations. In particular, we show that coding may reduce the continued trend of replacing transport capacity with storage.
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TRACK 2 - Synthetic Biology for Industrial Applications

2:00 pm

Breaking Complex Gene Clusters into Parts: Refactoring Nitrogen Fixation
Bacterial genes that are associated with a single trait are often grouped in a contiguous unit of the genome, known as a gene cluster. Many functions are encoded in such clusters, including metabolic pathways, nanomachines, nutrient scavenging mechanisms, and energy generators. Gene clusters can be very large, encoding dozens of genes and internal regulation and occupy more than 100kb. We have developed an approach to remove all of the native regulation of a gene cluster, including unknown interactions, and reduce it into a set of well-characterized genetic parts. First, we eliminate all non-coding DNA and native regulation. Second, we randomize the codons of the essential genes and use computational methods to scan for unintentional functional sequences. Third, we organize the new genes into artificial operons and control expression using synthetic promoters, ribosome binding sites, and terminators. A controller is constructed that combines genetic sensors and circuits to control the conditions and dynamics of gene expression. This process results in a ?refactored? gene cluster that has no DNA sequence identity shared with the native cluster and for which the genetics are completely specified. We have applied this approach to a gene cluster from Klebsiella that encodes the pathway for nitrogen fixation that converts atmospheric N2 to ammonia. Nitrogen fixation is critical in agriculture, where the chemical process for fertilizer production is a major energy sink. The removal of native regulation and the breakdown of the genetics into modular parts maximizes the possibility of transferring the function between organisms and enables the automation of combinatorial optimization.
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TRACK 2 - Synthetic Biology for Industrial Applications

2:40 pm

Synthetic Biology: From parts to modules to therapeutic systems
Synthetic biology is revolutionizing how we conceptualize and approach the engineering of biological systems. Recent advances in the field are allowing us to expand beyond the construction and analysis of small gene networks towards the implementation of complex multicellular systems with a variety of applications. In this talk I will describe our integrated computational / experimental approach to engineering complex behavior in living systems ranging from bacteria to stem cells. In our research, we appropriate design principles from electrical engineering and other established fields. These principles include abstraction, standardization, modularity, and computer aided design. But we also spend considerable effort towards understanding what makes synthetic biology different from all other existing engineering disciplines and discovering new design and construction rules that are effective for this unique discipline. We will briefly describe the implementation of genetic circuits and modules with finely-tuned digital and analog behavior and the use of artificial cell-cell communication to coordinate the behavior of cell populations. The first system to be presented is an RNAi-based logic circuit that can detect and destroy specific cancer cells based on their microRNA expression profiles. We will also discuss preliminary experimental results for obtaining precise spatiotemporal control over stem cell differentiation for tissue engineering applications. We will conclude by discussing the design and preliminary results for creating an artificial tissue homeostasis system where genetically engineered stem cells maintain indefinitely a desired level of pancreatic beta cells despite attacks by the autoimmune response, relevant for diabetes.
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3:20 pm

Stratton Balcony

Break

TRACK 2 - Synthetic Biology for Industrial Applications

3:40 pm

Scalable and Tunable Platforms for Engineering Synthetic Gene Circuits
Synthetic biology is focused on engineering biological organisms to study natural systems and to provide new solutions for pressing medical, industrial, and environmental problems. At the core of engineered organisms are synthetic biological circuits that execute the tasks of sensing inputs, processing logic, and performing output functions. In the last decade, significant progress has been made in developing basic designs for a wide range of biological circuits in bacteria, yeast, and mammalian systems. However, significant challenges in the construction, implementation, probing, modulation, and debugging of synthetic biological systems must be addressed in order to achieve scalable higher-complexity biological circuits.

We present several platforms for engineering scalable and tunable gene circuits. We are assembling and characterizing libraries of interoperable recombinase-based devices for memory and logic systems. We have used these devices to construct higher-level functionalities, including counter circuits. In addition, we are creating and analyzing a framework for engineering synthetic and orthogonal transcription factor and promoter pairs. We have shown that transcriptional activity can be controlled and tuned by engineering protein-DNA binding interactions at the sequence level. The rational design of protein-DNA interactions offers a powerful framework for programming transcriptional logic. We anticipate that these platforms will serve as new toolkits for building and interrogating synthetic gene networks, ultimately bridging the challenge of designing complex biological behavior from basic building blocks.
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TRACK 2 - Synthetic Biology for Industrial Applications

4:20 pm

Parts, Devices, and Chassis in Support of Metabolic Engineering
The growing interest in a “biomass-based” economy has led to new efforts to construct and improve microorganisms capable of producing chemicals. The focus has largely been on liquid biofuels; however, a successful “biorefinery” is likely to be a mixed-product facility, with many compounds produced from one or more biomass-derived feeds. Our group is interested in applying principles from metabolic engineering and biocatalysis towards the design and construction of novel biosynthetic pathways for specified biochemicals. This “retro-biosynthetic design” approach is aided by advancements in the development of new tools under the umbrella of synthetic biology that facilitate re-engineering of biological systems. The design, construction and optimization of a novel biosynthetic pathway for glucaric acid, a so-called “top value-added chemical” from biomass, will be discussed, with a particular focus on the parts, devices, and chassis engineering required to develop efficient, high-yielding microbial chemical factories.
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TRACK 3 - Materials for Extreme Environments

2:00 pm

Too Old To Be True – What Can We Do About Corrosion?
Corrosion is undoubtedly one the oldest natural phenomenon affecting all materials, penetrating every aspect of our society. Each component of the public infrastructure (for example, energy supply, power generation, oil-gas exploration, highways, airports and water supply) is affected by corrosion, requiring significant investments. The direct economic costs are enormous, estimated to be 3.1% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), being borne by every consumer and producer. An emerging confluence of new computational and experimental methods presents an exceptional opportunity to advance our understanding and control of the processes governing the degradation of materials in coupled extreme environments including corrosion. We summarize recent work directed towards understanding and tailoring against the surface and bulk degradation of metals in extreme environments of oil and gas exploration. Research related to surface passivation and bulk embrittlement in hydrogen sulfide-containing environments and surface-engineering by optimization of corrosion activity will be discussed, with novel experimental and computational methods ranging from the atomic- to the continuum-level.
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TRACK 3 - Materials for Extreme Environments

2:40 pm

An Overview of Blast and Ballistic Protection Materials Research at the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies

3:20 pm

Stratton Balcony

Break

TRACK 3 - Materials for Extreme Environments

3:40 pm

The Extreme Material Environments of Fusion
The interior of a magnetic fusion reactor likely represents the harshest engineering environment for materials. They are immersed in such an intense neutron field that the atomic ordering of the materials is "rolled-over" about every two weeks. Simultaneously many materials a in direct contact with the boundary layer of a highly perturbing and damaging thermonuclear plasma. The scientific challenges and opportunities for understanding and controlling this environment are presented.

TRACK 3 - Materials for Extreme Environments

4:20 pm

Cement and Concrete in Extreme Environments
Concrete is a ubiquitous material in physical infrastructure such as highways, buildings, and water distribution systems. Due to its mechanical durability and low cost, concrete is thus used in a range of potentially extreme conditions such as extreme temperatures, humidities, salinities, and mechanical stresses. However, the mechanisms by which these cementitious composite materials respond to extreme environments is poorly understood. Here, we will discuss the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub's efforts to computationally model and experimentally validate the effects of extreme temperature, humidity, and stress on the nanoscale binding phase of these materials, termed calcium-silicate-hydrate, and the implications of such mechanisms for macroscale cement pastes and concretes in industrial applications.
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TRACK 4 - Unmanned Vehicles - Air, Land, and Sea

2:00 pm

Autonomy is Overrated: Towards shared human-machine control for vehicles and other mechanical systems
Many important tasks such as vehicle navigation, unmanned system teleoperation, and robotic surgery require human operators to interact with a computer controlled mechanical system. Currently, there is intense research activity devoted toward complete automation of system operation. However, human operators will remain "in the loop" for the foreseeable future, due to various technical issues, legal issues, and social issues. The development of shared control methods for operator assistance, safeguarding, and augmentation are thus a necessary component of future intelligent systems.

This talk will present a new approach to shared human-machine control (i.e. “semi-autonomous control”) that is abstracted as a constraint planning problem. In this approach, constraints are defined to bound a safe operational region of the physical environment, input space, and state space. Methods for "threat assessment" are used to estimate the hazard level of a given scenario, and this threat estimate is used to partition control between the human operator and the control system. Simulated and experimental results are presented in the context of passenger vehicle navigation, and demonstrate the framework’s ability to robustly ensure vehicle safety while sharing control with a human driver.
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TRACK 4 - Unmanned Vehicles - Air, Land, and Sea

2:40 pm

MIT Lincoln Laboratory Support to Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration into the US National Airspace
The ability of unmanned aircraft systems to operate in the national airspace is an important requirement for DoD crew training, DHS surveillance missions, and Air Force and Navy missions operating from US airspace. It is also a capability that needs to be in place to allow civilian operations such as law enforcement and commercial applications.

Due to airborne collision risk concerns, UAS require the capability to sense and avoid other aircraft with sufficient robustness and reliability. MIT Lincoln Laboratory is involved in development and validation of both ground-based and airborne sense and avoid though airspace characterization, modeling and simulation, algorithm development, and development of open architectures for sense and avoid systems, with programs funded across DoD, DHS and the FAA.

Key Lincoln accomplishments are (1) development of encounter models that characterize how aircraft blunder into one another, either at short collision avoidance ranges or at longer ranges appropriate for self separation, that can be used to simulate large numbers of encounters, (2) development of Monte Carlo simulations for airborne and ground-based sense and avoid elements and entire systems, (3) development of open architectures that support sense and avoid testing of elements, systems, and concepts of operations, (4) development of algorithms for self separation and collision avoidance. Lincoln is involved in FAA working groups and US and international standards bodies. These capabilities are being brought to bear on the sense and avoid problem across DoD and DHS. This paper provides an overview of MIT Lincoln’s programs, and sense and avoid capabilities.
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3:20 pm

Stratton Balcony

Break

TRACK 4 - Unmanned Vehicles - Air, Land, and Sea

3:40 pm

Planning and Learning in Information Space
Decision making with imperfect knowledge is an essential capability for unmanned vehicles operating in populated, dynamic domains. For example, a UAV flying autonomously indoors will not be able to rely on GPS for position estimation, but instead use on-board sensors to track its position and map the obstacles in its environment. The planned trajectories for such a vehicle must therefore incorporate sensor limitations to avoid collisions and to ensure accurate state estimation for stable flight -- that is, the planner must be able to predict and avoid uncertainty in the state, in the dynamics and in the model of the world. Incorporating uncertainty requires planning in information space, which leads to substantial computational cost but allows our unmanned vehicles to plan deliberate sensing actions that can not only improve the state estimate, but even improve the vehicle's model of the world and how people interact with the vehicle.

I will discuss recent results from my group in planning in information space; our algorithms allow robots to generate plans that are robust to state and model uncertainty, while planning to learn more about the world. I will describe the navigation system for a quadrotor helicopter flying autonomously without GPS using laser range-finding, and will show how these results extend to autonomous mapping, general tasks with imperfect information, and human-robot interaction.
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TRACK 4 - Unmanned Vehicles - Air, Land, and Sea

4:20 pm

The Role of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) in Future Deepwater Oil Exploration and Production
The oil industry has moved into deeper and deeper waters to meet the continued high demand for oil. The move into deeper waters has required major innovations to keep the cost low without sacrificing safety. The first innovation introduced the concept of subsea completions using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) at ever increasing standoff distances from the producing platform. This kept the associated cost of the producing platform reasonable but increased the cost of inspection and maintenance. Even the most routine inspection using an ROV requires the supporting presence of a large surface vessel thereby increasing the daily cost of even the most routine maintenance operations by tens of thousands of dollars. This cost pressure has ushered in the second innovation namely the use of AUVs, which can be operated without a costly surface vessel, to meet the inspection needs of producing platforms.

Whether ROVs will be entirely replaced by AUVs is debatable, but we believe that in the next decade an increasing number of light maintenance tasks will be assigned to AUVs. During the lecture the genesis and evolution of modern AUV technology will be discussed. Associated technologies such as underwater communications, sensor technologies, and near real-time supervisory control will be presented. The design of a fully operational and integrated AUV offshore oil inspection system will be described and discussed.
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5:00 pm

Networking Reception