Pratt Research

Rebecca Willett, NSF CAREER Award Winner, Develops Tools to Tackle Images, Traffic and More



Rebecca Willett

Rebecca Willett of Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering is creating tools that could be used to make sense of a diverse set of scenarios -- from the blackout that left New York City in the dark in 2003 to the bottlenecks and vulnerabilities that can plague transportation systems to the activities of genes and proteins within individual cells. In support of her efforts, Willett has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from The National Science Foundation (NSF).

Antioxidant Chemicals Could Alter Mercury's Environmental Fate

Antioxidant chemicals, including one produced by aquatic life during times of stress, may have a hand in the fate of mercury in watersheds, potentially influencing the toxic metal's entry into the food chain, according to a report by Helen Hsu-Kim, a civil and environmental engineer at the Pratt School.

Hsu-Kim reported in the April 1 Environmental Science & Technology that mercury and other trace metals react with a common antioxidant defense molecule to form stable complexes that can persist for days. Organisms from bacteria to mammals produce and sometimes release antioxidants, which neutralize harmful free radicals and other toxic chemicals. Similar compounds, prevalently found in some aquatic environments, would be expected to react in the same manner.

Keck Futures Grant Supports Development of Liquid Electrodes for 'Smart' Prosthetics

The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative announced that Warren Grill, of Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, and David Martin, of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, are recipients of a 2006 Futures grant to support their work on smart prosthetics. The competitive seed grants aim to fill a critical gap for research on bold new ideas, according to The National Academies.

Grill and Martin will investigate whether rubber electrodes can record electrical signals from and deliver electrical stimulation to peripheral nerves. Their system includes liquid electrodes that harden after injection into the body to enable minimally invasive electrical interfaces with peripheral nerves for applications in prosthetic devices.

Ultrasound Upgrade Produces Images That Work Like 3-D Movies

Parents-to-be might soon don 3-D glasses in the ultrasound lab to see their developing fetuses in the womb "in living 3-D, just like at the IMAX movies," according to Stephen Smith of Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering. His Duke team that first developed real-time, three-dimensional ultrasound imaging says it has now modified the commercial version of the scanner to produce an even more realistic perception of depth. Paired images seem to pop out of the screen when viewed with the special glasses.The researchers created an updated version of the image-viewing software found on clinical ultrasound scanners, making it possible to achieve a stereo display with no additional hardware.