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Quantum Leap - in quantum computing, UW scientists see the building blocks of the next technological revolution

Associate Professor Kai-Mei Fu featured in UW Magazine on exciting quantum computing collaborations in the Pacific Northwest.

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Quantum Leap - in quantum computing, UW scientists see the building blocks of the next technological revolution Banner

New system that uses smartphone or computer cameras to measure pulse, respiration rate could help future personalized telehealth appointments

A UW-led team has developed a method that uses the camera on a person’s smartphone or computer to take their pulse and breathing rate from a real-time video of their face.

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New system that uses smartphone or computer cameras to measure pulse, respiration rate could help future personalized telehealth appointments Banner

Determination and hard work drive a non-traditional student toward success

Cody Brereton, a UW ECE undergraduate student in his senior year, started college later in life, but despite facing many daunting challenges that often cause non-traditional students to drop out of school, he persevered, engineering his own pathway to academic success.

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Determination and hard work drive a non-traditional student toward success Banner

UW startup Sensol Systems is redefining the crosswalk industry

With the help of UW ECE undergrads Milo Martin and Yuhang Li, Sensol Systems is developing a modular crosswalk that illuminates a pedestrian’s exact location from below to increase visibility and save lives.

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UW startup Sensol Systems is redefining the crosswalk industry Banner

A larger, clearer window into the brain

UW ECE assistant professor Azadeh Yazdan is co-leading a multi-institutional research team developing a device capable of seeing into and accessing the brain like never before. This work holds the promise of opening a doorway to better treatments for a wide range of neurological diseases and disorders.

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A larger, clearer window into the brain Banner

Professor Visvesh Sathe receives Intel Outstanding Researcher Award

UW ECE associate professor Visvesh Sathe was recently recognized with an Intel 2020 Outstanding Researcher Award for his project focused on developing a more energy-efficient computer architecture.

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Professor Visvesh Sathe receives Intel Outstanding Researcher Award Banner

News + Events

https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/quantum-leap/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/smartphone-pulse/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/codybrereton/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/sensol/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/a-larger-clearer-window-into-the-brain/
A larger, clearer window into the brain

A larger, clearer window into the brain

UW ECE assistant professor Azadeh Yazdan is co-leading a multi-institutional research team developing a device capable of seeing into and accessing the brain like never before. This work holds the promise of opening a doorway to better treatments for a wide range of neurological diseases and disorders.

https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/2020intelaward/
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                    [post_content] => Article by Andrew Engleson |  UW Magazine

Quantum physics is weird. Many an undergrad has been baffled by Schrödinger’s cat in a box which could be both dead and alive until the box is opened. Some of us ponder how light exists as both a wave and particle. And our pandemic quarantine might give us time to work on understanding the notion of action at a distance in which two entangled particles, separated by a great distance, change state instantaneously if one is observed.

[caption id="attachment_18688" align="alignleft" width="250"]Jim Pfaendtner Jim Pfaendtner[/caption] It turns out these and other bizarre components of quantum physics are the foundation for a new kind of computer, one that promises to be substantially faster and more powerful than any that exists today. And UW researchers in physics, computer science, chemistry, engineering and materials science are training leaders in the burgeoning field of quantum information science and technology, or QIST. QIST offers radically new advances in a variety of fields as well: ultrasensitive sensors to one day measure the firing of individual neurons in the brain, or completely secured encrypted communication. Jim Pfaendtner, chemical engineering professor and chair of UW’s Chemical Engineering Department, notes that quantum computing could force us to jettison Moore’s Law, the dependable rule of thumb that asserts computing power tends to double every two years. “You’ll have a radical change in the type of a certain class of calculations—the scaling is massively higher,” Pfaendtner says. “So the number, the extent of calculations that you can begin to conceive of doing will really change overnight if this technology comes to pass.”

“Today’s crypto-keys will not be secure when quantum computing is realized. Because the computers will be exponentially faster.” - JIM PFAENDTNER, UW CHEMICAL ENGINEERING PROFESSOR

Calculations that would take thousands of years on classical computers could conceivably take just a few hours. The benefits are many, but there’s one striking potential impact: current security and encryption would be obsolete. “Today’s crypto-keys will not be secure when quantum computing is realized,” Pfaendtner says. “Because the computers will be exponentially faster.” [caption id="attachment_19925" align="alignright" width="280"] Kai-Mei Fu[/caption] Not surprisingly, the U.S. government has taken notice, dedicating more than a billion dollars in 2020 to research efforts. In the past four years, UW has received $30 million in funding for QIST research, says Kai-Mei Fu, associate professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering as well as a researcher with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Fu helps lead a lineup of regional quantum collaborations including Northwest Quantum Nexus, a research partnership among UW, Microsoft and PNNL. She’s also a leader of the Quantum X initiative, which brings together UW researchers across disciplines. “Quantum X is a very typical bottom-up University of Washington endeavor,” Fu says. “We realized there are a lot of people doing quantum on campus. Our main goal is to connect everyone.” Quantum X brings together principal investigators at UW in materials science, physics, electrical and computer engineering, and other disciplines integral to creating a quantum computer. “Building up connections between these disparate groups of people is not easy,” says Nathan Wiebe, a senior scientist at PNNL and until recently a UW affiliate associate professor of physics. “I think the hardest part about building a quantum computer is going to be trying to figure out how to get everybody able to talk to each other. We all need to be involved to get this to work.”

A fascination with diamonds

What makes a quantum computer different from a standard computer is the qubit. A classical computer works using bits, which represent information as a string of values of either 0 or 1. Qubits store information in a single atom or particle. But rather than using a solid value of 0 or 1, the qubit stores a range of possibilities. Wiebe explains it as the difference between looking at which side of a coin is face up on a table (a bit of either heads or tails), versus a flipped coin that’s covered by your hand; you know the probability of it, but don’t actually know for certain if it’s heads or tails. Pfaendtner likes the analogy of a 3-D maze to describe qubits. “Every time you come to a junction, classically, you’d pick one direction and go until you reach the dead end. You’d keep a map of that in your mind, or your memory. Then you would go back when you reached a dead end. You’re never going to guess the maze the first time correctly, but you will eventually solve the maze. “In a quantum computer, in a qubit, instead of picking one direction, you pick both directions. So you simultaneously explore both paths. Every time you come to a junction there is the ability to not have one state, but have multiple states. This is the fundamental paradox of quantum physics that’s difficult for everybody to understand.” The power of qubits comes from their ability to add these probabilistic wave-functions of information together, creating an exponentially more powerful and much faster way to do calculations. But it turns out that creating a working qubit is fiendishly difficult. You need to manipulate a single atom or particle, which isn’t easy. Atoms interfere with one another, making precise measurements difficult unless you can isolate them. “We want to build a big, powerful, thick box to secure our quantum information,” Wiebe says. “But we don’t want it to be so secure that we can’t read it.” That why Kai-Mei Fu is fascinated with diamonds. “Part of the allure of a diamond isn’t that it’s a beautiful material,” she says. “It has nice properties, has very extreme properties. Part of it is more mundane—it’s pure enough that I can work with it without interference from a noisy environment.”

What’s really key is we’re bringing together students from different departments.- KAI-MEI FU, PHYSICS AND ELECTRICAL & COMPUTER ENGINEERING PROFESSOR

Fu and her colleagues specialize in creating minuscule defects in otherwise perfectly pure diamonds to manufacture qubits. Inside the lattice of carbon atoms that make up a diamond, you can sneak in two nitrogen atoms. This creates tiny flaws, or “vacancy centers,” that can, when brought down to super-cold temperatures, be manipulated to store information. The trick is integrating those tiny empty spaces into an actual circuit. Much ballyhoo surrounded the Google announcement in 2019 that it had built a rudimentary 53-qubit quantum computer that achieved “supremacy”—quickly solving a problem that classical computers would take much longer to figure out. Then last year, IBM announced it had constructed its own 64-qubit processor. But the results of these efforts are still tenuous, and just how successful these first efforts have been is hotly debated among scientists. One big problem with qubits is their relatively high error rate. Even after the atoms are isolated and manipulated, one concern is decoherence—a quantum effect that’s essentially a random change in the atom’s state, which can be caused by an electric or magnetic field, stray radiation or other environmental factors. What Fu and her UW colleagues have focused on is creating improved interfaces between those tiny defects and a larger circuit that can manipulate the information contained in them. Working with UW’s Nanofabrication Facility, Fu says, “We can make devices that couple these defects to these photons. That’s huge.” Three of Fu’s colleagues in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE), Mo Li, Arka Majumdar and Karl Böhringer, received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant last fall to work on developing a microchip-sized steering system that coordinates multiple laser beams—which could eventually link more than 1,000 qubits. “It’s a huge engineering challenge controlling all these beams,” Fu says. In another multidiscipline effort, Fu is leading a $3 million traineeship program also funded by the NSF that brings together UW graduate students across different fields to collaborate on QIST research. Fu says, “What’s really key is we’re bringing together students from different departments.”

The architecture of a revolution

For Martin Savage, a professor of physics at the UW’s Institute for Nuclear Theory, one missing puzzle piece is imagining how to actually use quantum computers. “One of the things that we need to understand especially is how to use a quantum computer to solve problems,” says Savage. “We kind of don’t know how do that at the moment.” Using existing supercomputers or even just standard laptops, Savage and his colleagues are trying to simulate how quantum computers might be applied to unsolved problems in fundamental physics. He and UW colleagues Silas Beane and David Kaplan have created the InQubator for Quantum Simulation (IQuS), which is beginning the work of figuring out which research questions quantum computers would be best applied. Imagining those uses can sometimes expose current limitations. Fu notes this in her work with diamonds. “To give you a scope of the problem, even though we’ve removed one atom from a crystal, actually simulating how that crystal should behave is hard. That’s a quantum mechanical problem, one that you practically need a quantum computer to do.” Wiebe estimates that it may be as long as 20 years before a truly functional quantum computer is operational. And that’s even allowing for the rapid pace the technology has advanced at in the past 10 years. Wiebe sums up the challenge this way. To do useful calculations, a million-qubit chip would be required. With existing technology, he says, we “would need at present to make a chip that’s about 1-meter square and stored at like 10 to 30 millikelvin [near absolute zero]. The control electronics would take up several football fields and cost over a billion dollars.”

A regional hub for quantum research

Just what quantum computers will be applied to is a fascinating and potentially controversial question. Wiebe notes one surprising application: fertilizer production. The chemical process for creating ammonia-based fertilizer has been around for over a hundred years. It’s fairly simple process, but one that consumes close to 1% of the world’s total energy use. But now we know that bacteria have evolved to make ammonia at room temperature using an enzyme called nitrogenase. Using that enzyme on a large scale could significantly reduce global energy consumption. But the process isn’t well understood and can’t be replicated beyond a single cell. “Despite 100 years of trying,” Wiebe says, “nobody has actually been able to crack the problem of how exactly this kind of molecular knife that bacteria have discovered actually works.” The complex chemistry—which includes heavy metals such as iron and molybdenum—can’t be modeled using existing computers. It would potentially take thousands to millions of years. But with a fully functional quantum computer, Wiebe predicts “we could actually simulate it in the span of a few hours.” Savage points to another application on a much larger scale. “Take for instance, colliding neutron stars,” he says. “What happens in the densest part of that? Using a classical computer, we still don’t have answers with the precision we need.” The potential to create a computer that can bypass existing cryptographic encryption is driving governments in the U.S. and China to massively scale up QIST funding. Wiebe says having a strategy now will help mitigate future security risks. “Twenty years is enough time for us to develop some good tools. We really need to build up and make sure these things are reliable and can hold up against ordinary hackers in addition to the quantum hackers we’re going to be worried about in 20-plus years.” Strangely enough, QIST also allows for the creation of perfectly secure communication networks. Based on quantum principles such as entanglement and the impossibility of copying a quantum state, quantum keys are packets of information that always bear a trace if observed. “What makes [quantum keys] completely secure is that as soon as someone tries to copy, disturb, or see the message, it leaves an imprint on the message that’s detectable,” says Fu. Even a quantum computer wouldn’t help overcome this perfectly secure key. At the moment, the implications are merely theoretical. But as QIST researchers like those at UW advance and refine the technology, hard decisions will have to be made about who can use these tools. “We have to decide when we want to use this,” says Fu, “and when do we not want to use this?” For now, the researchers are focused on advancing the technology, bolstered by a vibrant quantum research community in the Pacific Northwest. The UW, Microsoft, Amazon, and Intel, as well as PNNL and a host of quantum startups such as D-Wave Systems and 1QBit (both in British Columbia) are all making Cascadia a magnet for QIST research. “One of the things that really attracted me to UW and the Pacific Northwest for quantum is the amazing synergies that are possible between all of these different organizations,” says Wiebe. “We’ve got an amazingly strong computer science department at UW. We’ve got very strong chemistry, as well as electrical engineering and physics departments—and surrounded by a wonderful collection of industrial partners.” In a decade or two, we’ll know if computers are ready to take the next quantum leap.

[post_title] => Quantum Leap - in quantum computing, UW scientists see the building blocks of the next technological revolution [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => quantum-leap [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-08 15:28:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-08 22:28:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21618 [menu_order] => 1 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21556 [post_author] => 26 [post_date] => 2021-04-06 10:13:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-06 17:13:09 [post_content] => Story by   |  UW News [caption id="attachment_21572" align="alignright" width="599"] A UW-led team has developed a method that uses the camera on a person’s smartphone or computer to take their pulse and breathing rate from a real-time video of their face.[/caption] Telehealth has become a critical way for doctors to still provide health care while minimizing in-person contact during COVID-19. But with phone or Zoom appointments, it’s harder for doctors to get important vital signs from a patient, such as their pulse or respiration rate, in real time. A University of Washington-led team has developed a method that uses the camera on a person’s smartphone or computer to take their pulse and respiration signal from a real-time video of their face. The researchers presented this state-of-the-art system in December at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference. Now the team is proposing a better system to measure these physiological signals. This system is less likely to be tripped up by different cameras, lighting conditions or facial features, such as skin color. The researchers will present these findings April 8 at the ACM Conference on Health, Interference, and Learning. “Machine learning is pretty good at classifying images. If you give it a series of photos of cats and then tell it to find cats in other images, it can do it. But for machine learning to be helpful in remote health sensing, we need a system that can identify the region of interest in a video that holds the strongest source of physiological information — pulse, for example — and then measure that over time,” said lead author Xin Liu, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “Every person is different,” Liu said. “So this system needs to be able to quickly adapt to each person’s unique physiological signature, and separate this from other variations, such as what they look like and what environment they are in.”
Try the researchers’ demo version that can detect a user’s heartbeat over time, which doctors can use to calculate heart rate.
The team’s system is privacy preserving — it runs on the device instead of in the cloud — and uses machine learning to capture subtle changes in how light reflects off a person’s face, which is correlated with changing blood flow. Then it converts these changes into both pulse and respiration rate. The first version of this system was trained with a dataset that contained both videos of people’s faces and “ground truth” information: each person’s pulse and respiration rate measured by standard instruments in the field. The system then used spatial and temporal information from the videos to calculate both vital signs. It outperformed similar machine learning systems on videos where subjects were moving and talking. But while the system worked well on some datasets, it still struggled with others that contained different people, backgrounds and lighting. This is a common problem known as “overfitting,” the team said. The researchers improved the system by having it produce a personalized machine learning model for each individual. Specifically, it helps look for important areas in a video frame that likely contain physiological features correlated with changing blood flow in a face under different contexts, such as different skin tones, lighting conditions and environments. From there, it can focus on that area and measure the pulse and respiration rate. [caption id="attachment_21578" align="aligncenter" width="1131"] Pictured: A multi-task temporal shift convolutional attention network for camera-based physiological measurement.[/caption]   While this new system outperforms its predecessor when given more challenging datasets, especially for people with darker skin tones, there’s still more work to do, the team said. “We acknowledge that there is still a trend toward inferior performance when the subject’s skin type is darker,” Liu said. “This is in part because light reflects differently off of darker skin, resulting in a weaker signal for the camera to pick up. Our team is actively developing new methods to solve this limitation.” The researchers are also working on a variety of collaborations with doctors to see how this system performs in the clinic.
“It’s exciting to see academic communities working on new algorithmic approaches to address this with devices that people have in their homes.” -Shwetak Patel, UW Electrical & Computer Engineering / Paul G. Allen School professor
“Any ability to sense pulse or respiration rate remotely provides new opportunities for remote patient care and telemedicine. This could include self-care, follow-up care or triage, especially when someone doesn’t have convenient access to a clinic,” said senior author Shwetak Patel, a professor in both the Allen School and the electrical and computer engineering department (UW ECE). “It’s exciting to see academic communities working on new algorithmic approaches to address this with devices that people have in their homes.” Ziheng Jiang, a doctoral student in the Allen School; Josh Fromm, a UW graduate who now works at OctoML; Xuhai Xu, a doctoral student in the Information School; and Daniel McDuff at Microsoft Research are also co-authors on this paper. This research was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google and the University of Washington. This software is open-source and available on Github: For more information, contact Liu at xliu0@cs.washington.edu and Patel at shwetak@cs.washington.edu. [post_title] => New system that uses smartphone or computer cameras to measure pulse, respiration rate could help future personalized telehealth appointments [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => smartphone-pulse [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-06 10:13:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-06 17:13:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21556 [menu_order] => 2 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21528 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-03-31 10:53:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-03-31 17:53:53 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21532" align="alignright" width="600"]Cody Brereton on the UW campus Cody Brereton, a UW ECE undergraduate student in his senior year, started college later in life, but despite facing many daunting challenges that often cause non-traditional students to drop out of school, he persevered, engineering his own pathway to academic success. Today, Brereton is in the top 10% of all students academically in the UW College of Engineering, and he is expecting to graduate this spring.[/caption] What would it be like to start college in your 30s? According to Cody Brereton, a 35 year-old undergraduate student in his senior year at UW ECE, returning to school later in life is not easy, but it is definitely rewarding and worthwhile. And like many non-traditional students, the path he followed to achieve his goal of receiving an electrical engineering degree was anything but a straight line. From an early age, Brereton was naturally inclined toward electronics, taking devices apart and learning how they worked. He wanted to be an engineer, like his father. But the odds of making that dream a reality were unfortunately stacked against him. Brereton was one of six children, and his father, who was a contract aerospace engineer for United Airlines, had to move the family frequently around the country to remain employed. Money was very tight, and there wasn’t a college fund waiting for Brereton when he graduated from high school. “Literally two days after I graduated from high school, my dad moved my family to England for a job there,” Brereton said. “I knew that if I went to England, I’d never have a shot at doing anything that I wanted to do because it’s even more difficult to find work there than in the U.S. It’s also difficult and expensive to attend college in England as an international student. Since I was in a situation where money was already a problem, that would only complicate things further. I ended up staying behind.” At age 17, Brereton chose to stay in Indiana, where he had gone to high school, while the rest of his family moved to England. He stayed in Indiana for a few months and then opted to move back to Washington, where he had spent much of his time growing up. He moved in with friends, got a job at a local Pizza Hut and began to build a life for himself. He had very little money, and no scholarships or financial support beyond what he could earn himself, so his dreams of going to college had to be placed on the back burner. While working at Pizza Hut, he found another job at United Parcel Service to help make ends meet. There, he loaded trucks from 3:00 to 8:00 a.m. every day. Between the two jobs, he made enough money to get by and pay the bills. It was a living.

Refusing to give up

[caption id="attachment_21537" align="alignleft" width="550"]Cody Brereton working on an electronic device Before his second attempt to return to college, Brereton realized that he needed to fully commit to the endeavor in order to succeed. He sold his house, truck and as many possessions as he could to help fund his education. Taking this risk paid off. He is shown above in the UW Formula Motorsports “pit,” where he applies what he learns in UW ECE classes to designing, assembling and testing electronics in electric race cars.[/caption] Within a year, Brereton had moved up to working full-time at UPS as a delivery driver. So in 2005, with a bit more money in his pocket, he thought it might be a good time to go back to school and pursue his dream of becoming an engineer. He enrolled at Everett Community College, but had to drop out after attending only one quarter. The physically demanding schedule of his UPS job, on top of rigorous academic coursework, proved to be too much. At this point, many people in similar circumstances would have given up altogether on the idea of ever going back to college, but Brereton was determined. “College didn’t work out for me then, but I put it in the back of my head that I was going to do it again, it just had to be the right time,” he said. So, he continued working at UPS, saving money and eventually buying a house. Although he was relatively happy and content at his job, his dream of becoming an engineer was always in the back of his mind. He made frequent deliveries to technology companies north of Seattle and interacting with the employees there served as a constant reminder of what he would rather be doing for a living. In 2017, after working for UPS for over 12 years, he made a momentous decision to give college another try. And this time, he went all in. “I resigned. I sold my house, I sold my truck, I sold everything that I could possibly sell and moved down south,” Brereton said. “I knew that I had to get away from my normal day-to-day life because, otherwise, I would lose focus if I had the same friends around. I had to really step away from all that I knew, so I could fully commit myself to what I’ve always had a passion for and what I wanted to learn.”

Returning to college

[caption id="attachment_21535" align="alignright" width="550"]Two people in lab coats work on a project in front of a lab window Brereton (background) and his classmate Amelia Dumovic (foreground) working on an organic solar cell research project at Green River College in 2019. Brereton qualified for financial aid through the MESA program at Green River College, which enabled him to finish two years of college prior to transferring to UW ECE. Dumovic is now also an undergraduate student at UW ECE.[/caption] When Brereton started school at Green River College in the winter of 2017, he was immediately faced with two challenges that are often typical for a non-traditional student. One was returning to academic life after a long absence. “I was at a bit of a disadvantage because I hadn’t touched anything school-related in over 12 years. I was scared to take math courses, and I was scared to do all the prerequisite work,” Brereton said. “But I am resourceful. I looked for whomever I could find to help me. I was not willing to let what I was scared of keep me from succeeding.” Brereton spent time daily in the Math Learning Center at Green River College. When he started, he could barely remember how to do algebra, but he sharpened his skills to the point of receiving a 4.0 in every math class he took at the college, all the way up to differential equations. The other challenge he faced was how to pay for college after money from the sale of his house, truck and other possessions ran out. He applied for and was accepted into the MESA program at Green River College on the basis of financial need. He also began working as a tutor in the Math Learning Center, providing supplemental instruction for students. “Doing the supplemental instruction helped me get a little bit of money in my pocket, so I could afford all the little things that I needed for going to school,” Brereton said. “So, between MESA and that supplemental instruction, I was able to get by through those first two years of community college.” The MESA program also organized tours of the University of Washington for students. Attending these tours and a love for Husky football piqued Brereton’s interest in the University. After two years at Green River College, he applied for admission, was accepted and started attending classes at UW ECE in the 2019 fall quarter as a transfer student.

Navigating a university

[caption id="attachment_21544" align="alignleft" width="550"]Cody Brereton standing next to the UW ECE sign outside the Paul Allen Center Brereton standing next to the UW ECE sign outside the Paul Allen Center on the UW campus.[/caption] Although Brereton had his feet back underneath him academically from two years at Green River College, like many students, he found the UW ECE curriculum to be rigorous and challenging. On top of that, in the spring of 2020 the university had to move all instruction online for health and safety concerns stemming from the novel coronavirus. According to professor Eve Riskin, who had Brereton as a student in her EE 398 Introduction to Professional Issues course, these sorts of challenges are often enough to dissuade many non-traditional students from completing their education. “Besides financial issues, students who come from first-generation and low-income backgrounds often do not have families to help them navigate a large institution like the UW. They may not know to seek out advisers or that they should attend faculty office hours,” Riskin said. “Bumps in the road that may not derail a student from a privileged background can be the difference between getting a degree and dropping out for someone who has fewer privileges. This is why mentoring, advising and scholarships are so important to this student population.” Fortunately, Brereton possessed an uncommon determination to be successful, no matter the obstacles. His belief in himself and what he could become kept him moving forward, taking the challenges life presented and fusing them with what he was learning about engineering into a positive, philosophical outlook. He doubled-down on his efforts to keep up with the academic curriculum, and used the time saved from no longer needing to commute to campus to increase his time studying. “Problem solving is what engineering is all about. It’s how you handle unconventional problems,” Brereton said. “Not everything is meant to be easy. How you are going to succeed at engineering in the future is highly dependent on the problem-solving skills you develop now.”

Achieving a dream

[caption id="attachment_21536" align="alignright" width="450"]Cody Brereton and his fiancé, Samantha Brereton with his fiancé, Samantha, at a UW Husky Football game in 2019. A love of Husky Football is part of what initially piqued Brereton’s interest in the UW and UW ECE.[/caption] Today, Brereton is in his senior year at UW ECE and expecting to graduate this spring. He is in the top 10% of all students academically in the UW College of Engineering, and he recently completed an internship at Puget Sound Energy. There, he took part in a project analyzing how much renewable energy could be incorporated into PSE’s power systems. In his spare time, he is a member of the UW Formula Motorsports team, where he applies what he learns in UW ECE classes to designing, assembling and testing electronics in racing cars. Professionally, he is looking forward to a bright future. When asked what his goals were after graduation, Brereton replied, “I want to do something that affects us locally. I want to directly affect my community and help in every way possible. In particular, I’m interested in renewable energy, electric vehicles and finding new ways to generate clean electricity. I want to work on technologies that are changing not only the world but start right here at home.” He also added, “I think at the end of the day, I’d like everyone to know that I was appreciative of my time here and all the professors, teaching assistants and students who have helped me along the way. If I had to do it again, I would. In a big community like this, there are resources for just about everything. I hope people who are interested in going back to school understand that, and they aren’t afraid of taking big steps.” [post_title] => Determination and hard work drive a non-traditional student toward success [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => codybrereton [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-03-31 10:53:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-03-31 17:53:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21528 [menu_order] => 3 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21459 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2021-03-19 11:13:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-03-19 18:13:07 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21462" align="alignright" width="493"] Sensol is developing a modular crosswalk that illuminates a pedestrian’s exact location from below to increase visibility and save lives. Rendered by Head of Design at Sensol Systems, Chandler Simon.[/caption] On a rainy, foggy night in Seattle, an incident in a crosswalk changed the path that UW alum Janie Bube was on. Bube was walking near the Burke-Gilman Trail when she was hit by a bicyclist in December 2018. Nobody was hurt, but Bube was rattled enough to immediately begin considering why she wasn’t visible, how serious it could have been and how the problem could be solved. Two years later, she’s the Founder & CEO of the startup Sensol Systems.

Over 300,000 pedestrians die crossing the street globally each year, and over 75% occur during low visibility conditions.

Sensol is developing a durable, modular crosswalk system that is overlaid directly onto the road. Flashing beacons alert drivers before pedestrians enter the roadway, and LEDs illuminate pedestrians as they move across the street, indicating to drivers their exact location (see rendering below). Additionally, the crosswalk collects key metrics such as the speed of vehicles, dense traffic intervals for pedestrians and vehicles and uses that data to inform future city planning. Sensol's cross-disciplinary startup team is comprised of UW undergraduate and graduate students from various majors. Milo Martin and Yuhang Li are both electrical and computer engineering undergrads who work alongside mechanical engineering student Scott Cavanagh to design electrical components of the Sensol crosswalk. Interaction design student and researcher Chandler Simon leads the visual design and animation aspects for Sensol. Sensol has seen success recently having just completed the 6-month long Jones + Foster Accelerator Program through the UW’s Foster School of Business where they secured $25,000. Additionally, they just won a Seattle-area qualifying round for the Global Student Entrepreneurs Awards and have secured a pilot at a Seattle-area high school for Summer 2021. In total Sensol has raised over $150,000+ in non-dilutive funding through grants, fellowships, and competitions and is currently in the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps with hopes of pursuing angel funding this summer. The first customer base will be semi-private campuses — picture UW or Microsoft — where the roads are owned by individuals or corporations because Sensol will need federal approval and is a few years away from deploying on city streets or municipalities right now. The cost will be no more than $45,000, which is in line with existing safety measures. Video rendered by Head of Design at Sensol Systems, Chandler Simon. ________ Story adapted from: Kurt Schlosser - Geekwire [post_title] => UW startup Sensol Systems is redefining the crosswalk industry [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => sensol [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-03-19 11:13:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-03-19 18:13:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21459 [menu_order] => 4 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21410 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-03-12 12:11:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-03-12 20:11:22 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21413" align="alignright" width="550"]Azadeh Yazdan headshot UW ECE assistant professor Azadeh Yazdan is co-leading a multi-institutional research team developing a device capable of seeing into and accessing the brain like never before. This work holds the promise of opening a doorway to better treatments for a wide range of neurological diseases and disorders. Yazdan holds a joint appointment between UW ECE and the UW Department of Bioengineering as the Washington Research Foundation Innovation Assistant Professor of Neuroengineering.[/caption] According to the World Health Organization, almost a billion people around the world are affected by neurological disorders such as stroke, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s nearly one in six of us. For most of human history, many of these conditions have been virtually untreatable, and even today, modern medicine can only go so far. But neural engineers such as UW ECE assistant professor Azadeh Yazdan, are pushing the envelope, seeking to widen our understanding of the brain, how it works, and what can be done to heal and restore this most vital organ when it doesn’t. Recently, Yazdan and her colleague Maysam Chamanzar from Carnegie Mellon University received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 grant to lead a multi-institutional team in engineering a unique device that will help researchers see and access the brain like never before. The device, called a “smart dura,” is based on work Yazdan did as a postdoctoral student developing a large-scale, long-lasting neural interface, which was used for investigating stimulation-based therapies for stroke. The smart dura is one inch in diameter and shaped like a porthole. It replaces the membrane (dura) surrounding the brain and rests on the surface of the organ, providing a transparent interface through which the underlying brain structure can be imaged and neural activity can be recorded or stimulated through electricity or light. The dura is “smart” because it uses artificial intelligence to selectively stimulate and record from the brain, as well as to recognize patterns, features and biomarkers in the brain that otherwise might be very difficult or even impossible for humans to detect. And although a one-inch diameter might sound small, when it comes to neural implants, it’s actually quite large. “One of the unique things about this technology is the size and the scale in comparison to what we have in currently existing neural interfaces,” Yazdan said. “It enables us to have unprecedented large-scale access to the brain and with unprecedented resolution to both record and manipulate neural activity.” [caption id="attachment_21415" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Graphic illustration of smart dura a) Conceptual schematic of smart dura implantation b) outer guide tube with integrated microfluidic channels (blue) and alignment grooves c) Inside of the smart dura, showing integrated recording electrodes, micro-LEDs and alignment grooves d) Inner smart dura inserted into outer guide tube[/caption]

A sizable view with high resolution, enhanced with AI

The relatively large size of the smart dura allows it to cover multiple brain regions with a single neural implant. This enables researchers to examine what is happening in the brain at the network level, rather than only study single or small clusters of neurons. By using the smart dura and its built-in artificial intelligence, neuroscientists will also be able to look at the communication between different areas of the brain, analyze volumes of data from neural recordings and better understand how brain connectivity functions and relates to a particular behavioral state or neural disease. Yazdan asserts that this device will help pave a path to an unprecedented understanding of the cortical circuits in both healthy and diseased brains.
There are people worldwide that suffer from neurological and psychiatric disorders with minimum effective treatment options,” Yazdan said. “The smart dura will be an unprecedented tool for understanding the pathophysiology of disorders such as stroke, epilepsy and depression and for developing better therapies." — UW ECE assistant professor Azadeh Yazdan
“What we are learning from these large-scale neural recordings is that it’s not just one neuron that matters, as you would imagine,” Yazdan said. “By bringing deep learning and advanced AI technologies into these large-scale recordings, we can now see more clearly than ever that it’s the population and the network that matters.” The smart dura provides a portal into viewing the brain that’s not only larger, but clearer as well. This device will house 5,000 electrodes with each having the ability to interact with multiple neurons. That’s vastly more electrodes than what is in the best devices currently available to researchers today, which generally contain 250 electrodes or fewer. The large number of electrodes translates to sharper images of what’s happening in brain tissue beneath the device. The dense array of electrodes allows researchers to record large amounts of neural information and enables them to manipulate neurons through electrical and optical (light) stimulation at a very precise, high resolution.

Transparent, biocompatible and long lasting

The floor of the smart dura and the electrodes within it will be designed to be transparent, making the device compatible with imaging technologies. This will allow the team to view blood flow in underlying microvasculature and better understand aspects of the brain such as neurovascular coupling, which is involved with many debilitating diseases and conditions such as stroke. “Having this sort of technology opens doors for a lot of scientific investigations and therapeutic developments,” Yazdan said. “It can bring insight into better understanding many disorders because we can have the capability to simultaneously image the brain structures, as well as record and stimulate neural activity at this large scale. We can intervene with the circuits and try to understand them.” This is also a less invasive implant in the sense that it interacts with the surface of the brain without penetrating and disturbing the sensitive tissue below. And its design is based on a biocompatible polymer and nanofabrication techniques developed by Chamanzar and his team. The biocompatibility of the device gives it a long, useful life. “Our smart dura is designed to have embedded functional elements for closed-loop electrical and optical recording and stimulation from the surface of the brain,” Chamanzar said in in a recent CMU press release, “Therefore, it can be a viable solution for chronic, long-term interfacing with the brain for a whole range of applications from brain-machine interfacing to designing new therapeutics.” Yazdan added in the release, “The smart dura can remain stable for multiple years, enabling us to investigate neural circuits and to develop therapies over time frames relevant to humans.”

What the future holds

In addition to Yazdan and Chamanzar, the research team includes UW professors Ricky Wang and Wyeth Bair, as well as CMU professor Elias Towe. The group will be developing and testing the smart dura over a five-year period, the duration of the grant. Eventually, the team wants to expand the smart dura’s size even more, to the point where it could cover almost half of the brain’s surface. They are also interested in leveraging the smart dura’s artificial intelligence and connecting it to implantable chips being designed by UW ECE professors Chris Rudell and Visvesh Sathe and wireless technology being developed by UW ECE professors Matt Reynolds and Joshua Smith. Yazdan is also working with a separate team of UW professors — Eric Shea-Brown, Ali Shojaie and Zaid Harchaoui — to further develop the smart dura’s artificial intelligence. In the future, these combined efforts could enable the implementation of a closed-loop system and significantly enhance the therapeutic potential of the device. “These three projects: the smart dura, the chip design that goes with the smart dura, and the AI could all come together,” Yazdan explained. “This whole thing could create a system that could understand the neural recordings and deliver the electrical stimulation that might be required to address and mitigate a particular disorder.” For example, a smart dura of this size and scope could detect an epileptic seizure coming on, electrically stimulate part of the brain to prevent the seizure and wirelessly transmit data to the individual’s health care provider — all without the person having to experience the seizure itself. “In terms of clinical relevance, I think the smart dura is closer to being approved for humans compared to penetrating electrodes, especially for patterned electrical stimulation and recording,” Chamanzar noted in the CMU press release. Yazdan is confident that her team will be able to test the recording and imaging capabilities of the smart dura in humans in the next five years, and she is optimistic that the device will move into clinical trials within five to 10 years. Along the way, she is remaining keenly aware of the profound human impact this device promises. “There are people worldwide that suffer from neurological and psychiatric disorders with minimum effective treatment options,” Yazdan said. “The smart dura will be an unprecedented tool for understanding the pathophysiology of disorders such as stroke, epilepsy and depression and for developing better therapies.” [post_title] => A larger, clearer window into the brain [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => a-larger-clearer-window-into-the-brain [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-03-12 17:32:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-03-13 01:32:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21410 [menu_order] => 5 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21241 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-03-01 15:01:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-03-01 23:01:07 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21352" align="alignright" width="490"] UW ECE associate professor Visvesh Sathe was recently recognized with an Intel 2020 Outstanding Researcher Award for his project focused on developing a more energy-efficient computer architecture. Sathe is one of only 18 leading academic researchers worldwide to receive the award out of over a thousand researchers funded annually by the Intel Corporation.[/caption] Visvesh Sathe, an associate professor in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Washington, conducts research in a variety of areas applicable to circuits and architectures for low-power computing and biomedical systems. His work is always on the cutting edge of technology development and often holds potential for widespread human impact. Recently, Sathe was recognized with an Intel 2020 Outstanding Researcher Award for his project focused on developing a more energy-efficient computer architecture. Sathe is one of only 18 leading academic researchers worldwide to receive the award out of over a thousand researchers funded annually by the Intel Corporation. “I am delighted to be receiving the award and am grateful to Intel for conferring this honor upon the project,” Sathe said. Intel sponsors and works alongside academic researchers around the globe in areas such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence and other emerging, innovative technologies. Every year, the company recognizes exceptional contributions made through Intel university-sponsored research. “Intel values academic research tremendously,” said Mandy Pant, director of Intel’s Corporate Research Council, in a recent press release. “In selecting the award winners, careful consideration has been given to aspects of the sponsored research such as fundamental insights, technical difficulty, effective collaboration, potential student hiring and industry relevance, particularly to Intel.” The research that merited the award seeks to address computing inefficiencies that arise because of necessary constraints, or “guard bands.” These guard bands must be added to computer processors to allow them to maintain operation despite significant changes in operating temperature and supply voltage. Sathe’s work recognizes that guard bands are mostly needed because of the independent design of the supply-voltage and clock subsystems that constitute modern computers. The supply-voltage subsystem manages power flow into the device and the clock subsystem is an electronic oscillator that synchronizes circuit operation. Sathe’s research merges the design of clock and supply-voltage subsystems — two traditionally separate disciplines — into a unified clock-power control system. Doing so allows computers to adapt to inevitable changes in temperature and supply voltages with only a small fraction of the usually required guard band, reducing inefficiencies while still guaranteeing system performance over time. His work subsequently demonstrated how this technology was scalable and could play a key role in making chip technology more energy efficient. “Perhaps the award is most significant as a recognition of the importance of guard-band mitigation in realizing energy-efficient computing,” Sathe said. “Merging the two disciplines of clocking and power delivery, and addressing a number of challenges that result from such a joint approach, represents a fresh direction to a very important problem in modern computing.” This unified clock-power control system is applicable across a wide spectrum, from high-performance computing to ultra-low power designs, and variations of the system have been prototyped on commercial-grade microprocessors. The technology is currently being evaluated for adoption into volume production at several companies worldwide, including Intel. Sathe noted the collaborative nature of the work and the affirmation of the award itself. “I’m truly thankful to my students, Xun Sun and Chi-Hsiang Huang, for their creativity, dedication and hard work; they have been the key enablers of leading this research to a favorable outcome. I would be remiss not to highlight the contribution of our technical collaborators at Intel and at the Semiconductor Research Corporation, who provided critical feedback on the project over the last three years, as well as the contributions made by other researchers at Georgia Tech and UCLouvain in advancing this area,” Sathe said. “I’m hoping that to my current and future students, the award will serve as an affirmation of the relevance and potential impact of the research they have painstakingly performed over the years, especially given the high costs (in both time and effort) and risks associated with integrated circuits research.” [post_title] => Professor Visvesh Sathe receives Intel Outstanding Researcher Award [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => 2020intelaward [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-03-09 10:01:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-03-09 18:01:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21241 [menu_order] => 6 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [_numposts:protected] => 6 [_rendered:protected] => 1 [_classes:protected] => Array ( [0] => view-block [1] => block--spotlight-robust-news ) [_finalHTML:protected] =>
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/quantum-leap/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/smartphone-pulse/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/codybrereton/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/sensol/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/a-larger-clearer-window-into-the-brain/
A larger, clearer window into the brain

A larger, clearer window into the brain

UW ECE assistant professor Azadeh Yazdan is co-leading a multi-institutional research team developing a device capable of seeing into and accessing the brain like never before. This work holds the promise of opening a doorway to better treatments for a wide range of neurological diseases and disorders.

https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/2020intelaward/
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Quantum physics is weird. Many an undergrad has been baffled by Schrödinger’s cat in a box which could be both dead and alive until the box is opened. Some of us ponder how light exists as both a wave and particle. And our pandemic quarantine might give us time to work on understanding the notion of action at a distance in which two entangled particles, separated by a great distance, change state instantaneously if one is observed.

[caption id="attachment_18688" align="alignleft" width="250"]Jim Pfaendtner Jim Pfaendtner[/caption] It turns out these and other bizarre components of quantum physics are the foundation for a new kind of computer, one that promises to be substantially faster and more powerful than any that exists today. And UW researchers in physics, computer science, chemistry, engineering and materials science are training leaders in the burgeoning field of quantum information science and technology, or QIST. QIST offers radically new advances in a variety of fields as well: ultrasensitive sensors to one day measure the firing of individual neurons in the brain, or completely secured encrypted communication. Jim Pfaendtner, chemical engineering professor and chair of UW’s Chemical Engineering Department, notes that quantum computing could force us to jettison Moore’s Law, the dependable rule of thumb that asserts computing power tends to double every two years. “You’ll have a radical change in the type of a certain class of calculations—the scaling is massively higher,” Pfaendtner says. “So the number, the extent of calculations that you can begin to conceive of doing will really change overnight if this technology comes to pass.”

“Today’s crypto-keys will not be secure when quantum computing is realized. Because the computers will be exponentially faster.” - JIM PFAENDTNER, UW CHEMICAL ENGINEERING PROFESSOR

Calculations that would take thousands of years on classical computers could conceivably take just a few hours. The benefits are many, but there’s one striking potential impact: current security and encryption would be obsolete. “Today’s crypto-keys will not be secure when quantum computing is realized,” Pfaendtner says. “Because the computers will be exponentially faster.” [caption id="attachment_19925" align="alignright" width="280"] Kai-Mei Fu[/caption] Not surprisingly, the U.S. government has taken notice, dedicating more than a billion dollars in 2020 to research efforts. In the past four years, UW has received $30 million in funding for QIST research, says Kai-Mei Fu, associate professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering as well as a researcher with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Fu helps lead a lineup of regional quantum collaborations including Northwest Quantum Nexus, a research partnership among UW, Microsoft and PNNL. She’s also a leader of the Quantum X initiative, which brings together UW researchers across disciplines. “Quantum X is a very typical bottom-up University of Washington endeavor,” Fu says. “We realized there are a lot of people doing quantum on campus. Our main goal is to connect everyone.” Quantum X brings together principal investigators at UW in materials science, physics, electrical and computer engineering, and other disciplines integral to creating a quantum computer. “Building up connections between these disparate groups of people is not easy,” says Nathan Wiebe, a senior scientist at PNNL and until recently a UW affiliate associate professor of physics. “I think the hardest part about building a quantum computer is going to be trying to figure out how to get everybody able to talk to each other. We all need to be involved to get this to work.”

A fascination with diamonds

What makes a quantum computer different from a standard computer is the qubit. A classical computer works using bits, which represent information as a string of values of either 0 or 1. Qubits store information in a single atom or particle. But rather than using a solid value of 0 or 1, the qubit stores a range of possibilities. Wiebe explains it as the difference between looking at which side of a coin is face up on a table (a bit of either heads or tails), versus a flipped coin that’s covered by your hand; you know the probability of it, but don’t actually know for certain if it’s heads or tails. Pfaendtner likes the analogy of a 3-D maze to describe qubits. “Every time you come to a junction, classically, you’d pick one direction and go until you reach the dead end. You’d keep a map of that in your mind, or your memory. Then you would go back when you reached a dead end. You’re never going to guess the maze the first time correctly, but you will eventually solve the maze. “In a quantum computer, in a qubit, instead of picking one direction, you pick both directions. So you simultaneously explore both paths. Every time you come to a junction there is the ability to not have one state, but have multiple states. This is the fundamental paradox of quantum physics that’s difficult for everybody to understand.” The power of qubits comes from their ability to add these probabilistic wave-functions of information together, creating an exponentially more powerful and much faster way to do calculations. But it turns out that creating a working qubit is fiendishly difficult. You need to manipulate a single atom or particle, which isn’t easy. Atoms interfere with one another, making precise measurements difficult unless you can isolate them. “We want to build a big, powerful, thick box to secure our quantum information,” Wiebe says. “But we don’t want it to be so secure that we can’t read it.” That why Kai-Mei Fu is fascinated with diamonds. “Part of the allure of a diamond isn’t that it’s a beautiful material,” she says. “It has nice properties, has very extreme properties. Part of it is more mundane—it’s pure enough that I can work with it without interference from a noisy environment.”

What’s really key is we’re bringing together students from different departments.- KAI-MEI FU, PHYSICS AND ELECTRICAL & COMPUTER ENGINEERING PROFESSOR

Fu and her colleagues specialize in creating minuscule defects in otherwise perfectly pure diamonds to manufacture qubits. Inside the lattice of carbon atoms that make up a diamond, you can sneak in two nitrogen atoms. This creates tiny flaws, or “vacancy centers,” that can, when brought down to super-cold temperatures, be manipulated to store information. The trick is integrating those tiny empty spaces into an actual circuit. Much ballyhoo surrounded the Google announcement in 2019 that it had built a rudimentary 53-qubit quantum computer that achieved “supremacy”—quickly solving a problem that classical computers would take much longer to figure out. Then last year, IBM announced it had constructed its own 64-qubit processor. But the results of these efforts are still tenuous, and just how successful these first efforts have been is hotly debated among scientists. One big problem with qubits is their relatively high error rate. Even after the atoms are isolated and manipulated, one concern is decoherence—a quantum effect that’s essentially a random change in the atom’s state, which can be caused by an electric or magnetic field, stray radiation or other environmental factors. What Fu and her UW colleagues have focused on is creating improved interfaces between those tiny defects and a larger circuit that can manipulate the information contained in them. Working with UW’s Nanofabrication Facility, Fu says, “We can make devices that couple these defects to these photons. That’s huge.” Three of Fu’s colleagues in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE), Mo Li, Arka Majumdar and Karl Böhringer, received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant last fall to work on developing a microchip-sized steering system that coordinates multiple laser beams—which could eventually link more than 1,000 qubits. “It’s a huge engineering challenge controlling all these beams,” Fu says. In another multidiscipline effort, Fu is leading a $3 million traineeship program also funded by the NSF that brings together UW graduate students across different fields to collaborate on QIST research. Fu says, “What’s really key is we’re bringing together students from different departments.”

The architecture of a revolution

For Martin Savage, a professor of physics at the UW’s Institute for Nuclear Theory, one missing puzzle piece is imagining how to actually use quantum computers. “One of the things that we need to understand especially is how to use a quantum computer to solve problems,” says Savage. “We kind of don’t know how do that at the moment.” Using existing supercomputers or even just standard laptops, Savage and his colleagues are trying to simulate how quantum computers might be applied to unsolved problems in fundamental physics. He and UW colleagues Silas Beane and David Kaplan have created the InQubator for Quantum Simulation (IQuS), which is beginning the work of figuring out which research questions quantum computers would be best applied. Imagining those uses can sometimes expose current limitations. Fu notes this in her work with diamonds. “To give you a scope of the problem, even though we’ve removed one atom from a crystal, actually simulating how that crystal should behave is hard. That’s a quantum mechanical problem, one that you practically need a quantum computer to do.” Wiebe estimates that it may be as long as 20 years before a truly functional quantum computer is operational. And that’s even allowing for the rapid pace the technology has advanced at in the past 10 years. Wiebe sums up the challenge this way. To do useful calculations, a million-qubit chip would be required. With existing technology, he says, we “would need at present to make a chip that’s about 1-meter square and stored at like 10 to 30 millikelvin [near absolute zero]. The control electronics would take up several football fields and cost over a billion dollars.”

A regional hub for quantum research

Just what quantum computers will be applied to is a fascinating and potentially controversial question. Wiebe notes one surprising application: fertilizer production. The chemical process for creating ammonia-based fertilizer has been around for over a hundred years. It’s fairly simple process, but one that consumes close to 1% of the world’s total energy use. But now we know that bacteria have evolved to make ammonia at room temperature using an enzyme called nitrogenase. Using that enzyme on a large scale could significantly reduce global energy consumption. But the process isn’t well understood and can’t be replicated beyond a single cell. “Despite 100 years of trying,” Wiebe says, “nobody has actually been able to crack the problem of how exactly this kind of molecular knife that bacteria have discovered actually works.” The complex chemistry—which includes heavy metals such as iron and molybdenum—can’t be modeled using existing computers. It would potentially take thousands to millions of years. But with a fully functional quantum computer, Wiebe predicts “we could actually simulate it in the span of a few hours.” Savage points to another application on a much larger scale. “Take for instance, colliding neutron stars,” he says. “What happens in the densest part of that? Using a classical computer, we still don’t have answers with the precision we need.” The potential to create a computer that can bypass existing cryptographic encryption is driving governments in the U.S. and China to massively scale up QIST funding. Wiebe says having a strategy now will help mitigate future security risks. “Twenty years is enough time for us to develop some good tools. We really need to build up and make sure these things are reliable and can hold up against ordinary hackers in addition to the quantum hackers we’re going to be worried about in 20-plus years.” Strangely enough, QIST also allows for the creation of perfectly secure communication networks. Based on quantum principles such as entanglement and the impossibility of copying a quantum state, quantum keys are packets of information that always bear a trace if observed. “What makes [quantum keys] completely secure is that as soon as someone tries to copy, disturb, or see the message, it leaves an imprint on the message that’s detectable,” says Fu. Even a quantum computer wouldn’t help overcome this perfectly secure key. At the moment, the implications are merely theoretical. But as QIST researchers like those at UW advance and refine the technology, hard decisions will have to be made about who can use these tools. “We have to decide when we want to use this,” says Fu, “and when do we not want to use this?” For now, the researchers are focused on advancing the technology, bolstered by a vibrant quantum research community in the Pacific Northwest. The UW, Microsoft, Amazon, and Intel, as well as PNNL and a host of quantum startups such as D-Wave Systems and 1QBit (both in British Columbia) are all making Cascadia a magnet for QIST research. “One of the things that really attracted me to UW and the Pacific Northwest for quantum is the amazing synergies that are possible between all of these different organizations,” says Wiebe. “We’ve got an amazingly strong computer science department at UW. We’ve got very strong chemistry, as well as electrical engineering and physics departments—and surrounded by a wonderful collection of industrial partners.” In a decade or two, we’ll know if computers are ready to take the next quantum leap.

[post_title] => Quantum Leap - in quantum computing, UW scientists see the building blocks of the next technological revolution [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => quantum-leap [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-08 15:28:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-08 22:28:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21618 [menu_order] => 1 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21556 [post_author] => 26 [post_date] => 2021-04-06 10:13:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-06 17:13:09 [post_content] => Story by   |  UW News [caption id="attachment_21572" align="alignright" width="599"] A UW-led team has developed a method that uses the camera on a person’s smartphone or computer to take their pulse and breathing rate from a real-time video of their face.[/caption] Telehealth has become a critical way for doctors to still provide health care while minimizing in-person contact during COVID-19. But with phone or Zoom appointments, it’s harder for doctors to get important vital signs from a patient, such as their pulse or respiration rate, in real time. A University of Washington-led team has developed a method that uses the camera on a person’s smartphone or computer to take their pulse and respiration signal from a real-time video of their face. The researchers presented this state-of-the-art system in December at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference. Now the team is proposing a better system to measure these physiological signals. This system is less likely to be tripped up by different cameras, lighting conditions or facial features, such as skin color. The researchers will present these findings April 8 at the ACM Conference on Health, Interference, and Learning. “Machine learning is pretty good at classifying images. If you give it a series of photos of cats and then tell it to find cats in other images, it can do it. But for machine learning to be helpful in remote health sensing, we need a system that can identify the region of interest in a video that holds the strongest source of physiological information — pulse, for example — and then measure that over time,” said lead author Xin Liu, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “Every person is different,” Liu said. “So this system needs to be able to quickly adapt to each person’s unique physiological signature, and separate this from other variations, such as what they look like and what environment they are in.”
Try the researchers’ demo version that can detect a user’s heartbeat over time, which doctors can use to calculate heart rate.
The team’s system is privacy preserving — it runs on the device instead of in the cloud — and uses machine learning to capture subtle changes in how light reflects off a person’s face, which is correlated with changing blood flow. Then it converts these changes into both pulse and respiration rate. The first version of this system was trained with a dataset that contained both videos of people’s faces and “ground truth” information: each person’s pulse and respiration rate measured by standard instruments in the field. The system then used spatial and temporal information from the videos to calculate both vital signs. It outperformed similar machine learning systems on videos where subjects were moving and talking. But while the system worked well on some datasets, it still struggled with others that contained different people, backgrounds and lighting. This is a common problem known as “overfitting,” the team said. The researchers improved the system by having it produce a personalized machine learning model for each individual. Specifically, it helps look for important areas in a video frame that likely contain physiological features correlated with changing blood flow in a face under different contexts, such as different skin tones, lighting conditions and environments. From there, it can focus on that area and measure the pulse and respiration rate. [caption id="attachment_21578" align="aligncenter" width="1131"] Pictured: A multi-task temporal shift convolutional attention network for camera-based physiological measurement.[/caption]   While this new system outperforms its predecessor when given more challenging datasets, especially for people with darker skin tones, there’s still more work to do, the team said. “We acknowledge that there is still a trend toward inferior performance when the subject’s skin type is darker,” Liu said. “This is in part because light reflects differently off of darker skin, resulting in a weaker signal for the camera to pick up. Our team is actively developing new methods to solve this limitation.” The researchers are also working on a variety of collaborations with doctors to see how this system performs in the clinic.
“It’s exciting to see academic communities working on new algorithmic approaches to address this with devices that people have in their homes.” -Shwetak Patel, UW Electrical & Computer Engineering / Paul G. Allen School professor
“Any ability to sense pulse or respiration rate remotely provides new opportunities for remote patient care and telemedicine. This could include self-care, follow-up care or triage, especially when someone doesn’t have convenient access to a clinic,” said senior author Shwetak Patel, a professor in both the Allen School and the electrical and computer engineering department (UW ECE). “It’s exciting to see academic communities working on new algorithmic approaches to address this with devices that people have in their homes.” Ziheng Jiang, a doctoral student in the Allen School; Josh Fromm, a UW graduate who now works at OctoML; Xuhai Xu, a doctoral student in the Information School; and Daniel McDuff at Microsoft Research are also co-authors on this paper. This research was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google and the University of Washington. This software is open-source and available on Github: For more information, contact Liu at xliu0@cs.washington.edu and Patel at shwetak@cs.washington.edu. [post_title] => New system that uses smartphone or computer cameras to measure pulse, respiration rate could help future personalized telehealth appointments [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => smartphone-pulse [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-06 10:13:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-06 17:13:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21556 [menu_order] => 2 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21528 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-03-31 10:53:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-03-31 17:53:53 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21532" align="alignright" width="600"]Cody Brereton on the UW campus Cody Brereton, a UW ECE undergraduate student in his senior year, started college later in life, but despite facing many daunting challenges that often cause non-traditional students to drop out of school, he persevered, engineering his own pathway to academic success. Today, Brereton is in the top 10% of all students academically in the UW College of Engineering, and he is expecting to graduate this spring.[/caption] What would it be like to start college in your 30s? According to Cody Brereton, a 35 year-old undergraduate student in his senior year at UW ECE, returning to school later in life is not easy, but it is definitely rewarding and worthwhile. And like many non-traditional students, the path he followed to achieve his goal of receiving an electrical engineering degree was anything but a straight line. From an early age, Brereton was naturally inclined toward electronics, taking devices apart and learning how they worked. He wanted to be an engineer, like his father. But the odds of making that dream a reality were unfortunately stacked against him. Brereton was one of six children, and his father, who was a contract aerospace engineer for United Airlines, had to move the family frequently around the country to remain employed. Money was very tight, and there wasn’t a college fund waiting for Brereton when he graduated from high school. “Literally two days after I graduated from high school, my dad moved my family to England for a job there,” Brereton said. “I knew that if I went to England, I’d never have a shot at doing anything that I wanted to do because it’s even more difficult to find work there than in the U.S. It’s also difficult and expensive to attend college in England as an international student. Since I was in a situation where money was already a problem, that would only complicate things further. I ended up staying behind.” At age 17, Brereton chose to stay in Indiana, where he had gone to high school, while the rest of his family moved to England. He stayed in Indiana for a few months and then opted to move back to Washington, where he had spent much of his time growing up. He moved in with friends, got a job at a local Pizza Hut and began to build a life for himself. He had very little money, and no scholarships or financial support beyond what he could earn himself, so his dreams of going to college had to be placed on the back burner. While working at Pizza Hut, he found another job at United Parcel Service to help make ends meet. There, he loaded trucks from 3:00 to 8:00 a.m. every day. Between the two jobs, he made enough money to get by and pay the bills. It was a living.

Refusing to give up

[caption id="attachment_21537" align="alignleft" width="550"]Cody Brereton working on an electronic device Before his second attempt to return to college, Brereton realized that he needed to fully commit to the endeavor in order to succeed. He sold his house, truck and as many possessions as he could to help fund his education. Taking this risk paid off. He is shown above in the UW Formula Motorsports “pit,” where he applies what he learns in UW ECE classes to designing, assembling and testing electronics in electric race cars.[/caption] Within a year, Brereton had moved up to working full-time at UPS as a delivery driver. So in 2005, with a bit more money in his pocket, he thought it might be a good time to go back to school and pursue his dream of becoming an engineer. He enrolled at Everett Community College, but had to drop out after attending only one quarter. The physically demanding schedule of his UPS job, on top of rigorous academic coursework, proved to be too much. At this point, many people in similar circumstances would have given up altogether on the idea of ever going back to college, but Brereton was determined. “College didn’t work out for me then, but I put it in the back of my head that I was going to do it again, it just had to be the right time,” he said. So, he continued working at UPS, saving money and eventually buying a house. Although he was relatively happy and content at his job, his dream of becoming an engineer was always in the back of his mind. He made frequent deliveries to technology companies north of Seattle and interacting with the employees there served as a constant reminder of what he would rather be doing for a living. In 2017, after working for UPS for over 12 years, he made a momentous decision to give college another try. And this time, he went all in. “I resigned. I sold my house, I sold my truck, I sold everything that I could possibly sell and moved down south,” Brereton said. “I knew that I had to get away from my normal day-to-day life because, otherwise, I would lose focus if I had the same friends around. I had to really step away from all that I knew, so I could fully commit myself to what I’ve always had a passion for and what I wanted to learn.”

Returning to college

[caption id="attachment_21535" align="alignright" width="550"]Two people in lab coats work on a project in front of a lab window Brereton (background) and his classmate Amelia Dumovic (foreground) working on an organic solar cell research project at Green River College in 2019. Brereton qualified for financial aid through the MESA program at Green River College, which enabled him to finish two years of college prior to transferring to UW ECE. Dumovic is now also an undergraduate student at UW ECE.[/caption] When Brereton started school at Green River College in the winter of 2017, he was immediately faced with two challenges that are often typical for a non-traditional student. One was returning to academic life after a long absence. “I was at a bit of a disadvantage because I hadn’t touched anything school-related in over 12 years. I was scared to take math courses, and I was scared to do all the prerequisite work,” Brereton said. “But I am resourceful. I looked for whomever I could find to help me. I was not willing to let what I was scared of keep me from succeeding.” Brereton spent time daily in the Math Learning Center at Green River College. When he started, he could barely remember how to do algebra, but he sharpened his skills to the point of receiving a 4.0 in every math class he took at the college, all the way up to differential equations. The other challenge he faced was how to pay for college after money from the sale of his house, truck and other possessions ran out. He applied for and was accepted into the MESA program at Green River College on the basis of financial need. He also began working as a tutor in the Math Learning Center, providing supplemental instruction for students. “Doing the supplemental instruction helped me get a little bit of money in my pocket, so I could afford all the little things that I needed for going to school,” Brereton said. “So, between MESA and that supplemental instruction, I was able to get by through those first two years of community college.” The MESA program also organized tours of the University of Washington for students. Attending these tours and a love for Husky football piqued Brereton’s interest in the University. After two years at Green River College, he applied for admission, was accepted and started attending classes at UW ECE in the 2019 fall quarter as a transfer student.

Navigating a university

[caption id="attachment_21544" align="alignleft" width="550"]Cody Brereton standing next to the UW ECE sign outside the Paul Allen Center Brereton standing next to the UW ECE sign outside the Paul Allen Center on the UW campus.[/caption] Although Brereton had his feet back underneath him academically from two years at Green River College, like many students, he found the UW ECE curriculum to be rigorous and challenging. On top of that, in the spring of 2020 the university had to move all instruction online for health and safety concerns stemming from the novel coronavirus. According to professor Eve Riskin, who had Brereton as a student in her EE 398 Introduction to Professional Issues course, these sorts of challenges are often enough to dissuade many non-traditional students from completing their education. “Besides financial issues, students who come from first-generation and low-income backgrounds often do not have families to help them navigate a large institution like the UW. They may not know to seek out advisers or that they should attend faculty office hours,” Riskin said. “Bumps in the road that may not derail a student from a privileged background can be the difference between getting a degree and dropping out for someone who has fewer privileges. This is why mentoring, advising and scholarships are so important to this student population.” Fortunately, Brereton possessed an uncommon determination to be successful, no matter the obstacles. His belief in himself and what he could become kept him moving forward, taking the challenges life presented and fusing them with what he was learning about engineering into a positive, philosophical outlook. He doubled-down on his efforts to keep up with the academic curriculum, and used the time saved from no longer needing to commute to campus to increase his time studying. “Problem solving is what engineering is all about. It’s how you handle unconventional problems,” Brereton said. “Not everything is meant to be easy. How you are going to succeed at engineering in the future is highly dependent on the problem-solving skills you develop now.”

Achieving a dream

[caption id="attachment_21536" align="alignright" width="450"]Cody Brereton and his fiancé, Samantha Brereton with his fiancé, Samantha, at a UW Husky Football game in 2019. A love of Husky Football is part of what initially piqued Brereton’s interest in the UW and UW ECE.[/caption] Today, Brereton is in his senior year at UW ECE and expecting to graduate this spring. He is in the top 10% of all students academically in the UW College of Engineering, and he recently completed an internship at Puget Sound Energy. There, he took part in a project analyzing how much renewable energy could be incorporated into PSE’s power systems. In his spare time, he is a member of the UW Formula Motorsports team, where he applies what he learns in UW ECE classes to designing, assembling and testing electronics in racing cars. Professionally, he is looking forward to a bright future. When asked what his goals were after graduation, Brereton replied, “I want to do something that affects us locally. I want to directly affect my community and help in every way possible. In particular, I’m interested in renewable energy, electric vehicles and finding new ways to generate clean electricity. I want to work on technologies that are changing not only the world but start right here at home.” He also added, “I think at the end of the day, I’d like everyone to know that I was appreciative of my time here and all the professors, teaching assistants and students who have helped me along the way. If I had to do it again, I would. In a big community like this, there are resources for just about everything. I hope people who are interested in going back to school understand that, and they aren’t afraid of taking big steps.” [post_title] => Determination and hard work drive a non-traditional student toward success [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => codybrereton [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-03-31 10:53:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-03-31 17:53:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21528 [menu_order] => 3 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21459 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2021-03-19 11:13:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-03-19 18:13:07 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21462" align="alignright" width="493"] Sensol is developing a modular crosswalk that illuminates a pedestrian’s exact location from below to increase visibility and save lives. Rendered by Head of Design at Sensol Systems, Chandler Simon.[/caption] On a rainy, foggy night in Seattle, an incident in a crosswalk changed the path that UW alum Janie Bube was on. Bube was walking near the Burke-Gilman Trail when she was hit by a bicyclist in December 2018. Nobody was hurt, but Bube was rattled enough to immediately begin considering why she wasn’t visible, how serious it could have been and how the problem could be solved. Two years later, she’s the Founder & CEO of the startup Sensol Systems.

Over 300,000 pedestrians die crossing the street globally each year, and over 75% occur during low visibility conditions.

Sensol is developing a durable, modular crosswalk system that is overlaid directly onto the road. Flashing beacons alert drivers before pedestrians enter the roadway, and LEDs illuminate pedestrians as they move across the street, indicating to drivers their exact location (see rendering below). Additionally, the crosswalk collects key metrics such as the speed of vehicles, dense traffic intervals for pedestrians and vehicles and uses that data to inform future city planning. Sensol's cross-disciplinary startup team is comprised of UW undergraduate and graduate students from various majors. Milo Martin and Yuhang Li are both electrical and computer engineering undergrads who work alongside mechanical engineering student Scott Cavanagh to design electrical components of the Sensol crosswalk. Interaction design student and researcher Chandler Simon leads the visual design and animation aspects for Sensol. Sensol has seen success recently having just completed the 6-month long Jones + Foster Accelerator Program through the UW’s Foster School of Business where they secured $25,000. Additionally, they just won a Seattle-area qualifying round for the Global Student Entrepreneurs Awards and have secured a pilot at a Seattle-area high school for Summer 2021. In total Sensol has raised over $150,000+ in non-dilutive funding through grants, fellowships, and competitions and is currently in the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps with hopes of pursuing angel funding this summer. The first customer base will be semi-private campuses — picture UW or Microsoft — where the roads are owned by individuals or corporations because Sensol will need federal approval and is a few years away from deploying on city streets or municipalities right now. The cost will be no more than $45,000, which is in line with existing safety measures. Video rendered by Head of Design at Sensol Systems, Chandler Simon. ________ Story adapted from: Kurt Schlosser - Geekwire [post_title] => UW startup Sensol Systems is redefining the crosswalk industry [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => sensol [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-03-19 11:13:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-03-19 18:13:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21459 [menu_order] => 4 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21410 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-03-12 12:11:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-03-12 20:11:22 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21413" align="alignright" width="550"]Azadeh Yazdan headshot UW ECE assistant professor Azadeh Yazdan is co-leading a multi-institutional research team developing a device capable of seeing into and accessing the brain like never before. This work holds the promise of opening a doorway to better treatments for a wide range of neurological diseases and disorders. Yazdan holds a joint appointment between UW ECE and the UW Department of Bioengineering as the Washington Research Foundation Innovation Assistant Professor of Neuroengineering.[/caption] According to the World Health Organization, almost a billion people around the world are affected by neurological disorders such as stroke, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s nearly one in six of us. For most of human history, many of these conditions have been virtually untreatable, and even today, modern medicine can only go so far. But neural engineers such as UW ECE assistant professor Azadeh Yazdan, are pushing the envelope, seeking to widen our understanding of the brain, how it works, and what can be done to heal and restore this most vital organ when it doesn’t. Recently, Yazdan and her colleague Maysam Chamanzar from Carnegie Mellon University received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 grant to lead a multi-institutional team in engineering a unique device that will help researchers see and access the brain like never before. The device, called a “smart dura,” is based on work Yazdan did as a postdoctoral student developing a large-scale, long-lasting neural interface, which was used for investigating stimulation-based therapies for stroke. The smart dura is one inch in diameter and shaped like a porthole. It replaces the membrane (dura) surrounding the brain and rests on the surface of the organ, providing a transparent interface through which the underlying brain structure can be imaged and neural activity can be recorded or stimulated through electricity or light. The dura is “smart” because it uses artificial intelligence to selectively stimulate and record from the brain, as well as to recognize patterns, features and biomarkers in the brain that otherwise might be very difficult or even impossible for humans to detect. And although a one-inch diameter might sound small, when it comes to neural implants, it’s actually quite large. “One of the unique things about this technology is the size and the scale in comparison to what we have in currently existing neural interfaces,” Yazdan said. “It enables us to have unprecedented large-scale access to the brain and with unprecedented resolution to both record and manipulate neural activity.” [caption id="attachment_21415" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Graphic illustration of smart dura a) Conceptual schematic of smart dura implantation b) outer guide tube with integrated microfluidic channels (blue) and alignment grooves c) Inside of the smart dura, showing integrated recording electrodes, micro-LEDs and alignment grooves d) Inner smart dura inserted into outer guide tube[/caption]

A sizable view with high resolution, enhanced with AI

The relatively large size of the smart dura allows it to cover multiple brain regions with a single neural implant. This enables researchers to examine what is happening in the brain at the network level, rather than only study single or small clusters of neurons. By using the smart dura and its built-in artificial intelligence, neuroscientists will also be able to look at the communication between different areas of the brain, analyze volumes of data from neural recordings and better understand how brain connectivity functions and relates to a particular behavioral state or neural disease. Yazdan asserts that this device will help pave a path to an unprecedented understanding of the cortical circuits in both healthy and diseased brains.
There are people worldwide that suffer from neurological and psychiatric disorders with minimum effective treatment options,” Yazdan said. “The smart dura will be an unprecedented tool for understanding the pathophysiology of disorders such as stroke, epilepsy and depression and for developing better therapies." — UW ECE assistant professor Azadeh Yazdan
“What we are learning from these large-scale neural recordings is that it’s not just one neuron that matters, as you would imagine,” Yazdan said. “By bringing deep learning and advanced AI technologies into these large-scale recordings, we can now see more clearly than ever that it’s the population and the network that matters.” The smart dura provides a portal into viewing the brain that’s not only larger, but clearer as well. This device will house 5,000 electrodes with each having the ability to interact with multiple neurons. That’s vastly more electrodes than what is in the best devices currently available to researchers today, which generally contain 250 electrodes or fewer. The large number of electrodes translates to sharper images of what’s happening in brain tissue beneath the device. The dense array of electrodes allows researchers to record large amounts of neural information and enables them to manipulate neurons through electrical and optical (light) stimulation at a very precise, high resolution.

Transparent, biocompatible and long lasting

The floor of the smart dura and the electrodes within it will be designed to be transparent, making the device compatible with imaging technologies. This will allow the team to view blood flow in underlying microvasculature and better understand aspects of the brain such as neurovascular coupling, which is involved with many debilitating diseases and conditions such as stroke. “Having this sort of technology opens doors for a lot of scientific investigations and therapeutic developments,” Yazdan said. “It can bring insight into better understanding many disorders because we can have the capability to simultaneously image the brain structures, as well as record and stimulate neural activity at this large scale. We can intervene with the circuits and try to understand them.” This is also a less invasive implant in the sense that it interacts with the surface of the brain without penetrating and disturbing the sensitive tissue below. And its design is based on a biocompatible polymer and nanofabrication techniques developed by Chamanzar and his team. The biocompatibility of the device gives it a long, useful life. “Our smart dura is designed to have embedded functional elements for closed-loop electrical and optical recording and stimulation from the surface of the brain,” Chamanzar said in in a recent CMU press release, “Therefore, it can be a viable solution for chronic, long-term interfacing with the brain for a whole range of applications from brain-machine interfacing to designing new therapeutics.” Yazdan added in the release, “The smart dura can remain stable for multiple years, enabling us to investigate neural circuits and to develop therapies over time frames relevant to humans.”

What the future holds

In addition to Yazdan and Chamanzar, the research team includes UW professors Ricky Wang and Wyeth Bair, as well as CMU professor Elias Towe. The group will be developing and testing the smart dura over a five-year period, the duration of the grant. Eventually, the team wants to expand the smart dura’s size even more, to the point where it could cover almost half of the brain’s surface. They are also interested in leveraging the smart dura’s artificial intelligence and connecting it to implantable chips being designed by UW ECE professors Chris Rudell and Visvesh Sathe and wireless technology being developed by UW ECE professors Matt Reynolds and Joshua Smith. Yazdan is also working with a separate team of UW professors — Eric Shea-Brown, Ali Shojaie and Zaid Harchaoui — to further develop the smart dura’s artificial intelligence. In the future, these combined efforts could enable the implementation of a closed-loop system and significantly enhance the therapeutic potential of the device. “These three projects: the smart dura, the chip design that goes with the smart dura, and the AI could all come together,” Yazdan explained. “This whole thing could create a system that could understand the neural recordings and deliver the electrical stimulation that might be required to address and mitigate a particular disorder.” For example, a smart dura of this size and scope could detect an epileptic seizure coming on, electrically stimulate part of the brain to prevent the seizure and wirelessly transmit data to the individual’s health care provider — all without the person having to experience the seizure itself. “In terms of clinical relevance, I think the smart dura is closer to being approved for humans compared to penetrating electrodes, especially for patterned electrical stimulation and recording,” Chamanzar noted in the CMU press release. Yazdan is confident that her team will be able to test the recording and imaging capabilities of the smart dura in humans in the next five years, and she is optimistic that the device will move into clinical trials within five to 10 years. Along the way, she is remaining keenly aware of the profound human impact this device promises. “There are people worldwide that suffer from neurological and psychiatric disorders with minimum effective treatment options,” Yazdan said. “The smart dura will be an unprecedented tool for understanding the pathophysiology of disorders such as stroke, epilepsy and depression and for developing better therapies.” [post_title] => A larger, clearer window into the brain [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => a-larger-clearer-window-into-the-brain [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-03-12 17:32:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-03-13 01:32:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21410 [menu_order] => 5 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21241 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-03-01 15:01:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-03-01 23:01:07 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21352" align="alignright" width="490"] UW ECE associate professor Visvesh Sathe was recently recognized with an Intel 2020 Outstanding Researcher Award for his project focused on developing a more energy-efficient computer architecture. Sathe is one of only 18 leading academic researchers worldwide to receive the award out of over a thousand researchers funded annually by the Intel Corporation.[/caption] Visvesh Sathe, an associate professor in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Washington, conducts research in a variety of areas applicable to circuits and architectures for low-power computing and biomedical systems. His work is always on the cutting edge of technology development and often holds potential for widespread human impact. Recently, Sathe was recognized with an Intel 2020 Outstanding Researcher Award for his project focused on developing a more energy-efficient computer architecture. Sathe is one of only 18 leading academic researchers worldwide to receive the award out of over a thousand researchers funded annually by the Intel Corporation. “I am delighted to be receiving the award and am grateful to Intel for conferring this honor upon the project,” Sathe said. Intel sponsors and works alongside academic researchers around the globe in areas such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence and other emerging, innovative technologies. Every year, the company recognizes exceptional contributions made through Intel university-sponsored research. “Intel values academic research tremendously,” said Mandy Pant, director of Intel’s Corporate Research Council, in a recent press release. “In selecting the award winners, careful consideration has been given to aspects of the sponsored research such as fundamental insights, technical difficulty, effective collaboration, potential student hiring and industry relevance, particularly to Intel.” The research that merited the award seeks to address computing inefficiencies that arise because of necessary constraints, or “guard bands.” These guard bands must be added to computer processors to allow them to maintain operation despite significant changes in operating temperature and supply voltage. Sathe’s work recognizes that guard bands are mostly needed because of the independent design of the supply-voltage and clock subsystems that constitute modern computers. The supply-voltage subsystem manages power flow into the device and the clock subsystem is an electronic oscillator that synchronizes circuit operation. Sathe’s research merges the design of clock and supply-voltage subsystems — two traditionally separate disciplines — into a unified clock-power control system. Doing so allows computers to adapt to inevitable changes in temperature and supply voltages with only a small fraction of the usually required guard band, reducing inefficiencies while still guaranteeing system performance over time. His work subsequently demonstrated how this technology was scalable and could play a key role in making chip technology more energy efficient. “Perhaps the award is most significant as a recognition of the importance of guard-band mitigation in realizing energy-efficient computing,” Sathe said. “Merging the two disciplines of clocking and power delivery, and addressing a number of challenges that result from such a joint approach, represents a fresh direction to a very important problem in modern computing.” This unified clock-power control system is applicable across a wide spectrum, from high-performance computing to ultra-low power designs, and variations of the system have been prototyped on commercial-grade microprocessors. The technology is currently being evaluated for adoption into volume production at several companies worldwide, including Intel. Sathe noted the collaborative nature of the work and the affirmation of the award itself. “I’m truly thankful to my students, Xun Sun and Chi-Hsiang Huang, for their creativity, dedication and hard work; they have been the key enablers of leading this research to a favorable outcome. I would be remiss not to highlight the contribution of our technical collaborators at Intel and at the Semiconductor Research Corporation, who provided critical feedback on the project over the last three years, as well as the contributions made by other researchers at Georgia Tech and UCLouvain in advancing this area,” Sathe said. “I’m hoping that to my current and future students, the award will serve as an affirmation of the relevance and potential impact of the research they have painstakingly performed over the years, especially given the high costs (in both time and effort) and risks associated with integrated circuits research.” [post_title] => Professor Visvesh Sathe receives Intel Outstanding Researcher Award [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => 2020intelaward [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-03-09 10:01:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-03-09 18:01:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21241 [menu_order] => 6 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 6 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21618 [post_author] => 26 [post_date] => 2021-04-07 12:04:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-07 19:04:43 [post_content] => Article by Andrew Engleson |  UW Magazine

Quantum physics is weird. Many an undergrad has been baffled by Schrödinger’s cat in a box which could be both dead and alive until the box is opened. Some of us ponder how light exists as both a wave and particle. And our pandemic quarantine might give us time to work on understanding the notion of action at a distance in which two entangled particles, separated by a great distance, change state instantaneously if one is observed.

[caption id="attachment_18688" align="alignleft" width="250"]Jim Pfaendtner Jim Pfaendtner[/caption] It turns out these and other bizarre components of quantum physics are the foundation for a new kind of computer, one that promises to be substantially faster and more powerful than any that exists today. And UW researchers in physics, computer science, chemistry, engineering and materials science are training leaders in the burgeoning field of quantum information science and technology, or QIST. QIST offers radically new advances in a variety of fields as well: ultrasensitive sensors to one day measure the firing of individual neurons in the brain, or completely secured encrypted communication. Jim Pfaendtner, chemical engineering professor and chair of UW’s Chemical Engineering Department, notes that quantum computing could force us to jettison Moore’s Law, the dependable rule of thumb that asserts computing power tends to double every two years. “You’ll have a radical change in the type of a certain class of calculations—the scaling is massively higher,” Pfaendtner says. “So the number, the extent of calculations that you can begin to conceive of doing will really change overnight if this technology comes to pass.”

“Today’s crypto-keys will not be secure when quantum computing is realized. Because the computers will be exponentially faster.” - JIM PFAENDTNER, UW CHEMICAL ENGINEERING PROFESSOR

Calculations that would take thousands of years on classical computers could conceivably take just a few hours. The benefits are many, but there’s one striking potential impact: current security and encryption would be obsolete. “Today’s crypto-keys will not be secure when quantum computing is realized,” Pfaendtner says. “Because the computers will be exponentially faster.” [caption id="attachment_19925" align="alignright" width="280"] Kai-Mei Fu[/caption] Not surprisingly, the U.S. government has taken notice, dedicating more than a billion dollars in 2020 to research efforts. In the past four years, UW has received $30 million in funding for QIST research, says Kai-Mei Fu, associate professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering as well as a researcher with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Fu helps lead a lineup of regional quantum collaborations including Northwest Quantum Nexus, a research partnership among UW, Microsoft and PNNL. She’s also a leader of the Quantum X initiative, which brings together UW researchers across disciplines. “Quantum X is a very typical bottom-up University of Washington endeavor,” Fu says. “We realized there are a lot of people doing quantum on campus. Our main goal is to connect everyone.” Quantum X brings together principal investigators at UW in materials science, physics, electrical and computer engineering, and other disciplines integral to creating a quantum computer. “Building up connections between these disparate groups of people is not easy,” says Nathan Wiebe, a senior scientist at PNNL and until recently a UW affiliate associate professor of physics. “I think the hardest part about building a quantum computer is going to be trying to figure out how to get everybody able to talk to each other. We all need to be involved to get this to work.”

A fascination with diamonds

What makes a quantum computer different from a standard computer is the qubit. A classical computer works using bits, which represent information as a string of values of either 0 or 1. Qubits store information in a single atom or particle. But rather than using a solid value of 0 or 1, the qubit stores a range of possibilities. Wiebe explains it as the difference between looking at which side of a coin is face up on a table (a bit of either heads or tails), versus a flipped coin that’s covered by your hand; you know the probability of it, but don’t actually know for certain if it’s heads or tails. Pfaendtner likes the analogy of a 3-D maze to describe qubits. “Every time you come to a junction, classically, you’d pick one direction and go until you reach the dead end. You’d keep a map of that in your mind, or your memory. Then you would go back when you reached a dead end. You’re never going to guess the maze the first time correctly, but you will eventually solve the maze. “In a quantum computer, in a qubit, instead of picking one direction, you pick both directions. So you simultaneously explore both paths. Every time you come to a junction there is the ability to not have one state, but have multiple states. This is the fundamental paradox of quantum physics that’s difficult for everybody to understand.” The power of qubits comes from their ability to add these probabilistic wave-functions of information together, creating an exponentially more powerful and much faster way to do calculations. But it turns out that creating a working qubit is fiendishly difficult. You need to manipulate a single atom or particle, which isn’t easy. Atoms interfere with one another, making precise measurements difficult unless you can isolate them. “We want to build a big, powerful, thick box to secure our quantum information,” Wiebe says. “But we don’t want it to be so secure that we can’t read it.” That why Kai-Mei Fu is fascinated with diamonds. “Part of the allure of a diamond isn’t that it’s a beautiful material,” she says. “It has nice properties, has very extreme properties. Part of it is more mundane—it’s pure enough that I can work with it without interference from a noisy environment.”

What’s really key is we’re bringing together students from different departments.- KAI-MEI FU, PHYSICS AND ELECTRICAL & COMPUTER ENGINEERING PROFESSOR

Fu and her colleagues specialize in creating minuscule defects in otherwise perfectly pure diamonds to manufacture qubits. Inside the lattice of carbon atoms that make up a diamond, you can sneak in two nitrogen atoms. This creates tiny flaws, or “vacancy centers,” that can, when brought down to super-cold temperatures, be manipulated to store information. The trick is integrating those tiny empty spaces into an actual circuit. Much ballyhoo surrounded the Google announcement in 2019 that it had built a rudimentary 53-qubit quantum computer that achieved “supremacy”—quickly solving a problem that classical computers would take much longer to figure out. Then last year, IBM announced it had constructed its own 64-qubit processor. But the results of these efforts are still tenuous, and just how successful these first efforts have been is hotly debated among scientists. One big problem with qubits is their relatively high error rate. Even after the atoms are isolated and manipulated, one concern is decoherence—a quantum effect that’s essentially a random change in the atom’s state, which can be caused by an electric or magnetic field, stray radiation or other environmental factors. What Fu and her UW colleagues have focused on is creating improved interfaces between those tiny defects and a larger circuit that can manipulate the information contained in them. Working with UW’s Nanofabrication Facility, Fu says, “We can make devices that couple these defects to these photons. That’s huge.” Three of Fu’s colleagues in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE), Mo Li, Arka Majumdar and Karl Böhringer, received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant last fall to work on developing a microchip-sized steering system that coordinates multiple laser beams—which could eventually link more than 1,000 qubits. “It’s a huge engineering challenge controlling all these beams,” Fu says. In another multidiscipline effort, Fu is leading a $3 million traineeship program also funded by the NSF that brings together UW graduate students across different fields to collaborate on QIST research. Fu says, “What’s really key is we’re bringing together students from different departments.”

The architecture of a revolution

For Martin Savage, a professor of physics at the UW’s Institute for Nuclear Theory, one missing puzzle piece is imagining how to actually use quantum computers. “One of the things that we need to understand especially is how to use a quantum computer to solve problems,” says Savage. “We kind of don’t know how do that at the moment.” Using existing supercomputers or even just standard laptops, Savage and his colleagues are trying to simulate how quantum computers might be applied to unsolved problems in fundamental physics. He and UW colleagues Silas Beane and David Kaplan have created the InQubator for Quantum Simulation (IQuS), which is beginning the work of figuring out which research questions quantum computers would be best applied. Imagining those uses can sometimes expose current limitations. Fu notes this in her work with diamonds. “To give you a scope of the problem, even though we’ve removed one atom from a crystal, actually simulating how that crystal should behave is hard. That’s a quantum mechanical problem, one that you practically need a quantum computer to do.” Wiebe estimates that it may be as long as 20 years before a truly functional quantum computer is operational. And that’s even allowing for the rapid pace the technology has advanced at in the past 10 years. Wiebe sums up the challenge this way. To do useful calculations, a million-qubit chip would be required. With existing technology, he says, we “would need at present to make a chip that’s about 1-meter square and stored at like 10 to 30 millikelvin [near absolute zero]. The control electronics would take up several football fields and cost over a billion dollars.”

A regional hub for quantum research

Just what quantum computers will be applied to is a fascinating and potentially controversial question. Wiebe notes one surprising application: fertilizer production. The chemical process for creating ammonia-based fertilizer has been around for over a hundred years. It’s fairly simple process, but one that consumes close to 1% of the world’s total energy use. But now we know that bacteria have evolved to make ammonia at room temperature using an enzyme called nitrogenase. Using that enzyme on a large scale could significantly reduce global energy consumption. But the process isn’t well understood and can’t be replicated beyond a single cell. “Despite 100 years of trying,” Wiebe says, “nobody has actually been able to crack the problem of how exactly this kind of molecular knife that bacteria have discovered actually works.” The complex chemistry—which includes heavy metals such as iron and molybdenum—can’t be modeled using existing computers. It would potentially take thousands to millions of years. But with a fully functional quantum computer, Wiebe predicts “we could actually simulate it in the span of a few hours.” Savage points to another application on a much larger scale. “Take for instance, colliding neutron stars,” he says. “What happens in the densest part of that? Using a classical computer, we still don’t have answers with the precision we need.” The potential to create a computer that can bypass existing cryptographic encryption is driving governments in the U.S. and China to massively scale up QIST funding. Wiebe says having a strategy now will help mitigate future security risks. “Twenty years is enough time for us to develop some good tools. We really need to build up and make sure these things are reliable and can hold up against ordinary hackers in addition to the quantum hackers we’re going to be worried about in 20-plus years.” Strangely enough, QIST also allows for the creation of perfectly secure communication networks. Based on quantum principles such as entanglement and the impossibility of copying a quantum state, quantum keys are packets of information that always bear a trace if observed. “What makes [quantum keys] completely secure is that as soon as someone tries to copy, disturb, or see the message, it leaves an imprint on the message that’s detectable,” says Fu. Even a quantum computer wouldn’t help overcome this perfectly secure key. At the moment, the implications are merely theoretical. But as QIST researchers like those at UW advance and refine the technology, hard decisions will have to be made about who can use these tools. “We have to decide when we want to use this,” says Fu, “and when do we not want to use this?” For now, the researchers are focused on advancing the technology, bolstered by a vibrant quantum research community in the Pacific Northwest. The UW, Microsoft, Amazon, and Intel, as well as PNNL and a host of quantum startups such as D-Wave Systems and 1QBit (both in British Columbia) are all making Cascadia a magnet for QIST research. “One of the things that really attracted me to UW and the Pacific Northwest for quantum is the amazing synergies that are possible between all of these different organizations,” says Wiebe. “We’ve got an amazingly strong computer science department at UW. We’ve got very strong chemistry, as well as electrical engineering and physics departments—and surrounded by a wonderful collection of industrial partners.” In a decade or two, we’ll know if computers are ready to take the next quantum leap.

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