Tag Archive for Starr

New IDEAS Lab Offers State-of-the-Art Digital Fabrication Tools

 Assistant Professor of the Practice Daniel MollerIDEAS clasroom

Daniel Moller, assistant professor of the practice in integrative sciences, is teaching Introduction to Design and Engineering inside the new IDEAS Lab this fall semester.

Equipped with 3-D printers, water-jet and laser cutters, computer-operated milling machines, and high-tech drills, saws, and workstations, Wesleyan’s new IDEAS Lab is on the “cutting edge” of digital fabrication.

Wesleyan’s new ProtoMAX water-jet cutter created this butterfly out of aluminum in 18 minutes.

This fall, the College of Integrative Sciences opened the adjoined classroom and makerspace in Room 40 of Exley Science Center. While it is currently used by students in the IDEAS (Integrated Design, Engineering & Applied Science) program, by spring 2020 the space should be open to the entire Wesleyan community.

“The space is the heart of our efforts to provide students with a facility to explore their ideas and create new projects,” said Francis Starr, IDEAS coordinator and professor of physics.

The IDEAS program prepares students to succeed at the intersection of design, the arts, and engineering. Students hone skills in identifying which scientific and engineering principles need to be understood to achieve design goals, and use computer-aided design (CAD) software and fabrication tools in the lab to create a solution for their design. Students also develop foundational knowledge in design and engineering by working in collaborative groups on project-based studies.

While much of the new lab equipment was purchased by the University, lighting solutions company OSRAM, based in Beverly, Mass., donated dozens of fabrication tools and parts to Wesleyan this summer. The lab’s professional-grade 3-D printer, computer numerical control router, and vortex dust collector were part of the donation, which collectively are valued at approximately $500,000.

“The donated items allow us to offer students access to a number of tools that they would otherwise not get a chance to experience,” said Professor of Physics Brian Stewart, who spearheaded the OSRAM donation. “We’re also moving closer to establishing an advanced lab in the Physics Department, so the donated vibration-free laser tables, hardware, and electronic equipment will serve as the nucleus of this exciting new departmental project.”

Learn more about IDEAS in this Wesleyan Magazine article. Follow the Wesleyan IDEAS Lab on Instagram.

Photos of the IDEAS Lab are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Lopez shows off a vacuum forming tool, which is used to form plastic around a mold and create a permanent object. At left is a 3-D printer.

Shawn Lopez, College of Integrative Sciences makerspace coordinator, displays an object created by the IDEAS Lab’s vacuum forming machine, pictured at right. The tool heats and forms plastic around a mold and creates a permanent object. At left is a 3-D printer that “prints” a three-dimensional object based on a computer design.

IDEAS

Francis Starr speaks to Brian Stewart about a large 3-D printer that was donated by OSRAM. This machine can print objects with exceptionally high resolution in a wide variety of materials.

Lopez demonstrates how a laser cuts an object out of wood.

Lopez demonstrates how a laser cuts an object out of wood.

The 75-watt engraver uses a CO2 laser, pulsing at 2,500 cycles per second, to cut into a sheet of wood.

The lab’s water-jet cutter slices through flat sheets of metal, tile, stone, and plastic using 30,000 psi of water and garnet abrasive material.

The IDEAS Lab milling machine uses various drill bits to cut and carve 3-D objects from solid materials such as metal, wood or plastic.

The multi-axis computer numerical control router, or milling machine, uses various drill bits, as well as a 4th axis lathe attachment, to cut and carve 3-D objects from solid materials such as metal, wood, or plastic. After programming the paths using appropriate software, the process is almost entirely automated. “Most of our CNC machines are really designed for cutting material in two dimensions,” Lopez said. “What if you want to actually carve a piece of metal in three different dimensions? This mill is the kind of device that can actually do that.”

OSRAM donated multiple laboratory oscilloscopes, which are used to display and analyze the waveform of electronic signals. Three have already been installed in the Exotic Wave Lab managed by Fred Ellis, professor of physics. “Numerous research groups have already benefited through the acquisition of individual pieces of equipment: oscilloscopes, digital delay generators, and other hardware have satisfied needs or increased capabilities in most of the department’s experimental laboratories,” Stewart said. “This is particularly welcome as our ability to accommodate additional undergraduate students into our research labs is often limited by the availability of equipment for new or exploratory projects.”

In addition to digital fabrication machinery, OSRAM donated thousands of pieces of optical equipment to Wesleyan.

The IDEAS Lab is located on the ground floor of Exley Science Center.

Starr Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society

Francis Starr

Francis Starr

Francis Starr, professor of physics, was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society in October. This honor is bestowed upon only 0.5 percent of physicists nation wide.

The criterion for election is “exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise including outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education.

Starr received the APS fellowship for his simulation studies elucidating fundamental aspects of glass formation in bulk and ultra-thin film polymer materials. At Wesleyan, the Starr group focuses on soft matter physics and biophysics. Starr and his graduate and undergraduate students combine computational and theoretical methods to explore lipid membranes, glass formation, DNA nanotechnology, polymers and supercooled water.

Starr also is professor and director of the College of Integrative Sciences (CIS) and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. The CIS is dedicated to providing students with translational and interdisciplinary science education through original research. The CIS summer research program hosts around 180 students annually.

Starr is the seventh Wesleyan faculty to receive the honor since 1921. He was nominated by the Division of Polymer Physics.

Speakers, Poster Sessions at Annual Molecular Biophysics Program Retreat

Wesleyan’s Molecular Biophysics Program hosted its 18th annual retreat Sept. 28 at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Wesleyan affiliated speakers included:

Professor Francis Starr, spoke about DNA junction dynamics and thermodynamics during the 18th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat.

Professor Francis Starr spoke about DNA junction dynamics and thermodynamics during the 18th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat.

  • Colin Smith, assistant professor of chemistry, on “An Atomistic View of Protein Dynamics and Allostery;”
  • Meng-Ju Renee Sher, assistant professor of physics, on “Tracking Electron Motions Using Terahertz Spectroscopy;”
  • Kelly Knee, PhD ’07, principle scientist for Pfizer’s Rare Disease Research Unit, on “Protein Folding Chaperones: Molecular Machines for Tricky Problems;”
  • and Francis Starr, professor of physics, director of the College of Integrative Sciences, on “DNA Four-Way Junction Dynamics and Thermodynamics: Lessons from Combining Simulations and Experiments.”

Arthur Palmer, the Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center, delivered the keynote address on “Conformational dynamics in molecular recognition and catalysis: Lessons from ribonuclease H, AlkB, and GCN4.”

The day-long retreat also included two poster sessions, where undergraduates, graduate students and faculty shared their research with their peers and colleagues. The event concluded with a reception.

The Molecular Biophysics Training Program, Chemistry Department, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department sponsored the event.

Photos of the retreat are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

New Minor in Design, Engineering and Applied Sciences Announced

Professor of Physics Greg Voth, at right, will teach a new course, CIS 170, Introduction to Engineering and Design, as part of Wesleyan's new Interdisciplinary minor in Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences (IDEAS

Professor of Physics Greg Voth, at right, will teach a new course, CIS 170, Introduction to Engineering and Design, as part of Wesleyan’s new Interdisciplinary minor in Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences.

Amid rising student interest, Wesleyan has announced a new interdisciplinary minor in Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences (IDEAS), beginning in 2017-18. It will be hosted within the College of Integrative Sciences (CIS).

The IDEAS minor will introduce foundational skills in engineering and design, and bring together existing arts, design, and applied science courses to create a more formal structure to guide students interested in these fields.

According to Professor of Physics Francis Starr, a co-proposer of the minor and director of the CIS, “The new minor plays into Wesleyan’s unique capabilities and dovetails with Wesleyan’s commitment to prepare students for the challenges facing society today. Our aim is to provide students with practical design and problem solving skills, coupled with the context to understand the social and cultural implications of their work.” The minor passed the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) in April.

Wesleyan is at the forefront of an emerging approach in academia

Wesleyan 1 of 12 Institutions Awarded Beckman Scholars Program

Wesleyan is one of only 12 institutions awarded a prestigious Beckman Scholars Program this year, according to Francis Starr, director of the College of Integrative Sciences and professor of physics, who directs Wesleyan’s Beckman program. The Beckman Scholars Program provides intensive research experiences and career mentoring to help Wesleyan undergraduates develop as leaders in the sciences.

Up to two Wesleyan students will receive this award annually, which carries a total stipend of $18,200 plus funds to support supplies and travel. Awards are normally made to sophomores to support research during the summer through the summer following junior year.

Starr’s Nanoparticle Research Published in Science

Professor Francis Starr and his collaborators are working to self-assemble a diamond-structured lattice at will from nanoscale particles.(Image by graduate student Hamed Emamy). 

Professor Francis Starr and his collaborators are working to self-assemble a diamond-structured lattice at will from nanoscale particles. (Image by graduate student Hamed Emamy).

Professor Francis Starr, graduate student Hamad Emamy and collaborators from the Brookhaven National Lab have co-authored a paper titled “Diamond Family of Nanoparticle Superlattices” published in the prestigious journal Science on Feb. 5. Starr is professor of physics and director of the College of Integrative Sciences.

Their work proposed a solution to a decades-long challenge to self-assemble a diamond-structured lattice at will from nanoscale particles.

“Such a diamond-lattice structure has long been sought after due to its potential applications as a light controlling device, including optical transistors, color-changing materials, and optical — as opposed to electronic — computing,” Starr said.

To solve this challenge, the team utilized the specific binding properties of DNA as a tool for materials science. Specifically, they created nanoscale “atoms” that consist of 15 nanometer gold nanoparticles coated with many single-stranded DNA. The single-stranded DNA act like binding arms to connect nanoparticle/DNA “atoms” by forming double-stranded DNA links, and analogue of traditional chemical bonds between atoms. By appropriate selection of the sequence and orientation of these DNA links, the nanoparticles will spontaneously arrange themselves into the desired structure.

“This self-assembly approach not only allows for highly specific order, but also offers the potential for tremendous savings in the cost of materials production, as compared to traditional methods used in the semi-conductor industry,” Starr explained.

Emamy, a graduate student in Starr’s lab, carried out numerical simulations that helped to develop the approach and explain how to stabilize the structure. Collaborators at Brookhaven experimentally synthesized and verified the structure and properties. The effort, Starr said, represented an ideal collaboration between experiments, theory and computation.

NIST Grant Supports Research on Biological Materials, Assembly Processes

Francis Starr, director of the College of Integrative Sciences, professor of physics, received a $282,000 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in September.

The grant will support “Heterogeneous Dynamics and Assembly Processes in Soft and Biological Materials,” a collaborative research project between Wesleyan and NIST. NIST is expected to fund the project through 2018 with a total amount of $1.66M.

Soft and biological materials are commonly composed of synthetic or biopolymers, or are formed as a result of the supramolecular assembly of small molecule, nanoparticle, or protein molecules into dynamic organized structures. These materials are central to developing new materials for emerging technologies related to energy storage and production, energy-saving light-weight devices, and in the development of diverse new forms of medicine and medical materials that mimic biological processes.

The realization of the promise of this large class of new materials has been limited by the inherent difficulties in understanding and controlling properties and the structural stability of these inherently complex materials. The amorphous, and often hierarchical, structure of these materials make the effective modeling of these materials a challenge.

With support from the NIST grant, Starr and his peers will investigate ways to overcome these challenges and develop these materials for their many intended applications.

Starr, Mukerji Explore Ways to Better Engage Students, Faculty in the Sciences

Professors Francis Starr and Ishita Mukerji recently participated in the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education at Princeton University.

Professors Francis Starr and Ishita Mukerji recently participated in the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education at Princeton University.

For their efforts enhancing undergraduate science education and supporting teaching innovations, two Wesleyan faculty members were named National Academies Education Fellows in the Sciences for 2015-2016.

Francis Starr, professor of physics and director of the College of Integrative Sciences, and Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received the fellowships while participating in the 2015 National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education, held June 14-19 at Princeton University.

The Summer Institute, a five-day program of discussions, demonstrations and workshops, brought college and university faculty together to develop teaching skills. Co-sponsored by the National Academies and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Starr, Mukerji and 44 other participants were taught ways to transform the undergraduate classroom and engage students and fellow faculty in the sciences. Current research, active learning, assessment and diversity were woven into the program, creating a forum to share ideas and develop innovative instructional materials to be implemented at each participant’s home institution.

Pictured at far right, wearing a striped shirt, Francis Starr worked with more than 40 other faculty from around New England at the Summer Institute. 

Pictured at far right, wearing a striped shirt, Francis Starr worked with more than 40 other faculty from around New England at the Summer Institute. (Photo by Jill Feldman/Princeton University)

“Wesleyan’s commitment to teaching innovation puts us at the forefront of improving undergraduate education that is essential to prepare future scientists and scientifically literate citizens,” Starr said.

During the institute, Starr and Mukerji developed a “teachable tidbit” with four other institute participants. These tidbits can be implemented in a course during the academic year. In addition, Starr and Mukerji are planning to speak about their experiences to fellow faculty at an NSM luncheon. They’re also working on creating an Academic (Technology) Roundtable meeting with one of the co-directors of the institute.

“Francis and I were both interested in learning these new teaching methods and we’re excited to share them with others on campus,” Mukerji said.

Starr, Hanakata ’14 Co-Author Paper on Polymer Films, Published in Nature Communications

Francis Starr and Paul Hanakata '14 study the mobility gradient on a thin, polymer film.

Francis Starr and Paul Hanakata ’14 study the interfacial mobility in a thin, polymer film.

Francis Starr, professor of physics, and Paul Hanakata ’14 are the co-authors of a new article published in the journal Nature Communications on June 16. The article, titled “Interfacial Mobility Scale Determines the Scale of Collective Motion and Relaxation Rate in Polymer Films,” is based off Hanakata’s senior thesis research at Wesleyan.

Thin polymer films are ubiquitous in manufacturing and medical applications. Their chemical and mechanical properties make them suitable as artificial soft biological tissue and there has been intense interest in how film thickness and substrate interactions influence film dynamics.

The nature of polymer rearrangements within these films determines their potential applications.  However, up to now, there has been no way to readily assess how design choices of the film affect these dynamic rearrangements.

“Paul’s paper is novel because it demonstrates how an experimental measurement of the surface properties can be used to infer the changes to collective motions within the film,” Starr explained. “These results offer a practical metrology that might be used for the design of new advanced materials.”

Hanakata, who graduated in May, will begin his graduate studies at Boston University next fall.

Wesleyan’s New Computing Cluster Can Process Computations 50X Faster

Henk Meij, unix systems group manager in Information Technology Services, and Francis Starr, professor of physics, look over Wesleyan's new high-performance computer platform, located on the fifth floor of ITS. The new cluster runs calculations up to 50 times faster than the previous cluster, installed in 2010. The new cluster also offers an additional 50 terabytes of disk space for a total of 100 terabytes.

Henk Meij, unix systems group manager in Information Technology Services, and Francis Starr, professor of physics, look over Wesleyan’s new high-performance computer platform, located on the fifth floor of ITS. The new cluster runs calculations up to 50 times faster than the previous cluster, installed in 2010. The new cluster also offers an additional 50 terabytes of disk space for a total of 100 terabytes. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

While technology at Wesleyan is growing by leaps and bounds, the computational capacity is growing by gigaFLOPS and now, teraFLOPS.

Not to be confused with the prehistoric pterodactyl’s beach footwear, a teraFLOP is a term used in high-performance computing to quantify the rate at which computer systems can perform arithmetic operations. TeraFLOPs can perform one trillion operations per second (S), and for scientists at Wesleyan, this means calculations can be done up to 50 times faster with the new computing cluster, installed during the summer 2013.

Even when running at full capacity, the new computer cluster outputs only 78 degrees of heat. The older systems measured 100 degrees, and require more cooling power to operate.

Even when running at full capacity, the new computer cluster outputs only 78 degrees of heat. The older systems measured 100 degrees, and require more cooling power to operate.

“The new cluster has been revolutionary in my own work,” said Francis Starr, professor of physics. “I used to run calculations that would take a month or even a year to compute, and my patience would run out. Now, I can get results in two or three days.”

In 2006, Wesleyan’s computing cluster came in around 0.5 teraflops. In the 2010 at 1.5 teraflops, and the newest cluster has a theoretical capacity of 25 to 75 teraflops, depending on the application.

“By way of comparison, my Mac laptop comes in around 0.02 teraflops, so I would need 3,500 laptops to achieve the same compute power! I think I will need a bigger backpack,” Starr said.

The new technology also is “green.” While the new machine is 100 times more powerful than the 2006 cluster, it requires half the the electrical power to operate and less cooling power to run the hardware.

The new cluster is currently used by faculty and students in chemistry, computer science, physics, biology, the social sciences and the Quantitative Analysis Center. Henk Meij, unix systems group manager and a senior consultant for the QAC, manages the facility’s operation and offers support and maintenance for any software issues. He also offers training and teaches faculty and students how to submit jobs to the scheduling system.

“Anyone on campus who needs a fast computation, ITS offers this tremendous resource which can be very beneficial to your research,” Meij said. “We can now solve real world problems in a matter of days.”

The newest cluster cost $125,000,

Starr’s Polymer Study Supported by American Chemical Society

Francis Starr, associate professor of physics, received a $100,000 grant from the American Chemical Petroleum Fund for his work examining the properties of extremely thin polymer films. These systems have important applications ranging from nano-electronics to artificial tissues.  The work will be supported through August 2014.

McNair Program Offers Faculty, Student Research Talks

The Wesleyan McNair Program assists students from underrepresented groups in preparing for, entering, and progressing successfully through post-graduate education. The program provides guidance, research opportunities, and academic and financial support to students planning to go on to Ph.Ds. All fields of research leading to a Ph.D. are eligible.

In efforts to prepare undergraduates from diverse backgrounds for graduate studies, the McNair Program hosts a series of research talks. These talks are designed for interested, non-expert, students. They are free and open to all students.

The next McNair Research Talk will take place from noon to 1 p.m., Friday, April 15 in Exley Science Center room 121. Christian Hoyos ’11 will speak on “Direction-of-transfer effects in Children’s map use” with his mentor, Anna Shusterman, assistant professor of psychology; Matthew Narkaus ’11 will speak on “Race Language in Psychological Experiments” with his advisor, Jill Morawski, professor of psychology and director of the Center for the Humanities; and Jessica Bowen ’11 will speak on “Breaking Habit (U.S.) Diversifying the Elite at……” with her mentor, Sarah Wiliarty, assistant professor of government, tutor in the College of Social Studies. More information is online here.

On March 25, the McNair Program hosted a talk by Francis Starr, associate professor of physics.  Pictures of his talk are below:

On March 25, the Wesleyan McNair Program presented “Some Assembly Required: DNA-based Nanomaterials,” with Associate Professor of Physics Francis Starr. While DNA has long been known as the chemical foundation of genetics, Starr is exploring new ways to take advantage of the special features of DNA.