More than 20 under­grad­uate stu­dents from eight col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties throughout the country pre­sented a host of inno­v­a­tive research projects on Thursday after­noon at North­eastern University.

The projects, ranging from improving breast cancer imaging to pre­venting the pro­gres­sive col­lapse of large con­crete build­ings, rep­re­sented the cul­mi­na­tion of Northeastern’s 10-​​week Research Expe­ri­ence for Under­grad­u­ates Pro­grams, which were sup­ported with funding from the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion and the U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Security.

Stu­dents par­tic­i­pating in the pro­gram hailed from North­eastern, the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­vania, the Uni­ver­sity of Con­necticut, SUNY Buf­falo, Lawrence Tech­no­log­ical Uni­ver­sity, the Rochester Insti­tute of Tech­nology, Rox­bury Com­mu­nity Col­lege and Mass Bay Com­mu­nity College.

Throughout the pro­gram stu­dents worked on the projects in labs along­side fac­ulty in the Col­lege of Engi­neering’s Bernard M. Gordon Center for Sub­sur­face Sensing and Imaging Sys­tems (Gordon-​​CenSSIS) and the ALERT (Aware­ness and Local­iza­tion of Explosives-​​Related Threats) Center of Excel­lence.

The projects, par­tic­i­pants said, addressed a range of real-​​world chal­lenges and helped under­grad­uate par­tic­i­pants hone their crit­ical research skills in many ways.

Jose Mar­tinez, a research assis­tant pro­fessor of elec­trical and com­puter engi­neering affil­i­ated with Gordon-​​CenSSIS and ALERT, was thrilled at how much stu­dents accom­plished in such as short time.

For instance, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Mehrdad Sasani, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of civil and envi­ron­mental engi­neering and ALERT researcher, North­eastern stu­dents Lisa Hof­gen­sang and Logan Jackson designed sensing sys­tems that can detect pro­gres­sive col­lapse of struc­tures using carbon nan­otubes and optical fibers.

Pro­gres­sive col­lapse occurs when an ini­tial local failure spreads out and causes an entire struc­ture to col­lapse,” Hof­gen­sang said. “We want to create a sensing system that can be inte­grated into the struc­tural net­work of a building.”

Another North­eastern stu­dent, rising sopho­more Antonio Basukoski, used pro­gram­ming soft­ware to improve a pre­vi­ously devel­oped tissue imaging tech­nique for diag­nosing breast cancer as a par­tic­i­pant in the BIOSENSE REU Pro­gram, a REU Site sup­ported by NSF. Carey Rap­pa­port, deputy director of the ALERT Center, asso­ciate director of Gordon-​​CenSSIS and Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Elec­trical and Com­puter Engi­neering, com­pared the new tech­nique to the dif­fer­ence between looking at a black-​​and-​​white image versus one that also includes var­ious shades of gray. “Do you know how sig­nif­i­cant that is?” he asked.

Ben Gowaski, also a rising sopho­more at North­eastern, worked in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ali Abur, pro­fessor and chair of the Depart­ment of Elec­trical and Com­puter Engi­neering, on a project funded through the Center for Ultra-​​wide-​​area Resilient Elec­tric Energy Trans­mis­sion Net­works, or CURENT.

Over half the energy that is pro­duced in the U.S. isn’t used,” Gowaski said. “But we can’t store this energy. It’s more effi­cient to just pro­duce it all and let it go to waste.” As a result, Gowaski spent his summer mod­eling the­o­ret­ical power grids in an attempt to iden­tify more effi­cient approaches.