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05.21.19 - MDP Fellows present design projects


Student-fellows from the 2018-2019 Multidisciplinary Design Program (MDP) met Saturday, May 11, to present their design projects at a symposium held in the CALIT2 auditorium. The students had been selected to work on 12 creative research projects mentored by faculty and graduate students.

Program Directors, Said Shokair, Director of Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and G.P. Li, Director, CALIT2 Irvine welcomed guests to event which marked its ninth anniversary.

Li described the program as a presentation of, “truly multi-disciplinary work, and showcased how data could be explored in harmonizing interactions among people, machine, and the environment”

MDP is open to high-achieving UCI undergraduate or graduate students in any discipline who have a strong drive to pursue multidisciplinary research as part of a team. Participants may choose from a variety of innovative and creative design projects related to the areas of energy, the environment, healthcare, and culture. The program is designed to help students develop the multidisciplinary skills and knowledge that will propel them into graduate studies or careers in fields that explore the connections between different concentrations.


MUGIC: An Interactive Device for Musical Performance and Gesture
Fellows: Daniel Ascencio, Nathan Cho, Jigar Hira, Manasi Shingane, Melinda Tran
Mentors: Mari Kimura, Michael Klopfer

MUGIC™ is a microelectronic device originally designed by artists and musicians to help them create innovative and technologically ground-breaking work. This wearable device allows performers to add a new dimension to their performances by using motion to control musical accompaniment, visual effects, or anything else they desire. Last year, the MUGIC™ team designed a proof-of-concept that allowed a user to map audio effects to their movements. However, numerous technical details were left underdeveloped or unfinished. This year we made many significant steps towards transforming this proof-of-concept into a user-friendly product. On the software side, we created an application that allows a user to easily manipulate audio files with various audio effects using a simple user interface. On the hardware side, we prepared the very first working prototypes to ensure that circuit design is fully functional so that the design can be sent in for manufacture. This included assembling two units and adjusting the documentation needed for mass production. Finally, the firmware team advanced the capabilities of revision 3.1 by integrating features to store user settings such as WiFi credentials, and by adding light-up LEDs in order to signify to the user what state the device is in.
Currently, the device is being used by a variety of professional artists both inside and outside of UCI, including violinists, pianists, DJs, dancers, and even a mime. In an era where technology is slowly creeping into every niche, MUGIC™ has the potential to revolutionize the music industry and beyond.

VR Digital Audio Workstation (VirDAW)
Fellows: Jovia Armstrong, Jack Bueermann, Luke George Falcone, Yibo Gou, Jonathan Huang, Zhonglin Liu, Hunter Long, Ittai Mann, Yiwei Yu
Mentors: Vincent Olivieri , Joshua Tanenbaum, Karen Tanenbaum

The VR Digital Audio Workstation (VirDAW) is an exploratory design project combining sound design and virtual reality software development. VirDAW reimagines the functions of traditional sound design software environments within virtual reality by taking processes that are often abstract and transferring them into a virtual environment. By taking design practices that are metaphorical or abstract and rendering them as physical things to be manipulated, VirDAW creates new experiential tools for creative storytelling through sound. Through the MDP program, a team of interdisciplinary designers from Computer Science, Computer Game Science, ICIT, and Drama have iteratively created a suite of prototype modules that allow musicians and sound designers to craft new audio experiences in virtual reality.
VirDAW takes common functions of industry standard Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) and reimagines them in VR. Using the Max visual programming language as the audio backend, controlled via Open Sound Control (OSC) in Unity for the VR frontend, VirDAW supports immersive and embodied versions of common audio engineering practices.  These include loop sequencing, multi-track mixing, parametric equalization, and convolution reverb. VirDAW also creates opportunities to easily solve sound spatialization challenges and surround mixing tasks – features that are poorly supported within current state-of-the-art DAWs. Finally, VirDAW supports playful new ways of interacting with sound through a virtual/physical interface we describe as “kinetic composition” that combines simulated physics with reactive virtual architectures that allow composers to put audio files into motion and then experience cascades of unexpected new effects over time.

Enhancing the Efficacy of Drug Released from Loaded Fibrin Glue by Photochemical Internalization (PCI)

Fellows: Lina Nguyen, Mai Le, Nehal Idris
Mentors: Dr. Henry Hirschberg, Dr. Eric Potma

Failure to eradicate infiltrating glioma cells using conventional treatment regimens results in tumor recurrence and is responsible for the dismal prognosis of patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).
These migratory cells are protected by the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and blood brain tumor barrier (BBTB) which prevents the delivery of most anti-cancer agents. Localized methods of drug delivery that bypass the BBB altogether, such as fibrin glue (FG) loaded with drugs have been studied as a controlled release vehicle. We have evaluated the ability of the light based drug activating modality, photochemical internalization (PCI), to enhance the effectiveness of FG released drug on multi-cell three dimensional tumor spheroids formed from glioma tumor cells. Fibrin glue, a combination of fibrinogen with thrombin containing bleomycin (BLM) is incubated in medium. BLM is slowly released from the FG and diffused into the media. The supernatant containing the drug (FG-BLM) is collected at various time intervals and transferred to glioma tumor spheroid cultures. Experimental cultures are exposed to photosensitizer and light (PCI) Control cultures are exposed to FG-BLM or supernatants from FG containing no drug. The results, using fluorescents microscopy, showed that BLM is released from the FG primarily within the first 48 hours. Performing PCI on F98 spheroid and FG-BLM inhibits the growth of the spheroids more than the drug alone. These findings suggest that using the combination of FG-PCI following surgical tumor resection have the potential to inhibit tumor recurrence by bypassing the BBB.

Experimental Test of Energy Efficiency Annoyance Thresholds
Fellows: Mingue Hao, Sarah Osborne, Melissa Torres, Huy Vo, Wenxin Zhang
Mentors: Michael Klopfer, Sergio Gago-Masague, Joy Pixley

Plug-load devices waste energy due to being left on when not in use. “Sleep mode” can solve this problem. However, users may become annoyed by delays when devices restart from sleep mode and disable sleep settings. To balance saving energy and user satisfaction, we conducted research on annoyance thresholds: how long is too long for users to wait? Our research was based on previous work testing how long users wait before clicking a web page link to load again. Our project involves deception: subjects only know they will be playtesting an exercise video called PET. The subject is asked to complete a survey on a tablet, then are instructed to start and use PET. We programmed a remote control to operate the system, and included an intentional delay before starting PET. We selected three delay screens: an attractive animation, three floating dots that pause, and a blank blue screen. The system records whether subjects press the “on” button again when PET doesn’t start right away. After play-testing PET, subjects complete another survey evaluating the application. A debriefing follows. We hypothesize that the more interesting the delay screen, the less annoyed the user will be, and the longer they will wait before pressing the “on” button again. More annoyed subjects are also expected to be less satisfied with PET, and rate the program as frustrating and glitchy. We are currently running subjects recruited from the Human Subjects Lab, and will have results soon.

How "me" becomes "we": A Computational and quantitative approach to ideology
Fellows: Linxuan Liu, Qingcheng Zhang, Michelle Lac
Mentors: Jean-Paul Carvalho, Sergio Gago-Masague, Kimberly Jameson, Louis Narens

Increasingly, ideology is an important topic of study as it influences our social judgment of important concepts like: right and wrong, fair and unjust, beautiful and ugly. Ideology has been a hotly debated topic for centuries yet, very little agreement exists for what constitutes an ideology, how it relates to culture and norms, and its emergence, role, and evolution. Hence this study attempts to remedy this age-long struggle in a novel way by drawing from appropriate computational and quantitative methodologies in anthropology (multidimensional scaling and cultural consensus analysis), sociology (networks), evolutionary game theory (dynamics), and machine learning (unsupervised clustering algorithms). To understand ideology we gather data from participants in 22 groups (religious, cultural, and political), analyze important trends present in each group then anonymize the data and ask an algorithm to group participants based on similarity. We will then analyze the resulting groups and calculate how cohesive participants from the same group are. These analyses guide the modeling of ideology in an evolutionary theoretic approach.

Seeing the World Through the Sewage Microbiome
Fellows: Zhuojin Huang, Loan Le, Taofeng Li
Mentors: Dr. Chenyang Sunny Jiang, Dr. Katrine Whiteson

The sewage microbiome may reflect human health issues at a population level because microbial communities in sewage influent are similar to those in human fecal materials with close resemblance to the human gut microbiome. Nevertheless, how the diversity and dynamics of microbial communities vary within sewage from different geographic regions have not been extensively investigated. In this study, geographic distributions of the microbial communities and the antibiotic resistance genes found in the sewage influent microbiome were characterized using data from next-generation sequencing (NGS) and metagenomic analyses. Publicly available shotgun metagenomic data of sixteen sewage samples from multiple countries were retrieved from MG-RAST. To identify the signatures of the sewage microbiomes, taxonomic classification was conducted based on the Ribosomal Database Project annotation in MG-RAST. Results showed a high abundance of the phyla Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Actinobacteria in all sewage samples. Despite these similarities in bacterial composition, six samples from different geographic locations still reflect significantly varied abundances of Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Actinobacteria. Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes were the most dominant phyla in sewage samples collected from Uganda, while these bacterial phyla were detected as the less dominant phyla for the sewage samples collected from China. Interestingly, Actinobacteria was dominant in the East Asia countries (China, Japan, South Korea) as opposed to Uganda and Malaysia. These variations of the microbial communities in the sewage microbiome may serve as important indicators to assess the overall health of populations.

Investigating the Impact of Personality on the Decision-Making Process of Interpersonal Utility Comparisons
Fellows: Akif Khan, Caleb Chan, Joyce Luu
Mentors: Sergio Gago-Masague, Kimberly Jameson, Dr. Louis Narens, Kirbi Joe, Lucila Arroyo

In Narens and Skyrms (2017), a theoretical model of interpersonal comparisons of utility is established. We want to build off of this theoretical model and apply it to actual human subjects. In this project, we want to understand how personality traits both impact our preferences and how we understand the preferences of others. This research is important in finding out how people are able to use what they know about others to figure out others’ preferences and come to group decisions together. We are doing two things in this project: we are having subjects play against each other in a utility scaling and decision-making game, and we are designing a bot based off of personality and preferences to also play against our subjects. Subjects in our experiment will set their preferences for different options, then will slowly learn about their partner and try to come to an agreement based on their preferences. We haven’t yet been able to run subjects with our specific design of the experiment, so our goal has been to come up with a set experimental design that we can use to run subjects and then model a bot after those results.

Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge: Passive Solar Desalination Water Bottles
Fellows: Emily Barragan, Xi Chen, Yu-Yin Lin    
Mentors: Shane Ardo, Chenyang Sunny Jiang, Jaeho Lee

Safe and reliable water is essential to life. The project aims to develop a low-cost passive solar-driven desalination device that makes pure water from seawater or polluted water in the absence of electricity. We have adopted a membrane distillation technology, which relies on the hydrophobicity of the membrane to separate saltwater from pure water by only allowing the water vapor to pass through the membrane pores. To achieve the passive heating using solar energy to generate water vapor, we applied a black ceramic coating, HiE-840C, directly to coat the membrane surface. Our results showed that coating the membrane surface did not change the water vapor permeability or wettability of membrane surface. Similar water flux and salt rejection rates were achieved using uncoated and black paint coated membrane in desalination tests. Field tests of black body paint heat adsorption experiments under natural sunlight indicated that black membrane could absorb enough heat to generate water vapor. Future work will evaluate the pure water production rate using black membrane under natural solar light irrigation.

Robust, User-Friendly Optical Platform for Long-Term In Vivo Neuroimaging
Fellows: Julianna Bordas, Zihan Xu, Sally Huynh
Mentors: Dr. Bernard Choi, Dr. Yama Akbari

Cerebral microbleeds (CMBs) are microscopic lesions that occur in the vessels of the brain. They are a potential predictor of common neurological diseases. In order to learn more about the prevention and therapy of these major neurological diseases, one must understand how CMBs progress and how the overall vasculature is affected. The cranial window procedure allows for long-term imaging that would enable us to not only track the development of CMBs in mice, but also visually see how the blood flow and vasculature of the brain may change in regards to different neurodegenerative diseases. Ideally, we would be able to image the cranial window over the course of a few weeks to months in the exact location. The original LSI Neuroimager is not ideal for long-term imaging, due to its limitations with repeatability of imaging. It contains four main components: a camera, a white light lamp with green light filter, a laser with polarizers, and a mouse platform. In order to maximize the accuracy and consistency between each imaging session, we replaced the circular frames to square frames, attached a green light flashlight directly to the system; we designed a warm water platform to regulate the body temperature of the mouse. The new fixed structure is an improvement of the original design because only fine adjustments will now be needed for positioning the components. Along with this, the improved rigid structure allows for us to consistently image the vasculature of a mouse brain in the same location.

Greensteam: Rethinking External Combustion for a Sustainable Future
Fellows: Lyuyang Hu, Taiting Lu, Zhan Su
Mentors: Simon Penny, Dr. Michael McCarthy

The buildup of greenhouse gases and reliance on fossil fuels are two major contributors to climate change. Project Greensteam aims to address both these issues while attending to the needs of people in the third world, isolated and off-the-grid locations, by developing simple and efficient external combustion (steam) engines for cogeneration of heat, mechanical and electric power, that efficiently and cleanly burn low-grade and mixed solid, liquid and gas fuels. As a subproject of Greensteam, the team has focused on the research and design of a linear generator. The surface-mounted, permanent magnet linear generator uses Halbach arrays to concentrate its magnetic field. This concentrated magnetic field can theoretically double the density of the magnetic fluxes passing through the coils thus increase the efficiency of the generator. Two iterations of small-scale prototypes and testing equipment have been built to validate our design. Much work has to be done in the future to further increase the efficiency and compare the proposed design with existing designs but it has provided a new possible approach to the field of electricity generation.

Smart Multimedia Technology for Understanding and Guiding Human Behavior
Fellows: Jianming Bi, Ava Derevlany, Kelly Nguyen, Kaitlyn Nguyen
Mentors: Prof. G. P. Li, Prof. Susan Charles, Prof. Mark Bachman

In this project we have designed an interactive multimedia system that can be used to motivate people to exercise their bodies and their minds while still at home. Physical exercise has been shown to be the single most beneficial activity for promoting both physical and cognitive health, especially as people get older. Moreover, the exercise need not be intense or exhaustive. More important is consistent activity. This solution targets older adults who have limited mobility and who typically spend most of their time at home. We have designed a set of foot tiles that interact with a video game. The tiles are placed on the floor in different locations, and the game player must step on different tiles to advance the game and solve problems. In this way, we believe we can bring a fun and challenging activity to the home that helps older adults move their bodies and challenge their cognitive skills. We report on the design process and product details (both game and foot tiles), as well as show some demonstrations of the product in use.

Contribution of Phyllosphere Microbes to Total Biogenic Volatile Emissions From Native Plants of Coastal Sage Scrub
Fellows: Jesus Campos, Fatemeh Khalaj, Sanjeevi Nagalingam, Claire Weeks
Mentors: Celia Faiola, Alex Guenther

The microbiota of the phyllosphere are abundant and critical to plant health and productivity. These microbes affect plant emissions of volatiles through direct microbial emission and plant-microbe interactions. Plant volatile emissions are involved with global scale atmospheric chemistry. We hypothesized that the microbes of the phyllosphere contribute to a significant portion of overall volatile organic compound emissions from Salvia Mellifera. We tested this by using a broad-spectrum antibiotic to fumigate a treatment group of plants to remove microbiota and change the phyllosphere community structure. Emissions were measured at three different stages, one before fumigation, and two after. We found that the emissions decreased overall, with the most significant decrease occurring at the third sample stage, 10 days after treatment. At this point after the treatment, the plants ceased to emit eucalyptol and γ-terpinene with significant reductions in limonene and ß-pinene emission as well. The results support the hypothesis that microbes play a key part in plant VOC emissions via direct and indirect routes.

Students interested in participating in future Multidisciplinary Design Program can find information at;

-- Sharon Henry