Research at Georgia Tech is about finding connections between diverse ideas and disciplines. It’s where breakthrough discoveries are made that enable us to lean into our mission to improve the human condition.
Our research enterprise includes communities, researchers, faculty, students, and staff. Together, they drive advancements in science, technology, and policy that take place every day. It’s the people asking the questions and seeking answers that make Georgia Tech a leading research university that champions inclusivity and interdisciplinary collaboration. That’s how the best ideas come to fruition and make a positive impact on our world.
Chaouki T. Abdallah
Executive Vice President for Research
NSF Awards $40M to Georgia Tech for Advances in Artificial Intelligence
For decades, Georgia Tech has focused on advancing artificial intelligence (AI) through interdisciplinary research and education designed to produce leading-edge technologies. This year, Tech received two National Science Foundation Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes awards, totaling $40 million. A third award for $20 million was granted to the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), with Georgia Tech serving as one of the leading academic institutions.
The awards will allow Tech to make a substantial investment in AI that includes hiring an additional 100 researchers in the field, further solidifying its standing as a leader in the teaching and discovery of machine learning.
NSF Grant Awarded to Advance Recruitment of Underrepresented Minorities in STEM Ph.D. Pipeline
Aligning with Georgia Tech’s commitment to supporting underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, a recent National Science Foundation grant will enable the Institute to drive diversity across all graduate programs, creating a more robust Ph.D. pipeline for faculty recruitment.
With the grant, Tech joins an alliance that includes eight other research universities to increase rates of doctoral candidates transitioning into postdoctoral scholar positions, and postdoctoral scholars transitioning into early-career faculty employment.
School of Economics Study Examines Impact of Trade Liberalization on Wage Gap, Work Patterns
Economists have long known that trade liberalization policies can reduce the wage gap between women and men in the workforce. A new study from the Georgia Tech School of Economics unpacks that effect in detail by examining the impacts of the U.S. decision to grant China permanent normal trade relations status in 2000.
This study, detailed in a paper co-authored by Professor Tibor Besedes; Assistant Professor Seung Hoon Lee; and Ph.D. student Tongyang Yang, showed that women’s wages increased overall compared to men in cities in the United States most impacted by liberalized trade resulting from the policy change. However, the findings suggest this is not because trade liberalization improved the prospects or pay for women in the workforce.
Professor Tibor Besedes (left) and Assistant Professor Seung Hoon Lee (right).
Flickering Lights and Sound Could Be New Weapon Against Alzheimer’s
For the past few years, Annabelle Singer and her collaborators have been using flickering lights and sound to treat mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease, and they’ve seen some dramatic results.
Now they have data from the first human feasibility study of the flicker treatment, and it's promising.
We looked at default mode network connectivity, which is basically how different brain regions that are particularly active during wakeful rest and memory interact with each other. There are deficits in this network in Alzheimer’s, but after eight weeks [of treatment], we found strengthening in that connectivity.
-Annabelle Singer, Assistant Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University
This may indicate stronger interactions and, therefore, better communication between these regions.
The flicker treatment stimulates gamma waves, which are associated with high-level cognitive functions like perception and memory. Disruptions to these waves have been found in various neurological disorders, not just Alzheimer’s.
This was the first time that researchers were able to test gamma sensory stimulation over an extended period of time in patients with Alzheimer’s-associated mild cognitive impairment. Their findings are published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions.
Understanding Why Conspiracy Theories Spread
The Covid-19 pandemic unleashed an outpouring of research from medical scientists seeking to understand the disease and find ways to treat it. Researchers in the social sciences also turned their attention to the pandemic, including Amit Prasad, associate professor of sociology in the School of History and Sociology (HSOC). Prasad sought to understand why Covid-19 conspiracy theories and misinformation spread.
He found that it’s not because their adherents reject science. In fact, they often use scientific credibility to help spread falsehoods. Prasad concluded that instead of trying to squash conspiracy theories, it might be helpful to spend time dealing with social and health issues that lead to belief in such conspiracies.
“A ‘war’ on misinformation and conspiracies, which is aimed at banishing them completely, may not work in our instantaneously and globally connected world,” he said. “Instead, we need to carefully study misinformation and conspiracies and deal with them by addressing the social and health issues experienced by particular social groups.”
Other HSOC scholars also examined issues related to Covid-19 over the past year, including Associate Professor Jennifer Singh, who examined the pandemic’s impact on Black families with children with autism; Assistant Professor Allen Hyde, who looked at how insurance coverage affected testing for the virus; and Professor Emeritus John Krige, who wrote about the impact of the pandemic on the global movement of knowledge.
Bioindustrial Manufacturing Innovation Institute That Includes Georgia Tech Wins $87M Award
The BioIndustrial Manufacturing and Design Ecosystem (BioMADE) collaborates with public and private entities to advance sustainable and reliable bioindustrial manufacturing technologies. As a governing member, Georgia Tech will share in an $87 million award from the Department of Defense.
BioMADE’s efforts will examine and advance industry-wide standards, tools, and measurements; mature foundational technologies; foster a resilient bioindustrial manufacturing ecosystem; advance education and workforce development; and support the establishment and growth of supply chain intermediaries that are essential for a robust U.S. bioeconomy.
Georgia Tech Researchers Awarded Total of $4.35M in 2020 for Direct Air Capture Projects
For more than a decade, Georgia Tech researchers have been developing a technology known as direct air capture (DAC) that extracts carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere for use as a liquid fuel, feedstock for chemical processes, or transforming into a durable substance for sequestration. Researchers in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE) are principal investigators on six recent DAC projects, with awards totaling $4.35 million.
With these recent awards, Georgia Tech researchers, supported by Georgia Tech’s Strategic Energy Institute, have launched the Direct Air Capture Center (DirACC), under the guidance of Professors Christopher Jones and Matthew Realff. DirACC will create a forum for collaborative research on DAC and other negative emissions technologies, convening researchers from across the Institute working in energy, sustainability, policy, and related fields.
From the beginning of DAC research, Georgia Tech investigators were collaborating with the energy industry, private foundations, and startups. They obtained the first ever federal research grant in DAC in 2010. As the Earth's climate becomes warmer and less stable, negative emissions technologies, like those developed at Georgia Tech, will need to be deployed at scale to stabilize CO2 levels for future generations.
Armed With Accessibility: How CDC Foundation and Georgia Tech Plan to Battle Covid-19
Researchers and service providers at the Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation (CIDI) dedicate themselves to providing accessible solutions for individuals with disabilities. They champion assistive technology innovations, products, and services that make everyday activities and public places more inclusive. They serve every student in the University System of Georgia with assistive needs. That’s why the CDC Foundation contracted them to make Covid-19 information accessible.
More than 61 million Americans navigate life with a disability. Whether they have limited vision, problems with hearing, physical restrictions, or cognitive challenges, this diverse group of people relies on specialized equipment in their home or on cellphone technologies to tackle daily tasks. Emergency situations are especially difficult for this community because mainstream information sources like televised or internet news may not be fully accessible. So CIDI worked with the CDC Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess, develop, and produce inclusive emergency materials in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
CIDI has produced Covid-19 resources, videos, and documents that are compatible with screen readers and assistive technology that reads text in Braille and American Sign Language, and that address the needs of people who read or listen with a third-grade or below level of understanding.
12th Annual Ideas to Serve Competition Drives Discovery and Solutions With Social Impact
For the past 12 years, the Ideas to Serve (I2S) Competition organized by the Institute for Leadership and Social Impact (ILSI) at the Scheller College of Business has inspired students and recent alumni to think creatively about how to create a better world.
This year, student teams partnered with community organizations and civic entrepreneurs to better understand the causes and systemic factors that keep social and environmental issues in place. The 2021 competition was especially notable because most of the organizations the teams partnered with were minority- and women-owned. A panel of judges from a wide range of industries and nonprofits supported the students in their journeys.
I love I2S because it gives students an opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills and consider their role in tackling our city’s most pressing needs. As someone who has worked in the nonprofit sector for a dozen years, I’m thrilled to see Georgia Tech’s intentional collaboration with strong community partners and civic innovators.
-Jay Cranman, CEO of Hands On Atlanta
Georgia Tech Leading in the Quest for Ocean Solutions
Georgia Tech faculty across a number of disciplines are working on projects in ocean science and engineering aimed at identifying, projecting, mitigating, and even reversing the effects of climate change. Many of these researchers are doing so with Georgia Tech’s Ocean Science and Engineering program and Ocean Visions, an international research and solutions consortium.
As founding director of both initiatives, Emanuele Di Lorenzo, professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, pairs graduate students with faculty at Georgia Tech and beyond — and leads a consortium of leading academic and oceanographic research institutions working with private sector and public interest organizations.
In May 2021, Di Lorenzo led the 2021 Ocean Visions Summit, held virtually across campuses on four continents, to develop roadmaps for solving ocean challenges. A month later, on World Oceans Day, the United Nations endorsed Ocean Visions’ new “Global Ecosystem for Ocean Solutions” program to “establish a vibrant, global ocean solutions community” to create “equitable, durable, and scalable ocean-based solutions for climate change and ocean grand challenges.”
Finding the Meaning in Mindfulness
Paul Verhaeghen, professor in the Georgia Tech School of Psychology, has long studied the data and evidence of what meditation changes within the body and brain for those seeking inner peace. He shared a look into this work when he published his 2017 book, Presence: How Mindfulness and Meditation Shape Your Brain, Mind, and Life.
Now, Verhaeghen is expanding those findings, thanks to a two-year $100,000 grant from the Mind & Life Institute.
The new grant, which Verheaghen shares with Shelley Aikman, professor at the University of North Georgia, will use everyday momentary assessments to chart day-by-day changes in a mindfulness intervention — from attention control to prosocial attitudes, as well as the causal structure of these changes.
Mindfulness meditation seems to have effects on a wide variety of things: attention, stress, the immune system, a sense of well-being, and positive emotions on depression and anxiety, Verhaeghen notes. “And that's true for healthy adults, and it also is true for clinical populations — so trials that have been run, clinical trials, suggest that there are very good effects there. They're just as good as standard treatment.”
A Robotic Assistant for the Marines
In keeping with Georgia Tech's focus on catalyzing research that amplifies impact and cultivates a sense of well-being, the Aerospace, Transportation, and Advanced Systems Laboratory at Georgia Tech Research Institute recently designed a robotic assistant for the Marines that could reduce costs by automating repetitive tasks and handling potentially dangerous responsibilities.
The four-wheeled robot, called ARTI, is specifically designed to perform autonomous inventory management tasks at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia. Using sensor feedback and onboard software, ARTI creates maps of warehouse interiors and autonomously navigates through those spaces while avoiding stationary and moving objects. ARTI also uses radio-frequency identification technology — electromagnetic mechanisms that identify and track tags attached to objects — to determine the presence of specific assets on its routes.
With its small size, ARTI can also fit under the Marines' large vehicle assets and take pictures of vehicle undercarriages that inform Marine technicians about potential issues or items that need to be repaired. ARTI is also able to perform daily inventory checks with speed and precision, potentially saving money by providing the Marines with a better awareness of assets' locations and repair needs.
Understanding and Leveraging Vibrations and Waves in the Human Skull-Brain System
An interdisciplinary team of researchers from Georgia Tech is working to stimulate the development of novel medical imaging and therapy techniques that may have profound impact in areas such as diagnosis and treatment of brain tumors, detection of traumas and skull-related defects, mapping of the brain function, and neurostimulation. The research could also have implications on ultrasound-based blood-brain barrier openings for drug delivery, which may be critical for the management and treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The group includes Professors Alper Erturk and Costas Arvanitis from the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and Professor Brooks Lindsey from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory University and Georgia Tech. They have been researching a broad range of frequencies, spanning from low frequency vibrations and moderate frequency guided waves to high frequencies employed in brain imaging and therapy, with the hope of developing new treatment options. The project involves multiple computational and experimental tracks and has received $2 million in funding from the National Science Foundation.
mRNA Treatment Shows Promise for Stopping Flu and Covid-19
With a relatively minor genetic change, a new treatment developed by researchers at Georgia Tech and Emory University appears to stop replication of both flu viruses and the virus that causes Covid-19. The treatment could be delivered to the lungs via a nebulizer, making it easy for patients to administer at home.
The therapy is based on a type of CRISPR gene editing. The team used mRNA technology to code for a protein called Cas13a that destroys parts of the RNA genetic code that viruses use to replicate in lung cells. It was developed by Professor Philip Santangelo’s lab in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.
“In our drug, the only thing you have to change to go from one virus to another is the guide strand — one sequence of RNA. That's it,” Santangelo said. “We went from flu to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. They're incredibly different viruses. And we were able to do that very, very rapidly by just changing a guide.”
The guide strand is a map that basically tells the Cas13a protein where to attach to the virus’ RNA and begin to destroy it. Working with collaborators at the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, and Kennesaw State University, Santangelo’s team tested its approach against flu in mice and SARS-CoV-2 in hamsters. In both cases, the sick animals recovered.
Their results are reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Bernard F. Schutz Elected as Fellow of the Royal Society
School of Physics Adjunct Professor Bernard F. Schutz is one of the founding fathers of multimessenger astronomy.
In the 1980s, he began work that laid the analytical foundation for data interpretation of gravitational waves, even though gravitational waves were still in the realm of theory at the time, and the detectors needed to find them weren’t yet invented. He served as a founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) and helped spark the creation of the Center for Relativistic Astrophysics at Georgia Tech.
Also a professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University, Schutz has been elected as a fellow to the Royal Society, the United Kingdom’s national academy of sciences. It is the world’s oldest independent scientific academy. He joins a number of distinguished individuals in his scientific discipline — Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Michael Faraday, to name a few — as a Royal Society fellow.
School of Public Policy Study Shows Artificial Intelligence Can Beat Human Experts in Discovering Attitudes on Electric Vehicle Charging
Omar Asensio’s most recent work uses artificial intelligence (AI) tools to analyze incentives and behavior in electric vehicle mobility and resource conservation in cities. In January 2021, the School of Public Policy assistant professor published an article demonstrating significant innovation in the use of AI to discover behavior failures in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Asensio’s team showed that transformer-based deep learning could dig into reviews of electric vehicle charging stations and discover topics of consumer discussion automatically.
The approach was used to detect problems in government service delivery nationwide, including in rural and underserved communities. In some cases, the models did better than expert human annotators in labeling the conversations. Why is this important? The advances demonstrated in Asensio’s work bolster the case that machine learning tools could uniquely address the need for real-time consumer intelligence related to electric mobility. Such improvements are significant because of the unique role charging infrastructure plays in supporting the sale of electric vehicles, an expanding market seen as a critical tool to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. According to Asensio and his team, the notable advances also have broader implications for public policy work in general. “The extent of this improvement could significantly accelerate automated research evaluation using large-scale consumer data for performance assessment and regional policy analysis at a scale that has not been previously possible,” the team wrote in the paper.
ISyE Alumnus Commands SpaceX Crew-2 Mission to International Space Station
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough, who graduated from Georgia Tech with a master's degree in operations research in 1998, is currently orbiting the Earth about every 90 minutes aboard the International Space Station (ISS), 250 miles above the planet. Kimbrough is in the midst of a mission that’s expected to bring him home later in Fall 2021. He launched to space from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on April 23, 2021, aboard a SpaceX rocket.
According to NASA, Kimbrough and the Crew-2 astronauts, who include American Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Akihiko Hoshide, and the European Space Agency’s Thomas Pesquet, are using microgravity to conduct hundreds of science experiments that cannot be performed on Earth.
The team is also performing maintenance on the ISS during their stay. Kimbrough and Pesquet conducted three spacewalks this summer to install two new solar arrays on the ISS that supply the station with power.
Kimbrough was selected to be an astronaut in 2004. He has flown to space three times. Prior to the current mission, he logged a total of 189 days in orbit and conducted six spacewalks. In addition to his degree from the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, he holds a B.S. in aerospace engineering from the U.S. Military Academy. He’s one of 14 Georgia Tech alumni who have launched to space.
Ultra-Low-Cost Hearing Aid Could Address Age-Related Hearing Loss Worldwide
Using a device that could be built with a dollar’s worth of open-source parts and a 3D-printed case, researchers want to help the hundreds of millions of older people worldwide who can’t afford existing hearing aids to address their age-related hearing loss.
The ultra-low-cost, proof-of-concept device known as LoCHAid, featured in the journal PLOS ONE, is designed to be easily manufactured and repaired in locations where conventional hearing aids are priced beyond the reach of most citizens. The minimalist device is expected to meet most of the World Health Organization’s targets for hearing aids aimed at mild-to-moderate age-related hearing loss. The prototypes built so far look like wearable music players instead of a traditional behind-the-ear hearing aid.
The challenge we set for ourselves was to build a minimalist hearing aid, determine how good it would be, and ask how useful it would be to the millions of people who could use it. The need is obvious because conventional hearing aids cost a lot and only a fraction of those who need them have access.
-Saad Bhamla, Assistant Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering