Portuguese Student at MIT Develops Risk-Assessment Methodology That Might Help Prevent Tunnel Accidents

Wednesday, 27 January 2010 18:50
Rita Sousa

In 2000 and 2001, the northern Portuguese city of Porto experienced three tunnel accidents. One woman died in the 2001 incident, when a tunnel that was part of the city’s Metro system collapsed under her house. Helping to prevent these kinds of accidents motivated Rita Sousa’s doctoral research in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) for the past several years.

Sousa’s work – which was supported by FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia) and in part by the MIT Portugal Program, and which culminated in her successful dissertation defense in December 2009 – led to the compiling of what could be the most comprehensive database of tunnel accidents to date, and the development of a novel methodology for assessing tunnel project risks.

In particular, Sousa’s model predicts changes in geology that could steer designers and builders toward safer materials and construction methods for tunnels (including for high-speed rail systems, an important area of MIT Portugal’s Transportation Systems research).


Bioengineering Co-Director Dava Newman Named "Woman to Watch" in Technology

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 12:17

Second MIT Portugal Bioengineering Faculty Member Honored in Two Years

Prof. Dava Newman, Co-Director of MIT Portugal Program’s Bioengineering Systems program, has been named by Mass High Tech, a New England technology journal, as one of its 11 “Women to Watch” for 2010. 

Prof. Dava NewmanProf. Newman, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems and Director of MIT’s Technology and Policy Program, focuses on a range of interdisciplinary research projects, including biomechanics, systems analysis, biomedical engineering and advanced space suit design. Her MIT Portugal research includes a hybrid human-machine system in which exoskeletons, sensors and electronic textiles are used to improve locomotion in individuals with mobility and musculoskeletal disabilities.

This is the second year in a row that a member of the MIT Portugal’s Bioengineering faculty was honored by Mass High Tech. In January 2009, Prof. Sangeeta Bhatia – whose laboratory focuses on the applications of micro- and nanotechnologies to tissue repair and regeneration – was also named to the “Women to Watch” list, which honors women who are deemed to be leaders in high-tech.

Prof. Newman will be profiled in the newspaper’s March 17 edition and acknowledged at an event held later that week.

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A Star-Turn on PBS's NOVA scienceNOW

Prof. Newman was also profiled recently on one of the premier science programs in the United States, Public Broadcasting's NOVA scienceNOW. Watch video clips on the "Secret Lives of Scientists" webpage, where she talks about the excitement involved in being an aerospace engineer -- and even reveals who her favorite astronaut is.


MIT Professor (and Former Astronaut) Gives Students a Glimpse into Future Mars Missions

Tuesday, 19 January 2010 19:28

Hundreds of Portuguese high school students were recently given a distinct privilege: a look at what future Mars missions could look like, as described by former Payload Specialist Astronaut Laurence R. Young.

Prof. Young, Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and founding director of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute in Houston, Texas, spoke at the Escola Secundária de Camões in Lisbon as part of the MIT Portugal Program “MIT Professors Visit Schools” collaboration with Ciência Viva, an organization that promotes science and technology in Portugal. The series, which has reached more than 2,000 students so far, has sent more than a dozen MIT faculty to speak at schools across Portugal.

Student Says, “I’m Going to Mars”

MIT Prof. Laurence Young (Courtesy: Alexandre Almeida/Kameraphoto)Prof. Young’s talk at the school on January 12, 2010, was titled “Going to Mars with Artificial Gravity.” A member of the MIT faculty team participating in MIT Portugal’s bioengineering focus area, Prof. Young highlighted the physiological risks for the human crews that will attempt the Mars mission sometime in the coming decades. These include exposure to radiation, bone loss, and elevated risk of cancer and psychological disorders. But he also sketched the background of Mars exploration, from the ancient Babylonians to NASA’s Mars rovers – and reminded the students that the Age of Exploration started in Portugal, with Vasco da Gama and others.

The audience, which filled the school’s auditorium beyond capacity, was inspired at Prof. Young’s certainty that a Mars mission was within the reach of humanity, most likely through an international consortium. After the talk, a 16-year-old student was quoted by Portuguese radio’s Antena 1 as saying, “I’m going to Mars. I’m going to be the first Portuguese astronaut to go to Mars!”

For his own part, Prof. Young said, "The enthusiasm, knowledge, and level of interest of the students at the Camões high school in Lisbon was fantastic. It makes it clear that exploration remains a motivator for science education all around the world."

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MIT President Hockfield Talks of Shared Values During Three-Day Visit to Portugal

Monday, 07 December 2009 22:13

In an eventful three-day visit to Portugal Nov. 24-26, 2009, MIT President Susan Hockfield had an opportunity to see first-hand the extent of MIT Portugal Program’s research and education efforts, as well as to express her strong support for the Program, to everyone from Portugal’s Prime Minister, José Sócrates, to other Portuguese officials, MIT alumni, company affiliates of the Program, the news media, and MIT Portugal students and faculty.

MIT Portugal – which was launched in October 2006 – is MIT’s largest international collaboration in Europe, and one of the few wide-ranging partnerships to which the Institute has committed its expertise.


MIT Portugal and Partners Launch Three Leading-Edge Research and Training Networks

Monday, 07 December 2009 09:09

The MIT Portugal Program has partnered with industry, academia and government entities to launch three research and training networks that will link key Program efforts already underway with ongoing initiatives in Portugal – and will help to advance new knowledge, and the application of that knowledge, in sustainable energy systems and electric mobility, the greening of cities, and stem cell engineering.

High-level speakers gathered in Lisbon – at City Hall, the Instituto Superior Técnico, and the Portuguese Oncology Institute (IPO) – to explain the goals of the three new networks and the international nature of the partnerships they involve, during forums held on November 24 and 26, 2009. Among the participants were Portugal’s ministers for health, economy, and science, technology and higher education; municipal leaders from Lisbon and Porto; cancer and stem cell scientists; industry and university officials; MIT Portugal faculty and students; and MIT officials, including MIT President Susan Hockfield and Prof. Ernest Moniz, Director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI). Portugal is a Sustaining Public Member of MITEI, which is a partner in two of the networks.

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