Homage to Steve Connors

The MIT Portugal Program celebrates the life of Steve Connors, who passed away in November 2016, after a 3-year-and-7-month battle with cancer. 

Steve, as a senior energy researcher at the MIT Energy Initiative,  was always fascinated by alternative energy technologies and with finding the best energy solution suitable to each particular situation. Steve worked on projects emphasizing the responsible evolution of regional energy infrastructures throughout the world, and has work in close collaboration with MIT Portugal projects related to Sustainable Cities and more specifically with the Green Islands Project. He championed the notion that––beyond new technologies––communities, whether islands or cities, need to develop new methods to identify sustainable energy pathways to meet society’s needs for real solutions to economic and environmental challenges. In the Green Islands Project he put this thinking into real-world practice with Portuguese researchers and students working with him. 

Steve Connors was also very much involved with the Sustainable Energy Systems PhD Program within the MIT Portugal Program and with its students, whether hosting them at his MIT laboratory or co-supervising their PhD thesis. He was also a frequent visitor, coming often to Portugal for thesis discussions and research meetings.

During the last years, Steve and his wife, Alison Sander, assembled a website that serves as a wonderful testimonial to his passion for life that highlights his contributions to the MIT Portugal Program. On this website you can also celebrate Steve’s life by sharing your own “Steve Stories”.

Steve was a dear, beloved colleague who will be greatly missed.

Steve Connors

The Portuguese Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education visits MIT to strengthen scientific and technological cooperation with the United States

The Portuguese Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor was recently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he met MIT Portugal related students and faculty. The visit was his first stop on a five-day official trip to the United States of America with the objective of ensuring the continuity of relations with key academic and scientific partners and to reinforce the continuity of the scientific and technological cooperation that has marked the relationship between Portugal and the US in recent decades.  At MIT, the Minister was accompanied by the President of Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), Paulo Ferrão, the President of the Portuguese Council of Rectors, António Cunha, the Consul General of Portugal, José Velez Caroço, and both MIT Portugal Directors, Bruce Tidor and Pedro Arezes.

Heitor MIT
During this visit the Portuguese delegation had the opportunity to discuss emergent scientific areas and their potential interactions with the Portuguese Scientific and Technological System. In a meeting hosted by the MIT Portugal Program, it was emphasize how areas including aeronautics, atmospheric chemistry, ocean engineering, renewable energy, sensing systems, and ocean modeling, among others, could be relevant in the context of a collaboration between MIT and the planned Atlantic International Research (AIR) Center. The AIR Center, as an integrative and distributed research platform, has the potential to provide a shared and international environment to support and foster new climate, earth, space and marine research activities, benefiting decision makers, public users, universities and industry, as well as contributing to the retention of highly skilled human resources and to regional growth. In particular, the AIR Center may provide a unique opportunity to drive multilateral cooperation in complex systems engineering and science through an integrative approach to climate and energy, earth, space, and ocean R&D in the Atlantic.

Minister Heitor is now closing the first phase of an assessment for a sound scientific agenda that will bring together private and public partners around the AIR Center. To the President of FCT, Paulo Ferrão, it is very a important assessment of new ideas and scientific alliances to address global international challenges. António Cunha, President of the Portuguese Council of Rectors, also highlighted the enormous opportunity that this represents for collaborations between MIT and Portuguese universities.

Minister Heitor also took this opportunity to interact with students and the Portuguese scientific community at MIT, and to discuss the strategic pillars for the evolution of the MIT Portugal Program that is now in the fourth year of its second phase. The MIT PortugalProgram, an FCT initiative, has been a strategic partnership between Portuguese Universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched in 2006 and renewed in 2013 for an additional 5-year period. With the goal to strengthen the Portugal’s knowledge base and international competitiveness through a strategic investment in people, knowledge and ideas in innovative technology sectors. In 10 years, 3110 candidates have applied to the MIT Portugal doctoral programs, 958 Master and PhDs students have registered at the Portuguese universities and 429 PhD and Masters have graduated. The program also funded 23 projects through FCT and is currently running 3 large scales test-bed projects – led by Portuguese and MIT researchers – and 5 seed projects of exploratory nature at MIT. 

SilicoLife is the World´s 15th most promising biotech startup

SilicoLife

SilicoLife, a biotechnology spinoff created during the first years of the MIT Portugal Program (MPP), was selected as the 15th emerging company that most excites experts in this area.

The Portuguese company added this international distinction to others such as "start-up of the week" by the English technology magazine Wired in 2013 and, in 2015, was distinguished in a report on collaborative innovation published by the World Economic Forum, which highlighted the work done by the company in collaboration with the US giant Invista, the world's largest fiber producer, which owns brands such as Lycra.

In this ranking presented by two specialized magazines "The Digest" and "Nuu", the startup founded in 2010 by Faculty members from the Minho University  and the MIT Portugal Program, SilicoLife is the only company from Portugal.

The list is headed by thirty US companies and also includes representatives from Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands, France, Australia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

SilicoLife creates computational biology solutions for life sciences based on bioinformatics and systems biology. Its main focus is the development and commercialization of optimized microbial strains for the production of specific target compounds such as bio-fuels, food ingredients, or bio-polymers. The objective is to use dedicated mathematical models, robust algorithms, and user-friendly software tools that accelerate and improve microbial strain design and bioprocess optimization, reducing R&D efforts and shortening the time to market of new biotechnology-based products.

Founding Date: 15/04/2010

Founding Members: Isabel Rocha, Miguel Rocha, Bruno Ferreira, Simão Soares, Pedro Evangelista, Paulo Maia, Paulo Vilaça, Rafael Carreira, Hugo Costa

MPP researchers joined the 2016 European Researchers’ Night

The European Researchers' Nights is a Europe-wide public initiative that organizes different events dedicated to popular science and fun learning. All the events took place simultaneously on Friday 30 September, in over 250 cities across Europe and neighbouring countries. These events are a unique opportunity to meet researchers, talk to them, and find out what they really do for society, in an interactive and engaging ways.

Upon an invitation from Ciência Viva and FCT/Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, MPP researchers took the stage at two different locations. On one hand Jorge Lopes, MIT Portugal Transportation Alumnus, along with the Minister of Economy, Manuel Caldeira Cabral; the Secretary of State for Science, technology and Higher Education, Fernanda Rollo; and the President of FCT, Paulo Ferrão, discussed subjects related to Innovation, Economy and Open Science in a conversation led by José Vitor Malheiros at São Pedro de Alcântara. 

On the other hand, at Pavilhão do Conhecimento - Centro Ciência Viva, 168 researchers were committed to share some of their new developments with the Public. 

Webmap was exhibited by Samuel Niza and Alexandre Amado and consists of an online map that shows the evolution of the soil occupation in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon (AML) in 1900 and 1940. With this Webmap it is possible to spatially display the types of crops and different features related to the use of water within the AML and compare it to the existent morphology of the territory.

Dário Silva and Carlos Diogo Henriques represented EnergyOT, a small and powerful device that connects to the internet and analyses the energy consumption of electrical appliances. The device is safe and easy to install with no technician needed and has a high resolution (up to 15 seconds). This tool allows the user to choose the right energy plan for him and consequently save energy and money.

João Serra, Raquel Figueiredo and Rodrigo Silva engaged the visitors with a LED lightning system for developing countries by showing how you can illuminate a house without electricity in underdeveloped countries using a 1,5L bottle of water. During the day it provides natural lighting while the photovoltaic system saves energy in a battery storage. At night, a set of LEDs provide illumination through the bottle. This system has reduced manufacturing costs and is easy to install and maintain.

Henrique Pombeiro represented the project Energy Efficiency at your home, a user engagement platform focused on energy efficiency that provides historical energy consumptions, benchmarks and disaggregated consumption information, resulting in simple and quantifiable tailor-made measures fitted to the consumption profile of each client and that can help them make more efficient choices.

Overall, more than 3000 visited the venue from 7pm until midnight for a fun night of science and culture. The events are supported by the European Commission as part of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, which is an EU programme to boost European research careers.

researchers night 2João Serra - LED lightning system for developing countries Project

MPP Paper recognized in the Sustainability in Energy and Buildings sector

The paper entitled “The multi-detail building archetypes in urban energy modelling” won the Georgios Kazas Award at the 8th International Conference on Sustainability in Energy and Buildings 2016, which took place last week in Turin, Italy. The article was submitted by Claudia Sousa Monteiro, PhD student in Sustainable Energy Systems of the MIT Portugal Program (MPP) and was accepted within the Conference to be published in the open access journal Energy Procedia. The work was also authored by André Pina (IST), Carlos Cerezo (MIT), Christoph Reinhart (MIT) and Paulo Ferrão (IST).

This award was created this year in honour of Georgio Kazas’ memory and distinguishes the best proposals recognising the significant contribution to research made by this paper among the Sustainability in Energy and Buildings sector. The study addresses the importance of taking into consideration different levels of detail in urban energy models through the characterization of building stocks in categories of archetypes, using a neighbourhood in Lisbon as case-study.

In Europe, buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and about 35% of the current building stock is over 50 years old. A significant part of this energy consumption is determined by the buildings’ characteristics. However, cities are complex systems with a diverse and very large number of buildings and, as a consequence, the quantification of energy consumption in the existing building stock requires the characterization of a set of buildings types that may represent most of the built urban environment. It is therefore necessary to limit the number of building types to analyse, in a compromise between feasibility and accuracy. As such, there is a need to establish methods that define sets with limited numbers of building archetypes, but that are still able to represent the entire building stock.

Within the MIT Portugal testbed project SusCity, the researchers developed a new methodology to identify and characterise building archetypes for an effective simplification of the urban built environment. The result is a set of detail dependent archetype tiers, that allow structuring the building stock for the evaluation of urban building energy modelling techniques and their uncertainty. The preliminary results show how much the building stock can be simplified and how many building types should be considered. In particular, it proves how the creation of archetypes depends highly on the level of detail of the considered parameters and the availability of reliable data.  The overall objective will be to develop a complete dataset of building archetypes for Lisbon and a complete urban building energy model in order to evaluate the current energy performance of buildings and neighbourhoods and perform urban retrofitting scenarios towards energy saving strategies.

The MIT Portugal testbed SusCity focuses on creating a data-driven urban model to allow the development of new tools and services in order to improve resource efficiency, reduce environmental impact and contribute to the economic development of urban areas. The main goal is to evaluate the general habitability features of buildings to permit a better management of urban resources and allow the society to make informed choices about the sustainability of buildings.

For more information about the SusCity project: http://www.suscity-project.eu/

Georgio Kazas AwardClaudia Sousa receiving the Georgios Kazas Award