BEACON is strongly interested in international research collaborations. While BEACON cannot export research funding abroad, BEACONites can participate in collaborative projects, with work in the U.S. funded by BEACON in collaboration with work funded from other sources in other countries. BEACON can also bring international researchers to BEACON for visits to further such programs.
Examples of BEACON’s international research projects
BEACON researchers collaborate with New Zealanders to model, apply ideas from research on epigenetics
In August, 2011, Dr. Oliver Chikumbo, of Scion, a Crown Research Institute in Rotorua, New Zealand, spent a month in BEACON (at MSU), collaborating with Profs. Erik Goodman and Kalyanmoy Deb. Goodman and Chikumbo have been collaborating on use of genetic algorithms for solution of high-dimensionality and multi-objective land use problems for about twelve years. Inspired by research on epigenetic mechanisms being done under the direction of Sir Peter Gluckman at the Liggins Institute in Auckland, Chikumbo suggested to Deb and Goodman that they apply some of these epigenetic ideas to their evolutionary computation approach for solving land use problems, which typically involve multi-objective optimization with dozens of options each year over a 10-50-year timeframe for hundreds or thousands of plots. After a month of intensive collaboration, Chikumbo returned to New Zealand with startlingly good results, which were received enthusiastically by various stakeholders. They allowed stakeholders to make tradeoffs in decision making in achieving the “triple bottom line”—spanning economic, environmental and social elements (see figure below). BEACON has already funded a continuation of this collaboration for 2012-13, and Scion is also funding two NZ graduate students for the project. Following a series of videoconferences between Liggins, Scion and BEACON, a visit of BEACON scientists to Prof. Gluckman and his colleagues at the Liggins Institute in NZ for intensive collaboration is planned for later in 2012.
China’s Greenhouses of the Future—Evolutionary Controls to Lower Environmental/Economic Costs
China has ambitious plans to design and build a new generation of greenhouses, helping to supply its year-round needs for fresh vegetables in a way that is economically viable and environmentally friendly. Several projects have been funded under the leadership of Prof. Lihong Xu, by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and under China’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan, which now includes this BEACON collaboration. Prof. Xu spends a part of each year in residence at BEACON, and several of his students have also been visiting scholars in BEACON, working with Prof. Erik Goodman, BEACON’s Director. BEACON graduate student Jose Llera-Ortiz and BEACON postdoctoral researcher Prakarn Unachak are now working with Tongji University graduate student Chenwen Zhu (a visiting scholar in BEACON) to develop a sophisticated model of the greenhouse internal environment and a crop model, which are both needed to enable implementing the “Multi-Objective Compatible Controller,” the evolutionary methodology that the team has been developing. A new greenhouse is nearly complete on the campus of Tongji University, in which the new control methodology can be parameterized and tested. The team is collaborating on the plant physiology modeling with Prof. David Kramer’s lab at MSU, the team of Profs. Jeremy Harbinson (who recently visited BEACON) and Ep Heuvelink (University of Waginengen, Netherlands) and Prof. Weihong Luo (Nanjing Agricultural University, China), all of whom are experts in plant physiology and its real-time monitoring.
Evolutionary Algorithms for Enhanced Ultra-Wideband Microwave Imaging of Breast Cancer Tumors
Under the leadership of Prof. Meng Yao, of East China Normal University (Shanghai, China), who is visiting in BEACON for part of each year under funding from his grants, a BEACON team, including Profs. Jack Deller and Erik Goodman and graduate student Blair Fleet, is working on generating images from the microwave data collected by Prof. Yao’s team at ECNU and Shanghai’s First People’s Hospital. Microwave imaging of tumors in breast tissue is difficult because microwaves do not normally penetrate deep into the tissue and reflect at levels that are easily resolved. However, a novel antenna design that matches the impedance at the skin boundary enables better penetration, and a frequency-stepping pulse sequence allows the depth of reflections due to changes in dielectric constant to be determined. The signal-to-noise ratio is low, however, so the plan is to use evolutionary algorithms to find suitable classifiers to enhance the tumor images in a way that is useful for diagnosis. BEACON Ph.D. student Blair Fleet, who has recently won an NSF Graduate Fellowship to continue this work, is first constructing models of the signal propagation and reflection in the breast tissue, then will use those models for initial exploration of possible schemes for distinguishing cancerous tissue from normal tissue and tissue containing abnormal but non-cancerous structures.
Applying the Innovization Principle to Improve Evolutionary Design of Central Pattern Generators
A team of BEACON visitors has begun collaborating with BEACON Profs. Erik Goodman, Xiaobo Tan and Phil McKinley to explore issues in evolutionary robotics. The team includes Prof. Kisung Seo, of Seokyeong University (Seoul, Korea), Prof. Zhun Fan, of Shantou University (China), and Dr. Chengju Liu, a postdoctoral researcher from Tongji University (Shanghai, China). The team is working on evolution of robotic gaits, but working with joint-space central pattern generators. Team members will visit BEACON for collaboration as their schedules permit, and carry on the bulk of the work with their own graduate students in China and Korea. BEACON’s Prof. Kalyanmoy Deb, the inventor of the innovization principle, will also assist in guidance of the team in its application. Research proposals to support extension of the initial work are being prepared for submission in China and Korea.