With Cornell's leading edge research, history of innovation, commitment to New York, and deep roots in every aspect of NYC's tech ecosystem, combined with the Technion's recognized world leadership in technology commercialization, the NYC Tech Campus is poised to foster a new tech center for a new century in NYC.
The Internet may have been built to serve as an information highway, but our emotions often hitch a ride. Computer scientist Claire Cardie seeks to understand this "softer" side of the networked world. As a professor of Computer Science and Information Science, she leads a group of researchers who comb through online text for evidence of users' "opinions" – Cardie's catch-all term for our beliefs, judgments, and gut feelings – about issues, people, and goods and services.
Cardie is also a co-founder of Appinions, a New York City-based startup that monitors, gathers, and analyzes opinions across platforms. The company uses sophisticated computer algorithms to pick out subjective words, and gauge their power and meaning. Using a similar approach, Cardie and Cornell psychologist Jeff Hancock have developed software to spot "opinion spam" – fake online reviews of products or services planted by sellers to promote their own offerings at the expense of competitors. The methodology can also be used identify opinion makers and chart networks of influence.
Unsurprisingly, Cardie's work has attracted many inquiries from manufacturers, public-relations firms, politicians, and others with a stake in understanding (and perhaps managing) public perceptions. News organizations have also expressed an interest: The Economist is already using Appinions' technology to power its Opinion Cloud, an interactive graphical representation of the public mood on various issues.
While Cardie's work has generated a lot of attention in the commercial world, she also sees it as a tool for federal, state, and local government agencies – a way to increase citizen participation in decision-making. Along with Cornell law professor Cynthia Farina and others, Cardie is developing the Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative, which recently launched a pilot public-input platform, dubbed the Regulation Room, for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Cardie envisions the NYC Tech Campus not just as a research hub but also as a "showroom" and incubator space for connective media startups that will invigorate industry, technology, and government. "We have an incredibly strong and broad-thinking faculty in engineering and related disciplines," she says. "It's a nice two-way street that no other place could provide."
Michal Lipson, an associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a 2010 MacArthur Foundation "Genius" fellow, is one of the pioneers of the rarified world of nanophotonics. "I'm working now on ways to manipulate and control the flow of light in ways that nobody thought would be possible," she says.
In the quite foreseeable future, Lipson says, people will power their computers with photonics instead of electricity. Photonics will also be used to facilitate communication between devices without the need for satellites, cell towers, or other intermediaries. The advantages of the switch from electronics to optics are many, she says, including security, sustainability (optics use much less power than electronics), smaller size, and greater speed and accuracy.
Lipson's lab, which receives funding from Intel, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Air Force, among other sources, aims to develop an all-optical circuit on which both passive and active components can be integrated on a single chip. She and her team have already made remarkable advances with silicon photonic circuits in particular, performing tasks that have traditionally required electronics. Nearly all of the patents secured by Lipson's lab have already been licensed to start-up companies.
Recently, Lipson has collaborated with fellow Cornell professor Antje Baeumner of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to develop an optical sensor that can detect very small amounts of bacteria in a sizable sample. This breakthrough has the potential to speed detection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospitals and in patients, before the bacteria have a chance to multiply and spread.
Lipson, who is just 41, joined Cornell's faculty in 2001, after receiving her doctorate from MIT in Material Science. A graduate of the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, she is a passionate supporter of Cornell's (and Technion's) plan for a NYC Tech Campus. "I would absolutely love for this to be a reality - I am crossing my fingers," Lipson says. "All the major industries interested in photonics are largely located in and near New York City—Verizon, banks, IBM, to name a few."
Ken Birman has fond memories of a few weeks in the late 1990s when "it took a couple of random guys from Ithaca to boot up the New York Stock Exchange every morning."
Birman, Cornell's N. Rama Rao Professor of Computer Science, specializes in high-assurance distributed systems such as the one that ran most of the NYSE for nearly a decade. His work has also been used in French air traffic control and in managing U.S. Navy cruisers and destroyers.
These days, however, Birman's head is in the cloud – in cloud computing, where the combination of centralized storage and ubiquitous access spells huge benefits in productivity, and big hang-ups over reliability.
Every time a bank or brokerage advertises a breakthrough in convenience, "you open the newspaper and read about 25,000 people whose financial information was disclosed to someone in Russia," Birman says.
To help sensitive industries overcome cloud-phobia, Birman is working with Cisco to cut down on the glitches of online audio and video. More trustworthy routers, he says, will produce better results for less money. That would be a win-win for New York's media, health care, and finance companies – and for New Yorkers, who are some of the world's biggest consumers of wireless content.
For more than four decades, Don Greenberg has been a powerhouse of creative energy in the world of computer graphics.
On Cornell's Ithaca campus, Greenberg teaches all over the place – in the College of Engineering, the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, and the Johnson Graduate School of Management, too. His CV is equally wide-ranging: over the years, Greenberg has led and guided efforts to (among other things) build tools for medical imaging and virtual surgery, develop "electronic paper" screens and touch-sensitive tablets, and plot the topography of the moon.
In addition to his role in creating and running Cornell's Computer-Aided Design Instructional Facility, Greenberg founded the Science and Technology Center for Computer Graphics and Scientific Visualization—a five-university consortium that includes Brown University, the California Institute of Technology, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Utah.
At Cornell, his former students have gone on to professorships at the finest universities, to creative roles at leading design and architecture firms, and to executive jobs at such high-profile companies as Autodesk, Dreamworks, Pixar, and Sony Pictures Imageworks. Six of Greenberg's students have received Academy Awards for technical accomplishment, and five have garnered the much-coveted ACM SIGGRAPH Award, as has Greenberg himself.
All that is in addition to his substantial work in the field of sustainable architecture and mechanical engineering – a cause he continues to advance in trailblazing plans for the NYC Tech Campus. Greenberg, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Computer Graphics, is especially excited nowadays about the use of 3-D simulation as a design tool for buildings that will have a symbiotic relationship with their surroundings, reducing energy consumption as well as environmental harm. He predicts that 3-D simulation will soon be used to retrofit and improve existing structures, signaling a boom for city-based architectural, engineering, and construction businesses.
With Kevin Pratt, ground-breaking architect and assistant professor at Cornell, Greenberg shares a vision of the NYC Tech Campus as its own ecosystem – a symbol and working model for sustainable built environments based on cutting-edge technology
Kevin Pratt, assistant professor in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, has his sights set on the next generation of building simulation tools. With funding from the Department of Energy, Pratt and his researchers are working on ways to use parametric simulation to manipulate an imagined structure's shape, materials, and window arrangement, etc., generating accurate estimates of energy use for many permutations of design and engineering choices.
Up to now, Pratt says, simulation has largely been used by mechanical engineers to optimize the mechanical systems of buildings whose architecture has already been determined. Sustainable construction demands interdisciplinary collaboration in order to "push simulation early into the design process," he says.
With another team of interdisciplinary researchers, Pratt is trying to construct a device capable of generating energy from slight wind vibrations. While engineers build the power electronics and oscillators, Pratt and his architecture students look for ways to change wind flow through architecture, and then to incorporate the technology into building design.
"Using smart technologies," Pratt says, "we'll be able to have a built environment that's aware of its uses of resources and manages them in an optimal fashion."
As a graduate of Columbia University and a longtime architecture critic for Time Out New York and Artforum, Pratt is well-connected in New York City's architectural and engineering communities. He looks upon the city as a hugely promising test bed for methods of making buildings more sustainable by retrofitting their infrastructure.
"Once you understand simulation, computation, and how to drive their power into the built environment, there's an opportunity for that expertise to propagate," says Pratt. "New York City is a place where intelligence is applied to problems in specific ways."
"The real question," he says, "is how we take all the data we're now able to generate, turn it into information, and use that information in a way that enables us to manage resources and make good decisions. I think management of data and resources is going to be that critical piece of the built environment in the 21st century. And New York City is well-positioned to be a leader in that, exporting intelligence to the world."
"Buildings are really dumb with regard to what's going on outside," says Alan Hedge, an internationally known expert in workplace design and ergonomics. And even dumber, he adds, when it comes to knowledge of their occupants. "Even so-called ‘intelligent buildings' track only a few environmental variables," Hedge points out.
Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University, is conducting research to improve the health, comfort, and performance of people in workplaces through advances in ventilation, lighting, acoustics, energy, ergonomics, and complex monitoring systems. He has been an integral part of several major New York-based initiatives, including the Indoor Environmental Quality Center, which applies this kind of research to the problem of creating jobs and economic opportunity.
Hedge takes particular interest in the improved sensing technology that will become possible with the development of a new microchip-based wireless system currently being pioneered by Intel. In the not-so-distant future, he envisions hundreds of thousands of sensors in a single building, all talking to a controller about the building's conditions and needs.
New York City would be a wonderful place to carry on this research, in Hedge's view. "The variety and scale of buildings in small areas would make a phenomenal test bed for research on improving the built environment," he says.
An assistant professor in Cornell's College of Human Ecology, Juan Hinestroza leads a team of scientists whose research merges textile and fiber processing with nanoscale science to create new materials for clothing and medical supplies, among other applications.
In 2008, Hinestroza and Aaron Strickland of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences founded iFyber to commercialize their joint work. Their technology can be used to deposit nanocoatings (with nanoscale precision) on natural and synthetic fibers, changing their properties in valuable ways. They are currently working on a material capable of detecting leaks in chemical warfare suits (for the Air Force), and on novel antibacterial wound dressings and surgical sutures (for the Navy).
"The type of work we do is only possible at a place like Cornell," Hinestroza says, "where you have this unique merging of disciplines…where a fabric designer can interact easily with a chemist or a materials scientist."
Hinestroza's research has been covered by CNN, Wired, ABC News, and the New York Times (as well as Nature Nanotechnology and Materials Today). In addition to their scientific endeavors, Hinestroza and his researchers are involved in outreach efforts to increase minority-group participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Rainu Kaushal, MD, MPH is the founding Director of the Center for Healthcare Informatics and Policy (CHIP) at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Kaushal views information technology as the cornerstone of the healthcare system and has demonstrated that successful medical technologies can foster significant improvements in healthcare.
CHIP brings together several departments within Weill Cornell Medical College to collaborate on a shared vision of improving the health care system through informatics and health care policy. Opportunities for further collaboration with Cornell’s new Tech Campus are plentiful. Dr. Kaushal has already assembled an extensive team of faculty, including health services researchers, informaticists, biostatisticians and public policy analysts. CHIP engages in research, education, technology innovation, and technology implementation and optimization. "Whenever you're able to bring closely together collaborators from multiple disciplines, the chances of creating innovative technology solutions with the potential to improve healthcare goes up tremendously," she says.
Patients as well as providers can benefit from investments in health IT, according to Kaushal. Better information management, she says, holds the potential not only to improve quality but also to reduce costs of healthcare. This benefits physicians and hospitals, but also patients themselves who can take a more active role in managing their own care.
For Kaushal, the NYC Tech Campus represents a potential quantum leap forward in collaborative research among computer scientists, social scientists, and engineers. "Weill Cornell is an outstanding medical college," she says. "Cornell University has a top engineering college. If you combine this expertise, the capacity to develop successful and innovative healthcare technologies is huge."