L to R: SHINE student Luis, Professor Nuzzo, SHINE student Tristan and Subhajit Chowdhury (Ph.D. student mentor.)
Professor Pierluigi Nuzzo’s electrical engineering lab may not look like a conventional STEM lab. But that’s because neither test tubes nor white coats are necessary for the kind of research he and his team are doing. Instead, Professor Nuzzo, Ph.D. students Subhajit Dutta Chowdhury and Yinghua Hu, and SHINE students Tristan and Luis have all they need to do research on their laptops. Nuzzo’s team is researching and developing tools for the design of “cyber-physical systems" (CPSs) and “embedded systems,” both of which are mechanisms that monitor, streamline, and control the physical and software components of Internet computing via algorithms. While the relationship between the Internet and its users allows for much advancement and innovation, it also is vulnerable to nefarious forces like hackers who would exploit these connections. We as a society are only beginning to realize the crucial importance of the type of engineering Professor Nuzzo has been doing for years. By sharing it with the upcoming generation of engineers like these SHINE students, Professor Nuzzo shares the broader impacts of his research and protects our future from hackers, especially as cyber-physical systems – like autonomous cars, for instance – become more commonplace.
Professor Nuzzo's SHINE students, Luis and Tristan, are learning to research and experiment with writing code on MATLAB, the computing program all SHINE students were introduced to last week. But the lessons in Nuzzo’s lab not only relate to physical and software computing. The labmates also take opportunities to compare the linguistic conventions of the various languages they speak. A recent discussion saw Professor Nuzzo launch into the Latin etymology of the word “terra” in Italian, his native language. Luis, a student selected for sponsorship by the TELACU Education Foundation, shared his knowledge of the word’s derivation in Spanish. And Tristan, who attends the French-immersion program at International School of Los Angeles, explained the derivation of the word in French. While such discussions of linguistic multimodalities might seem more suited to humanities topics, the type of transdisciplinary thinking displayed by the labmates mirrors the innovative engineering approaches that Nuzzo uses every day in his lab. These adaptive and flexible thinkers will be making sure our technological future is as secure in its connections as it is innovative.