Tackling Some of Science's Toughest
Challenges In Reverse
At first glance, the
following tasks may not seem that similar:
- Detecting cancer in its early stages
- Understanding earthquakes
- Locating objects in a cluttered environment
But a unique new center unites researchers
who undertake these problems and more, using a common method of
research inverse theory.
The Inverse Problems Center at Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute (IPRPI) has drawn together an interdisciplinary
group of researchers with a common interest in dealing with such
critical issues all using inverse theory.
IPRPI at Rensselaer
The field of inverse problems is a vast scientific area in which
Rensselaer has a significant, high-quality, well-established scientific
IPRPI comprises distinguished researchers
in such varied fields as:
- Mechanical Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
A broad range of application areas are being
addressed by IPRPI, including:
- Medical imaging
- Synthetic aperture radar
- Ocean acoustics
The impact of IPRPI will also reach far through
members' development of specialized software and publications that
are shared with the international inverse problems community.
With inverse problems, scientists observe
an effect and work to determine the cause; the ultimate goal is
to find objects and/or their material or biological properties that
cannot be directly measured.
In this exciting field, scientific challenges include:
- Modeling of the physical problem
- Creating new mathematics for analysis of the model
- Identifying appropriate (often large) and/or rich data sets
- Working with scientific computations and visualization aids
- Undertaking experimental verification
Some approaches are based on effective use
of a mathematical model in order to make optimal use of the data;
other approaches involve model-blind "data mining" methods.
Since inverse problems are concerned with
the processing of data and extraction of relevant information, the
field is considered part of Information Technology.
Among those problems addressed within
Some are at the most basic scientific
- Finding properties of the earth's substructure
from seismic measurements
- Determining material properties of mechanical or biological systems
Other problems focus on direct applications:
- Finding tumors in biological tissue
- Locating sources of heart malfunction distinguishing abnormal from normal tissue
- Identifying fault locations in earthquake active regions
- Establishing the integrity of bridge embankments
- Locating objects concealed by vegetation cover
- Locating mines in the sea environment
In all these cases, it is either not possible
or not desirable to make direct measurements.
A great community
Dr. Joyce McLaughlin, a distinguished
inverse problems expert, directs the IPRPI center.
A well-known national and international lecturer,
McLaughlin has assembled an outstanding team of Rensselaer faculty
with interests in a variety of scientific challenges that are investigated
using inverse problems.
Among them are journal editors, members of
national and international committees, and other noted researchers
with extensive international experience.
The community of inverse problems researchers
is an international one; therefore, the center aims to recruit visitors
and establish exchanges of young researchers from Europe, Australia,
Hong Kong, and China to participate in IPRPI activities.
An active Center
IPRPI is an active center that provides a global focal point for
the inverse problems community.
Ongoing activities include:
- A semester-long seminar
- Workshops and conferences featuring prominent
guest speakers from Rensselaer and other outstanding academic
- Collaboration with long-term visitors
and other academic and industrial colleagues
A major goal
A major goal of IPRPI is to offer strong early career opportunities
- Postdoctoral researchers
- Young faculty members throughout the center
The objectives of this educational component
are to advance the scientific health of the discipline, as well
as to contribute to the renewal of the scientific/engineering workforce
engaged in this cutting edge research.
Funding is provided by:
- National Science Foundation
- National Institutes of Health
- Office of Naval Research
- Air Force Office of Scientific Research
For more information on the Inverse
Problems Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, please contact
a member of our staff:
Erica Walz Sparrow, IPRPI Assistant
(518) 276-4824 (fax)
Dr. Joyce McLaughlin, IPRPI
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, N.Y. 12180 USA
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