Distinguished lecture series to focus on cyber-physical systems

This fall, the Department of Computer Science & Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis is holding a five-part lecture series on cyber-physical systems, a topic increasingly recognized as key to the future competitiveness of U.S. industry.

Cyber-physical systems are characterized by the tight coordination between computational resources and the physical systems they control. Catalin Roman, PhD, WUSTL’s Harold B. and Adelaide G. Welge Professor of computer science, says patient monitoring and automated building design are examples of the types of applications that benefit from this engineering advance.

“With today’s technology,” Roman says, “we can embed networked sensors in a patient’s clothing that will continuously monitor vital signs and send data via wireless connections to a highly personalized software program that will raise an alarm if the patient’s health starts to deteriorate.”

“In buildings,” he says, “networked sensors and actuators can be used to automatically adjust room temperatures, lights, and window shades to coordinate with utility companies to shift electricity usage to off-peak hours when possible, and to provide building occupants with immediate personalized feedback on their energy usage.”

“Research in cyber-physical systems is interdisciplinary and closely integrates computing and intelligent controls with other engineering disciplines as well as with the physical and life sciences,” Roman says.

All of the talks will be held Fridays at 11 a.m. in Busch Hall, Room 100. The talks are free and open to the public. For more information, visit the department’s colloquia site.

The schedule follows:

Sept. 24. Paulo Yabuada, PhD, an associate professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), will discuss work at UCLA’s CyPhyLab. In a talk titled “Cyber-Physical Systems From a Control Theory Vantage Point” he will describe ways cyber-physical systems allow designers to bypass the more troublesome aspects of traditional control-system design.

Oct. 8. While cyber-physical systems that incorporate wireless sensor networks offer exciting technical possibilities, several systems operating simultaneously in an open environment might be unstable or vulnerable to tampering. In a talk titled “*-aware Software for Cyber Physical Systems” (the * is a wild card that serves as a placeholder for any term or terms in Google search), John Stankovic, PhD, the BP America Professor of computer science at the University of Virginia, describes solutions for these emerging problems.

Nov. 12. Edward A. Lee, PhD, the Robert S. Pepper Distinguished Professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley and director of Chess (Center for Hybrid and Embedded Software Systems), raises an even deeper problem in a talk titled “Computing Needs Time.” He asks whether today’s computing technologies provide an adequate foundation for cyber-physical systems because time and timing play such an important role in physical systems, while software takes account of the passage of time, but only very indirectly.

Nov. 19. Raj Rajkumar, PhD, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, designs predictable wireless sensor networks called Firefly networks. One of the biggest installations he has worked on connects the many sensors installed for student projects on the Carnegie Mellon campus over the years. Called Sensor Andrew (for both Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon), the network keeps track of people on campus.

Dec. 10. Insup Lee, PhD, the Cecilia Fitler Moore Professor of computer science at the University of Pennsylvania, will bring the series to a close with a talk on “Medical Cyber-Physical Systems.”