Last yr, Charlene Xia ’17, SM ’20 discovered herself at a crossroads. She was ending up her grasp’s diploma in media arts and sciences from the MIT Media Lab and had simply submitted purposes to doctoral diploma packages. All Xia may do was sit and wait. In the meantime, she narrowed down her profession choices, no matter whether or not she was accepted to any program.
“I had two thoughts: I’m either going to get a PhD to work on a project that protects our planet, or I’m going to start a restaurant,” recollects Xia.
Xia poured over her intensive cookbook assortment, researching worldwide cuisines as she anxiously awaited phrase about her graduate college purposes. She even seemed into the price of a meals truck allow within the Boston space. Just as she began hatching plans to open a plant-based skewer restaurant, Xia obtained phrase that she had been accepted into the mechanical engineering graduate program at MIT.
Shortly after beginning her doctoral research, Xia’s advisor, Professor David Wallace, approached her with an fascinating alternative. MathWorks, a software program firm recognized for creating the MATLAB computing platform, had introduced a brand new seed funding program in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. The program inspired collaborative analysis tasks targeted on the well being of the planet.
“I saw this as a super-fun opportunity to combine my passion for food, my technical expertise in ocean engineering, and my interest in sustainably helping our planet,” says Xia.
Wallace knew Xia could be as much as the duty of taking an interdisciplinary strategy to resolve a problem associated to the well being of the planet. “Charlene is a remarkable student with extraordinary talent and deep thoughtfulness. She is pretty much fearless, embracing challenges in almost any domain with the well-founded belief that, with effort, she will become a master,” says Wallace.
Alongside Wallace and Associate Professor Stefanie Mueller, Xia proposed a venture to foretell and forestall the unfold of illnesses in aquaculture. The group targeted on seaweed farms specifically.
Already in style in East Asian cuisines, seaweed holds super potential as a sustainable meals supply for the world’s ever-growing inhabitants. In addition to its nutritive worth, seaweed combats varied environmental threats. It helps combat local weather change by absorbing extra carbon dioxide within the environment, and may take in fertilizer run-off, protecting coasts cleaner.
As with a lot of marine life, seaweed is threatened by the very factor it helps mitigate in opposition to: local weather change. Climate stressors like heat temperatures or minimal daylight encourage the expansion of dangerous micro organism akin to ice-ice illness. Within days, total seaweed farms are decimated by unchecked bacterial development.
To clear up this downside, Xia turned to the microbiota current in these seaweed farms as a predictive indicator of any menace to the seaweed or livestock. “Our project is to develop a low-cost device that can detect and prevent diseases before they affect seaweed or livestock by monitoring the microbiome of the environment,” says Xia.
The group pairs outdated know-how with the newest in computing. Using a submersible digital holographic microscope, they take a 2D picture. They then use a machine studying system generally known as a neural community to transform the 2D picture right into a illustration of the microbiome current within the 3D surroundings.
“Using a machine learning network, you can take a 2D image and reconstruct it almost in real time to get an idea of what the microbiome looks like in a 3D space,” says Xia.
The software program could be run in a small Raspberry Pi that might be connected to the holographic microscope. To work out tips on how to talk these information again to the analysis group, Xia drew upon her grasp’s diploma analysis.
In that work, beneath the steerage of Professor Allan Adams and Professor Joseph Paradiso within the Media Lab, Xia targeted on creating small underwater communication gadgets that may relay information in regards to the ocean again to researchers. Rather than the standard $4,000, these gadgets have been designed to value lower than $100, serving to decrease the price barrier for these all for uncovering the various mysteries of our oceans. The communication gadgets can be utilized to relay information in regards to the ocean surroundings from the machine studying algorithms.
By combining these low-cost communication gadgets together with microscopic photographs and machine studying, Xia hopes to design a low-cost, real-time monitoring system that may be scaled to cowl total seaweed farms.
“It’s almost like having the ‘internet of things’ underwater,” provides Xia. “I’m developing this whole underwater camera system alongside the wireless communication I developed that can give me the data while I’m sitting on dry land.”
Armed with these information in regards to the microbiome, Xia and her group can detect whether or not or not a illness is about to strike and jeopardize seaweed or livestock earlier than it’s too late.
While Xia nonetheless daydreams about opening a restaurant, she hopes the seaweed venture will immediate individuals to rethink how they contemplate meals manufacturing generally.
“We should think about farming and food production in terms of the entire ecosystem,” she says. “My meta-goal for this project would be to get people to think about food production in a more holistic and natural way.”
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Saving seaweed with machine studying (2021, October 22)
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