BiSSL LAB NEWS

Research paper accepted to the Journal Reliability Engineering & System Safety

July 28, 2020

BiSSL PhD student Abheek Chatterjee just had his full length research paper accepted in the Journal Reliability Engineering &System Safety! The paper, titled “Mimicking Nature for Resilient Resource and Infrastructure Network Design,” investigates the use of ecological robustness – a functional characteristic of ecological food webs, to guide the design of a supply chain case study to improve it’s ability to survive network disturbances.

Abstract: “Increasingly prevalent extreme weather events have caused resilience to become an essential sustainable development component for resource and infrastructure networks. Existing resilience metrics require detailed knowledge of the system and potential disruptions, which is not available in the early design stage. The lack of quantitative tools to guide the early stages of design for resilience, forces engineers to rely on heuristics (use physical redundancy, localized capacity, etc.). This research asserts that the required quantitative guidelines can be developed using the architecting principles of biological ecosystems, which maintain a unique balance between pathway redundancy and efficiency, enabling them to be both productive under normal circumstances and survive disruptions. Ecologists quantify this network characteristic using the ecological fitness function. This paper presents the required reformulation required to enable the use of this metric in the design and analysis of resource and infrastructure networks with multiple distinct, but interdependent, interactions. The proposed framework is validated by comparing the resilience characteristics of two notional supply chain designs: one designed for minimum shipping cost and the other designed using the proposed bio-inspired framework. The results support using the proposed bio-inspired framework to guide designers in creating resilient and sustainable resource and infrastructure networks.”

Chatterjee, A., & Layton, A. (2020). “Mimicking Nature for Resilient Resource and Infrastructure Network Design.” Reliability Engineering and System Safety. DOI: 10.1016/j.ress.2020.107142

ASEE 2020 Conference Presentation

June 23, 2020

Exciting work done by MS alum Colton Brehm, in collaboration with Dr. Julie Linsey at Georgia Tech, was presented at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) 2020 conference virtually. Colton’s conference paper that was presented and discussed is titled: “Using a Modularity Analysis to Determine Tool and Student Roles within Makerspaces.” We’re really excited to continue this work with new A&M BiSSL PhD student Samuel Blair! The conference continues all week! https://www.asee.org/annual-conference/2020


Research paper accepted to the Journal of Industrial Ecology

May 22, 2020

BiSSL alumn Colton Brehm (MS graduate May 2020) just had his full length research paper accepted in the Journal of Industrial Ecology! The paper, titled “Nestedness in eco-industrial networks: exploring linkage distribution to promote sustainable industrial growth,” investigates the use of nestedness – a structural characteristic of ecological food webs, to guide the design of Eco-Industrial Networks (EINs) to improve their sustainability, creating a more circular economy.

Abstract: “Eco-Industrial Networks (EINs) have gained support as a solution that simultaneously reduces environmental burdens and promotes economic interests. EINs operate under a mutualistic framework, where waste materials and energy are exchanged between industries to their mutual benefit, creating a diverse web of flows. Recent studies have focused on analogies between food webs (FWs) and EINs, measuring a network’s success at ecological imitation as representative of its sustainability. Studies have focused heavily on the number of links and nodes in a network, but have neglected the economic reality that each investment comes at the opportunity cost of all alternatives. This analysis focuses on the nestedness metric as used by ecologists to address this pivotal facet to the FW-EIN analogy. Nestedness describes an ecological strategy for the position of links between nodes in a network in a way that maximizes network cycling for a given number of connections. This metric presents many advantages for EIN design and analysis, including maturity independence, size normalization, and a strong statistical record in highly mutualistic ecological systems. Application of nestedness to EINs indicates a lower presence of nested structures and more randomness than what is typically seen in FWs. The industrial networks also display a correlation between high nestedness and internal cycles, suggesting that the reuse of materials and energy in EINs can be improved upon by increasing the nestedness of structures.”

Brehm, C., & Layton, A. (2020). “Nestedness in eco-industrial networks: exploring linkage distribution to promote sustainable industrial growth.” Journal of Industrial Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/jiec.13057

CIRP Life Cycle Engineering (LCE) 2020 Virtual Conference

May 13-15, 2020

Two BiSSL students, PhD student Abheek Chatterjee and recent MS graduate Colton Brehm, had their first authored peer-reviewed publications presented at the 2020 CIRP Life Cycle Engineering conference. The conference, originally meant to be in Grenoble, France was entirely virtual due to COVID-19.

Abstract: “Supply chain design has traditionally focused on using the shortest path or the minimum number of paths to reduce operational costs. This approach, however, fails to account for a system’s response to external disruptions. A novel supply chain design is proposed that mimics the optimal balance of efficient and redundant pathways found in nature’s resilient ecosystems. A comparison of traditional and bio-inspired supply chain designs are done using a disruption scenario, showing that the bio-inspiration significantly reduces the supply chain’s vulnerability to cascading failures.”

Chatterjee, A., & Layton, A. (2020). Bio-inspired Design for Sustainable and Resilient Supply Chains. Paper presented at the 27th CIRP Life Cycle Engineering (LCE) Conference, Grenoble, France.
You can see the 10 minute presentation from Day 2 (May 14) of the CIRP LCE 2020, Circular Economy track, given by Abheek Chatterjee, here on YouTube (start 2:55:47).

“The sustainability of industrial practices is a growing point of emphasis in the research and business communities demanding effective systems-level solutions. Eco-Industrial Parks (EIPs), networks of co-located industries connected through mutually beneficial collaborations are a popular systems-level solution but have experienced highly variable degrees of success. Nestedness, a structure prevalent in mutualistic networks found in nature is our design focus for improved outcomes. This paper investigates how ecologically-similar nestedness values in EIPs relate to reductions of freshwater imports. The results indicate a range of nestedness values that support water conservation and critical thresholds for maximizing capital investments.”

Brehm, C., Chatterjee, A., & Layton, A. (2020). Mimicking the nested structures of ecosystems in the design of industrial water networks. Paper presented at the 27th CIRP Life Cycle Engineering (LCE) Conference, Grenoble, France.
You can see the 10 minute presentation from Day 1 (May 13) of the CIRP LCE 2020, Eco-Design track, given by Colton Brehm, here on YouTube (start 2:08:47).

Two students become the latest successful BiSSL Graduates!

May 5, 2020

Colton Brehm
Shelby Warrington

Congratulations to two of BiSSL’s research students for graduating today! Graduate student Colton Brehm graduates with his MS in Mechanical Engineering. He’ll be starting at SAIC in their Mission Support division doing Probabilistic Risk Assessment in June. Undergraduate student Shelby Warrington graduates with her BS in Mechanical Engineering. She’ll be starting graduate school at Yale for a Masters of Environmental Management, specializing in Urban or Industrial Ecology in the Fall. We will sincerely miss them both in the BiSSL group and wish them the best moving forward!


J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering Graduate Summer Research Grant

April 27, 2020

BiSSL PhD student Abheek Chatterjee was awarded a J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering Graduate Summer Research Grant for Summer 2020 for his proposal titled: “Ecology-inspired design of resilient and affordable System of Systems.” Congratulations Abheek!


BiSSL student paper accepted to 2020’s ASEE conference!

April 22, 2020

Congratulations to BiSSL MS student Colton Brehm for his American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)​ paper, in collaboration with Dr. Julie Linsey at Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering,​ being accepted! He’s done some really interesting work applying our bio-inspired system modeling and design methods to engineering makerspaces!


Two BiSSL students get papers accepted to 2020’s IDETC-CIE conference!

April 13, 2020

Two BiSSL students, PhD student Abheek Chatterjee and MS almuni Tirth Dave, have had their “International Design Engineering Technical Conference & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference” (IDETC-CIE) papers accepted to the 2020 conference, to be held in St. Louis, MO August 16-19, 2020.

Abheek’s paper was accepted to the CIE sub-conference on Systems Engineering Information Knowledge Management (SEIKM):

Chatterjee, A., Malak, R., & Layton, A. (2020). Exploring a Bio-Inspired System of Systems Resilience vs. Affordability Tradespace. ASME 2020 Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, St. Louis, MO.

Tirth’s paper was accepted to the IDETC sub-conference on Design Theory and Methodology (DTM):

Dave, T., & Layton, A. (2020). Extending the Use of Bio-Inspiration for Water Distribution Networks to Urban Settings. ASME 2020 International Design Engineering Technical Conference, St. Louis, MO.


Texas A&M Engineering: SoundBytes Podcast Episode “Engineer This!: Taking inspiration from food webs to power grids” (Featuring Dr. Astrid Layton)

March 10, 2020

On this episode of Engineer This!” the SoundBytes team asks Dr. Astrid Layton about one of her research projects looking at the design of power grids using inspiration from nature. You can find a full transcript of the episode here.

Nature and industry may have more in common than we think. Dr. Astrid Layton, assistant professor in the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering, is taking concepts from food webs and applying them to power grids to find ways to help the systems run with more resilience.


Successful BiSSL MS Thesis Defense!

March 3, 2020

BiSSL MS student Colton Brehm successfully defended his MS thesis!

His thesis is titled: “Improving the Environmental and Economic Outcomes of Industrial Networks using Nestedness to Design Resource Distribution Infrastructure” and focused on using the nested structure of biological food webs to advise engineering system design.


Texas A&M Engineering: SoundBytes Podcast Episode “Ask an Engineer: What’s wrong with recycling?” (Featuring Dr. Astrid Layton)

March 3, 2020

On this episode (Season 1 Episode 28) of “Ask an Engineer,” the SoundBytes team asks Dr. Astrid Layton about the challenges facing recycling. You can find a full transcript of the episode here.


Texas A&M Regional Engineering Conference, hosted by the Student Engineers’ Council

February 20, 2020

The judges for TREC 2020 (organizers Laura and Keeton on the far left and right) included representatives from Phillips 66 and Caterpillar.

The final presentations of the 2020 Texas A&M Regional Engineering Conference (TREC) were a huge success! The student teams presented innovative bio-inspired designs that could have a real impact on hurricane prone areas. A lot of the students had first hand experience with the problems they were looking to solve.

First prize went to the INSPIDERED team from SWE! They created a spider silk glass cover to protect from and prevent shattered glass from falling into homes and the environment – protecting clean up crews from glass shards. Congratulations!

February 1, 2020

I’m excited to help kick-off the Texas A&M Regional Engineering Conference (TREC) this Saturday with a keynote speech! TREC co-chairs Laura Orellana and Keeton Bailey have done an excellent job creating an impactful problem statement for the interdisciplinary freshmen teams to work on for the next three weeks.

TREC is an event hosted annually by the Student Engineers’ Council (SEC) at Texas A&M Engineering to foster professionalism and interdisciplinary collaboration among freshmen by developing a solution to a sustainability-related problem and presenting their product 3 weeks later.

It’s not too late to register! http://trec.tamu.edu


18th Annual Conference on Systems Engineering Research (CSER 2020)

January 29, 2020

BiSSL is looking forward to representing our bio-inspired systems of systems (SoS) design work at this year’s 18th Annual Conference on Systems Engineering Research in Redondo Beach, CA. The conference this year is focused on “Recent Trends and Advances in Model-based Systems” and will be going on from March 19-21, 2020. PhD student Abheek Chatterjee is first author on a paper with our collaborator Dr. Richard Malak titled: “A Bio-inspired Framework for Analyzing and Predicting the Trade-off between System of Systems Attributes.” We hope to see you all there!


Journal of Cleaner Production Publication

January 7, 2020

Congratulations to BiSSL alumni Tirth Dave (MS graduate December 2019) on the publication of his paper in the Journal of Cleaner Production! “Designing ecologically-inspired robustness into a water distribution network” covers Tirth’s work on bio-inspired network design coupled with modeling of a water distribution network, showing that we can draw inspiration from nature to improve the resilience and reduce freshwater use in industrial resource networks.

ABSTRACT: Eco-Industrial Parks (EIPs), network of industries that collaborate by utilizing each other’s byproducts and wastes, are highly desirable for both the industries themselves, their environment, and governments due to their economic, environmental, and social advantages. Previous work has shown that EIPs are not as successful as they could be in terms of mimicking the behavior of biological ecosystems, highlighting that more work needs to be done for EIPs to truly mimic their biological-counterparts. The Kalundborg EIP, located in Kalundborg, Denmark, is a well documented example of an EIP with long-term success. Using the water network within the Kalundborg EIP as a case study, two bio-inspired networks are selected from an optimization based on the ecosystem metric robustness. The bio-inspired solutions are compared with a traditionally cost-minimized solution to understand what bio-inspired design can offer when a network is disturbed. Disturbances such as connection breakages and industry shutdowns are tested, showing that the bio-inspired designs require minimal recovery costs – in stark contrast to the traditional network solution. The results show that the bio-inspired designs reduce the network’s dependence on a scarce import (freshwater) and have higher overall network resilience in the event of disturbances. The three network solutions are discussed from a ecological perspective, explaining differences from the standpoint of ecosystem characteristics. The analysis highlights the benefits of using ecology to understand the nature of and improve the design of industrial networks.

Abstract for JCP (2020) “Designing ecologically-inspired robustness into a water distribution network” Dave, T. and Layton, A.

PLOS ONE Publication

December 31, 2019

We can finally share this open access PLOS ONE publication “A quantitative engineering study of ecosystem robustness using thermodynamic power cycles as case studies” written with MS BiSSL alumni Varuneswara Panyam (TAMU graduate December 2019). Understanding the characteristics of biological systems from an engineering perspective is an important part of bio-inspired engineering design!

ABSTRACT: Human networks and engineered systems are traditionally designed to maximize efficiency. Ecosystems on the other hand, achieve long-term robustness and sustainability by maintaining a unique balance between pathway efficiency and redundancy, measured in terms of the number of flow pathways available for a given unit of flow at any node in the network. Translating this flow-based ecosystem robustness into an engineering context supports the creation of new robust and sustainable design guidelines for engineered systems. Thermodynamic cycles provide good examples of human systems where simple and clearly defined modifications can be made to increase efficiency. Twenty-three variations on the Brayton and Rankine cycles are used to understand the relationship between design decisions that maximize a system’s efficient use of energy (measured by thermodynamic first law efficiency) and ecological measures of robustness and structural efficiency. The results reveal that thermodynamic efficiency and ecological pathway efficiency do not always correlate and that while on average modifications to increase energy efficiency reduce the robustness of the system, the engineering understanding of ecological network design presented here can enable decisions that are able to increase both energy efficiency and robustness.

Abstract for PLOS ONE (2019) “A quantitative engineering study of ecosystem robustness using thermodynamic power cycles as case studies” Panyam, V. and Layton, A.

27th CIRP Life Cycle Engineering Conference

December 18, 2019

Two BiSSL students, MS student Colton Brehm and PhD student Abheek Chatterjee, have had full papers accepted to 2020’s CIRP LCE conference! The 2020 conference focuses on “the role that engineering must play in the achievement of the sustainable future that people wish.” The conference this year is hosted by Grenoble INP – Institut d’Ingénierie Univ. Grenoble Alpes and will be held in Grenoble, France May 13-15, 2020.

  • Abheek Chatterjee, Colton Brehm, and Astrid Layton (2020) “Mimicking the nested structures of ecosystems in the design of industrial water networks.”
  • Abheek Chatterjee and Astrid Layton (2020) “Bio-inspired Design for Sustainable and Resilient Supply Chains.”

J. Mike Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering Graduate Seminar

November 13, 2019

Honored to have been invited to give our department’s graduate seminar later today, I’m looking forward to it! Feel free to stop by if you’re around, I’ll be talking about my research regarding “Using biological inspiration to improve the design of complex human-engineered networks.”

Brief description: Biological ecosystems have been through millions of years of R&D, producing complex networks of interacting species that are able to support individual needs while maintaining system-level functions. In this talk Dr. Layton will show that these networks offer a relatively untapped source of design inspiration for improving the sustainability and resilience of our human engineered networks. Quantitative descriptors and analysis techniques are adapted from ecology through close collaboration with ecologists, enabling desirable ecosystem characteristics to be used as optimization guides for industrial resource networks (or eco-industrial parks, EIPs), water networks, supply chains, and power grids. Characteristics such as a high level of cycling of materials/energy within the system and a unique balance between redundant and efficient pathways are connected back to the achievement of traditional engineering goals such as cost and robustness.


J. Mike Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering Fellowships and Scholarships

November 7, 2019

So incredibly proud of all of our BiSSL research students! Last week’s fellowships and scholarships awards dinner for the J. Mike Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering was an honor to attend, to celebrate all of our department’s diverse and accomplished students!

  • Tirth Dave was awarded a Graduate Student Fellowship
  • Abheek Chatterjee was awarded a Emil Buehler Aerodynamic Analog Fellowship
  • Colton Brehm was awarded a Graduate Excellence Fellowship
  • Varun Panyam was awarded a Graduate Excellence Fellowship
  • Shelby Warrington won the James J. Cain ’51 Award
  • Kristina Viro won the J. Mike Walker ’66 Impact Award

October 10 & 11, 2019

MS students Tirth Dave and Varuneswara Panyam both successfully defended their theses!

Dave, T., (2019) “Designing Robust Water Distribution Systems using Ecology as an Inspiration” Mechanical Engineering M.S. Thesis, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.

Panyam, V., (2019) “Bio-inspired design for robust power systems” Mechanical Engineering M.S. Thesis, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.


TEXAS A&M CONFERENCE ON ENERGY

September 23-25, 2019

PhD student Hao Huang from the Power Systems group in Electrical Engineering will be presenting our Bio-Inspired Power Grid design work at the Fourth Annual Texas A&M Conference on Energy on September 23-25, 2019. The event is sponsored by the Texas A&M Energy Research Society in partnership with the Texas A&M Energy Institute. The presentations will include a poster presentation in the “Seed Grant Poster Session” on Monday 23td 3:30-4:30pm as well as an oral presentation in the “Energy-Efficiency, Economics, Sustainability, and Policies” session on Wednesday 25th from 11:05-11:20am.


Natural, Built, Virtual — the Texas A&M College of Architecture’s 21st Annual Research Symposium

September 16, 2019

(L to R) Dr. Ahmed Ali and Dr. Astrid Layton

Our collaborative and multidisciplinary research on by-product reuse and supporting a circular economy will be presented by Mechanical Engineering’s Dr. Astrid Layton and Architecture’s Dr. Ahmed Ali today at the Texas A&M College of Architecture’s 21st Annual Research Symposium “Natural, Built, Virtual” http://symposium.arch.tamu.edu/symposium/2019/

The presentation will cover the past year of our project ” Matrix Trays: Waste to Opportunities,” a seed grant project supported by Texas A&M’s President’s Excellence Fund. Read more about the outcome of the Mechanical Engineering Senior Design component of the project here: https://engineering.tamu.edu/news/2019/07/student-designed-smart-shades-reflect-a-more-sustainable-future.html


September 5-6, 2019

Resilience Rising: Research and Practice on Hurricane Harvey and Hazards of the Future Symposium

BiSSL PhD student Abheek Chatterjee will be presenting his resilient system design related research “Investigating Ecosystems’ Mimicry towards Design of Resilient Resource and Infrastructure Networks” this Friday, September 6th at the “Resilience Rising” symposium being hosted by TAMU College of Architecture.

The symposium will be held in Rudder Tower on the College Station campus. Come learn and network with fellow TAMU researchers and practitioners as they discuss recent projects on Hurricane Harvey and disaster resilience! The event is free but registration is limited.

The schedule will include:

  • Presentations
  • Panel Discussions
  • Student Poster Presentation and Competition
  • Pecha Kucha Style Quick Presentations

For questions contact us at hrrc@arch.tamu.edu


August 21, 2019 in Anaheim, CA

BiSSL graduate students Varuneswara Panyam and Abheek Chatterjee presented their first authored papers this week in Anaheim, CA. The papers for their talks “Bio-Inspired Human Network Design: Multi-Currency Robustness Metric Formulation Inspired By Ecological Network Analysis” and “Bio-inspired modeling approaches for human networks with link dissipation” can be found only through ASME IDETC2019.


BiSSL MS Student Jewel Williams Graduates!

August, 2019

MS student Jewel Williams graduated from Texas A&M University with her Masters of Science this August 2019 after successfully defending her thesis earlier this summer. Her thesis was titled “Opportunities of Applying System Analysis to the US Waste Management System: Bio-Inspired Solutions for a More Circular Economy”


Fall 2018/Spring 2019

Mechanical Engineering Senior Design Team for “Matrix Trays: Waste to Opportunities”

Matrix Trays: Waste to Opportunities, a seed grant project supported by Texas A&M’s President’s Excellence Fund, funded a Mechanical Engineering senior design/capstone team with myself and Dr. Ahmed Ali from the Architecture department as their advisors. Read more about the project here: “Student-designed smart shades reflect a more sustainable future

“The project focused on taking a very common industry byproduct, a single-use matrix tray used for placing small electronic chips, and conceiving and prototyping a new product that would use the trays that removed them from the waste stream,” Layton said. “This goal aligns with those of a circular economy where the label ‘waste’ is removed by recognizing existing value. The students were given free rein in their concept generation, a freedom that resulted in an exciting final product with significant potential for future work.”


The Fall 2019 J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering Graduate Excellence Fellowship

Congratulations to two of our BiSSL graduate research students, PhD student Abheek Chatterjee and Masters student Tirth Dave, for winning the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering Graduate Excellence Fellowship for continuing students for the Fall 2019 semester! The highly competitive graduate scholarship awards graduate students doing excellent research, academic performance, and leadership in the department.

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June 12, 2019

Jewel Williams successful presented her 1st authored paper, with BiSSL undergrad Shelby Warrington as 2nd author, at the ASME International Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference held in Erie, PA.

Abstract: Circular economy aims to address limited resources through the continuous circulation of materials and energy. Recirculating low quality materials for reuse is a sustainability goal that is analogous to the primary function of Nature’s detritus species, a keystone for the proper functioning of ecosystems. Prior applications of ecosystem structure to human network design uncovered that even the most economically successful networks of industries demonstrate a lack of analogous detritus actors in the form of reuse and recycling. The recycling industry’s volatile nature, dependency on international factors, and financial difficulties prevent this strategy from becoming an efficient alternative. Creativity in design, inspired by ecosystems, is proposed here as a method to repurpose manufacturing byproducts that are otherwise seen as low quality waste materials. Realizing the reuse potential of these materials can create detrital-type feedback loops, an attribute that supports the characteristic resilience and efficiency of ecosystems. The work here analyzes existing methods of pursuing circular economy and investigates the potential benefits generated by purposefully adding connects that create detrital-feedback-loops at the consumer and producer levels.

(2019) Williams, J.; S. Warrington; A. Layton. Waste Reduction: A review of common options and alternatives. ASME International Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference. Erie, PA.

May 20, 2019

Our interdisciplinary paper with Electrical Engineering, first authored by PhD BiSSL student Varuneswara Panyam, has been published in Applied Energy. The paper covers our proposed method for using ecosystems to guide the design of power grids towards a more biologically-inspired resilience.

The paper is available for free download here through July 16, 2019.

“Bio-inspired design for robust power grid networks”

by Varuneswara Panyam, Hao Huang, Katherine Davis, Astrid Layton

Technological advances have created a world where humans are highly dependent on an uninterrupted electric power supply, yet extreme weather events and deliberate attacks continue to disrupt power systems. Inherently robust ecological networks present a rich source of robust design guidelines for modern power grids. Analyses of ecosystem networks in literature suggest that this robustness is a consequence of a unique preference for redundant pathways over efficient ones. The structural similarity between these two system-types is exploited here through the application of ecological properties and analysis techniques to long-term power grid design. The level of biological similarity between these two system-types is quantitatively investigated and compared by computing ecological network metrics for a set of synthetic power systems and food webs. The comparison substantiates the use of the ecological robustness metric for optimizing the design of power grid networks. A bio-inspired optimization model is implemented, which restructures the synthetic power systems to mimic ecosystem robustness. The bio-inspired optimal networks are evaluated using N-1, N-2, and N-3 contingency analyses to assess system performance under the loss of 1, 2, and 3 components respectively. The bio-inspired grids all experienced significantly fewer violations in each loss scenario compared to traditional configurations, further supporting the application of the ecological robustness metric for power system robustness. The results provide insights into how ecological robustness can guide the design of power systems for improved infrastructural resilience to better survive disturbances.


May 10, 2019

Colton Finalist

BiSSL MS student Colton Brehm was a finalist for the Leo Award for best paper for his  CIRP Life Cycle Engineering  conference paper “Designing eco-industrial parks in a nested structure to mimic mutualistic ecological networks.”

The full paper is available here. Abstract:

Industrial Ecology uses ecological systems as a guide for improving the sustainability of complex industrial systems. Eco-Industrial Parks (EIPs) have gained support as a solution that seeks to simultaneously reduce environmental burdens and promote economic interests by exchanging materials and energy between industries to their mutual benefit. Recent studies have focused on drawing relations between food webs (FWs) and EIPs to improve the sustainability of the latter using ecological metrics, such as the level of cycling or average connections between actors. This study incorporates a new ecological metric, nestedness, into the discussion of sustainable design for EIPs. The association of nestedness with mutualistic ecological networks supports its application to EIP design. The work here improves the understanding of holistic network structure with the goal of improving future design decisions for EIPs with purposeful placement of material and energy flows.


April 15, 2019

Congratulations to BiSSL PhD student Varuneswara Panyam who became an Associate Fellow in the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) Academy for Future Faculty (AFF) at Texas A&M

The Academy for Future Faculty (AFF) is a CIRTL@TAMU program. The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Learning and Teaching in higher education. The CIRTL mission is to enhance excellence in undergraduate education through the development of a national faculty committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse learners as part of successful and varied professional careers.

AFF provides professional development for graduate students and post-docs  in preparation  for a career in higher education. AFF offers a two-semester program anchored by faculty mentorship and featuring weekly seminars and workshops. AFF events are free and open to everyone in the Texas A&M University academic community. Participants may choose to attend a few events or enough to complete requirements for the Academy for Future Faculty Fellow certificate. New fellows are recognized at our annual banquet in April.


April 8, 2019

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Congratulations to BiSSL PhD students Varuneswara Panyam and Abheek Chatterjee for each of their first authored papers being accepted to the 2019 ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences: 31st International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology (DTM) in the Biologically Inspired Design session. They will be presenting their papers in Anaheim, California August 18-21, 2019.

Varuneswara Panyam and Astrid Layton, “Bio-inspired modeling approaches for human networks with link dissipation”

Structural similarities between human networks and biological ecosystems have inspired biomimetic design of human networks. The approach requires the networks to be represented as graphs, where the actors are nodes and the connections between actors are links. A major oversight in the application of ecosystem-based modeling to human networks thus far has been in the selection of actors and links. Transfers between species in a biological ecosystem are direct, happening when the species are co-located. Human networks often require a physical aid to complete the transaction, such as power transmission lines, pipelines, or vehicles. These exchange methods experience dissipation, which is not captured in current applications of ecosystem-based human network modeling. Human networks modeled as ecosystems thus far simply categorize exchanges as links in the graph, effectively forcing dissipation during material/energy transport to be neglected. This dissipation can sometimes be high relative to the total energy/material exchanged and thus is a potentially large oversight. Three hypothetical power grids and three Italian urban water distribution networks are used to quantify the impact of modeling interaction aids — power lines and water pipelines — as actors (and thus including any dissipation) in an ecosystem model. Ecological structural and flow metrics previously applied to human networks are evaluated between the two modeling methods. The comparison shows that the impact of this overlooked aspect is potentially significant and warrants consideration.

Abheek Chatterjee and Astrid Layton, “Bio-Inspired Human Network Design: Multi-Currency Robustness Metric Formulation Inspired By Ecological Network Analysis”

The Ecological Network Analysis (ENA) metric ecological robustness quantifies the unique balance that biological food webs have between their pathway efficiency and redundancy, enabling them to maximize their robustness to system disturbances. This robustness is a potentially desirable quality for human systems to mimic. Modeling the interactions between actors in human networks as predator-prey type exchanges (of a medium or currency rather than caloric exchanges) enables an ENA analysis. ENA has been shown to be a useful tool in improving the design of human networks because it allows the characteristics of biological networks to be mimicked. The application of these metrics is, however, limited to networks with only one flow type. Human networks are composed of many different types of flow interactions and thus a biologically-inspired indicator of total system robustness must take into account all of these interactions. This work further develops the traditional ENA ecological robustness metric to accommodate various flows between actors in multi-currency human networks. Two novel methods for quantifying multi-currency flow network robustness are introduced. The mathematical derivation for these new metrics is presented. The water network for the Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park (EIP) is used as a case study to determine benefits of the proposed robustness metrics. The results obtained using the single-currency robustness and the two multi-currency robustness metrics are compared using the case study. Based on the analysis of the results obtained at the system level, as well as at the sub-levels, both multi-currency metrics showed the ability to predict systems characteristics for the multi-currency Kalundborg EIP. While both of these are promising, more research regarding these metrics is needed in order to develop an elegant and comprehensive total system robustness metric.


April 7-9, 2019: Engineering Sustainability ’19 Conference “A Climate for Change”

Hosted by the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh and the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research at CMU, thanks to all for the insightful presentations throughout the conference.

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April 4, 2019: 1st Annual President’s Excellence Fund Symposium at Texas A&M

Dr. Ahmed Ali and I are very proud of our Mechanical Engineering Senior Design Team (Zachary Merrill, Alexandra Stewart, Austin Grosklags, Joseph Bustillo, and Miguel Cervantes) and our graduate students Jewel Williams and Patricia Kio, who represented our T3 project “Matrix Trays: From Waste to Opportunities” during the Symposium poster session.

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(From left to right: Joseph Bustillo, Jewel Williams, Zachary Merrill, Austin Grosklags, Patricia Kio, Alexandra Stewart, Miguel Cervantes)


March 25, 2019

Congratulations to BiSSL MS student Colton Brehm! His conference paper for the 26th CIRP Life Cycle Engineering Conference on Advancing Industrial Sustainability, to be held at Purdue University May 2019, is nominated for the Leo Award for best paper!

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“Designing eco-industrial parks in a nested structure to mimic mutualistic ecological networks” first authored by Colton Brehm

Industrial Ecology uses ecological systems as a guide for improving the sustainability of complex industrial systems. Eco-Industrial Parks (EIPs) have gained support as a solution that seeks to simultaneously reduce environmental burdens and promote economic interests by exchanging materials and energy between industries to their mutual benefit. Recent studies have focused on drawing relations between food webs (FWs) and EIPs to improve the sustainability of the latter using ecological metrics, such as the level of cycling or average connections between actors. This study incorporates a new ecological metric, nestedness, into the discussion of sustainable design for EIPs. The association of nestedness with mutualistic ecological networks supports its application to EIP design. The work here improves the understanding of holistic network structure with the goal of improving future design decisions for EIPs with purposeful placement of material and energy flows.


March 22, 2019: TAMU Student Research Week

BiSSL Master’s student Tirth Dave just won 1st place out of all Engineering Graduate Student Presentations at Student Research Week at Texas A&M University! His presentation was titled: “Sustainable Water Networks Design: A Bio-inspired Approach” 

Everyone here in the BiSSL group is so proud!

Student Research Week at Texas A&M is the largest, single-university student-run research symposium in the nation. Students get to show their research and have a chance to win up to $1,000 in award money and receive feedback from faculty and graduate student judges.


March 19, 2019: TAMU Student Research Week

Clare Boothe Luce scholar and J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering undergrad Shelby Warrington did an excellent job presenting her work at Student Research Week – Texas A&M University from our last 2 years working together on bio-inspired human system modeling!

Student Research Week at Texas A&M is the largest, single-university student-run research symposium in the nation. Students get to show their research and have a chance to win up to $1,000 in award money and receive feedback from faculty and graduate student judges.

The Clare Boothe Luce Scholar Program has, since its first grants in 1989, become one of the single most significant sources of private support for women in science, mathematics and engineering in Higher Education in the United States. Clare Boothe Luce, the widow of Henry R. Luce, was a playwright, journalist, U.S. Ambassador to Italy, and the first woman elected to Congress from Connecticut. In her bequest establishing this program, she sought “to encourage women to enter, study, graduate, and teach” in science, mathematics and engineering. To date, the program has supported more than 2,500 women. Learn more here.


The 2019 ASME Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference Graduate Travel Award

Congratulations to BiSSL Masters student Jewel Williams for winning a Graduate Travel Award to attend the ASME conference for Manufacturing Science and Engineering (MSEC) in June at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. Jewel will be presenting her first authored paper titled WASTE REDUCTION: A REVIEW OF COMMON OPTIONS AND ALTERNATIVES.

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March 5, 2019: MSEC2019 Student Led Paper Accepted

Congratulations to BiSSL Masters student Jewel Williams and undergraduate Clare Boothe Luce scholar Shelby Warrington for the acceptance of their peer-reviewed conference paper titled WASTE REDUCTION: A REVIEW OF COMMON OPTIONS AND ALTERNATIVES. The ASME conference for Manufacturing Science and Engineering (MSEC) will be held in June at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

Paper Abstract:

Circular economy aims to address limited resources through the continuous circulation of materials and energy. Re-circulating low quality materials for reuse is a sustainability goal that is analogous to the primary function of Nature’s detritus species, a keystone for the proper functioning of ecosystems. Prior applications of ecosystem structure to human network design uncovered that even the most economically successful networks of industries demonstrate a lack of analogous detritus actors in the form of reuse and recycling. The recycling industry’s volatile nature, dependency on international factors, and financial difficulties prevent this strategy from becoming an efficient alternative. Creativity in design, inspired by ecosystems, is proposed here as a method to repurpose manufacturing byproducts that are otherwise seen as low quality waste materials. Realizing the reuse potential of these materials can create detrital-type feedback loops, an attribute that supports the characteristic resilience and efficiency of ecosystems. The work here analyzes existing methods of pursuing circular economy and investigates the potential benefits generated by purposefully adding connects that create detrital-feedback-loops at the consumer and producer levels.


Women’s History Month @ A&M

March 1, 2019

At Texas A&M University, diversity is changing the face of engineering, so join us in celebrating Women’s History Month! Throughout March, hear what Texas A&M Mechanical Engineering students, staff and faculty have to say about embracing differences.

This afternoon’s shoutout goes to Assistant Professor Dr. Astrid Layton:

“Just because a subject is hard for you and seems easy for everyone else, doesn’t mean it isn’t for you! The hard stuff is often the most interesting and rewarding, and it’s hard work – not talent that creates success.”

Find more here.


The Spring 2019 J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering Graduate Excellence Fellowship

Congratulations to two of our BiSSL graduate research students, PhD student Varuneswara Panyam and Masters student Colton Brehm, for winning the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering Graduate Excellence Fellowship for continuing students for the Spring 2019 semester! The highly competitive graduate scholarship awards graduate students doing excellent research in the department.

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CIRP Graduate Student Travel Grant Awards

Congratulations to three of our BiSSL graduate students, Varun Panyam, Tirth Dave, and Colton Brehm, for being awarded travel grants to present their first author conference papers at the 26th CIRP Life Cycle Engineering Conference on Advancing Industrial Sustainability, at Purdue University May 2019.


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BiSSL graduate students Jewel Williams was one of only 60 students selected to participate in this weekend’s 48 hour Aggies Invent for the Planet event! We’re all wishing her good luck!

Feb. 15-17, 2019

Invent for the Planet: The sun never sets on innovation.

For 48 hours, college students from 30 universities around the world will be joining Texas A&M University virtually as we tackle some of the most challenging issues facing the planet today. From water insecurity solutions to stopping the spread of disease and creating new technology for the classroom, this competition will test the limits of your creativity and resourcefulness. Will your idea help save lives and improve life on Earth? From Feb. 15–17, the sun won’t set on innovation.


February 7, 2019: IEEE TPEC2019

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Enjoying the presentations going on at IEEE TPEC2019 (Texas Power and Energy Conference), including work we did with Dr. Kate Davis and her group, being presented by my PhD student Varuneswara Panyam right now!

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“Bio-Inspired Design for Robust Power Networks” first authored by Varuneswara Panyam

Extreme events continue to show that existing power grid configurations can be vulnerable to disturbances. Drawing inspiration from naturally robust biological ecosystems presents a potential source of robust design guidelines for modern power grids. The robust network structure of ecosystems is partially derived from a unique balance between pathway efficiency and redundancy. Structural and basic-functional similarities support the application of ecological properties and analysis techniques to power grid design. The work presented here quantitatively investigates the level of similarity between ecosystems and power grids by applying ecological network metrics to a basic, realistic hypothetical 5-bus power system. A comparison between the power grid’s performance and average ecosystem performance substantiates the use of the ecological robustness metric for the development of a bio-inspired power grid optimization model. The bio-inspired optimization model re-configures the five bus grid to mimic ecosystem robustness. The results demonstrate the potential of ecosystems to provide new robust design principles for power grids.


December 11, 2018: 2019 CIRP Life Cycle Engineering Conference – 3 Student Led Papers Accepted

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Congratulations to three of our BiSSL graduate students, Varun Panyam, Tirth Dave, and Colton Brehm, for the acceptance of each of their conference papers to the 26th CIRP Life Cycle Engineering Conference on Advancing Industrial Sustainability, to be held at Purdue University May 2019.

“An ecosystem perspective for the design of sustainable power systems” first authored by Varuneswara Panyam

The evolution of power systems has recently seen a strong increase in renewable energy integration. This evolution has resulted in bidirectional pathways with two-way exchanges between the grid and consumers that is beginning to resemble the cyclic organization of food webs. Ecologically-similar cycling of materials and energy in industrial networks has previously been shown to improve network efficiency and reduce costs. The cyclic organization of food webs is proposed here as a design principle to quantify the effectiveness of two-way connections between the grid and consumers. The presence of ecosystem-like cycling in traditional power grid networks is investigated using the ecological metrics cyclicity and cycling index. Two hypothetical 5-bus grids are modified to replicate the two-way exchanges of real power systems with consumer renewable energy generation. The results show a positive correlation between increased structural cycling in grids and reliability improvements measured by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) standard N-1 contingency analysis. These results suggest that the metrics cyclicity and cycling index can play a role in quantifying and improving the sustainability of power grids.

“Bio-inspired design for resilient water distribution networks” first authored by Tirth Dave

Economic, environmental, and social advantages have been achieved over the years through byproducts and waste exchanges between industries. These Eco-Industrial Parks (EIPs) are touted to be ecologically similar, however when they are analyzed using Ecological Network Analysis (ENA) techniques it has been found that they do not successfully mimic analogous ecosystems. ENA coupled with average food webs characteristics are used here to create a bio-inspired design optimization for the water distribution network of the Kalundborg EIP in Denmark. The bio-inspired solution is compared to a cost-based solution to illustrate what the former can offer beyond a conventional approach. Both solutions similarly minimize freshwater consumption, however the bio-inspired solution has additional benefits that suggest a more sustainable and robust design, such as the ability to maintain network function in the event of a connection losses. The results suggest that consumption and cost reductions alone may not be the best optimization route.

“Designing eco-industrial parks in a nested structure to mimic mutualistic ecological networks” first authored by Colton Brehm

Industrial Ecology uses ecological systems as a guide for improving the sustainability of complex industrial systems. Eco-Industrial Parks (EIPs) have gained support as a solution that seeks to simultaneously reduce environmental burdens and promote economic interests by exchanging materials and energy between industries to their mutual benefit. Recent studies have focused on drawing relations between food webs (FWs) and EIPs to improve the sustainability of the latter using ecological metrics, such as the level of cycling or average connections between actors. This study incorporates a new ecological metric, nestedness, into the discussion of sustainable design for EIPs. The association of nestedness with mutualistic ecological networks supports its application to EIP design. The work here improves the understanding of holistic network structure with the goal of improving future design decisions for EIPs with purposeful placement of material and energy flows.


Winners Announced: Matrix Tray Student Design Competition

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We would like to thank everyone for your participation in the design competition! There were many innovative submissions that highlighted the excellent students here at A&M, across all disciplines. I’m happy to finally be able to announce the winners to you all! The jury is pleased to announce that three prizes, first, second, and a tie for third, as well as one honorable mention, have been awarded to the following submissions:

First prize of $1000 goes to:

  • The team of Will McKinney and Brooks McKinney for their innovative modular aquaponics design

Second prize of $500 goes to:

  • Britteny Martinez for her unique flexible and customizable ceiling tile design

Third prize of $200 is split between two designs:

  • The team comprised of Aamer Arshad Kazi, Sitangshu Chatterjee, Het Pandit, Vivek Patel, and Omprakash Das for their design of an innovative optic fibre matrix containment unit
  • Shelby Warrington for her customizable lamp shade featuring colored glass design

Honorable Mention goes to:

  • The team of Sarojeet Deb and Shantanu Vyas with their green building façade design

The winners have been announced on the competition website: https://matrixtraydesign.wordpress.com/competition-results/

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November 26, 2018: BiSSL Ph.D. student Varuneswara Panyam will be giving a seminar presentation for the Energy and Power group in A&M’s Electrical & Computer Engineering department on November 26th at 3pm in ETB 1003.

The presentation will cover preliminary research from his Ph.D. on redesigning the modern power grid for robustness following principles from Nature’s ecosystems. All are welcome!

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Abstract: Extreme events continue to show that current power grid configurations, designed for efficiency, are vulnerable to disturbances. Naturally robust ecological networks present a potential source of robust design guidelines for modern power grids. Ecosystems balance pathway efficiency with redundancy to achieve robust network structure. Structural similarities between these two system-types support the application of ecological properties and analysis techniques to power grid design. In the talk, I will discuss the analogy between the two systems and an optimization model that our group has created to reconfigure a power grid to mimic ecosystems’ robust behavior.

Bio: Varuneswara Panyam is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Shiv Nadar University in 2016. His Ph.D. research is focused on bio-inspired design of power systems.


November 14, 2018:

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BiSSL head Dr. Astrid Layton will be joining three other awesome women engineering faculty for GradSWE’s Faculty Panel Luncheon Event on Wednesday, Nov 14, in ETB 3002 from 12:30-2pm, to discuss how to choose the right career path. Some topics we will discuss include:

1- How professors chose their career path (academia, industry, national lab, etc.)
2- What considerations they took into place when making those decisions.

Lunch will be provided!

RSVP link:

The panel will include:

Dr. Astrid Layton, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Dr. Gretchen Miller, Department of Civil Engineering

Dr. Cynthia Hipwell, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Prof. Priscilla McLeroy, Department of Petroleum Engineering


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Matrix Tray Student Design Competition

BiSSL is one of two research labs cohosting an A&M student weekend design concept competition coming up November 2nd-7th, with prizes of $1000 (first prize) $500 (second prize) and $200 (third prize). Texas A&M students with winning designs will have the opportunity to work with Dr. Astrid Layton and Dr. Ahmed Ali’s multidisciplinary research team (both Mechanical Engineering and Architecture departments).

General Motors is committed to becoming landfill-free by 2020 and to achieve this, they are seeking to divert byproducts from ending up in landfills by generating potential applications for their more challenging materials. This includes the matrix trays used to package electronics through the automated manufacturing process. Texas A&M Architecture and Mechanical Engineering are pairing with General Motors to host a design competition to promote byproduct reuse and sustainable industry practices, specifically looking for design concepts that generate new applications for these matrix trays. Deliverables are a short (1 page or less) description and a visual aid (computer generated drawing or neat hand drawing) explaining the design concept.

For more information on the competition please visit https://matrixtraydesign.wordpress.com/

Registration is open to A&M student individuals or teams, with a deadline of November 1st at midnight, registration can be done here.


October 16, 2018, Austin, TX

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Dr. Layton and BiSSL Master’s student Jewel Williams will help Austin Technology Incubator celebrate their launch as the new Circular Economy Incubator! Discussions with industry experts and entrepreneurs about real-world solutions, including leading Circular Economy companies: Wisetek, Remade, re:3D, and Leaf and Flour. Keynote to be given by BiSSL collaborator Dr. Ahmed Ali on Circular Design for the Built Environment.

The Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) is the deep technology incubator of The University of Texas at Austin working with university and community entrepreneurs to commercialize their breakthrough innovations. For over 29 years, ATI has used a customized approach to support entrepreneurs addressing the world’s most pressing problems by connecting startups with the expertise, relationships, and funding sources they need to succeed in the marketplace.

Read more about the event and the companies presenting here…

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(Right) Discussions before the presentation, and (Left) Dr. Ali’s keynote talk.


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BiSSL undergraduate student Shelby Warrington travels to the 2018 annual conference and expo for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), held in Pittsburgh, PA.

“We stand at a key moment in history. As sustainability challenges intensify and the window for action grows smaller every day, the need for leadership by higher education is greater than ever. With a theme of “Global Goals: Rising to the Challenge,” the 2018 AASHE Conference & Expo will examine the critical role of higher education in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Adopted by the world’s governments in September 2015, the 17 SDGs establish ambitious global targets to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all by 2030.”


Friday September 21st, 2018 at 9:10am: Dr. Layton, invited speaker for Texas A&M University’s MEEN381, Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Seminar

Dr. Layton will discuss her path from being an undecided freshman undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh to her Assistant Professor position in Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M, as well as how her research interests started and evolved.


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Dr. Layton, invited panelist “Network Science Approaches for Systems Engineering and Design” at ASME IDETC/CIE 2018 conference in Quebec City, Canada

Tuesday August 28th from 2-3pm the ASME CIE Systems Engineering and Information Knowledge Management (SEIKM) technical committee will host a panel on “Networks and Systems.” The panel will consist of Mr. Babak Heydari (Assistant Professor, Stevens Institute of Technology) speaking on Complex Socio-Technical Systems, Dr. Astrid Layton (Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University) speaking on Bio-Inspired Network Analysis Techniques, and Dr. Sara Behdad (Assistant Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY) speaking on Network Approaches for Sustainable Design and Manufacturing.


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BiSSL Ph.D. student Varuneswara Panyam’s Poster is accepted to the 3rd Annual Texas A&M Conference on Energy: “Bio-Inspired Robust Power Grid Design”

The Texas A&M Energy Research Society (ERS), in partnership with the Texas A&M Energy Institute, is pleased to present the Third Annual Texas A&M Conference on Energy. Varun’s poster is to be presented during Poster Session 2 (3-4:30pm) on Tuesday, September 25th, 2018. The poster covers preliminary work done by Ph.D. students Varuneswara Panyam and Bogdan Pinte and their advisors Dr. Kate Davis (Electrical Engineering) and Dr. Astrid Layton (Mechanical Engineering).


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BiSSL Ph.D. student Varuneswara Panyam was accepted to and will attend the National Science Foundation’s summer school on Decision Making in Engineering Systems at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, June 23-29, 2018. The six-day summer school will introduce graduate students to the foundations of decision making in large systems and is hosted by Dr. Ali Abbas, Director of the Neely Center, at the University of Southern California.

Topics covered include

  • Characterizing uncertainty in a systems engineering and design environment
  • Building Preference – Value – Utility models for systems engineering and design
  • Introducing the basic axioms of decision making, and methods to analyze flawed methods of decision making
  • Research methodologies for decision making in systems engineering and design
  • Future research directions
  • Practical applications of decision making in systems engineering featuring guest speakers from industry and academia

Read more about the summer school here…


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Assistant professors Astrid Layton (MEEN) and Kate Davis (ECE) are awarded the Texas A&M Energy Institute’s 4th Annual Energy Seed Grant, for their work on “Bio-Inspired Design of Complex Energy Systems to Achieve Robust, Efficient, and Sustainable Networks.”

Proposals were assessed based on the following criteria: (a) innovative and transformative potential of proposed research work in energy; (b) quality of interdisciplinary research group; (c) potential for developing a successful proposal for government funding; and (d) potential for securing external government funding.

Read more about the 4th annual Texas A&M Energy Institute’s Energy Seed Grant awardees here…


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Paper accepted by the ASME IDETC/CIE 2018 conference in Quebec City, Canada

Congratulations to our students Varuneswara Panyam and Tirth Dave for their paper titled “Understanding Ecological Efficiency and Robustness for Network Design Using Thermodynamic Power Cycles” getting accepted into the International Design Engineering Technology Conferences, Design Theory and Methodology. The conference will be held in Quebec City, Canada from August 26-29, 2018.

Ecology has acted as a source for sound design principles and studies of ecosystems have examined how ecological principles can enhance sustainable human network design. Engineered systems are often designed for maximum performance, but in many cases, robustness is lost due to unwanted variations in inputs or efficiency. Taguchi’s signal to noise ratio and other quality engineering principles are well known fundamentals in the field of robust design. In this paper, we will introduce flow-based metrics from ecological network analysis (ENA) for robustness, efficiency, and redundancy. Ecosystem robustness is related to the balance between flow path diversity and system delivery efficiency. Systems with diverse flows are more resilient to a disturbance since there are redundant pathways, but are inefficient because they contain many flow paths with the same endpoints. Efficient systems are better able to transfer material and energy, but this is at the cost of fewer pathways so the system is brittle. Thus to survive a disturbance, an ecosystem system balances redundancy with efficiency. Thermodynamic power cycles are used to understand the relationship between energy efficiency, measured using first law efficiency, and ecological robustness and an ecological balance of efficiency to redundancy (as measured by ascendency vs development capacity). The result highlights the importance of understanding differences in the meaning of efficiency between two fields, and that from an engineering standpoint robustness does not have to be sacrificed to obtain energy efficiency.

Find more information on the conference here…


Texas A&M GradSWE faculty panel luncheon
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April 25, 2018, 11:30-12:30pm Come hear the perspective of five new female assistant professors in Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Computer Science & Engineering, about applying for faculty positions, transitioning from graduate school to faculty, faculty candidate interviews and offer letters, and more!

Dr. Astrid Layton (myself), Dr. Stephanie Paal, Dr. Maria Koliou, Dr. Dorrin Jarrahbashi, and Dr. Theodora Chaspari will all be sharing lessons learned from their experiences.


T3: Texas A&M Triads for Transformation

Matrix Trays: From Waste To Opportunities

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Collaborative work between Dr. Astrid Layton, Dr. Ahmed Ali from Architecture, and Dr. Ankit Srivastava from Material Science and Engineering has resulted in the T3 award from Texas

A&M’s Presidents Excellence Fund. T3: Texas A&M Triads for Transformation is a multidisciplinary seed-grant program that is part of the President’s Excellence Fund designed to further Texas A&M University’s commitments to the three pillars of advancing transformational learning; enhancing discovery and innovation and expanding impact on our community, state, nation, and world.

The first initiative in the 10-year, $100 million President’s Excellence Fund—T3: Texas A&M Triads for Transformation—recently closed the first round and 100 innovative interdisciplinary projects were selected for funding. The fund will invest approximately $3 million annually in T3 projects. read more here…


Journal of Industrial Ecology Best Paper Prizes: Journal article by Layton, Bras, and Weissburg awarded Second for the 2016 Graedel Prizes. 

Layton, A.B. Bras, and M. Weissburg2016Industrial ecosystems and food webs: An expansion and update of existing data for eco‐industrial parks and understanding the ecological food webs they wish to mimicJournal of Industrial Ecology 20(1): 8598.

“Winners of the 2016 Graedel Prizes: The Journal of Industrial Ecology Best Paper Prizes” by Helge Brattebø, Reid Lifset