IIIT-Hyderabad First Indian University to Receive Alexa Graduate Fellowship for 2018-19 by Amazon

Science, Technology

Fellowship makes it easier for students and researchers to get involved with voice technology


IIIT-Hyderabad has received the Alexa Graduate Fellowship for 2018-2019, making it the first Indian university among a list of 18 universities worldwide to receive this fellowship.

The Alexa Fellowship supports advanced conversational AI research by providing funding and mentorship to PhD and post-doctoral students. These students, under their faculty advisor’s leadership and with additional guidance from their Alexa AI mentor, will push the boundaries of the capabilities of spoken language systems.

Prof. C V Jawahar, who has been chosen as the Faculty Advisor, along with Alexa Graduate Fellow Praveen Krishnan, a senior graduate student of IIIT-H, will teach conversational AI to undergraduate and graduate students using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and Alexa Voice Services (AVS). Students will be introduced to the science behind voice technology via hands-on projects and labs.

Speaking on the Fellowship, Prof C V Jawahar, Head, Centre for Visual Information Technology (CVIT) and Amazon Chair said, “IIIT-H is happy to be chosen as the first Indian institute to qualify for the Amazon Alexa Fund Fellowship. We’re looking forward to sharing our research on speech and language technologies with Amazon.”

IIIT-Hyderabad is the only Indian institute to receive Fellowship based on a number of criteria including its research interests, planned coursework and existing conversational AI curriculum. The other universities include Carnegie Mellon UniversityJohns Hopkins University, MIT App Inventor, University of Cambridge, University of SheffieldUniversity of Southern California, University of Texas at AustinUniversity of Washington, and University of Waterloo.

Paul Bernard, Director of the Alexa Fund, said, “We want to increase the quantity and quality of students focused on advancing spoken language systems, and conversational AI is usually under-represented amongst general AI/ML fields. With the Alexa Fellowship, we hope to see more innovation in the fields of machine learning, speech science and natural language understanding from students at IIIT-Hyderabad.”

Boeing donates $5 million to launch European STEM education effort


Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced a $5 million investment in Newton Europe to launch Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-focused “Newton Rooms” across nine European countries.

Pioneered by non-profit organization FIRST Scandinavia, Newton Rooms are themed, state-of-the-art classrooms focused on experiential learning. Boeing’s multi-year investment will establish Newton Rooms in the United KingdomGermanyNetherlandsFranceItalySpainBelgiumPoland and Sweden.

“Newton’s proven teaching methods and immersive, hands-on educational environments will help excite future innovators to pursue careers in STEM fields—many of which can be found at Boeing,” said Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing chairman, president and CEO. “In addition to our financial investment, Boeing teammates here in the U.K. and throughout Europe will continue to volunteer their time and talents to help create innovative and engaging learning opportunities for students.”

The investment will fund several Newton Room concepts to deliver high-quality experiential STEM education to primary and secondary school students in Europe:

  • Boeing Newton Flight Academy: A permanent classroom used to teach students aviation-related STEM concepts, reinforced with full-motion flight simulators manufactured in Spain.
  • Boeing Newton Rooms: A themed, state-of-the-art permanent classroom focused on experiential learning. Potential themes include space, biofuels and advanced materials and manufacturing.
  • Boeing Pop-Up Newton Rooms: A portable package of flight simulator panels and classroom materials used to create a temporary Newton Room in virtually any suitable existing space.

Since 2013, Boeing has helped establish these three Newton concepts, with one of each in DenmarkNorway and the Netherlands. Non-profit organization FIRST Scandinavia successfully operates an additional 40 Newton Rooms in Norway.

Boeing’s investment will also fund a comprehensive suite of learning resources and materials, enabling teachers to incorporate the Newton experience into their core educational curriculum. All materials are free for both teachers and students.

NASA Administrator Statement on Space Policy Directive-3


The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Monday’s signing of Space Policy Directive-3 by President Donald Trump:

“NASA strongly supports the White House’s continued bold direction in forging a sustainable and focused space policy that strengthens American leadership. It was my honor today to represent the agency at the National Space Council, where the President announced Space Policy Directive-3 – which will guide critical and much-needed progress for space traffic management.

“SPD-3 builds on our continued progress implementing SPD-1, which is galvanizing American space leadership by returning to the Moon with commercial and international partners, and SPD-2, which will create regulatory certainty for entrepreneurs to raise capital to grow the American economy in space.

“As we continue to thrive in space, we also have more people launching to orbit, and an increasingly complex universe of satellites overhead. SPD-3 provides guidelines and initiatives to ensure that America is a leader in providing a safe and secure environment as space traffic increases. Common sense space situational awareness and traffic management will be good for our economy and will help provide a more stable environment for the burgeoning space economy.

“Reducing the growing threat of orbital debris is in the interest of all nations, and NASA looks forward to working with the National Space Council, the Department of Commerce and other partners on a path forward. SPD-3 and the directives that preceded it, along with the President’s enthusiasm for our nation’s innovative work, are providing a strong foundation for our nation to once again do the big things that will shape a bright future for all of us in space.”

Local Entrepreneur Mass Producing Unique Environmental Product to Combat Plastic Waste Contamination through Public Support

Science, World

Marc Mataya, Charlotte resident and serial inventor, created the Leaf Burrito®, a reusable yard waste removal bag, which is designed to help eliminate detrimental single-purpose plastic bags. Currently in use in Charlotte, the Leaf Burrito® won the 2017 Sustain Charlotte Award in the Waste Reduction category. “Leaf Burrito won the Sustain Charlotte Award for a reason. Great product, easy to use, making where we live a better place for us and generations after us. It is a cutting edge leader in the Sustainability arena,” stated Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte.

“I came up with the idea several years ago when I was assisting the City of Charlotte Solid Waste staff with unloading my burrito-shaped tarp. However, tarps are not approved containers. I have always had a strong passion for environmental sustainability, green initiatives and with all the current news on what plastic contamination is doing across the world I wanted to do my part,” shared Marc Mataya, local entrepreneur. “After being recognized with the Sustain Charlotte Award and being endorsed by the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte Solid Waste Services, I wanted to get the Leaf Burrito® in the hands of as many folks in the landscape business, corporate entities or weekend warriors in Charlotte and eventually at most homes across the country. Crowdfunding seemed the best venue to educate the public, create awareness and get production started more quickly.”

Crowdfunding will allow Leaf Burrito® to increase production and reduce the cost of the product with larger production runs. Leaf Burrito® works to educate customers and cities about the impact of single-use plastic on the environment and their communities. Leaf Burrito® will donate 5% of all funds raised, as well as 5% of future revenues, to support local Greenway development organizations.

On Earth Day 2018, the Earth Day Network shared these facts about worldwide plastic contamination. 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced since plastic was introduced in the 1950s.The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. Virtually every piece of plastic ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated). 91% of plastic waste isn’t recycled. Most plastics don’t biodegrade in any meaningful sense, it could exist for hundreds or even thousands of years.100 billion plastic bags are used by Americans every year. Tied together, they would reach around the Earth’s equator 773 times. 8 million metric tons of plastic winds up in our oceans each year.

Pittsburgh Penguins, Covestro and Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering unite to ‘Rethink the Rink’

Science, Technology

‘Make-a-Thon’ first step in unique collaboration exploring new ways to make hockey safer for players of all ages

PITTSBURGHMarch 12, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The Pittsburgh Penguins are teaming up with two international giants of science and technology on a bold initiative to make hockey safer at all levels.

“Rethink The Rink,” a first-of-its kind project, will challenge students from Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering to develop material solutions that enhance the safety of the sport without compromising game performance. The first initiative will focus on redesigning the rink dasher boards and glass. As students apply their creativity and academic strength to the challenge, they will have access to experts and materials technologies from Covestro, a high-tech polymers producer and “Official Innovation Partner of the Pittsburgh Penguins.”

“Players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever before, and so our challenge is to find new ways to keep them safer and reduce injuries,” said David Morehouse, president and CEO of the Penguins. “This collaboration with Covestro and Carnegie Mellon is a specific attempt to use recent advances in material science to address the physical boundary that surrounds a hockey rink. Can we come up with a material solution that reduces the impact of players hitting the boards and makes the game safer for players of all ages?”

The first major step in the process will be a “Make-a-thon” March 12-16 at the College of Engineering. The interactive event will bring together teams of CMU students to design and develop prototypes for testing.

If successful, the prototypes will be submitted to experts at the NHL and USA Hockey for their feedback. Testing could then be conducted by amateur players at the FedEx Rink at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

“I cannot imagine better partners than Covestro and Carnegie Mellon Engineering, acknowledged global engines of innovation in materials and engineering,” Morehouse said. “Combined with insight from the Penguins and the NHL on the hockey and rink management side, we think it is an exceptional team to explore ways to make an inherently physical sport safer for all players. This can be a meaningful research project that, if we achieve our goal, could help make a long-term impact on the game.”

The idea for “Rethink the Rink” began in a series of conversations between Morehouse and Jerry MacCleary, CEO of Covestro LLC, which has North American headquarters in Pittsburgh.

“We were drawn to this project for a number of reasons – not only because it combines our passion for problem-solving with our strong focus on safety, but more importantly, because we believe in its long-term potential,” MacCleary said. “We’re writing the playbook as we go, but that’s how innovation happens – by pushing boundaries. And our push will be that much stronger with this powerful trio behind it.”

“At Carnegie Mellon we challenge our students to take on unusual problems, to be innovative, to be inquisitive and to take full advantage of hands-on learning projects like the ‘Rethink the Rink’ challenge,” said James H. Garrett Jr., dean of the College of Engineering. “This initiative, by three world-class organizations, is emblematic of the advanced level of collaboration we practice to drive breakthrough results.”

If successful with the initiative on the dasher boards and glass, the “Rethink the Rink” group would then explore the role of materials in other areas of hockey, including player equipment and rink construction.

“Bringing three Pittsburgh-based organizations together to think creatively about this challenge is an example of the entrepreneurial spirit and energy of the city and indicative of why it is flourishing today,” added Garrett.

About Covestro LLC:
Covestro LLC is one of the leading producers of high-performance polymers in North America and is part of the global Covestro business, which is among the world’s largest polymer companies with 2016 sales of EUR 11.9 billion. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, electrical and electronics, and medical industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employed approximately 15,600 people at the end of 2016.

New Late-Breaking Study Finds Wearable Electrocardiogram (ECG) Monitoring Patch Can Detect Atrial Fibrillation Earlier and More Efficiently than Routine Care

Health, Science

Janssen leads in cardiovascular innovation using real-world data to detect asymptomatic atrial fibrillation
Home-based clinical study underscores the game-changing role of digital technology in future of health care

ORLANDO, Fla.March 10, 2018  — The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson today announced late-breaking results of a new home-based clinical trial showing that a wearable continuous electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring patch can identify people with asymptomatic atrial fibrillation (AFib) earlier and more efficiently than routine care. One-year findings from the investigator-initiated study, mSToPS (mHealth Screening To Prevent Strokes), done in collaboration with Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI), Aetna and iRhythm Technologies, Inc., were presented today during a Featured Clinical Research Session at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session (ACC.18).

Approximately six million Americans have AFib, putting them at an increased risk of stroke.i In fact, one in three people with AFib will experience a stroke during his or her lifetimeii, and one in four will experience heart failureiii. Unfortunately, up to 30 percent of all AFib cases go undiagnosed until life-threatening complications occuriv, signaling a critical need for more efficient and scalable screening methods. To address this challenge, researchers initiated the mSToPS study to understand how digital technology can advance large-scale screening programs.

“We hope that a digital infrastructure will help reimagine how clinical trials can be performed and that this study will be a useful template for remote enrollment and participant engagement,” said Eric Topol, MD, Founder and Director, STSI, La Jolla, CA. “We will have follow-up data to determine if earlier detection of AFib translates into long-term clinical benefits, including reduction of stroke and potential cost savings.”

CLICK TO TWEET: Wearable ECG monitoring patch helps detect asymptomatic AFib vs routine care in new late-breaking home-based clinical study https://ctt.ec/Ml6Ac+ #mSToPS #ACC18

In the study, 1,738 patients underwent continuous ECG monitoring using a wearable patch over a four-week period, divided into two two-week intervals. For each participant enrolled, two matched patients were selected, totaling 3,476 patients in the observational control group; these patients received routine care, which included regular visits to a primary care physician to address general health issues. The primary endpoint was the time to first diagnosis of AFib.

At one year, researchers found:

  • AFib was newly diagnosed in 6.3 percent (109) of patients wearing the ECG monitoring patch compared to 2.3 percent (81) in the control group receiving routine care (HR=2.8, p<0.0001)
    • Of the 109 patients diagnosed in the ECG monitoring patch group, 65 were found to have AFib through the ECG patch with the remainder diagnosed in the clinical setting
    • The majority of patients diagnosed with AFib had a relatively low burden of AFib with only 4.3 percent having persistent AFib
    • Besides AFib episodes, 70 patients in the ECG monitoring patch group were found to have potentially actionable arrhythmias1
  • Approximately 5.4 percent of patients wearing the ECG monitoring patch initiated anticoagulant treatment compared to 3.4 percent in the control group (p=0.0004)

“We are honored to team up with STSI, Aetna and iRhythm Technologies on this groundbreaking study,” said JoAnne Foody, MD, FACC, FAHA, Cardiovascular Therapeutic Area Head, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “By leading innovative real-world research to help increase the early detection of AFib, we are encouraging more informed patient and physician discussions.”

CLICK TO TWEET: Bringing together digital technology and health care – wearable ECG patches could transform how AFib is screened https://ctt.ec/n91b0+ #mSToPS #ACC18

Four-month results of mSToPS were previously presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2017.

More about mSToPS
A randomized, controlled trial involving Aetna health insurance members from across the United States, mSToPS explores the use of an all-digital (recruitment, monitoring and follow-up) program to enable screening with an ECG monitoring patch for undiagnosed AFib in the home setting compared to routine medical care. Inclusion criteria were developed to include a broad population of patients thought to be more likely to have undiagnosed AFib, including those aged 75 years or older, males over the age 55, or females over 65 years with one or more co-morbidities.

Of the 102,553 individuals who met the eligibility criteria and were invited to participate, 1,738 patients were enrolled and monitored in the group assigned the ECG monitoring patch. For the routine care, observational group, two matched controls were selected for each ECG monitored participant from the pool of individuals who were originally eligible for the study; matching was based on sex, age and CHA2DS2-VASc score. Mean age was 73.7 with 40.5 percent being female.

Patients in the ECG monitoring patch group used the iRhythm ZIO® XT Patch wearable sensor, an FDA-cleared, single-use, 14-day, ambulatory ECG monitoring adhesive patch that monitors and retains in memory the wearer’s continuous ECG for up to two weeks. All participants were asked to wear two different self-applied patches, for a maximum of two weeks for each patch, approximately three months apart. A total of 481 individuals wore one patch, and 1,257 wore both ECG monitoring patches, providing a median total monitoring time of 593.3 hours per monitored participant.

About AFib
AFib is a type of irregular heartbeat, sometimes caused by a heart valve problem, that can lead to the formation of blood clots in the heart. These clots can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. It is the most common sustained arrhythmia. AFib increases the risk of stroke by five-fold, and accounts for almost one-third of all strokes.v,vi,vii For those individuals who experience a stroke due to AFib, 20 percent were not aware they had AFib until the time of their stroke or shortly thereafter.viii When AFib is diagnosed, anticoagulant treatment can decrease the risk of stroke by more than 65 percent.ix

Indonesian Halal Scientist wins King Faisal Prize for Service to Islam


Indonesian research scientist Irwandi Jaswir has been named the winner of this year’s King Faisal Prize for Service to Islam in recognition of his outstanding research work in the field of ‘Halal Science’.

     (Photo: https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/630981/His_Royal_Highness.jpg )

(Photo: https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/630999/Research_Scientist_Irwandi_Jaswir.jpg )

Professor Jaswir is currently the Deputy Dean of the International Institute for Halal Research and Training (INHART) and Secretary of Council of Professors at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He has published over 120 peer reviewed articles in scientific journals and more than 30 research studies on the topic of Halal Science.

He is credited with the major findings related to identification and verification of porcine DNA in commercial gelatin and gelatin containing processed foods. His research work has contributed to the development of the ‘Portable Electronic Nose’ for Halal authentication in beverages, and production of fish gelatin nanoparticles for drug release in medical applications.

A member of the editorial board of many reputable scientific journals, Professor Jaswir’s work has also won over 60 other awards and honours, including the 2013 HABIBIE award and the Islamic Product Innovation Award in 2016.

The King Faisal Prize recognizes outstanding works of individuals and institutions in the areas of thought and science. The previous winners of the Prize include heads of states and national leaders as well as researchers and scientists. Last year, the Service to Islam Prize was awarded to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia.

About King Faisal Prize

King Faisal Prize was established in 1977 by the King Faisal Foundation (KFF),
a philanthropic organization founded in 1976G / 1396H by the sons and daughters of the late King Faisal bin Abdulaziz, as a tribute to their father. The Prize was granted for the first time in 1979G/1399H in three categories: Service to Islam, Islamic Studies and Arabic Language and Literature. In 1981G/1401H, a prize in Medicine and a prize in Science were added. The Medicine prize was awarded the following year, in 1982G/1402H, whereas the Science prize was awarded in 1984G/1404H. The main objectives of King Faisal Prize are to recognize distinguished initiatives that instill Islamic values in the society and contribute to the development of Muslim communities as well as the overall progress of mankind.


Research Scientist Irwandi Jaswir winner of King Faisal Prize 2018 for Service to Islam (PRNewsfoto/King Faisal Prize)

Neurosurgeon performs unique surgery on man with severe neck deformity

Medicine, Science

Surgery first of its kind in the world

A Kettering Physician Network neurosurgeon performed a surgery that no other surgeon in the world has ever done—and he literally gave the patient from Middletown, Ohio a new look on life.

The patient had a severe neck deformity which caused his head to lean to the point where his ear was touching his shoulder. The man had not been able to look up, work or drive for several years. His head and neck were in constant pain.

“It was embarrassing to walk around staring at the ground and not be able to look people in the eyes,” the patient recalls.

He had sought help from surgeons throughout the country and no one was able to help him. A physician in southwest Ohio heard of Kamal Woods, MD, medical director of Kettering Health Network’s Brain and Spine Center located on the campus of Kettering Medical Center in Kettering, Ohio, and recommended that the patient see him.

The patient says Dr. Woods’ confidence was very comforting. “Dr. Woods said he could help me, he wasn’t sure how at first but it was obvious that he was going to find a way,” the patient explains.

“At first glance, I knew that this was going to be a huge challenge,” explains Dr. Woods. “I had never seen anything quite like it before. I reviewed medical literature and could not find any mention of a similar case. We had to go back to the drawing board. I found inspiration just thinking of what a difference successful surgery would make in this patient’s life. We found a way and prayerfully and successfully executed the plan.”

Dr. Woods decided to perform the surgery in three stages. During the surgery, Dr. Woods intentionally broke the patient’s neck in four places to straighten his spine. The patient’s condition improved immensely following this one-of-a-kind procedure.

“It was like night and day,” the patient exclaims. “After I left the hospital, I saw new buildings, trees—things I hadn’t seen in a long time. I was used to seeing the car dashboard. The whole experience was a gift from God, it was life changing.”

The patient says before the procedure, he couldn’t do things like attend a baseball game, see a movie or eat at a restaurant. “I have a new lease on life,” he says.

Kettering Health Network’s Brain and Spine Center has a team of physicians, surgeons and technicians, each with a unique set of skills, who can diagnose and treat diseases and disorders of the brain and spine—including hard-to-treat cases. The center offers the Dayton region and all southwestern Ohio the most advanced diagnostic, surgical and therapeutic neuroscience care.

Kettering Health Network is a not-for-profit network of eight hospitals, 10 emergency departments, and 120 outpatient facilities serving southwest Ohio. The network’s hospitals are KetteringGrandviewSycamore, Southview, Greene Memorial, Soin, Fort Hamilton, and Kettering Behavioral Medicine. Kettering College, a division of Kettering Medical Center, is a fully accredited college that specializes in health science education. Kettering Health Network is recognized as one of the 2017 Truven Health Analytics 15 Top Health Systems in the United States. For more information, visit www.ketteringhealth.org.

NASA Hosts Media Teleconference to Announce Latest Kepler Discovery

Science, Technology

NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST ThursdayDec. 14, to announce the latest discovery made by its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope. The discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analyzing Kepler data.

The briefing participants are:

  • Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington
  • Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google AI in Mountain View, California
  • Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Texas, Austin
  • Jessie Dotson, Kepler project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley

For dial-in information, media must send their names, affiliations and phone numbers to Felicia Chouat felicia.chou@nasa.gov no later than noon Dec. 14. Questions can be submitted on Twitter during the teleconference using the hashtag #askNASA.

Teleconference audio and visuals will stream live at:


When Kepler launched in March 2009, scientists didn’t know how common planets were beyond our solar system. Thanks to Kepler’s treasure trove of discoveries, astronomers now believe there may be at least one planet orbiting every star in the sky.

Kepler completed its prime mission in 2012 and went on to collect data for an additional year in an extended mission. In 2014, the spacecraft began a new extended mission called K2, which continues the search for planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets, while introducing new research opportunities to study young stars, supernovae and other cosmic phenomena.

For more information about NASA’s Kepler mission, visit: