Final yr, Charlene Xia ’17, SM ’20 discovered herself at a crossroads. She was ending up her grasp’s diploma in media arts and sciences from the MIT Media Lab and had simply submitted functions to doctoral diploma applications. All Xia may do was sit and wait. Within the meantime, she narrowed down her profession choices, no matter whether or not she was accepted to any program.
“I had two ideas: I’m both going to get a PhD to work on a mission that protects our planet, or I’m going to begin a restaurant,” remembers Xia.
Xia poured over her in depth cookbook assortment, researching worldwide cuisines as she anxiously awaited phrase about her graduate faculty functions. She even seemed into the price of a meals truck allow within the Boston space. Simply as she began hatching plans to open a plant-based skewer restaurant, Xia obtained phrase that she had been accepted into the mechanical engineering graduate program at MIT.
Shortly after beginning her doctoral research, Xia’s advisor, Professor David Wallace, approached her with an fascinating alternative. MathWorks, a software program firm recognized for creating the MATLAB computing platform, had introduced a brand new seed funding program in MIT’s Division of Mechanical Engineering. This system inspired collaborative analysis tasks centered on the well being of the planet.
“I noticed this as a super-fun alternative to mix my ardour for meals, my technical experience in ocean engineering, and my curiosity in sustainably serving to our planet,” says Xia.
From MIT Mechanical Engineering: “Saving Seaweed with Machine Studying”
Wallace knew Xia could be as much as the duty of taking an interdisciplinary method to unravel a problem associated to the well being of the planet. “Charlene is a outstanding scholar with extraordinary expertise and deep thoughtfulness. She is just about fearless, embracing challenges in nearly any area with the well-founded perception that, with effort, she’s going to turn into a grasp,” says Wallace.
Alongside Wallace and Affiliate Professor Stefanie Mueller, Xia proposed a mission to foretell and forestall the unfold of illnesses in aquaculture. The workforce centered on seaweed farms particularly.
Already in style in East Asian cuisines, seaweed holds large potential as a sustainable meals supply for the world’s ever-growing inhabitants. Along with its nutritive worth, seaweed combats varied environmental threats. It helps battle local weather change by absorbing extra carbon dioxide within the ambiance, and can even take in fertilizer run-off, protecting coasts cleaner.
As with a lot of marine life, seaweed is threatened by the very factor it helps mitigate in opposition to: local weather change. Local weather stressors like heat temperatures or minimal daylight encourage the expansion of dangerous micro organism resembling ice-ice illness. Inside days, complete seaweed farms are decimated by unchecked bacterial progress.
To unravel this drawback, Xia turned to the microbiota current in these seaweed farms as a predictive indicator of any menace to the seaweed or livestock. “Our mission is to develop a low-cost machine that may detect and forestall illnesses earlier than they have an effect on seaweed or livestock by monitoring the microbiome of the setting,” says Xia.
The workforce pairs outdated expertise with the newest in computing. Utilizing a submersible digital holographic microscope, they take a 2D picture. They then use a machine studying system often called a neural community to transform the 2D picture right into a illustration of the microbiome current within the 3D setting.
“Utilizing a machine studying community, you’ll be able to take a 2D picture and reconstruct it nearly in actual time to get an thought of what the microbiome seems to be like in a 3D area,” says Xia.
The software program may be run in a small Raspberry Pi that may very well be connected to the holographic microscope. To determine how you can talk these information again to the analysis workforce, Xia drew upon her grasp’s diploma analysis.
In that work, underneath the steering of Professor Allan Adams and Professor Joseph Paradiso within the Media Lab, Xia centered on creating small underwater communication gadgets that may relay information concerning the ocean again to researchers. Quite than the same old $4,000, these gadgets have been designed to value lower than $100, serving to decrease the associated fee barrier for these excited about uncovering the various mysteries of our oceans. The communication gadgets can be utilized to relay information concerning the ocean setting from the machine studying algorithms.
By combining these low-cost communication gadgets together with microscopic pictures and machine studying, Xia hopes to design a low-cost, real-time monitoring system that may be scaled to cowl complete seaweed farms.
“It’s nearly like having the ‘web of issues’ underwater,” provides Xia. “I’m creating this entire underwater digicam system alongside the wi-fi communication I developed that can provide me the info whereas I’m sitting on dry land.”
Armed with these information concerning the microbiome, Xia and her workforce can detect whether or not or not a illness is about to strike and jeopardize seaweed or livestock earlier than it’s too late.
Whereas Xia nonetheless daydreams about opening a restaurant, she hopes the seaweed mission will immediate individuals to rethink how they contemplate meals manufacturing generally.
“We must always take into consideration farming and meals manufacturing when it comes to all the ecosystem,” she says. “My meta-goal for this mission could be to get individuals to consider meals manufacturing in a extra holistic and pure approach.”