Author Archives: jkh6

OpenStax’s market share in the college textbook market continues to grow rapidly. According to the latest Babson Survey Research Group Report on Open Educational Resources (OER), 16.5% of faculty who recently chose a new textbook for a large-enrollment introductory-level course adopted a textbook from OpenStax. This is up 50% over 2016’s adoption rate of 10.8%. The survey finds that OpenStax textbooks are being adopted for large-enrollment introductory courses at roughly the same rate as commercial textbooks.

J. K. Adams, V. Boominathan, B. W. Avants, D. G. Vercosa, F. Ye, R. G. Baraniuk, J. T. Robinson, A. Veeraraghavan, “Single-Frame 3D Fluorescence Microscopy with Ultraminiature Lensless FlatScope,” Science Advances, Vol. 3, No. 12, 8 December 2017.

Abstract: Modern biology increasingly relies on fluorescence microscopy, which is driving demand for smaller, lighter, and cheaper microscopes. However, traditional microscope architectures suffer from a fundamental trade-off: As lenses become smaller, they must either collect less light or image a smaller field of view. To break this fundamental trade-off between device size and performance, we present a new concept for three-dimensional (3D) fluorescence imaging that replaces lenses with an optimized amplitude mask placed a few hundred micrometers above the sensor and an efficient algorithm that can convert a single frame of captured sensor data into high-resolution 3D images. The result is FlatScope: perhaps the world’s tiniest and lightest microscope. FlatScope is a lensless microscope that is scarcely larger than an image sensor (roughly 0.2 g in weight and less than 1 mm thick) and yet able to produce micrometer-resolution, high–frame rate, 3D fluorescence movies covering a total volume of several cubic millimeters. The ability of FlatScope to reconstruct full 3D images from a single frame of captured sensor data allows us to image 3D volumes roughly 40,000 times faster than a laser scanning confocal microscope while providing comparable resolution. We envision that this new flat fluorescence microscopy paradigm will lead to implantable endoscopes that minimize tissue damage, arrays of imagers that cover large areas, and bendable, flexible microscopes that conform to complex topographies.

Fig. 1.  Traditional microscope versus FlatScope. (A) Traditional microscopes capture the scene through an objective and tube lens (~20 to 460 mm), resulting in a quality image directly on the imaging sensor. (B) FlatScope captures the scene through an amplitude mask and spacer (~0.2 mm) and computationally reconstructs the image. Scale bars, 100 μm (inset, 50 μm). (C) Comparison of form factor and resolution for traditional lensed research microscopes, GRIN lens microscope, and FlatScope. FlatScope achieves high-resolution imaging while maintaining a large ratio of FOV relative to the cross-sectional area of the device (see Materials and Methods for elaboration). Microscope objectives are Olympus MPlanFL N (1.25×/2.5×/5×, NA = 0.04/0.08/0.15), Nikon Apochromat (1×/2×/4×, NA = 0.04/0.1/0.2), and Zeiss Fluar (2.5×/5×, NA = 0.12/0.25). (D) FlatScope prototype (shown without absorptive filter). Scale bars, 100 μm.

Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute posits that the long-term trend of rapidly increasing textbook prices might have finally been disrupted by market competition, partly by new textbook alternatives like OpenStax.

His bottom line: “I think we can expect continued disruption in the college textbook market and a continued downward trend in college textbook prices as competitive forces and more alternatives continue to erode the power of traditional textbook publishers. The trend has been broken, and college students can expect lower and lower textbook prices in the future.”

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Patients who have to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may be spared the ordeal of having to lie still in the scanner for up to 45 minutes, thanks to new compressive sensing technology developed in the groups of Rice ECE faculty Richard Baraniuk and Kevin Kelly.  The patented technology was recently licensed from Rice by Siemens Healthineers.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners equipped with compressive sensing operate much more quickly than current scanners.  Siemens Healthineers has applied the technology to help solve an important clinical problem: how to reduce long scan times while maintaining high diagnostic quality.  The result is the first clinical application of compressive sensing for cardiovascular imaging; it was approved for clinical use in February 2017 by the Food and Drug Administration. Thanks to compressive sensing, scans of the beating heart can be completed in as few as 25 seconds while the patient breathes freely. In contrast, in an MRI scanner equipped with conventional acceleration techniques, patients must lie still for six minutes or more and hold their breath as many as seven to 12 times throughout a cardiovascular-related procedure.

Rice University-based nonprofit OpenStax, which is already changing the economics of higher education by providing free textbooks to more than 1 million college students per year, today launched a low-cost, personalized learning system called OpenStax Tutor Beta that analyzes how students learn to offer them individualized homework and tutoring.  In development for three years, the system will be available this fall for three courses: college physics, biology and sociology.  While students study using OpenStax Tutor, it  learns how they learn — what they struggle with, what helps them most — and it uses that information to offer just-in-time remediation and enrichment.  The system provides personalized assessment and spaced practice, helping students focus their studying efforts on their weak areas and remember what they learned earlier in the course.

OpenStax Tutor Beta home
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Inside Higher Ed story

Rice University professor and engineer Richard Baraniuk has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is one of 228 new members announced today by the academy, which honors some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists and civic, business and philanthropic leaders. The academy is one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers. It convenes leaders from the academic, business and government sectors to respond to the challenges facing - and opportunities available to - the nation and the world.

Rice University press release

Richard Baraniuk is one of 13 Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellows announced today by the U.S. Defense Department.  The fellows program provides extensive, long-term financial support for distinguished university scientists and engineers to pursue “blue sky” basic research that could produce revolutionary new technologies.  The program was launched in 2008 as the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship (NSSEFF) program and renamed this year in honor of Vannevar Bush, the famed American engineer and inventor who headed U.S. scientific research during World War II and later helped found the National Science Foundation.  Baraniuk, Rice's Victor E. Cameron Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is a leading expert on compressive sensing, a branch of signal processing that enables engineers to glean useful information from far fewer data samples than would typically be required.

DOD press release
Rice University press release

nailogoRichard Baraniuk, Rice University's Victor E. Cameron Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.  He is one of 175 academic inventors named this year, and is now among 757 fellows representing 229 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes.  NAI Fellows have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation to create or facilitate inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.  Combined, they are named inventors on more than 26,000 U.S. patents.

Press release