for Disaster Duty
The lowly cockroach, one of the most reviled insects, could
become the world’s next hero. Outfitted with tiny sensor
backpacks, the cockroaches could be deployed in a swarm
to sniff out toxic chemicals or communicate with and locate
victims of a nuclear disaster.
A team led by Byunghoo Jung, a professor of electrical and
computer engineering, has developed and tested a high-sensitivity, low-power wireless transceiver for insect-based
wireless sensor networks. The stout and tank-like roaches —
lugging a microcontroller, sensor, antenna and wireless
transceiver — can either send data directly to a base station or
pass data to other roaches closer to the station.
The project originated as an assignment from the systems
company OpCoast to develop a wireless sensor node for the
U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.
“Based on the successful development of the prototype, the
work is taking steps toward commercialization, led by
OpCoast,” Jung says. | L. T.
PHO TO B Y VINCEN T WALTER
Sniffing Out Danger
in Everyday Chemicals
How do the chemicals you’re exposed to every day in your
environment — like the pungent-smelling herbicides sprayed on
crops and lawns — affect your risk of getting cancer? That’s the
question at the heart of research by Jennifer Freeman.
“This is a very important problem in public health,” says Freeman, an
associate professor of toxicology. “There is a great lack of knowledge
on if and how the large number of environmental chemicals to
which we are exposed everyday may influence cancer and other
Focusing on the herbicide atrazine along with lead and radiation,
Freeman and her team are investigating the molecular mechanisms
by which adverse health effects occur in both adults and children.
“Most of our studies are focused on early developmental exposures
since this is one of the most sensitive life stages,” she says. “We
study the immediate effects and the potential impacts later in life.”
Ultimately, she says, that could lead to new disease-prevention
measures. | A.R.