George Mason University
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George Mason University

Centers and Labs

Serious Researchers at Work

The Volgenau School of Engineering research centers focus on issues ranging from cybersecurity to artificial intelligence.

Volgenau researcher marks up white board in Mason lab

Research centers are headed by Volgenau faculty, who draw from school resources while also benefiting from external sponsors on certain projects. Here, Siddhartha Sikdar, a professor in the Department of Bioengineering, works on a project.

Each center is headed by a distinguished Volgenau School faculty member who harnesses the resources of the school as well as those of external sponsors to conduct a wide range of projects.

From investigating the relationship between brain structure, activity, and function from the subcellular to the network level at the The Center for Neural Informatics, Neural Structures, and Neural Plasticity (CN3) to analyzing data from crowdsourcing to predict outcomes at the C4I & Cyber Center, the school's researchers are working to solve a myriad of real-world challenges.

VSE doctoral students collaborate with faculty and contribute to the centers’ research by participating in sponsored projects, sharing their work at research conferences, and publishing articles and reports.

Research Centers

Center for Assurance Research and Engineering (CARE)

CARE's multidisciplinary approach to cybersecurity encompasses the fields of technology, policy, business and leadership. Through partnerships with government and private industry, our innovative research is translated into practices and policies used in real-word settings. Our research includes security for distributed systems, mobile apps/devices, industrial control systems, and new technologies such as networked medical devices, as well as policies development for securing critical infrastructure and guidance for cybersecurity leadership/governance.

Center for Configuration Analytics and Automation (CCAA)

The Center for Configuration Analytics and Automation (CCAA) has been established under the National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Program (I/UCRC). The center is a multi-university and multi-industry consortium established and led by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in partnership with George Mason University and a broad membership of industry and government organizations.

The goal of the Center is to build the critical mass of inter-disciplinary academic researchers and industry partners for addressing the current and future challenges of configuration analytics and automation to improve service assurability, security and resiliency of enterprise IT systems, cloud/SDN data centers, and cyber-physical systems by applying innovative analytics and automation.

The Center for Neural Informatics, Neural Structures, and Neural Plasticity (CN3)

The Center for Neural Informatics, Neural Structures, and Neural Plasticity (CN3) provides opportunities for cross-training in neuroscience, psychology, and engineering, both at the graduate and postdoctoral levels. Researchers investigate the relationship between brain structure, activity, and function from the subcellular to the network level.

Center for Secure Information Systems

The Center for Secure Information Systems was created to provide a dedicated environment to encourage the development of expertise in both the theoretical and applied aspects of information systems security. Its scope encompasses information secrecy, integrity, and availability problems in military, civil, and commercial sectors.

Center of Excellence in Command, Control, Communications, Computing, Intelligence, and Cyber

Mason is the nation's first and only civilian university-based entity offering a comprehensive academic and research program in C4I and Cyber Performs research in sensing and fusion, C3 architectures, communications and signal processing, command support and intelligent systems, modeling and simulation, and distributed education and training. Provides a bridge between Volgenau faculty expertise and the needs of government/defense/intelligence information technology users. Conducts active outreach programs to government and industry.

Learning Agents Center

The Learning Agents Center conducts fundamental and experimental research on the development of knowledge-based learning and problem solving agents. The center also supports teaching in the areas of intelligent agents, machine learning, knowledge acquisition, and artificial intelligence. Major research areas include instructable agents, multi-strategy learning and knowledge acquisition, domain modeling, knowledge representation and ontologies, cooperative problem solving, intelligent tutoring systems, and natural language processing.

Rapid Prototyping Research Center

The Rapid Prototyping Research Center (RPRC) focuses on providing its Department of Defense sponsors a unique perspective on rapid prototyping that aligns with Section 804 in the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act. Specifically, rather than developing a new system to satisfy intractable problems on the battlefield, the RPRC integrates new technology into existing infrastructure. This unique approach reduces acquisition costs since the sustainment tail is in place. It also reduces the time to field intractable solutions to the battlefield from 10-14 to 1-3 years and provides assurance that the prototype involved is integrated with the latest technology, not dated technology due to lengthy acquisition delivery timelines. 

Research Laboratories

BioInspired Nanoarchitectures

This lab is used to design and synthesize new composite nanomaterials, combining structured DNA nanoparticles with macromolecular assemblies of proteins, peptides, and lipids.

We use these constructs to investigate fundamental questions about nanoscale organization of macromolecules with a focus on cell membrane molecular events, such as pathogen entry into cells and antigen recognition in B-cell activation. These new biomimetic nanoarchitectures also are used in the development of vaccines, delivery vehicles, and new materials for tissue engineering.
Principal investigator: Remi Veneziano.
Location: Institute for Advanced Biomedical Research, third floor.

Bioinspired Robotics and Intelligent Control Laboratory (BRIC Lab)

The lab investigates control systems, artificial intelligence, and their applications in autonomous systems. The work seeks to establish fundamental principles and develop advanced sensing and actuation approaches for autonomous operation of underwater vehicles and bioinspired robots in unknown and dynamic environments. The equipment in this lab will provide testing capabilities for the design and control of underwater robotic systems with an indoor water tank of more than 3,000 gallons.   
Lab Director: Kai Zeng
Location: Innovation Drive, SciTech Campus

Biomaterials and Nanomedicine

This lab is being equipped for biomaterials development in the areas of tissue regeneration and the delivery of novel nucleic acid therapeutics. Degradable polymers are being designed that interact in a specific manner with cells of the immune system and with blood to control inflammation and promote tissue regeneration. Bioactivities are evaluated using proteomics, in vitro cell culture assays and animal model systems. Positively charged cationic polymers and distinct chemical conjugation strategies are being developed to effectively deliver mRNA to cells that translate into protein as antigens for vaccines or for functional protein replacement therapies.

A multidisciplinary team works from developing new compositions through characterization and screening studies, to identify those that can successfully translate to industry for clinical testing.
Principal investigators: Caroline Hoemann and Michael Buschmann.
Location: Institute for Advanced Biomedical Research, second floor.

Biomedical Imaging Lab

This lab conducts translational research using imaging to investigate pathophysiology and function. One overarching focus is the investigation of brain-body interactions through imaging. In particular, researchers are studying the interactions between the central and peripheral nervous system and the musculoskeletal system in a number of clinical conditions of major public health significance, such as chronic pain, stroke, spinal cord injury, and amputation.

This interdisciplinary group conducts pre-clinical research for developing new technology and translational research on human subjects. The group uses state-of-the-art ultrasound and laser instrumentation for developing new ultrasound, optical, and hybrid imaging techniques.

The research has potential applications in noninvasive diagnosis, screening, and treatment monitoring for a number of diseases, as well as for understanding underlying mechanisms of disease.
Principal investigators: Siddhartha Sikdar and Parag Chitnis.
Location: Peterson Family Health Sciences Hall, Room 3300.

Computational and Experimental Neuroplasticity Laboratory

This lab focuses on the biochemical and biophysical mechanisms underlying memory storage in brain cells. Researchers combine electrophysiology, optogenetics, and computational approaches to investigate how Spatio-temporal patterns of input lead to strengthening or weakening of connections among brain cells. They develop computationally efficient software for modeling reaction-diffusion systems in order to investigate interactions among complex intracellular signaling pathways.

Computational models of single neurons are used to investigate how temporal stimulation patterns interact with dopamine to control neuronal memory storage. Experimental approaches include field and intracellular recording from brain slices to measure changes in electrical activity caused by temporal stimulation pattern, as well as expression of light sensitive ion channels to control neuron activity with precise timing.

A long-term goal is to understand the role of dopamine in the basal ganglia in order to develop new treatments for Parkinson’s disease and addiction.
Principal investigator: Kim "Avrama" Blackwell.
Location: Krasnow Institute for Advanced Studies.

Computational Biomedicine Laboratory

This lab focuses on the development and application of computational models and techniques primarily in the areas of biofluids and biomechanics. Biofluids applications center on the patient-specific image-based modeling of blood flow in the brain and cerebrovascular diseases, such as aneurysms and stroke.

In particular, researchers combine in silico models, clinical observations, biological and mechanical tissue data to understand mechanisms of cerebral aneurysm disease, to enhance risk assessment and patient evaluation through data-based statistical modeling, and to evaluate devices and minimally invasive procedures to treat brain aneurysms and ischemic strokes.

Biomechanics applications include the study of disorders of the oculomotor and musculoskeletal systems. In particular, we focus on quantitative measurement of extraocular dynamics in vivo using ultrasound, studying pelvic floor dysfunction using ultrasound imaging and biomechanical modeling, studying the biomechanics of the rat hind limb to improve understanding of neural control, and examination of the coordination of extraocular muscles and biomechanics of strabismus.
Principal investigators: Juan Raul Cebral, Vicky Ikonomidou, and Qi Wei.
Location: Peterson Family Health Sciences Hall, Room 4000E/F.

Computational Neuroanatomy Group/Ascoli Lab

This lab in the Center for Neural Informatics, Structures, and Plasticity aims to create a real-scale, biologically realistic computer simulation of an entire functional portion of the mammalian brain at the detailed level of individual cellular connections.

Researchers are especially interested in neuronal architecture and the circuit underlying associative memory. The computational models we develop are open-source and entirely data-driven, linking each parameter to an experimental observation in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Our research has been continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health and other funding agencies since the last millennium.
Principal investigator: Giorgio Ascoli.
Location: Krasnow Institute for Advanced Studies, second floor.

Computer Vision and Neural Networks Laboratory

Researchers in this lab work on human-computer intelligent interaction, biometrics, data compression and fractal image representations, object recognition, motion analysis and stabilization, attention and control mechanisms, automatic target recognition, and intelligent agents for autonomous navigation.

Cryptographic Engineering Research Group

From Greek krpto (hidden) and grapho (write) comes the science and practice of hiding information. Most Internet users come in contact with cryptography when they go to a secure website of an Internet retailer. Other popular applications are secure e-mail, Internet banking, and mobile phones. Cryptographic Engineering is concerned with all aspects of implementing cryptographic algorithms in hardware and software.
Co-directors: The labs' co-directors are Kris Gaj and Jens-Peter Kaps.

Living Cyber Innovation Lab (Arlington)

The CCI NoVa Node Living Cyber Innovation Lab will include a 5G testbed for the study of Cyber Physical System (CPS) security research, training, and experiential learning.  

The lab will include autonomous vehicle sensor platforms to study 5G performance and security vulnerabilities. These platforms will support lidar, radar, stereo and night vision cameras that will be deployed on the NoVa Node’s fleet of vehicles to simulate autonomous driving. The vehicles will be used throughout the Northern Virginia Node and may remain in residence at Node partners’ institutions for periods of time to collect data. NoVa Node partners will leverage the NoVa Node 5G testbed in Arlington to analyze data, experiment, and develop new studies. 

The Cyber Living Innovation Lab will include robotic platforms to evaluate 5G performance and security vulnerabilities including the study of 5G’s impact on security of Industry 4.0, and smart manufacturing, and the vulnerability of the supporting power grid.

This facility will also enable students to learn about CPS security, 5G, transportation networks, manufacturing, and power through hands on experience that extends classroom instruction.
Location: Vernon Smith Hall, Arlington

Flood Hazards Research Lab (Potomac Science Center)

The Flood Hazards Research Lab at the Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental and Infrastructure Engineering is dedicated to research sustainable solutions to flood hazards impacting societies in coastal, riverine and urban environments.

The lab’s work combines field investigations and measurements of flood hazards to computational model development and applications. The group has experience in deployment field instrumentation under extreme events conditions and they are currently working on developing real-time systems for flood hazards awareness.
Principal Investigator: Celso Ferriera
Location: Potomac Science Center

Microfluidic Single Cell Analysis Laboratory in Engineering (m-SCALE)

Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell based immunotherapy has recently demonstrated significant potential against advanced stage cancers and other diseases. However, these treatments are lengthy, expensive, and only available to a limited population.

Researchers use a unique technique for synthesis and encapsulation of liposomes with tumor antigens, which can be delivered to stimulate t-cell expansion in vivo without the need to perform complex ex vivo genetic modification of cells.

In addition, we have also developed a robust lab-on-a-chip strategy to create hypoxic gradients within microfluidic devices to study mechanisms of tumor progression and acquisition of drug resistance. This platform also offers a novel and efficient way to perform pharmaceutical testing for personalized medicine.
Principal investigator: Nitin Agrawal.
Location: Krasnow Institute for Advanced Studies.

Nano/micro-scale Transport Engineering Laboratory (nTEL)

The nano/micro-scale Transport Engineering Laboratory (nTEL) investigates the fundamental physics underlying nano and microscale transport phenomena in fluids, especially involving interfaces and electric fields.  Our work will enable the design of better sustainable energy systems, more energy-efficient and affordable wastewater treatment methods, and even improved treatments for diseases like cancer.

Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine

The lab focuses on the synthesis and applications of a wide range of carriers at the nano and micro-size scale including polymeric and metallic particles, micelles, liposomes, carbon nanotubes, and metal-organic frameworks.

At the fundamental level, researchers aim to understand the mechanisms involved in the formation of such carriers to acquire high control in their physicochemical properties. At the applied level, they use those carriers in drug delivery, vaccines, imaging, biodefense, agriculture, medical devices, and microelectronics projects.

Since their research projects are highly translational, they collaborate closely with hospitals, industrial partners, federal research laboratories located in Virginia, United States, and across the world.
Principal investigator: Carolina Salvador Morales.
Location: Institute for Advanced Biomedical Research, first floor.

Networking and Simulation Laboratory

This lab is part of the GMU C4I Center -- command, control, communications, computing, computing, intelligence, and cyber. The lab researches distributed multimedia systems for education and training (including virtual simulation). Projects include: 

  • Battle Management Language: The project started as part of the U.S. Army's Simulation-to-C4I Interoperability Overarching Integrated Product Team. ​
  • Network Workbench: The project involves network simulation software for academic investigation of Internet concepts.​
  • EXtensible Modeling and Simulation Framework Overlay Multicast​ (XOM): This project, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, aims to provide multicast services for real-time modeling and simulation in an open network. 
Neural Engineering Laboratory

Our main goal is to develop prosthetic devices or parts of devices to help people with disabilities, in particular with pathologies of the nervous system. The second area researchers work on is neuronal cell cultures and biosensors.
Principal investigators: Nathalia Peixoto and Parag Chitnis.
Location: Peterson Family Health Sciences Hall, Room 4000.

Sensorimotor Integration and Human-Machine Interfaces Laboratory

This lab is part of the Center for Adaptive Systems of Brain Body Interactions (CASBBI). A key aspect of brain-body interactions is manifest in behavior. Perhaps the most ubiquitous example of this is the perception-action interactions that underlie motor behavior.

These interactions are constantly updated in response to experience—a process known as sensory-motor adaptation. Sensory-motor adaptation is critical for functioning successfully in one’s environment. The research methods pursued in this lab are broadly applicable to assistive technologies where physical systems, computational frameworks, and low-power embedded computing serve to augment human activities or to replace lost functionality.

Investigators examine experience-dependent changes that occur in both the intact and disordered sensory-motor system. Areas of study include the processes by which this adaptation occurs, its mechanisms, and relationships to functional disability and recovery. One focus within this group is the sensory-motor adaptation that occurs with motor practice in individuals with chronic hemiparetic stroke.

Another focus is the development and evaluation of novel bionic technologies such as upper extremity prostheses and hybrid exoskeletons, using wearable imaging sensors for sensing the human user’s volitional intent.

Addressing these issues requires a multimodal measurement approach that includes quantitative measurements of motor performance, muscle activation patterns and intramuscular architecture in health and disease, and corticomotor physiology, as well as standardized clinical assessments of impairment and function.
Principal investigators: Siddartha Sikdar and Michelle Harris-Love.
Location: Peterson Family Health Sciences Hall, Room 3300A.

Sustainable Geotransportation/Geoenvironmental Infrastructure( SGI) Lab

This laboratory is equipped to conduct a variety of research related to the evaluation of index and engineering properties of recycled materials, aggregates, and soils, as well as geoenvironmental assessments of wastewater and leachates, and geosynthetics used in landfill liner and cover systems. The laboratory also contains a large-scale model experiment set-up that allows the SGI team to simulate roadways and earth retaining structures constructed with recycled materials and geosynthetics with the goal of replicating field conditions as closely as possible within the confines of a laboratory.
Principal Investigators: Burak Tanyu and Kuo Tian
Location: Krasnow Institute 

System Architectures Laboratory

This lab conducts basic and applied research in such areas as the modeling and design and evaluation of architectures for information systems. The emphasis is on command and control applications.

Tribology and Surface Mechanics Lab

The lab investigates surface and interfacial mechanics as well as friction and wear phenomena from nano to macro scales. Our work seeks to reduce energy and material consumptions in systems with moving components operating especially at harsh environments (e.g., very high temperatures). The equipment in this lab will enable us to perform precise friction and wear tests at temperatures up to 2000 sq. ft. In addition, we will explore new techniques to improve wear resistance of new materials (e.g., additively manufactured polymers/metals).

Expertise