The Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 2, 2000

October 2, 2000
VOL. 30, NO. 5

PRIME is a NASA finalist
JHU book to arrive soon
125th anniversary of JHU: Events
A growing tradition of giving to a local day shelter
Hopkins surgeon develops technique to improve breast cancer detection, surgery
Environmental research team wins National Science Foundation support
Researchers identify first drug helpful treating common liver disease
Greening of Hopkins conference set for November
Job Opportunities
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Prof gives robots a human 'touch'
Allison Okamura wants to give robots the gift of touch. To do this, Okamura, who has just joined Hopkins' Engineering faculty, is setting up the school's first lab dedicated to the cutting-edge field of robotic haptic exploration. " 'Haptic' means anything related to the sense of touch," Okamura says. "One part of my work involves robotic fingers. I program them to explore unknown environments and give them tactile sensing and force sensing. I try to emulate the human ability to manipulate, touch and explore."
   Her work is part of a larger effort to create more sophisticated machines to take over tasks that are too dangerous, too tedious or too difficult for humans. To achieve this goal, many researchers are working on systems that give robots "eyes" to identify objects and avoid obstacles. But Okamura is one of the few engineers trying to replicate the sense of touch. "Vision is obviously very important," she says. "But if you can imagine going through life only seeing things but never being able to touch them, it's obvious that touch is also very important. 'Touch' is also something that's very difficult to get robots to do. Vision is a passive sense--you can look at something without affecting it. But in order to touch something, the robot has to interact with the object and manipulate it." Full story...

From Kansas farm boy to 'Dr. Vitamin'
When William Welch, the founder of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, and his new assistant director, William Henry Howell, decided to name E.V. McCollum chairman of the Department of Chemical Hygiene, their choice was so radical that it shocked even McCollum himself.
   As McCollum later wrote in his autobiography, From Kansas Farm Boy to Scientist: "I could scarcely realize that I, a worker in an agricultural experiment station, with no medical training and no contacts with public health, was the first professor selected to take charge of a department in the new exciting adventure of training medical and nonmedical students to reduce or control, and perhaps to eradicate, the great scourges in the form of diseases which afflicted mankind." Full story...

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