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Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems Engineering Research Center

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An Engineering Research Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems - CenSSIS  (Northeastern University)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems (CenSSIS) seeks to revolutionize the ability to detect and image biomedical and environmental-civil objects or conditions that are underground, underwater, or embedded within cells or inside the human body. The unified, multidisciplinary approach combines expertise in wave physics, sensor engineering, image processing, and inverse scattering with rigorous performance testing to create new sensing system prototypes that are transitioned to our industry partners for further development. An important outcome of this process is the education of students well-trained in these crucial fields for the future of public health and the preservation of the planet's physical resources.

Some of the most difficult and intractable problems in sensing and imaging involve detecting, locating, and identifying objects that are obscured beneath a covering medium. Mapping pollution plumes underground, detecting a tumor inside the body, and identifying developmental defects in the interior of a multicelled embryo all share the problem of distinguishing the effect of a dispersive, diffusive, and absorptive medium from the desired details of the subsurface structure and functionality. The problem is similar whether the wave probe is electromagnetic or acoustic, whether the medium is soil or tissue, or whether the target is a land mine or a tumor. To address the research barriers that are common to advanced biomedical and environmental-civil applications of subsurface sensing and imaging, CenSSIS combines the strengths of four core universities and four affiliated hospitals and research institutions.

Education & Outreach

The education program is based on 1) the vision of societal benefits emanating from a unified vision of a new discipline and 2) an engineered system approach. Features include:

  • An undergraduate concentration in Subsurface Sensing and Imaging (SSI) at each academic partner.
  • Interdisciplinary, team-taught graduate and undergraduate courses on SSI topics with access to web-controllable testbeds
  • A "High-Tech Tools and Toys Laboratory" to introduce undergraduates to interfacing computers with state-of-the-art SSI systems and subsystems
  • Undergraduate academic-year research experiences funded by industry and tied to co-op placements or summer internships at participating companies
  • Regular programs of student and faculty exchanges, including visiting positions for scientists from our affiliated institutions.

Pathways are also being created to engage the interest of K-12 teachers and students in SSI.

CenSSIS Web Site

Engineering Research Centers (ERC)

ERC Achievements Showcase


  • Image from a National Science Foundation-funded ERC.
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