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New Faculty Researcher Works on Nonlinear Systems

Hu Aims to Control Physical Qualities in Our Lives

Dr. Tingshu Hu

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Tingshu Hu, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, has traveled far to become part of the UMass Lowell communityߞ;from Shanghai, where she studied and worked for 16 years, to Hong Kong, to Canada, to the University of Virginia for a Ph.D. degree and to the University of California Santa Barbara for a post-doctoral position.

Now she teaches a second-year undergraduate course in electrical circuits and advanced courses in control systems, her specialty.

“Control systems are used everywhere, from refrigerators to airplanes to spacecraft,” explains Hu. “These are decision-making systemsߞ;you have an objective and use information and measurement from sensors to adjust actuation automatically via controllers to meet the objective.”

Cruise control in an automobile is an example of a simple control system, whereas an airplane is much more complex because of the many degrees of freedom and demanding requirements.

Hu’s research involves developing theory and numerical tools to optimize the performance of nonlinear control systems: those that present complex computational challenges. Following up on her doctoral research at UVA, she is working on a project to develop an artificial heart pump that is magnetically suspended within the vessel.

“The tolerances are only one quarter millimeter,” says Hu, “and the rotor must be kept adjusted for different rates of flow.” Magnetic fields are nonlinearߞ;change in strength is not proportional to change in distance.

Hu is participating in a joint proposal with UVA researchers to the National Science Foundation and is planning to build a small experiment here to mimic the dynamics. The project has also received attention and sponsorship from a number of companies.