Ellis Kessler, UrbComp Ph.D. student in Math

Ellis Kessler graduated from Virginia Tech in the spring of 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. The following fall, he was back at the university working toward a Ph.D.

“As an undergraduate, I knew I wanted to do some kind of research with vibrations or structural dynamics. My adviser, Pablo Tarazaga, taught about vibrations and by working with him in the Virginia Tech Smart Infrastructure Laboratory, I became involved with vibrations research on the Goodwin Hall building,” Kessler said.

“Goodwin has 225 high sensitivity accelerometers permanently mounted to the building’s structure. Because there so many sensors available there, the amount of data we can collect is very large,” said Keller, “and this led me, in a natural progression, to the Discovery Analytics Center.

Kessler’s main research as a DAC Ph.D. student remains with human-structure interaction in the Goodwin building. In his research, Kessler looks for answers to questions like these: When someone walks along a hallway, can we tell exactly where that person is and can we tell something about that person just from measuring the vibration of the floor he or she is walking on? For instance, can we tell whether the person is male or female? Can we distinguish between two individuals just based on the floor acceleration measurements? Or can we tell something about that person’s health from their gait measurements?

“I think the most interesting thing about being at DAC is the ability to work with large and complex data sets which are becoming more and more prevalent in research,” Kessler said. “It is rewarding to be pushing the boundaries of research in this way.”

His DAC faculty advisor is Mark Embree, associate director of the Virginia Tech Smart Infrastructure Laboratory.

Kessler is also a National Science Foundation research trainee in the UrbComp program administered through DAC.

This past summer, Kessler was a graduate supervisor for a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site in Darmstadt, Germany. While at the Technical University in Darmstadt (TUD), he collaborated with other doctoral students and they are currently in the process of submitting a paper on their research to a conference next spring in Copenhagen.

After graduation, projected for May 2019, Kessler would like to work at a national research lab.