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Harrisburg University of Science and Technology’s culture of inquiry has transformed the University into one of Pennsylvania’s premiere Science and Technology research institution.

HU professors team with students on research that provides students invaluable hands-on experience, while placing them at the ground-floor of ceiling-shattering research that is poised to save animals, revolutionize medical procedures, clean up the environment, and much more.

By working on an HU research project aimed at designing and creating methodologies, tools and systems that will enable Lean, Smart Cities, Nandkumar Niture, a Ph.D. student enrolled in the Information Systems Engineering and Management program, said he developed stronger critical thinking and research capabilities he will carry into the professional world.

“This project helped me in many ways to showcase my research ability to the professional and scientific social network,” Niture said. “Transitioning from an engineering mindset to a researcher mindset is a significant achievement.”

Lean Cities are those that use data and information technologies to manage assets, resources, and services efficiently to reduce pollution and climate footprint.

Nandkumar Niture, a Ph.D. student
Nandkumar Niture, a Ph.D. student

In 2019, Dr. Iheb Abdellatif, Information Technology and Management professor, and John Quigley, lecturer and Director of the Center for Environment, Energy, and Economy (E3) at HU, were awarded an HU Presidential Research Grant to work with students on the project that has the potential to significantly change alarming pollution trends.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 90 percent of the world’s population breathes polluted air. WHO estimates that about 7 million people die annually from exposure to polluted air, deaths triggered by strokes, lung cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, exposure to polluted air, water, and soil caused more than 9 million premature deaths in 2015 – three times more than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined. Other pollution forms, such as noise and light pollution, can cause stress, anxiety, headaches, and sleep loss resulting in decreased productivity.

The team intends to develop a blueprint for cities to minimize waste sources in electricity, transportation, water, and more. To accomplish this, the group is designing a two-tire plan for municipalities to adopt: A Lean Methodology for Smart Cities and a Lean Smart City Platform.

Niture was tasked with creating an application that uses AI and satellite imagery to design lean- smart-cities, focusing on primary sources of transportation. He researched the use of high-resolution satellite imagery and AI models to conduct airplane detection and counts.

In response, he created a real-time satellite imagery dataset. He developed a model for airplane identification and measured accuracy and precision, while proposing the framework for cloud-based application use. He also published an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference paper for validation.

“This project was a great research experience and developed my scientific thinking ability,” Niture said. “It helped me tackle the most complex technical issuesin most technical environments.”

While the research meshes well with ISEM’s Ph.D. program, it also is ideal for undergraduate students who can familiarize themselves with disruptive technologies used by Smart Cities, Abdellatif said.

“Based on my experience with undergraduate students, these technologies are very attractive to them. Given their little experience, undergraduate students are usually curious to understand, for example, how satellites work or how autonomous trucks can travel from one point to another without any human intervention,” Abdellatif said. “I encourage undergraduate students to consider graduate programs by inviting them to work jointly with graduate students and publish conference papers.”

Perhaps benefitting the most will be the environment. This project was undertaken through HU’s Center for E3. A signature piece of the Center for E3’s work involves the development of decision-support tools for business and governments that enable them to use the latest technology and scientific data to adopt more sustainable policy solutions, Quigley said.

“This project, and related ongoing research, provides students valuable hands-on research experience. And it will enable the creation of new, powerful tools for communities to better manage their energy usage, carbon emissions, and improve public health.” he noted.

Upon completing his doctoral program, Niture plans to continue building his research resume, saying, “I have many exciting things to do after completion, including academic research, involving myself in laboratory experiments for the Artificial Intelligence commercial applications, publishing my research work, and contributing to the scientific community.”

About Harrisburg University

Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Harrisburg University is a private non-profit university offering bachelor and graduate degree programs in science, technology, and math fields to a diverse student body. For more information on the University’s affordable demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, call 717.901.5146 or email,

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