Smart World

Smart World: The Intersection of the Physical, Digital, and Biological Worlds

The numbers of “smart” devices and services in the world are rapidly expanding and changing how people will live and work. This pace of progress brings both opportunities and challenges, and requires the focus of experts in areas such as data science, robotics, cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles, interactive media and game development, learning sciences and technology, bioinformatics, computational biology, neuroscience/engineering, architectural engineering, and smart design. 

Led by professor Randy Paffenroth, faculty leaders in these areas are coming together with a common goal: to develop integrated solutions to some of the planet’s most pressing problems in health, energy, transportation, and smart buildings and infrastructure, all of which require a computational––or “smart world”––approach. Data seems to be a connecting factor in the current work being done by the group.

Subgroups within Smart World with expertise in various research areas:


Researcher Shares 3D Roadmap of Coronavirus with Scientists Worldwide

A bioinformatics researcher and his team of graduate students have created and unveiled a structural 3D roadmap of the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV), a major development that potentially holds the key to understanding the spread and treatment of the deadly virus.


Researcher Uses Math to Help Army Protect Soldiers from Chemical Attack

A mathematician is helping the U.S. Army create a thumbnail-sized chemical sensor that can be worn on outer garments to detect dangerous chemicals more quickly, and dramatically drop the rate of false alarms. “Using the power of data science, we can greatly advance chemical sensors so they will be better able to save lives,” said Randy Paffenroth, a principal investigator on the project.

It’s All Connected

Many of the these activities will take place in a new 100,000-square-foot academic and research building aimed at creating connections between academia and the rest of the world in ways that realize the development of smart applications and technologies, as well as policies, businesses, and positive societal outcomes. The building will also feature an integrated Student Academic Services Center, thus improving campus navigation and accessibility.

WPI faculty members interested in joining the Smart World group are encouraged to reach out to Randy Paffenroth (

Corporate representatives interested in partnering with talented WPI faculty and students to explore and develop Smart World solutions should contact Michelle Scerbin ( for more information on how to engage.