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  1. There has been growing research interest in developing methodology to evaluate healthcare centers' performance with respect to patient outcomes. Conventional assessments can be conducted using fixed or random effects models, as seen in provider profiling. We propose a new method, using fusion penalty to cluster healthcare centers with respect to a survival outcome. Without any prior knowledge of the grouping information, the new method provides a desirable data‐driven approach for automatically clustering healthcare centers into distinct groups based on their performance. An efficient alternating direction method of multipliers algorithm is developed to implement the proposed method. The validity of our approach is demonstrated through simulation studies, and its practical application is illustrated by analyzing data from the national kidney transplant registry. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 10, 2024
  2. Abstract

    We report a novel approach for dynamically tuning and reconfiguring microwave bandpass filters (BPFs) based on optically controlled switching elements using photoconductivity modulation in semiconductors. For a prototype demonstration, a BPF circuit featuring a second‐order design using two closely coupled split‐ring resonators embedded with multiple silicon chips (as switching elements) was designed, fabricated, and characterized. The silicon chips were optically linked to fiber‐coupled laser diodes (808 nm light) for switching/modulation, enabling dynamic tuning and reconfiguring of the BPF without any complex biasing circuits. By turning on and off the two laser diodes simultaneously, the BPF response can be dynamically reconfigured between bandpass and broadband suppression. Moreover, the attenuation level of the passband can be continuously adjusted (from 0.7 to 22 dB at the center frequency of 3.03 GHz) by varying the light intensity from 0 to 40 W/cm2. The tuning/reconfiguring 3‐dB bandwidth is estimated to be ~200 kHz. In addition, the potential and limitations of the proposed approach using photoconductivity modulation are discussed. With the strong tuning/reconfiguring capability demonstrated and the great potential for high‐frequency operation, this approach holds promise for the development of more advanced tunable filters and other adaptive circuits for next‐generation sensing, imaging, and communication systems.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Unlike PIWI-interacting RNA (piRNA) in other species that mostly target transposable elements (TEs), >80% of piRNAs in adult mammalian testes lack obvious targets. However, mammalian piRNA sequences and piRNA-producing loci evolve more rapidly than the rest of the genome for unknown reasons. Here, through comparative studies of chickens, ducks, mice, and humans, as well as long-read nanopore sequencing on diverse chicken breeds, we find that piRNA loci across amniotes experience: (1) a high local mutation rate of structural variations (SVs, mutations ≥ 50 bp in size); (2) positive selection to suppress young and actively mobilizing TEs commencing at the pachytene stage of meiosis during germ cell development; and (3) negative selection to purge deleterious SV hotspots. Our results indicate that genetic instability at pachytene piRNA loci, while producing certain pathogenic SVs, also protects genome integrity against TE mobilization by driving the formation of rapid-evolving piRNA sequences.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  4. Background: recent applications of wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) have demonstrated its ability to track the spread and dynamics of COVID-19 at the community level. Despite the growing body of research, quantitative synthesis of SARS-CoV-2 RNA levels in wastewater generated from studies across space and time using diverse methods has not been performed. Objective: the objective of this study is to examine the correlations between SARS-CoV-2 RNA levels in wastewater and epidemiological indicators across studies, stratified by key covariates in study methodologies. In addition, we examined the association of proportions of positive detections in wastewater samples and methodological covariates. Methods: we systematically searched the Web of Science for studies published by February 16th, 2021, performed a reproducible screening, and employed mixed-effects models to estimate the levels of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA quantities in wastewater samples and their correlations to the case prevalence, the sampling mode (grab or composite sampling), and the wastewater fraction analyzed ( i.e. , solids, solid–supernatant mixtures, or supernatants/filtrates). Results: a hundred and one studies were found; twenty studies (671 biosamples and 1751 observations) were retained following a reproducible screening. The mean positivity across all studies was 0.68 (95%-CI, [0.52; 0.85]). The mean viral RNA abundance was 5244 marker copies per mL (95%-CI, [0; 16 432]). The Pearson correlation coefficients between the viral RNA levels and case prevalence were 0.28 (95%-CI, [0.01; 0.51]) for daily new cases or 0.29 (95%-CI, [−0.15; 0.73]) for cumulative cases. The fraction analyzed accounted for 12.4% of the variability in the percentage of positive detections, followed by the case prevalence (9.3% by daily new cases and 5.9% by cumulative cases) and sampling mode (0.6%). Among observations with positive detections, the fraction analyzed accounted for 56.0% of the variability in viral RNA levels, followed by the sampling mode (6.9%) and case prevalence (0.9% by daily new cases and 0.8% by cumulative cases). While the sampling mode and fraction analyzed both significantly correlated with the SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA levels, the magnitude of the increase in positive detection associated with the fraction analyzed was larger. The mixed-effects model treating studies as random effects and case prevalence as fixed effects accounted for over 90% of the variability in SARS-CoV-2 positive detections and viral RNA levels. Interpretations: positive pooled means and confidence intervals in the Pearson correlation coefficients between the SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA levels and case prevalence indicators provide quantitative evidence that reinforces the value of wastewater-based monitoring of COVID-19. Large heterogeneities among studies in proportions of positive detections, viral RNA levels, and Pearson correlation coefficients suggest a strong demand for methods to generate data accounting for cross-study heterogeneities and more detailed metadata reporting. Large variance was explained by the fraction analyzed, suggesting sample pre-processing and fractionation as a direction that needs to be prioritized in method standardization. Mixed-effects models accounting for study level variations provide a new perspective to synthesize data from multiple studies. 
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  5. We report the design, simulation, and analysis of a THz phased array, using lens-coupled annular-slot antennas (ASAs) for potential beyond 5G or 6G wireless communications. For a prototype demonstration, the ASA employed was designed on a high resistivity Si substrate with a radius of 106 μm, and a gap width of 6 um for operation at 200 GHz. In order to achieve higher antenna gain and efficiency, an extended hemispherical silicon lens was also used. To investigate the effect of the silicon lens on the ASA phased array, a 1 × 3 array and 1 × 5 array (the element distance is 0.55λ) were implemented with a silicon lens using different extension lengths. The simulation shows that for a 1 × 3 array, a ±17° scanning angle with an about −10 dB sidelobe level and 11.82 dB gain improvement (compared to the array without lens) can be achieved using a lens radius of 5000 μm and an extension length of 1000 μm. A larger scanning angle of ±31° can also be realized by a 1 × 5 array (using a shorter extension length of 250 μm). The approach of designing a 200 GHz lens-coupled phased array reported here is informative and valuable for the future development of wireless communication technologies. 
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