News & Events


No Motor, No Battery, No Problem


Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, and colleagues have developed robots capable of self-propulsion without using any motors, servos, or power supply. Instead, these first-of-their-kind devices paddle through water as the material they are constructed from deforms with temperature changes. "Combining simple motions together, we were able to embed programming into the material to carry out a sequence of complex behaviors," says Caltech postdoctoral scholar Osama R. Bilal, who is co-first author of the PNAS paper is titled "Harnessing bistability for directional propulsion of soft, untethered robots." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Chiara Daraio MCE APh postdocs Osama Bilal

Professor Ravichandran To Give 2018 Robert Henry Thurston Lecture


Guruswami (Ravi) Ravichandran, John E. Goode, Jr., Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering; Otis Booth Leadership Chair, Division of Engineering and Applied Science, has been selected to give the 2018 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Robert Henry Thurston Lecture at ASME Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition in November. He has been awarded this lectureship "for pioneering contributions to mechanics of materials, particularly dynamic deformation, damage and failure, micro/nano mechanics, wave propagation, composites, active materials, cell mechanics and experimental methods.” The lecture was established by the first ASME president to provide an opportunity for leaders in engineering to give a thought provoking lecture on a subject of broad interest to engineers.

Tags: honors GALCIT MCE Guruswami Ravichandran

Ida Qin Receives 2018 Henry Ford II Scholar Award


Mechanical engineering student Yidan (Ida) Qin, advised by Professor Joel Burdick, is a recipient of the 2018 Henry Ford II Scholar Award. She is interested in robotics and machine learning and is developing innovative rehabilitation treatment plans for patients with spinal cord injury using machine learning techniques and the control of bipedal robots inspired by them. The Henry Ford II Scholar Award is funded under an endowment provided by the Ford Motor Company Fund. The award is made annually to engineering students with the best academic record in their discipline.

Tags: honors MCE Henry Ford II Scholar Award Joel Burdick Yidan (Ida) Qin

Solving Pieces of the Genetic Puzzle


Postdoctoral scholar Nathan Belliveau working in the laboratory of Professor Rob Phillips has applied a method called Sort-Seq to mutate small pieces of noncoding regions in E. coli and determined which regions contain binding sites. Binding sites are the locations where specialized proteins that are involved in transcription—the first step in the process of gene expression—attach to DNA. "Humans have such a wide variety of cells—muscle cells, neurons, photoreceptors, blood cells, to name a few," says Professor Phillips. "They all have the same DNA, so how do they each turn out so differently? The answer lies in the fact that genes can be regulated—turned on or off, dialed up and dialed down—differently in different tissues. Until now, there have been no general principles to help us understand how this regulation was encoded." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Rob Phillips APh postdocs Nathan Belliveau

Butterfly Wings Inspire Light-Manipulating Surface for Medical Implants



Professor Hyuck Choo along with postdoctoral researchers Radwanul Hasan Siddique, and graduate student Vinayak Narasimhan working in the Choo lab have developed a synthetic analogue for eye implants that makes them more effective and longer-lasting. The work was inspired by tiny nanostructures on transparent butterfly wings. The eye implant is shaped like a tiny drum, the width of a few strands of hair. When inserted into an eye, its surface flexes with increasing eye pressure, narrowing the depth of the cavity inside the drum. That depth can be measured by a handheld reader, giving a direct measurement of how much pressure the implant is under. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights MedE Hyuck Choo Radwanul Hasan Siddique Vinayak Narasimhan

Graduate Student Wins AAAS Mass Media Fellowship


Giuliana Viglione, a graduate student in Professor Andrew Thompson’s group and a member of the first E111 class has been selected to join the 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellows Program. The fellows are placed at media organizations nationwide and trained to sharpening their abilities to communicate complex scientific issues to the public. In her research, Giuliana uses robots to investigate small-scale motions in the ocean and what their effect on climate may be.  She will be spending the summer working at King5, an NBC affiliate in Seattle, where she will use her expertise to report on the effects of climate change in the Pacific Northwest.

Tags: honors research highlights ESE Andrew Thompson Giuliana Viglione

Exploring Caltech’s Dynamic History of Teaching and Learning


A new exhibit on the third floor of the Center for Student Services highlights teaching and learning at Caltech through six frames: Laboratory Learning, Field-based Learning, Informal Learning, Thinking at the Board, Classes and Demonstrations, and Acts of Writing. It encourages the viewer to travel from the austere classrooms of the early days of Throop University to the diverse scenes of Caltech today, and to explore the interrelationships as they echo across eras. [Learn more]

Tags: teaching

Glowing Contact Lens Could Prevent A Leading Cause of Blindness


Hundreds of millions of people suffer from diabetes worldwide, putting them at risk for a creeping blindness, or diabetic retinopathy. Existing treatments, though effective, are painful and invasive, involving lasers and injections into the eyeball. Graduate student, Colin Cook working in Professor Yu-Chong Tai’s laboratory has invented a contact lens that when worn during sleep interrupts the process that destroys cells of the retina. He hopes his contact lenses will offer a solution that patients will be more willing to try because the effort involved is minimal, as are the side effects. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MedE Yu-Chong Tai Colin Cook

Caltech Climate School


To mark the start of Earth Week, Caltech hosted a two-day series of lectures about climate and climate change, which the organizers dubbed "climate school". The speakers included Professor Austin Minnich whose presentation focused on the myths and misconceptions associated with climate change. "Instead of asking for people to trust us, we should ask them notto trust and instead give them guidance for how they can check out what's going on for themselves," Minnich said. [Caltech story]

Tags: MCE Austin Minnich APh

Erika Ye Wins 2018 Google PhD Fellowship


Graduate student Erika Ye co-advised by Professors Austin Minnich, Garnet Chan, and Fernando Brandao, has been awarded a 2018 Google PhD Fellowship. The fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students doing exceptional research in computer science and related disciplines. Erika is attempting to discover what current quantum computers can do that classical computers cannot. Currently she is focusing on computational chemistry—particularly, calculating the behavior of electrons in complex molecules, which ultimately could provide detailed information about reaction rates or how enzymes in cells work. [Caltech story]

Tags: honors MCE CMS Austin Minnich Fernando Brandão APh Erika Ye Garnet Chan