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The Physics of Going Viral

06-28-12

Rob Phillips, Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics and Biology, and colleagues have measured the rate of DNA transfer from viruses to bacteria. They wanted to find out whether pressure plays a dominant role in transferring the DNA. Instead, he says, "What we discovered is that the thing that mattered most was not the pressure in the bacteriophage, but how much DNA was in the bacterial cell." When the bacteriophages try to inject their DNA into the cells, the factor that limits the rate of transfer is how jam-packed those cells are.  "In this case," Phillips says, "it had more to do with the recipient, and less to do with the pressure that had built up inside the phage." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights health Rob Phillips

Seeing Inside Tissue

06-26-12

Changhuei Yang, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering, and colleagues Ying Min Wang and Benjamin Judkewitz have developed a new method to focus light inside biological tissue. "It enables the possibilities of doing incision-less surgery," says Professor Yang. "By generating a tight laser-focus spot deep in tissue, we can potentially use that as a laser scalpel that leaves the skin unharmed." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: EE energy research highlights Changhuei Yang MedE health Ying Min Wang Benjamin Judkewitz

Winners of the 2012 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes Announced

06-14-12

The student winners of the 2012 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes were announced at a special luncheon with the Demetriades - Tsafka – Kokkalis family. Philip Romero received the prize in Biotechnology for his work on developing statistical models of proteins with Frances Arnold. Michael Mello was the recipient of the prize in Seismo-Engineering, Prediction, and Protection for his work with Ares Rosakis on developing a novel methodology for identifying the unique ground motion signatures of supershear earthquakes. Leslie O’Leary received the prize in Environmentally Benign Renewable Energy Sources for her pathbreaking work on the properties of semiconductor interfaces with Nate Lewis and Bob Grubbs. This year there were two winners for the prize in Nanotechnology. One winner was Andrew Jennings for his experimental and modeling work in nanomechanics with Julia Greer. The other winner of the Nanotechnology prize was Jordan Raney who has worked with Chiara Daraio to develop new chemical synthesis methods to control the properties of carbon nanotubes.

Tags: APhMS honors research highlights Chiara Daraio GALCIT MCE Nate Lewis Julia Greer Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes Ares Rosakis Frances Arnold Philip Romero Leslie O’Leary Bob Grubbs Andrew Jennings Jordan Raney Michael Mello

New Insight into Acid Rain Chemistry

06-13-12

A multidisciplinary team led by Dr. A. J. Colussi, comprising of graduate student Himanshu Mishra, and Professor Michael Hoffmann along with Dr. Robert J. Nielsen and Professor William A. Goddard III from the Materials and Process Simulation Center, has shown that the dissociation of nitric acid on thin layers of water, such as those in contact with air or biological membranes, is dramatically different from the similar process inside water. They have found that the molecules of nitric acid do not dissociate when they collide with water unless its surface contains at least 1 anion per million water. This work explains how minute concentrations of anions might subtly participate in acid rain chemistry, the cycling of nitrogen oxide pollutants on urban haze, and in the charging of protein surfaces that drive enzyme activities. [The PNAS Article]

Tags: research highlights ESE William Goddard Michael Hoffmann A. J. Colussi Himanshu Mishra Robert Nielsen

Finalist for Library Senior Thesis Prize

06-06-12

Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student Robert Karol, who is also minoring in Aerospace and Control and Dynamical Systems, was the finalist for the 2012 Friends of Caltech Libraries Senior Thesis Prize. His thesis is entitled “Peak Seeking Controller for Real Time Mobile Satellite Tracking” and was written under the direction of Professor Richard Murray and Mechanical Engineering alumnus Gunnar Ristroph (BS '06) of IJK Controls.

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Tags: energy research highlights MCE CMS Richard Murray Robert Karol

Calculating the Capacity of a Network

06-04-12

Michelle Effros, Professor of Electrical Engineering, and information theorist colleagues have begun to tackle the difficult problem of calculating capacities for large communication networks such as the internet and mobile phone networks. In two recent publications, they introduce techniques useful for improving the performance of current communication networks and for designing the networks of the future. By demonstrating where current technology falls short of what's possible, these techniques provide a new tool for strategically guiding research and development. [Read the Publications]

Tags: EE energy research highlights Michelle Effros

Robust Self-Replication

05-25-12

Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, and colleagues including Caltech alumnae Rebecca Schulman, have created a new system to copy sequence information. In their approach, tiny DNA tile crystals consisting of many copies of a piece of information are first grown, then broken into a few pieces by mechanically-induced scission, or force. The new crystal bits contain all the information needed to keep copying the sequence. Each piece then begins to replicate its information and grow until broken apart again—without the help of enzymes, an essential ingredient in biological sequence replication. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: EE research highlights health CMS Erik Winfree Rebecca Schulman

Greater Insight into Earthquake Cycles

05-10-12

Nadia Lapusta, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Geophysics, and colleagues have developed the first computer model of an earthquake-producing fault segment that reproduces, in a single physical framework, the available observations of both the fault's seismic (fast) and aseismic (slow) behavior. "Earthquake science is on the verge of building models that are based on the actual response of the rock materials as measured in the lab—models that can be tailored to reproduce a broad range of available observations for a given region," says Lapusta. "This implies we are getting closer to understanding the physical laws that govern how earthquakes nucleate, propagate, and arrest." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: research highlights MCE Nadia Lapusta

Paul MacCready Papers to be Digitized

05-06-12

The MacCready family have made a generous gift for the processing and digitizing of the papers of Caltech alumnus, inventor and entrepreneur Paul B. MacCready (1925-2007).  Paul B. MacCready pioneered alternative energy solutions through his company,  AeroVironment. In the mid-1970s he began work on the celebrated human-powered Gossamer aircraft series, beginning with the Gossamer Condor. He continued to work on the problems of solar-powered flight and unmanned aircraft, but his interest in environmentally friendly technology also led him to innovative electric and hybrid automotive vehicles, micro-air vehicles and the high altitude, long endurance Helios solar aircraft for telecommunications, imaging and scientific research.

The MacCready digitization project will be the first on the part of the Caltech Archives to make an entire paper, artifact, image and analog media collection available on the internet to the widest possible public.  [Archives News]

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Tags: research highlights GALCIT alumni Paul MacCready

Using Stalagmites to Study Past Climate Change

05-04-12

By analyzing stalagmites, Jess F. Adkins, Professor of Geochemistry and Global Environmental Science, and colleagues have determined that the climate signature in the tropics through four glacial cycles looks different in some ways and similar in others when compared to the climate signature at high latitudes. The results suggest that Earth's climate system might have two modes of responding to significant changes. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: research highlights ESE Jess F. Adkins