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Largest Biochemical Circuit Built Out of Small Synthetic DNA Molecules

06-02-11

Lulu Qian, Senior Postdoctoral Scholar in Bioengineering, and colleagues including Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, have built the most complex biochemical circuit ever created from scratch made with DNA-based devices in a test tube that are analogous to the electronic transistors on a computer chip."We're trying to borrow the ideas that have had huge success in the electronic world, such as abstract representations of computing operations, programming languages, and compilers, and apply them to the biomolecular world," says Dr. Qian. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: EE research highlights health CMS Erik Winfree Lulu Qian postdocs

Weak Electrical Fields in the Brain Help Neurons Fire Together

02-03-11

Costas Anastassiou, a postdoctoral scholar working with Professor Christof Koch, and colleagues have found that coordinated behavior occurs in the brain whether or not neurons are actually connected via synapses.  To tease out the effects, Anastassiou and his colleagues, focused on strong but slowly oscillating fields, called local field potentials (LFP), that arise from neural circuits composed of just a few rat brain cells.  Measuring those fields and their effects required positioning a cluster of tiny electrodes within a volume equivalent to that of a single cell body—and at distances of less than 50 millionths of a meter from one another. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: EE research highlights health Christof Koch Costas Anastassiou postdocs

Caltech Researchers Create "Sound Bullets"

04-22-10

Alessandro Spadoni, Postdoctoral Scholar, and Chiara Daraio, Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Applied Physics, have built a nonlinear acoustic lens that produces highly focused, high-amplitude acoustic signals dubbed "sound bullets." The combination of the acoustic lens and sound bullets have "the potential to revolutionize applications from medical imaging and therapy to the nondestructive evaluation of materials and engineering systems," says Professor Daraio. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Chiara Daraio GALCIT health Alessandro Spadoni postdocs

First Brain Recordings from Behaving Fruit Flies

02-16-10

Michael Dickinson, the Esther M. and Abe M. Zarem Professor of Bioengineering, with postdoctoral scholars Gaby Maimon and Andrew Straw have obtained the first recordings of brain-cell activity in an actively flying fruit fly. The work suggests that at least part of the brain of the fruit fly "is in a different and more sensitive state during flight than when the fly is quiescent," Dickinson says. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: research highlights Michael Dickinson postdocs

Nanoscale Structures with Superior Mechanical Properties

02-09-10

Julia Greer, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering, and Dongchan Jang, Postdoctoral Scholar, have developed a way to make some notoriously brittle materials ductile—yet stronger than ever—simply by reducing their size. Professor Greer describes, "We are entering a new era in materials science, where structural materials can be created not only by utilizing monolith structures, like ceramics and metals, but also by introducing 'architectural' features into them." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MCE Julia Greer Dongchan Jang postdocs

Oskar Painter and Colleagues Propose Quantum Entanglement for Motion of Microscopic Objects

12-21-09

Oskar Painter, Associate Professor of Applied Physics, along with colleagues Darrick Change, Postdoctoral Scholar at Institute for Quantum Information, and H. Jeff Kimble, William L. Valentine Professor and Professor of Physics have proposed a new paradigm that should allow scientists to observe quantum behavior in small mechanical systems. Their idea offers a new means of studying the nature of quantum superposition and entanglement in progressively larger and more complex systems. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Oskar Painter postdocs

Tracey Ho and Andrew Straw Awarded Young Investigator Research Program Grants

10-29-09

Congratulations to Tracey Ho, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Andrew D. Straw, Postdoctoral Scholar in Bioengineering for being awarded 2010 Young Investigator Research Program grants by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. They are among only 38 scientists and engineers who will be awarded a total of $14.6 million in grants. [Air Force Office of Scientific Research Article]

Tags: EE honors CMS Tracey Ho Andrew Straw postdocs

Michael Elowitz and Avigdor Eldar Show How Evolution Can Allow for Large Developmental Leaps

07-20-09

Michael Elowitz, Associate Professor of Biology and Applied Physics; Bren Scholar, and Avigdor Eldar, Postdoctoral Scholar, show how evolution can allow for large developmental leaps. Most volutionary changes happen in tiny increments: an elephant grows a little larger, a giraffe's neck a little longer. Elowitz and Eldar's team have shown that such changes may at least sometimes be the result of noise, working alongside partial penetrance. Eldar, states "if you take a bunch of cells and grow them in exactly the same environment, they'll be identical twin brothers in terms of the genes they have, but they may still show substantial differences in their behavior." Elowitz adds that "noise—these random fluctuations of proteins in the cell—is not just a nuisance in this system; it's a key part of the process that allows genetically identical cells to do very different things." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS health Michael Elowitz Avigdor Eldar postdocs

LaHaye, Schwab, and Roukes Develop New Tool to Search for Quantum Effects

07-02-09

Dr. Matt LaHaye, Professor Keith Schwab, Professor Michael Roukes, and colleagues have developed a new tool to search for quantum effects in ordinary objects. Matt LaHaye is a postdoctoral research scientist working with Michael L. Roukes, a Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering and Codirector of Kavli Nanoscience Institute. "Quantum jumps are, perhaps, the archetypal signature of behavior governed by quantum effects," says Roukes. "To see these requires us to engineer a special kind of interaction between our measurement apparatus and the object being measured. Matt's results establish a practical and really intriguing way to make this happen." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: research highlights Michael Roukes Keith Schwab postdocs

Michael Elowitz, Long Cai, and Chiraj Dalal Find Cells Coordinate Gene Activity with FM Bursts

10-17-08

How a cell achieves the coordinated control of a number of genes at the same time, a process that's necessary for it to regulate its own behavior and development, has long puzzled scientists. Michael Elowitz, assistant professor of biology and applied physics, along with postdoctoral research scholar Long Cai, and graduate student Chiraj Dalal, have discovered a surprising answer. Just as human engineers control devices ranging from dimmer switches to retrorockets using pulsed--or frequency modulated (FM)--signals, cells tune the expression of groups of genes using discrete bursts of activation. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights health Michael Elowitz postdocs