Winners of the 2019 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes Announced
The student winners of the 2019 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes were announced at the end of this academic year. Anupama Lakshmanan, advised by Professor Mikhail Shapiro has received the prize in Biotechnology. Her research is in engineering of acoustic protein nanostructures for non-invasive molecular imaging using ultrasound. Seyedeh Mahsa Kamali, advised by Professor Andrei Faraon has received the prize in Nanotechnology. She focuses on changing paradigms in optical design through engineering materials at the nanoscale. Linqi (Daniel) Guo, advised by Professor Steven Low has received the prize in Environmentally Benign Renewable Energy Source. His research quantifies the impact of transmission network topology in electrical power system robustness against disturbances and failures. Chris Rollins, advised by Professor Jean-Phillippe Avouac has received the prize in Seismo-Engineering, Prediction, and Protection. Chris studies the way that the Earth deforms gradually over periods of years and decades and uses this to shed light on how earthquakes work, where and how often they might occur in the future, and the hazard they may pose. Nicholas Flytzanis, advised by Professor Viviana Gradinaru has receive the prize in Entrepreneurship. His research is in engineering viruses to serve as next-generation gene therapy delivery vehicles for the treatment of human disease.
Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes
"Neural Lander" Uses AI to Land Drones Smoothly
Professors Chung, Anandkumar, and Yue have teamed up to develop a system that uses a deep neural network to help autonomous drones "learn" how to land more safely and quickly, while gobbling up less power. The system they have created, dubbed the "Neural Lander," is a learning-based controller that tracks the position and speed of the drone, and modifies its landing trajectory and rotor speed accordingly to achieve the smoothest possible landing. The new system could prove crucial to projects currently under development at CAST, including an autonomous medical transport that could land in difficult-to-reach locations (such as a gridlocked traffic). "The importance of being able to land swiftly and smoothly when transporting an injured individual cannot be overstated," says Professor Gharib who is the director of CAST; and one of the lead researchers of the air ambulance project. [Caltech story]
Lasers Aim to Replace Scalpels in Cutting-Edge Biopsy Technique
Professor Lihong Wang and Postdoctoral Scholar Dr. Junhui Shi have developed a new imaging technique that uses pulses from two kinds of lasers to take pictures of microscopic biological structures. This new approach, called ultraviolet-localized mid-infrared photoacoustic microscopy, or ULM-PAM, develops images of the microscopic structures found in a piece of tissue by bombarding the sample with both infrared and ultraviolet laser light. "Because ultraviolet light and infrared have different properties, we had to find special mirrors and glass that could focus both," Dr. Shi says. "And because no camera exists that can see both, we had to develop ways to see if they were correctly focused." [Caltech story]
Bob McEliece Passes Away
Robert J. McEliece (BS '64, PhD '67), Caltech alumnus and Allen E. Puckett Professor and Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus, passed away on May 8, 2019 at the age of 76. "Bob McEliece was renowned for his contributions to a wide range of problems in information transmission and storage," said EAS Chair Ravichandran. "His contributions are drivers for numerous applications in modern communications. He was an outstanding researcher and a beloved and inspiring teacher, mentor, and colleague." [Caltech story]
Undergraduate Students Win International Data Science Competition
Undergraduate students Hongsen Qin, Emma Qian, Thomas Hoffmann, and Alexander Zlokapa (advised by Professors Aaron Ames, Erik Winfree, Jonathan Katz, Maria Spiropulu, and Yaser Abu-Mostafa) have won the Citadel Data Open International Data Science Competition. This winning team chose to investigate the optimal way to spend $1 billion to save lives from malaria and sanitation-related diseases, allocating funds for different prevention methods and optimizing budget breakdowns country by country. To quantify the socioeconomic impacts of their policy proposal, they modeled a variety of aspects from mosquito feeding cycles to climate change using techniques ranging from causal discovery methods to interpretable machine learning. The Caltech team was among 24 teams that were evaluated and questioned by a panel of experts including the former Chief Scientist of AI at Microsoft, a Princeton professor, and the chief of equities at Citadel. The Caltech team was chosen as the first place winner based on the depth, rigor, and comprehensiveness of their analysis.
Laser Technology Helps Researchers Scrutinize Cancer Cells
Lihong Wang, Bren Professor of Medical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, and colleagues are using photoacoustic microscopy (PAM) to improve on an existing technology for measuring the oxygen-consumption rate (OCR). This new method allows the researchers to determine how oxygenated a sample of blood is by "listening" to the sound it makes when illuminated by the laser. Professor Wang calls this single-cell metabolic photoacoustic microscopy, or SCM-PAM. [Caltech story]