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John Doyle Discovers the Importance of Fire in Global Climate Change

05-11-09

Scientists Discover Importance of Fire in Global Climate Change. Researchers including John Doyle, Caltech's Braun Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems, Electrical Engineering, and Bioengineering, Emeritus, have determined that fire must be accounted for as an integral part of climate change. Their research shows that intentional deforestation fires alone contribute up to one-fifth of the human-caused increase in emissions of carbon dioxide. According to the article, increasing numbers of natural wildfires are influencing climate as well. [Science Magazine article]

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Antonio Rangel Pinpoints the Mechanisms of Self-Control in the Brain

04-30-09

Caltech Researchers Pinpoint the Mechanisms of Self-Control in the Brain. Study of dieters shows how two brain areas interact in people with the willpower to say no to unhealthy foods. "A very basic question in economics, psychology, and even religion, is why some people can exercise self-control but others cannot," notes Antonio Rangel, a Caltech Associate Professor of Economics and the paper's principal investigator. [Caltech Press Release]

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Niles Pierce gives Earnest C. Watson Lecture

04-30-09

Niles Pierce, Associate Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Bioengineering, and the Executive Officer for Bioengineering at Caltech, to give Earnest C. Watson Lecture "In Pursuit of Programmable Molecular Technologies" Our bodies contain amazing molecular machines whose function is encoded within the molecules themselves – RNA and protein sequences programmed by evolution to synthesize molecules, haul cargo within our cells, or regulate our development and repair. These remarkable biological proofs-of-principle inspire the emerging field of molecular programming and suggest the possibility of new technologies in which the function of therapeutic drugs and scientific instruments can be programmed at the molecular level. The lecture takes place May 20 at 8:00 p.m. in Beckman Auditorium.

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Pietro Perona Trains Computers to Analyze Fruit-Fly Behavior

04-08-09

Researchers led by Pietro Perona, the Allen E. Puckett Professor of Electrical Engineering, and David J. Anderson, the Roger W. Sperry Professor of Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, have trained computers to automatically analyze aggression and courtship in fruit flies, opening the way for researchers to perform large-scale, high-throughput screens for genes that control these innate behaviors. The program allows computers to examine half an hour of video footage of pairs of interacting flies in what is almost real time; characterizing the behavior of a new line of flies "by hand" might take a biologist more than 100 hours. "This is a coming-of-age moment in this field," says Perona. "By choosing among existing machine vision techniques, we were able to put together a system that is much more capable than anything that had been demonstrated before." This work is detailed in the April issue of Nature Methods. [Caltech Press Release]

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Ali Hajimiri Awarded $6 Million to Develop Self-Healing Circuits

04-08-09

Over the past few decades, the transistors in computer chips have become progressively smaller and faster, allowing upwards of a billion individual transistors to be packed into a single circuit, thus shrinking the size of electronic devices. But these circuits have an intractable design flaw: if just a single transistor fails, the entire circuit also fails. One novel way around the problem is a so-called self-healing circuit. Such circuits are "inspired by biological systems that constantly heal themselves in the presence of random and intentional failures," says Caltech professor Ali Hajimiri.

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Erik Winfree Controls Complex Nucleation Processes using DNA Origami Seeds

04-08-09

"Flowers, dogs, and just about all biological objects are created from the bottom up," says Erik Winfree, associate professor of computer science, computation and neural systems, and bioengineering at Caltech. Along with his coworkers, Winfree is seeking to integrate bottom-up construction approaches with molecular fabrication processes to construct objects from parts that are just a few billionths of a meter in size that essentially assemble themselves. In a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Winfree and his colleagues describe the development of an information-containing DNA "seed" that can direct the self-assembled bottom-up growth of tiles of DNA in a precisely controlled fashion. In some ways, the process is similar to how the fertilized seeds of plants or animals contain information that directs the growth and development of those organisms. [Caltech Press Release]

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Professor Bruck Wins Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching

02-25-09

Jehoshua "Shuki" Bruck, Caltech's Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering, has won the Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Caltech's most prestigious teaching honor, the prize was established in 1993 "to honor annually a professor who demonstrates, in the broadest sense, unusual ability, creativity, and innovation in undergraduate and graduate classroom or laboratory teaching." A member of the Caltech faculty since 1994, Bruck was the founding director of Information Science and Technology (IST) at Caltech. His research combines work on the design of distributed information systems and the theoretical study of biological circuits and systems. Kudos!

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Julia Greer and Christopher Kovalchick Musical Performance

01-08-09

Pianist Julia Greer, Assistant Professor of Materials Science, and violinist Christopher Kovalchick, graduate students in Aeronautics, performed a program of works by Brahms, Beethoven, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev on Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 3:30 p.m. in Ramo Auditorium.

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EAS Faculty Cited in Discover Magazine's 50 Best Brains in Science Issue

11-14-08

Discover magazine recently published its annual 50 Best Brains in Science issue, and the "20 Under 40" list which highlights "a new generation of innovators changing the way we think about everything from theoretical mathematics to cancer therapy." Four researchers from Caltech (three from EAS) were cited: Michael Elowitz (Assistant Professor of Biology and Applied Physics; Bren Scholar; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute), Sarkis Mazmanian (Assistant Professor of Biology), Tapio Schneider (Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering), and Changhuei Yang (Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering).

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Man-made Reef Named in Memory Wheeler North

11-14-08

A man-made reef designed to grow into a self-sustaining 175-acre kelp forest - the biggest environmental project of its kind in the United States - has been named in memory Wheeler North (1922–2002), professor of environmental science at Caltech who pioneered the study of kelp and what makes for a healthy reef. The Wheeler North Kelp Reef is located off the coast near San Clemente. [OC Register Article]

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