Niles Pierce gives Earnest C. Watson Lecture
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.
Pietro Perona Trains Computers to Analyze Fruit-Fly Behavior
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]
Ali Hajimiri Awarded $6 Million to Develop Self-Healing Circuits
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.
Man-made Reef Named in Memory Wheeler North
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]