News & Events


The Physics of Going Viral


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


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

Robust Self-Replication


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

Innovation In Image Annotation


Pietro Perona, Allen E. Puckett Professor of Electrical Engineering, and colleagues including graduate student, Peter Welinder, have been selected for the Innovation Corps (i-Corps) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The aim of the i-Corps program, which was highlighted by the NSF Director at a recent Wouk Lecture, is to guide promising research with commercial potential out of university laboratories. The winning Caltech proposal is entitled "Combining Machine Vision and Crowdsourcing for Convenient and Accurate Image Annotation." The team has proposed to combine the complementary strengths of human annotators and machines into a hybrid system that would annotate a large body of images which would be a valuable in scientific, medical, as well as many commercial applications. [Video of Wouk Lecture]

Tags: EE research highlights health Pietro Perona NSF Peter Welinder

Naturally Inspired


Morteza Gharib, Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Bioinspired Engineering, and colleagues are studying the properties of the zebrafish embryonic heart to address problems as diverse as ringing in the ears and overheated electronics. They have also developed the first pump built entirely from biological building blocks. “We can actually be more clever than nature,” Gharib says. “We can get inspired by nature and use engineering to come up with better functions. Just look at 747s—they fly from LAX to La Guardia much more efficiently than any bird could.” [E&S Article]

Tags: energy research highlights GALCIT MedE health Morteza Gharib Bioinspired

DNA Robotics Research Earns Undergrads a Gold Prize


Undergraduate students Zibo Chen, Shayan Doroudi, Yae Lim Lee, Gregory Izatt, and Sarah Wittman have won a gold award at the 2011 International Bio-Molecular Design Competition (BIOMOD). BIOMOD is a competition for undergraduate teams who design research to address the control of biomolecules on the nanometer scale. The Caltech team's challenge was to make a synthetic DNA robot that has the ability to take a random walk —instead of walking on set path or track—on a two-dimensional origami surface that was also made out of DNA. The team is mentored by Professor Erik Winfree and sponsored by the Molecular Programming Project. [Caltech Feature] [Video of Project]

Tags: EE research highlights health CMS Erik Winfree Zibo Chen Shayan Doroudi Yae Lim Lee Gregory Izatt Sarah Wittman

Role of Signaling and Circuits in Cancer


Michael Elowitz, Professor of Biology and Bioengineering, has received a $2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) award from the Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation to study what happens to cell-to-cell communication and the circuits of interacting biomolecules that control differentiation and other normal cellular processes when cancer takes hold. [Caltech Feature]

Tags: research highlights health Michael Elowitz NSF

Using DNA to Manufacture Nanoscale Devices


William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, has received $1.25 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a process that takes advantage of DNA's talent for self-assembly to arrange nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and proteins into configurations designed for use in devices such as sensors, transistors, and optical components. [Caltech Feature]

Tags: APhMS research highlights health William Goddard NSF

Professor Burdick Receives Popular Mechanics Award


Joel W. Burdick, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering, and colleagues are recipients of a 2011 Breakthrough Award by Popular Mechanics for their work that helped a paralyzed man stand. The Breakthrough Innovator Awards are in recognition of "innovators whose inventions will make the world smarter, safer, and more efficient in the years to come." [Popular Mechanics Article] [Caltech Feature]

Tags: MedE health MCE Popular Mechanics Joel Burdick

Caltech Engineers Build Smart Petri Dish


Electrical engineering graduate student Guoan Zheng, working with Professor Changhuei Yang and Professor Michael Elowitz, has built a platform for a "smart" petri dish, dubbed ePetri. "Our ePetri dish is a compact, small, lens-free microscopy imaging platform. We can directly track the cell culture or bacteria culture within the incubator," explains Zheng, "the data from the ePetri dish automatically transfers to a computer outside the incubator by a cable connection... this technology can significantly streamline and improve cell culture experiments by cutting down on human labor and contamination risks." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: EE research highlights Changhuei Yang health Michael Elowitz Guoan Zheng