News & Events


Professor Umans Named Simons Investigator in Computer Science


Christopher Umans, Professor of Computer Science, has been named a Simons Investigator in Computer Science by the Simons Foundation’s Mathematics and Physical Sciences Division. The award honors and supports "outstanding scientists in their most productive years, when they are establishing creative new research directions, providing leadership to the field and effectively mentoring junior scientists." Professor Umans’ research centers on algorithms and complexity. He has made contributions to the understanding of randomness in computation, and algorithms for fundamental algebraic problems which includes developing a group-theoretic approach for matrix multiplication. [List of awardees] [Caltech story]

Tags: honors research highlights CMS Christopher Umans

New Thin, Flat Lenses Focus Light as Sharply as Curved Lenses


Andrei Faraon, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have created flat microlenses with performance on a par with conventional, curved lenses. Typically, lenses rely on a curved shape to bend and focus light. But in the tight spaces inside consumer electronics and fiber-optic systems, these rounded lenses can take up a lot of room. The Caltech team’s new flat lenses focus as much as 82 percent of infrared light passing through them. By comparison, previous studies have found that metallic flat lenses have efficiencies of only around a few percent. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MedE Andrei Faraon

Tracking Photosynthesis from Space


Professor Paul Wennberg and colleagues have developed a new technique to analyze plant productivity using data from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite. To perform photosynthesis, the chlorophyll in leaves absorbs sunlight and a small fraction of the absorbed light is reemitted as near-infrared light. This reemitted light makes the plants appear to glow—a property called solar induced fluorescence (SIF). "The measurements of SIF from OCO-2 greatly extend the science of this mission", says Professor Wennberg. "OCO-2 was designed to map carbon dioxide, and scientists plan to use these measurements to determine the underlying sources and sinks of this important gas. The new SIF measurements will allow us to diagnose the efficiency of the plants—a key component of the sinks of carbon dioxide." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights ESE Paul Wennberg

Space Solar Power Initiative


Caltech and Northrop Grumman Corporation have signed a $17.5 million sponsored research agreement for the development of the Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI). The initiative will develop technologies in three areas: high-efficiency ultralight photovoltaics; ultralight deployable space structures; and phased array and power transmission. "The Space Solar Power Initiative brings together electrical engineers, applied physicists, and aerospace engineers in the type of profound interdisciplinary collaboration that is seamlessly enhanced at a small place like Caltech... We are working on extremely difficult problems that could eventually provide the world with new, and very cost-competitive technology for sustainable energy,” said EAS Chair Ares Rosakis. [Caltech story] [Northrop Grumman Release]

Tags: APhMS EE energy research highlights GALCIT Harry Atwater Ares Rosakis Ali Hajimiri Sergio Pellegrino

Professor Tropp Receives Pioneer Award


Joel A. Tropp, Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics, will receive the Compressive Sampling Pioneer Award at this year’s International Society for Optics and Photonics - Defense Security and Sensing conference (SPIE. DSS). He is one of the first researchers to contribute to the field of sparse approximation, which is also known as compressive sampling. At the conference he will give a presentation on sampling theorems for structured signals, based on his paper entitled “Living on the Edge.”

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Tags: honors research highlights CMS Joel Tropp

Professor Faber Receives the John Jeppson Award


Katherine Faber, Simon Ramo Professor of Materials Science, has received one of the most prestigious awards given by the American Ceramic Society which is the John Jeppson Award. She is being honored “for her important engineering contribution to the understanding of mechanical behavior, especially toughening of ceramics.” More specifically for her study of the fracture of brittle materials and the mechanisms by which such materials can be toughened and strengthened through composite strategies and residual stresses.

The John Jeppson Award recognizes distinguished scientific, technical, or engineering achievements in ceramics. Past recipients include Larry L. Hench, Arthur H. Heuer, Anthony G. Evans, and the only other female member of the distinguished group Della M. Roy. [List of past recipients]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Katherine Faber

An Earthquake Warning System in Our Pockets?


Thomas H. Heaton, Professor of Engineering Seismology, and colleagues’ recent study suggests that all of our phones and other personal electronic devices could function as a distributed network, detecting any ground movements caused by a large earthquake, and, ultimately, giving people crucial seconds to prepare for a temblor. "Thirty years ago it took months to assemble a crude picture of the deformations from an earthquake. This new technology promises to provide a near-instantaneous picture with much greater resolution," says Professor Heaton. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Thomas Heaton

Ali Hajimiri's New Camera Chip Provides Superfine 3-D Resolution


To make an exact copy of an object with a 3-D printer, you must first produce a high-resolution scan of the object with a 3-D camera that measures its height, width, and depth. The most sensitive systems generally are too large and expensive to be used in consumer applications. Ali Hajimiri, Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering, has created a new device called a nanophotonic coherent imager (NCI) that is an inexpensive silicon chip less than a millimeter. The NCI provides the highest depth-measurement accuracy of any such nanophotonic 3-D imaging device. 3-D imaging may be a possible feature in future smartphones. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights Ali Hajimiri

Professor Bruck Receives IEEE Data Storage Best Paper Award


Jehoshua Bruck, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering, and colleagues' paper entitled “Zigzag Codes: MDS Array Codes With Optimal Rebuilding” has received the 2013 best paper award from the Data Storage Technical Committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The award recognizes a paper that has substantial and meaningful impact on both the theory and the practice of the existing or future data storage systems, or on emerging storage technologies that are gaining momentum. By giving these awards, the committee also motivates researchers to continue to make great original contributions to the field of data storage.

Tags: EE honors research highlights Jehoshua Bruck

Engineering and Art


Students in Professor Hillary Mushkin’s media arts seminar (E/H/Art 89 New Media Arts in the 20th and 21st Centuries) have once again put on a unique exhibition highlighting art and engineering. The course provides a platform for an expanded understanding of engineering and an active, project-based engagement with art history.

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Tags: EE research highlights MCE CMS Hillary Mushkin