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Alumnus to Exploring Ways to Tackle California’s Housing Crisis

12-07-18

Caltech has awarded the inaugural Milton and Rosalind Chang Career Exploration Prize to EAS undergraduate alumnus, Sean McKenna (BS ’17, ACM) for his proposed project “Exploring Ways to Tackle California’s Housing Crisis.” McKenna plans to spend the next year connecting with residents, housing developers, homeless shelters, technology innovators, and policymakers in California and Washington, DC to learn more about the roots of the housing crisis. He is grateful for the “incredible amount of freedom" the Chang Prize will give him "to figure out how the skills and passions I developed at Caltech might translate into making a difference in the housing crisis, a problem that is very real for me, other Techers, and all residents of California.” [Alumni Association story]

Tags: honors CMS alumni Sean McKenna

The Big Picture

12-03-18

Thanks to Professor Pietro Perona and his graduate students including Grant Van Horn and Sara Beery, the next wildlife photo you snap might set you on a path to helping map life on Earth. “The whole web, this huge repository of wonderful information, is indexed by words,” Perona says. “But when we have an image—a visual query—we don’t know what to do unless there is an expert next to us. We’ve gotten so numb to the idea that we’ll never find the answer out.” [Breakthrough story]

Tags: EE research highlights CMS Pietro Perona Grant Van Horn Sara Beery

EE Alumnus on Forbes 30 Under 30 List

11-27-18

Fei Chen (BS ’11 EE) is on the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list for “building better microscopy technologies … that could help explain how complex tissues like the brain, made of a large collection of diverse cell types, are organized.” As an Electrical Engineering undergraduate student at Caltech Fei Chen was an Axline Merit Scholar for his outstanding record of personal and academic accomplishments. Currently he is a Principal Investigator at the Broad Institute, Harvard-MIT. [Forbes 30 Under 30 Full List]

Tags: EE honors alumni Fei Chen

Professor Daraio Receives Outstanding Alumni Award

11-26-18

Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, has been awarded the UC San Diego Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Outstanding Alumna Award for her outstanding achievements in mechanical metamaterials and materials science. [Award recipients]

Tags: honors Chiara Daraio MCE APh

Nailing It: Caltech Engineers Help Show That InSight Lander Probe Can Hammer Itself Into Martian Soil

11-26-18

Professor José Andrade’s research team including Postdoctoral researchers Ivan Vlahinic and Jason Marshall have helped the InSight Mars lander boldly go where no one has gone before: beneath the surface of Mars. InSight is equipped with two main instrument packages: a seismometer for studying how seismic waves (for example, from marsquakes and meteorite impacts) travel through the planet and a "mole" that will burrow into the ground, dragging a tether with temperature sensors behind it to measure how temperatures change with depth on the planet. These instruments will tell scientists about Mars's interior structure (similar to the way an ultrasound lets doctors "see" inside a human body) and also about the heat flow from the planet's interior. When designing the mole the engineers at JPL wanted to be certain that it would be capable of reaching the necessary depth, and so they called on Professor Andrade, an expert on the physics of granular materials. He was able to develop new computer models that helped the JPL team predict the mole's effectiveness in Martian soil. Unless the mole encounters an obstacle, Andrade is confident that it will be successful. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Jose Andrade postdocs Ivan Vlahinic Jason Marshall

Learning Directly From Data Rather Than Human-Provided Expertise

11-19-18

Alumnus Yong Sheng Soh (PhD ’18, ACM), advised by Professor Venkat Chandrasekaran, has won the 2018 INFORMS Optimization Society Student Prize for his paper entitled Learning Semidefinite-Representable Regularizers. Regularization-based algorithms are widely used in the solution of data-driven inverse problems arising in statistics, operations research, signal processing, and machine learning. These approaches typically require a great deal of prior domain-specific expertise about the structure of the underlying problem. Such expertise is especially challenging to obtain in the modern era of 'Big Data' in which our ability to sense all manner of phenomena and produce massive datasets far exceeds our ability to understand the underlying mechanisms governing the phenomena. In his award-winning work, which has been accepted for publication at the Journal of the Foundations of Computational Mathematics, Yong Sheng has developed a new framework for learning suitable regularization methods directly from data rather from human-provided expertise. [INFORMS Optimization Society Award] [Read the paper]

Tags: honors CMS alumni Venkat Chandrasekaran Yong Sheng Soh

Two International Aerospace Leaders Receive von Kármán Wings Award

11-19-18

This year's International von Kármán Wings Award honorees were Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the French Centre National d'Études Spatiales and A. S. Kiran Kumar, Vikram Sarabhai Professor and former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization and former secretary of the Indian Department of Space. The ceremony also featured the presentation of two scholarships to honor top graduate students in aerospace. "This event is absolutely unique," said Professor Ares Rosakis and chairman of the the Aerospace Historical Society. "What makes it so is that it reflects the phenomenal international connections between Caltech, GALCIT, JPL, and NASA and it also highlights the true international nature of aerospace. More importantly, it gives us the opportunity to take a glimpse at the future by also honoring our own students who will one day define the future of space science and the future of space technology." [Caltech story] [Student scholarship winners] [Program for 2018 award ceremony]

Tags: honors GALCIT Ares Rosakis Jean-Yves Le Gall A. S. Kiran Kumar

Partners In Innovation

11-13-18

Ten years ago, Caltech and City of Hope forged a partnership that combined what each institute was best at—engineering and medicine, respectively—with the goal of developing new biomedical technologies. At this year’s partnership celebration two projects were highlighted one involving Professor Yu-Chong Tai’s work on tracking tumors and the other building on Professor Morteza Gharib’s device to measure heart health. [Caltech story] [ENGenious MedE feature]

Tags: research highlights MedE Yu-Chong Tai Morteza Gharib

"Folded" Optical Devices Manipulate Light in a New Way

10-30-18

Andrei Faraon, Professor of Applied Physics, and colleagues have introduced a technology called "folded metasurface optics," which is a way of printing multiple types of metasurfaces onto either side of a substrate, like glass. In this way, the substrate itself becomes the propagation space for the light. As a proof of concept, the team used the technique to build a spectrometer. Such compact spectrometers have a variety of possible uses, including as a noninvasive blood-glucose measuring system. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Andrei Faraon APh

Spinning the Light: The World's Smallest Optical Gyroscope

10-25-18

Professor Ali Hajimiri and colleagues have developed a new optical gyroscope that is 500 times smaller than the current state-of-the-art device, yet they can detect phase shifts that are 30 times smaller than those systems. Their device achieves this improved performance by using a new technique called "reciprocal sensitivity enhancement." In this case, "reciprocal" means that it affects both beams of the light inside the gyroscope in the same way. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights Ali Hajimiri