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]
Ares J. Rosakis, Theodore von Karman Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, is the recipient of the Society for Experimental Mechanics (SEM) 2013 P.S. Theocaris Award. This award recognizes a senior professional who is a Fellow of SEM and who has conducted outstanding research throughout his career in the field of experimental mechanics. [Caltech Spotlight] [Caltech Feature]
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]
Philipp Boettcher, a graduate student working with Joe Shepherd, is the recipient of the 2012 Richard B. Chapman Memorial Award. Dr. Boettcher has observed and characterized a new puffing flame instability in premixed initially stagnant flammable mixtures. The award is given to an EAS graduate student in hydrodynamics who has distinguished himself or herself in research.
Caltech's 118th Commencement Ceremony was held on Friday, June 15th. The graduates were addressed by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder and chief executive officer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Tesla Motors, and the chairman of SolarCity. He used the English physicist & science fiction author, Arthur C. Clarke's, quote "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." to inspire the graduates to be twenty-first century magicians by advancing science and technology. He also talked about his success at Paypal and encouraged the graduates to "take feedback from their environment and be as closed loop as possible." [Facts about the class of 2012]
Dennis Kochmann, Assistant Professor of Aerospace, has recieved the 2012 Graduate Student Council (GSC) Excellence in Teaching Award. This award is given by the GSC each year, with participating from the entire Caltech community, to one professor for excellence in classroom teaching.
The student winners of the 2012 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes were announced at a special luncheon with the Demetriades - Tsafka – Kokkalis family. Philip Romero received the prize in Biotechnology for his work on developing statistical models of proteins with Frances Arnold. Michael Mello was the recipient of the prize in Seismo-Engineering, Prediction, and Protection for his work with Ares Rosakis on developing a novel methodology for identifying the unique ground motion signatures of supershear earthquakes. Leslie O’Leary received the prize in Environmentally Benign Renewable Energy Sources for her pathbreaking work on the properties of semiconductor interfaces with Nate Lewis and Bob Grubbs. This year there were two winners for the prize in Nanotechnology. One winner was Andrew Jennings for his experimental and modeling work in nanomechanics with Julia Greer. The other winner of the Nanotechnology prize was Jordan Raney who has worked with Chiara Daraio to develop new chemical synthesis methods to control the properties of carbon nanotubes.
Applied Physics graduate student, Peter Hung, along with Electrical Engineering undergraduate students Julie Jester, Jeff Sherman, and Sean Keenan, worked with a team of engineering students from across the country to create a one-of-a-kind machine for sharing a Coke.
A multidisciplinary team led by Dr. A. J. Colussi, comprising of graduate student Himanshu Mishra, and Professor Michael Hoffmann along with Dr. Robert J. Nielsen and Professor William A. Goddard III from the Materials and Process Simulation Center, has shown that the dissociation of nitric acid on thin layers of water, such as those in contact with air or biological membranes, is dramatically different from the similar process inside water. They have found that the molecules of nitric acid do not dissociate when they collide with water unless its surface contains at least 1 anion per million water. This work explains how minute concentrations of anions might subtly participate in acid rain chemistry, the cycling of nitrogen oxide pollutants on urban haze, and in the charging of protein surfaces that drive enzyme activities. [The PNAS Article]
Judy Mou, an undergraduate student in Computing and Mathematical Sciences, with an interest in building smart systems that identify patterns in sensory data to perform autonomous actions, is one of the recipients of the 2012 Henry Ford II Scholar Award. The other recipient is undergrade student Michael Hirshleifer who is interested in algorithms, data mining, and the intersection of computer science with economics.