News & Events


Jeff Snyder and Colleagues Invent New Material that Will Make Cars More Efficient


Caltech Faculty Associate Jeff Snyder and colleagues have invented a new material that will make cars even more efficient by converting heat lost through engine exhaust into electricity. In a paper published July 25 in the journal Science, the scientists describe the unique thermoelectric material, which has twice the efficiency other such materials currently on the market, and works most effectively in the temperature range typical of automobile engines. The same technology could also work in power generators and heat pumps. Read more at

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Axel van de Walle Developes Formalism to Represent Structure-property Relationships in Crystals


Axel van de Walle, Assistant Professor of Materials Science, has developed a general formalism to represent structure-property relationships in crystals. It enables the prediction, from a database of quantum mechanical calculations, of anisotropic material properties such as elasticity, piezoelectricity, dielectric constants, etc. As an application, he developed predictive models of anisotropic properties relevant to the design and optimization of III–V semiconductor epitaxial optoelectronic devices. This work was recently highlighted as the cover feature of Nature Materials. [Nature Article] [Commentary]

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Melissa Saenz and Christof Koch Show that Sight Recovery After Blindness Offers New Insights on Brain Reorganization


Studies of the brains of blind persons whose sight was partially restored later in life have produced a compelling example of the brain's ability to adapt to new circumstances and rewire and reconfigure itself. The research, conducted by postdoctoral researcher Melissa Saenz along with Christof Koch, the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology and professor of computation and neural systems, and their colleagues, shows that the part of the brain that processes visual information in normal individuals can be co-opted to respond to both visual and auditory information. [Caltech Press Release]

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Art of Science Competition


The winners of Caltech's first Art of Science Competition have been announced.

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Chemistry of Airborne Particulate—Lung Interactions Revealed by Agustin Colussi and Colleagues


Agustin J. Colussi, senior research associate in environmental science and engineering, and colleagues have found that airborne particulates impair the lungs' naturaldefenses against ozone. Their research focused on what happens when air meets the thin layer of antioxidant-rich fluid that covers our lungs, protecting them from ozone, an air pollutant that pervades major cities. "We found new chemistry at the interfaces separating gases from liquids using a technique that continuously monitors the composition of these interfaces," Colussi says. Under normal physiological conditions, ascorbic acid instantly scavenges ozone, generating innocuous byproducts. However, the researchers discovered that when the fluid is acidic, a pathological condition found in asthmatics, ascorbic acid instead reacts with ozone to form potentially harmful compounds called ozonides.

Tags: research highlights health ESE Agustin Colussi

CACR Helps Open the Universe in "WorldWide Telescope"


World Wide Telescope (WWT), a new Microsoft product, combines cosmic imagery and educational content from many sources, including major ground-based sky surveys. A significant portion of the data was processed at Caltech's Center for Advanced Computing Research (CACR). [Caltech Press Release]

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Michael Elowitz Named HHMI Investigator


Michael Elowitz, Assistant Professor of Biology and Applied Physics and a Bren Scholar, has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. Elowitz is fundamentally interested in how cells' own genetic circuits dictate what type of cells they become. In work that overturned the steadfastnotion that genes and networks of genes operate in a predictable and fixed fashion, he and his colleagues showed that key properties of the cell, like how actively it turns out different proteins, are intrinsically random. To show that randomness is used to more accurately control the shapes and patterns that make organisms work, Elowitz is turning to larger and more complex animal cells. "I'm grateful to HHMI for the amazing opportunity this appointment presents to focus as much as possible on research. The funds will enable us to explore new directions, especially allowing us to expand approaches we've previously developed primarily in bacteria to mammalian cells." [Caltech Press Release]

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Mani Chandy, Mathieu Desbrun, and Joel Tropp Win ASCIT Prize


Mani Chandy, Simon Ramo Professor and Professor of Computer Science, Mathieu Desbrun, Associate Professor of Computational Science and Engineering and Computer Science, and Joel Tropp, Assistant Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics, have been recognized as exceptional teachers by the students at Caltech. Each has won a 2007-2008 ASCIT prize, awarded by the undergraduate Academics and Research Committee (ARC) and the Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology (ASCIT). This award is bestowed upon only five faculty members each year.

Tags: honors CMS Mathieu Desbrun Joel Tropp Kanianthra Mani Chandy ASCIT Prize

Chiara Daraio Wins Richard von Mises Prize


Chiara Daraio, Professor Aeronautics and Applied Physics, has won the 2008 Richard von Mises Prize. This prize is awarded each year by the International Association of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics (GAMM) to a young scientist for exceptional scientific achievements in the field of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics. The prize was awarded at the opening ceremony of the Annual meeting of GAMM in March, in Bremen, Germany.

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Michael Dickinson Named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences


Michael Dickinson, Esther M. and Abe M. Zarem Professor of Bioengineering, is among the 190 new Fellows elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year. Dickinson studies animal physiology and behavior and has become well known for Robofly, a mechanical fly that sprang from his work on the neurobiology and biomechanics of fly locomotion. Throughout his career, Dickinson has used a variety of tools, such as wind tunnels, virtual reality simulators, high-speed video, and giant robotic models, to determine how the poppy seed-sized brains of these tiny insects can rapidly control aerodynamic forces. More than a simple understanding of the material basis for insect flight, Dickinson's studies provide insight into complex systems operating on biological and physical principles: neuronal signaling within brains, the dynamics of unsteady fluid flow, the structural mechanics of composite materials, and the behavior of nonlinear systems are all linked when a fly takes wing. [Caltech Press Release].

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