News & Events


Professor Phillips Awarded Feynman Teaching Prize


The 2021 Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching, Caltech's highest teaching prize, has been awarded to Rob Phillips, Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics, Biology, and Physics. The Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching was established in 1993 to honor annually a professor who demonstrates, in the broadest sense, unusual ability, creativity, and innovation in undergraduate and graduate classroom or laboratory teaching. "Being a professor at Caltech has been the signature privilege of my professional life," says Phillips. "Though I am deeply honored by this award, I am also totally cognizant of the generations of students that have joined me in my teaching and research adventures and without whom, none of this would have been possible. I have been surrounded by so many brilliant and dedicated young scientists that have joined me in celebrating the sense of wonder that fuels our science." [Past recipients] [Caltech story]

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New Insight into Nonlinear Optical Resonators Unlocks Door to Numerous Potential Applications


Devices known as optical parametric oscillators are among the widely used nonlinear resonators in optics; they are "nonlinear" in that there is light flowing into the system and light leaking out, but not at the same wavelengths. Though these oscillators are useful in a variety of applications, including in quantum optics experiments, the physics that underpins how their output wavelength, or spectrum, behaves is not well understood. "When you add strong nonlinearity to resonators, you enter what we call a 'rich physics regime,'" says Alireza Marandi, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics. "'Rich' in physics terms usually means complicated and hard to use, but we need nonlinearities to create useful functionalities such as switching for computing." To be able to make full use of nonlinear optical resonators, researchers want to be able to understand and model the physics that underpin how they work. Marandi and his colleagues recently uncovered a potential way to engineer those rich physics, while discovering phase transitions in the light that is generated by the resonators. [Caltech story]

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Professor Wei Gao Awarded Sloan Research Fellowship


Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering, has been awarded the prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship in Chemistry for 2021. Recipients represent the most promising scientific researchers working today. Their achievements and potential place them among the next generation of scientific leaders. [Past Fellows] [Caltech story]

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Abigail Jiang Wins SURF Speaking Competition


Materials science undergraduate student Abigail Jiang is the winner of the Doris S. Perpall Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) Speaking Competition. She was recognized as the best speaker out of 200 students who presented their SURF research. Abigail's SURF project was entitled, “Developing Physical Lab Infrastructure for Thin Film Material Growth and Evaluation." Robert C. Perpall, a Caltech mechanical engineering alumnus and past member of the SURF Board, created the Doris S. Perpall SURF speaking prize in 1993 as an incentive for Caltech students to give excellent oral presentations. [View Presentations]

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Caltech and NTT Research Launch Collaboration to Develop World’s Fastest Coherent Ising Machine


Researchers from Caltech and NTT Research are collaborating to develop a high-speed Coherent Ising Machine (CIM). A CIM is a network of optical parametric oscillators (OPOs) programmed to solve problems that have been mapped to an Ising model, which is a mathematical abstraction of magnetic systems composed of competitively interacting spins, or angular momentums of fundamental particles. The principal investigator at Caltech for this four-and-a-half-year joint project is Kerry Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics; Executive Officer for Applied Physics and Materials Science. “We are delighted at the prospect of working with Professor Vahala to develop an extremely small and high-speed CIM,” said NTT Research PHI Lab Director, Yoshihisa Yamamoto. “This work will advance our understanding of the CIM’s capabilities, map well with ongoing and related work with other institutions, provide new demonstrations of this awesomely powerful new information system and, we hope, set standards for the CIM’s speed and size.” [NTT Research story] [Business Wire story]

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Tiny Shape-Shifting Polymers Developed for Potential Medical Applications


Julia Greer, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Materials Science, Mechanics and Medical Engineering; Fletcher Jones Foundation Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, has developed a process for generating three-dimensional architected polymers with heat-dependent "shape memory" properties: that is, when heated, the material folds and unfolds itself into a new preordained shape. These shape memory polymers could one day be used to perform complex tasks inside the human body, such as unclogging a blocked artery or pulling out a blood clot. [Caltech story]

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Titanium Atom That Exists in Two Places at Once in Crystal to Blame for Unusual Phenomenon


Crystals are usually good at conducting heat. By definition, their atomic structure is highly organized, which allows atomic vibrations—heat—to flow through them as a wave. Austin Minnich, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, has discovered why a perfect crystal is not good at conducting heat, although it seemingly should be. "We have found that quantum mechanical effects can play a huge role in setting the thermal transport properties of materials even under familiar conditions like room temperature," says Austin Minnich. [Caltech story]

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Marco Bernardi Wins ISSNAF Young Investigator Award


Marco Bernardi, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, has won the 2020 Franco Strazzabosco Award for Research in Engineering from the Italian Scientists & Scholars in North America Foundation (ISSNAF). The ISSNAF annually awards the Young Investigator Awards in various disciplines to outstanding, early-career Italian researchers working in the United States or Canada, in recognition of their significant and innovative contributions to their field of research. [Past Winners]

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FUTURE Ignited


Nearly 200 undergraduates from more than 120 colleges and universities across the country joined Caltech for FUTURE Ignited, a virtual event that aimed to encourage students of color to pursue graduate studies in science and engineering. The goal of FUTURE Ignited is to diversify STEM with students of color who will go on to become incredible graduate students and scientific leaders in their respective fields. [Caltech story]


A Method to Map Brain Circuits in Real Time


A new approach called integrated neurophotonics could allow researchers to track the activity of all the neurons that make up a particular brain circuit. To deepen their understanding of the brain, neuroscientists must be able to map in great detail the neural circuits that are responsible for tasks such as processing sensory information or forming new memories. Now, a new approach may allow for the activity of all of the thousands to millions of neurons within a particular brain circuit to be observed in real time. Dense recording at depth—that is the key," says Michael Roukes, Frank J. Roshek Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering. [Caltech story]

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