EAS Remembers Jakob van Zyl
Jakob van Zyl, Senior Faculty Associate in Electrical Engineering and Aerospace, passed away on August 26, 2020 at the age of 63. He came to Caltech in 1982 and received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in 1983 and 1986, respectively. He joined JPL in 1986 and retired in 2019 as the Director of Solar System Exploration. He was world-renowned for his research in imaging radar polarimetry. He made pioneering contributions to the design and development of many synthetic aperture radar (SAR) systems, including SIR-C, SRTM, AIRSAR, TOPSAR, and GeoSAR. He held management roles at JPL including, Director for Astronomy and Physics (2006-2011), Associate Director of Project Formulation and Strategy (2011-2015), and Director of Solar System Exploration (2016-2019). He received many honors and awards, including an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa in 2015 for his contributions to space missions, for being a good ambassador for Africa, and for inspiring young scientists and engineers in his home continent. Over the last two decades, he taught EE/Ae 157 Introduction to the Physics of Remote Sensing. He contributed in numerous ways to promote interactions between EAS and JPL.
Jakob van Zyl
June Kim Receives 2020 Henry Ford II Scholar Award
Computer science mathematics student Joo Eun (June) Kim, advised by Adam Wierman, Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences; Director, Information Science and Technology, is a recipient of the 2020 Henry Ford II Scholar Award. June is largely interested in software engineering and game programming. She has previously worked at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as part of the Mars 2020 Lander Vision System team, and at Blizzard Entertainment as a full-stack engineer intern. This summer she will be working at Riot Games as a game engineer intern and is hoping to continue her professional career in the gaming industry. The Henry Ford II Scholar Award is funded under an endowment provided by the Ford Motor Company Fund. The award is made annually to engineering students with the best academic record at the end of the third year of undergraduate study.
Henry Ford II Scholar Award
Joo Eun Kim
IRCA Best Paper Awards
Two teams of Caltech researchers have won three International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) Best Paper Awards in multiple categories along with the overall best paper award. The ICRA is the largest and most prestigious robotics conference of the year. Awards are given on the basis of technical merit, originality, potential impact on the field, clarity of the written paper, and quality of the presentation. Maegan Tucker, Ellen Novoseller, Claudia Kann, Yanan Sui, Yisong Yue, Joel Burdick, and Aaron Ames, have won the ICRA Best Conference Paper Award and the ICRA Best Paper Award on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) for their paper entitled "Preference-Based Learning for Exoskeleton Gait Optimization." Amanda Bouman, Paul Nadan, Matthew Anderson, Daniel Pastor, Jacob Izraelevitz, Joel Burdick, and Brett Kennedy, have won the ICRA Best Paper Award on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for their paper entitled "Design and Autonomous Stabilization of a Ballistically Launched Multirotor." [Virtual Award Ceremony]
Caleb Sander Receives 2020 Henry Ford II Scholar Award
Computer science student Caleb Sander, advised by Thomas Vidick, Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, is a recipient of the 2020 Henry Ford II Scholar Award. Caltech classes have introduced Caleb to surprising new interests, like the philosophical questions posed by physics and Omer Tamuz’s game theory class, which convinced him to also major in Economics. His favorite experiences at Caltech have been helping students learn by serving as a teaching assistant in five computer science courses. This summer he will work remotely as a software engineering intern at Facebook, and he will likely look for a job in the software industry. The Henry Ford II Scholar Award is funded under an endowment provided by the Ford Motor Company Fund. The award is made annually to engineering students with the best academic record at the end of the third year of undergraduate study.
Henry Ford II Scholar Award
EAS Remembers Allan Acosta
Allan Acosta, Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Emeritus, who spent 50 years at Caltech and helped launch the Institute's present day Mechanical Engineering option, passed away on May 18, 2020 at the age of 95. Allan joined the faculty in 1954 after having obtained his BS '45, MS '49, and PhD '52 degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Caltech. He collaborated with Chris Brennen, Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Emeritus, on a project for NASA to eliminate the instability caused by a phenomenon known as "pogo oscillation" from the Space Shuttle design. Allan was a much-admired teacher and mentor who influenced many generations of students. He served as the Executive Officer of Mechanical Engineering from 1988 to 1993. He was the author of a popular textbook, Fluid Flow: A First Course in Fluid Mechanics, which he co-authored with Rolf Sabersky. Allan received numerous honors and awards, including election as a member of the National Academy of Engineering and as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. [Caltech story] [Allan Acosta Blog]
New Chip-Based Laser Gyroscope Measures Earth's Rotation
Optical gyroscopes are used in applications such as aircraft navigation systems, while MEMS gyroscopes are found in devices like smart phones. Kerry J. Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics; Executive Officer for Applied Physics and Materials Science, has developed an optical gyroscope that combines some of the best characteristics of each into one device. "For more than 20 years, researchers have speculated about placing optical gyroscopes onto a chip very much like the highly successful MEMS gyroscopes. But until recently, there have been very few compelling experiments," Vahala says. [Caltech story]
Making a Better Match
Adam Wierman, Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences; Director, Information Science and Technology, worked with a cross-disciplinary team to improve the Pasadena Unified School District's open-enrollment algorithm. Wierman knew from experience that the district's open-enrollment process was not optimal. "I couldn't help but notice that it wasn't particularly well designed," says Wierman. "There was a huge opportunity, I thought, to improve." With the team's new and improved algorithm, families are more likely to get their top match and are also more likely to keep their children in the school district rather than enrolling them in private or charter schools. [Caltech story]
EAS Remembers Donald S. Cohen
Donald S. Cohen, Charles Lee Powell Professor of Applied Mathematics, Emeritus, passed away on January 9, 2020, at the age of 85. Cohen was one of the first faculty members recruited for Caltech's newly formed applied mathematics program in 1965. He was named associate professor of applied mathematics in 1967 and earned tenure in 1971. His research covered a variety of topics, including early work in the theory of reaction-diffusion equations. His later research in nonlinear differential equations, pattern formation, stability, and bifurcations had a significant impact on mathematical biology and chemical engineering. Cohen was a popular teacher who received awards for undergraduate teaching excellence in 1979, 1987, and 1998; in 2000, he was awarded the Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching. [Caltech story]