News & Events


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 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]

Tags: MCE EAS history Allan Acosta

Professor John Brady Elected to the National Academy of Sciences


Professor John F. Brady, Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Election to the National Academy of Sciences is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to scientists and engineers. [Caltech story]

Tags: honors MCE John Brady

Amphibious Robots Storm Millikan Pond for ME 72


Caltech's annual engineering design competition returned for its 35th installment. Five teams of Caltech undergraduates spent months building three amphibious remote-controlled robots per team that could drive into Millikan Pond and speed across the water to drop, shoot, or push balls into targets and outscore the opposing team. It was a high-stakes afternoon of capsizing, cheering, and triumph. [Caltech story]

Tags: MCE ME 72 Michael Mello

Blanquart Receives Research Excellence Award


Guillaume Blanquart, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has been awarded the 2020 Research Excellence Award. The award is given by the Combustion Institute to registered Combustion Institute members who, in the opinion of the Executive Committee, have published excellent research papers that have had a major impact on the field of combustion science. [Recipients]

Tags: honors MCE Guillaume Blanquart

Microstructures Self-Assemble into New Materials


A new process developed at Caltech makes it possible for the first time to manufacture large quantities of materials whose structure is designed at a nanometer scale—the size of DNA's double helix. Pioneered by Professor Julia R. Greer, "nanoarchitected materials" exhibit unusual, often surprising properties—for example, exceptionally lightweight ceramics that spring back to their original shape, like a sponge, after being compressed. Now, a team of engineers at Caltech and ETH Zurich have developed a material that is designed at the nanoscale but assembles itself—with no need for the precision laser assembly. "We couldn't 3-D print this much nanoarchitected material even in a month; instead we're able to grow it in a matter of hours," says Carlos M. Portela, Postdoctoral Scholar. "It is exciting to see our computationally designed optimal nanoscale architectures being realized experimentally in the lab," says Dennis M. Kochmann, Visiting Associate. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights GALCIT MCE Julia Greer Dennis Kochmann postdocs Carlos Portela

Team CoSTAR Takes First Place in Underground Robot Competition


A team including Caltech researchers and JPL earned top honors in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. Whether robots are exploring caves on other planets or disaster areas here on Earth, they need to be able to navigate a location and seek out objects of interest without access to GPS or human guidance. The Subterranean Challenge tests this kind of cutting-edge technology. "One of the two courses we had to run had multiple levels, so it was great that the Boston Dynamics robots were fantastic on stairs," says Joel Burdick, the Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering and JPL research scientist, and the leader of the Caltech campus section of the CoSTAR team. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Joel Burdick

Melany Hunt Wins Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching


Melany Hunt, Dotty and Dick Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has won the Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching. The prize was established in 1993, and is awarded annually to a professor who demonstrates unusual talent, creativity, innovation, and an ability to create an inclusive learning environment in undergraduate and graduate classroom or laboratory teaching. [Past recipients] [Caltech story]

Tags: honors MCE Melany Hunt Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Michael Brown Receives Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship


Junior undergraduate student Michael Brown, studying Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering, has been awarded a Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship. The fellowship recognizes exceptional college juniors, seniors, and graduate students pursuing aerospace careers and includes a paid internship at a commercial space company. Michael will be interning at The Spaceship Company. The Program honors the memory of an engineer, entrepreneur, and extraordinary individual whose passion for commercial space exploration led to great strides in the industry. [2020 class of fellows] [News release]

Tags: honors GALCIT MCE Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Michael Brown

Ultrasound Can Selectively Kill Cancer Cells


Professor Michael Ortiz and Professor Morteza Gharib are exploring a new technique that could offer a targeted approach to fighting cancer. Low-intensity pulses of ultrasound have been shown to selectively kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed. In the past, ultrasound waves have been used as a cancer treatment with high-intensity bursts resulting in killing cancer and normal cells. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MedE MCE Morteza Gharib Michael Ortiz

Bionic Jellyfish Swim Faster and More Efficiently


John Dabiri, Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, has developed a tiny prosthetic that enables jellyfish to swim faster and more efficiently than they normally do, without stressing the animals. Dabiri is envisioning a future in which jellyfish equipped with sensors could be directed to explore and record information about the ocean. "Only five to 10 percent of the volume of the ocean has been explored, so we want to take advantage of the fact that jellyfish are everywhere already to make a leap from ship-based measurements, which are limited in number due to their high cost," Dabiri says. "If we can find a way to direct these jellyfish and also equip them with sensors to track things like ocean temperature, salinity, oxygen levels, and so on, we could create a truly global ocean network where each of the jellyfish robots costs a few dollars to instrument and feeds themselves energy from prey already in the ocean." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MCE John Dabiri