News & Events


Anandkumar Training Algorithms to Spot Online Trolls


Anima Anandkumar, Bren Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, and research team have demonstrated that machine-learning algorithms can monitor online social media conversations as they evolve, which could one day lead to an effective and automated way to spot online trolling. "It was an eye-opening experience about just how ugly trolling can get. Hopefully, the tools we're developing now will help fight all kinds of harassment in the future," says Anandkumar. The research team includes Professor Michael Alvarez; Anqi Liu, postdoctoral scholar; Maya Srikanth, student; and Nicholas Adams-Cohen, Stanford University. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights CMS IST CNS Animashree Anandkumar postdocs Anqi Liu Maya Srikanth

Researchers Develop New Quantum Algorithm


Austin Minnich, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, Fernando Brandão, Bren Professor of Theoretical Physics, and Garnet Chan, Bren Professor of Chemistry, have developed an algorithm for quantum computers that will help them find use in simulations in the physical sciences. The new algorithm allows a user to find the lowest energy of a given molecule or material. Many people are interested in how to simulate the ground states of molecules and materials. "If we want to do a simulation of water, we could look at how water behaves after it has been blasted into a plasma—an electrically charged gas—but that's not the state water is usually found in; it is not the ground state of water. Ground states are of special interest in understanding the world under ordinary conditions," says Chan. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MCE KNI Austin Minnich Fernando Brandão Garnet Chan

How Electrons Break the Speed Limit


Marco Bernardi, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and Jinjian Zhou, Postdoctoral Scholar, have developed a way to predict how electrons interacting strongly with atomic motions will flow through a complex material. "Using a new method, we have been able to predict both the formation and the dynamics of polarons in strontium titanate. This advance is crucial since many semiconductors and oxides of interest for future electronics and energy applications exhibit polaron effects," says Bernardi. [Caltech story]

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Robots Compete Underground in DARPA Challenge


A robot named Balto designed and built by undergraduate students at Caltech working with graduate students at Caltech and JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA, took to the field in the first phase of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Subterranean (SubT) Challenge this summer, where the Caltech-JPL team took second place. The SubT Challenge is an international competition sponsored by DARPA to advance technologies to autonomously map, navigate, and search underground environments. Professor Joel Burdick, the leader of the Caltech section of the CoSTAR team says "The drones are our air-based scouts, and Balto is our eyes and ears on the ground. It's light, cheap, and fast. It can get in, find out what's going on, and help us to make decisions about how to proceed." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Joel Burdick

Wearable Sweat Sensor Detects Gout-Causing Compounds


In a new paper published in Nature Biotechnology, Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering, describes a mass-producible wearable sensor that can monitor levels of metabolites and nutrients in a person's blood by analyzing their sweat. Gao's sweat sensor is more sensitive than current devices and can detect sweat compounds of much lower concentrations, in addition to being easier to manufacture. "Considering that abnormal circulating nutrients and metabolites are related to a number of health conditions, the information collected from such wearable sensors will be invaluable for both research and medical treatment," Gao says. [Caltech story] [Read the paper]

Tags: research highlights MedE Wei Gao

Bees "Surf" Atop Water


Chris Roh, Research Engineer, working with Professor Morteza Gharib, discovered a unique way that bees navigate the interface between water and air. When a bee lands on water, the water sticks to its wings, robbing it of the ability to fly. However, that stickiness allows the bee to drag water, creating waves that propel it forward."I was very excited to see this behavior and so I brought the honeybee back to the lab to take a look at it more closely," Roh says. [Caltech release]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT Morteza Gharib Chris Roh

Professor McKeon Unlocked Secrets Behind Turbulence


Beverley McKeon, Theodore von Karman Professor of Aeronautics, has unlocked some of the secrets behind turbulence, a much-studied but difficult-to-pin-down phenomenon that mixes fluids when they flow past a solid boundary. "We knew that, underlying these very complicated structures, there had to be a very simple pattern. We just didn't know what that pattern was until now," says McKeon. [Caltech story]

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Caltech Announces the Schmidt Academy for Software Engineering


Caltech has launched the Schmidt Academy for Software Engineering to train the next generation of science-savvy software engineers and set new standards in scientific software. "This is a recognition that computing, software, and machine learning are going to play a very big role in science. Because Caltech is small and collaborative, we have the opportunity to really make a push in that direction," says Kaushik Bhattacharya, the Howell N. Tyson, Sr., Professor of Mechanics and Materials Science and vice provost. [Caltech release]

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New Polymer Heart Valve Implanted in First Patient


Professor Morteza Gharib, has designed a new generation of heart valves that are longer-lasting, cost less to manufacture, and are more biocompatible than options that are currently available to patients. One of the new valves has been implanted into a human for the first time. "This is among my proudest moments. Creating something with the potential to save and improve lives is one of the reasons I became an engineer," Gharib says. [Caltech release]

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New Metamaterial Changes Shape in a Tunable Fashion


Julia R. Greer, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Materials Science, Mechanics and Medical Engineering, has developed a new type of architected metamaterial that has the ability to change shape in a tunable fashion. The material has potential applications in next-generation energy storage and bio-implantable micro-devices. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MedE Julia Greer