News & Events


Dabiri Appointed to Secretary of Energy Advisory Board


The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that John O. Dabiri, the Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, has been appointed to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB). The SEAB meets quarterly to advise Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm on how best to achieve the department's priorities and offer recommendations on scientific, technical, and programmatic issues relating to the DOE's mission. "I'm excited to work with the secretary to ensure strong support for fundamental science research, especially in areas where the technological application might be hard to predict today," Dabiri said. "Secretary Granholm's vision to accelerate deployment of climate solutions matches my own sense of urgency to advance sustainability. I'm honored by the opportunity provide advice where it can be helpful for achieving that goal." [Caltech story]

Tags: honors GALCIT MCE John Dabiri

P.P. Vaidyanathan Elected to Indian National Academy of Engineering


The Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) has elected Professor P.P. Vaidyanathan, Kiyo and Eiko Tomiyasu Professor of Electrical Engineering, a Foreign Fellow. The Academy honors Indian and Foreign nationals who are elected by peer committees in recognition of their personal achievements in engineering which are of exceptional merit and demonstrated distinctive eminence in the new and developing fields of technology. There are only five Foreign Fellows elected each year. [Learn more]

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LEONARDO, the Bipedal Robot, Can Ride a Skateboard and Walk a Slackline


Researchers have built a bipedal robot that combines walking with flying to create a new type of locomotion, making it exceptionally nimble and capable of complex movements. "We drew inspiration from nature. Think about the way birds are able to flap and hop to navigate telephone lines," says Soon-Jo Chung, Bren Professor of Aerospace and Control and Dynamical Systems; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Research Scientist. "A complex yet intriguing behavior happens as birds move between walking and flying. We wanted to understand and learn from that." A paper titled "A bipedal walking robot that can fly, slackline, and skateboard" about the LEO robot was published online on October 6 and was featured on the October 2021 cover of Science Robotics. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights CMS Soon-Jo Chung Elena-Sorina Lupu Kyunam Kim Patrick Spieler Alireza Ramezani

Dabiri Appointed to President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology


President Joe Biden has announced the appointment of John O. Dabiri, Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Presidents have established advisory committees of scientists, engineers, and health professionals ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt created his Science Advisory Board in 1933. "We're here to provide whatever input the president needs," Dabiri says. "My understanding is that we'll be meeting pretty frequently, as the president wants science to be a big part of his decision-making process." [Caltech story]

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Mice Can Learn Much Faster than Previously Thought


Researchers have now conducted a study in which they measured how mice navigate a complicated labyrinth, suggesting a new framework with which to study complex animal behaviors and learning. The mice rapidly learned how to navigate this unfamiliar environment about 1,000 times faster than mice generally learn simple yet unnatural tasks. The research is a collaboration between the laboratories of Markus Meister, Anne P. and Benjamin F. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences, and Pietro Perona, Allen E. Puckett Professor of Electrical Engineering. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE CMS Pietro Perona CNS Markus Meister Tony Zhang Matthew Rosenberg

The Science of Underground Kingdoms


A team led by the laboratory of Jose Andrade, George W. Housner Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering; Cecil and Sally Drinkward Leadership Chair, Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering; Executive Officer for Mechanical and Civil Engineering, studied the digging habits of ants and uncovered the mechanisms guiding them. Before beginning this research, Andrade had a big question he wanted to answer: Do ants "know" how to dig tunnels, or are they just blindly digging? "I got inspired by these exhumed ant nests where they pour plastic or molten metal into them and you see these vast tunnel systems that are incredibly impressive," Andrade says. He enlisted the help of Joe Parker, Assistant Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering, whose research focuses on ants and their ecological relationships with other species. "What Jose and his team needed was somebody who works with ants and understands the adaptive, collective behaviors of these social insects to give them some context for what they were doing," Parker says. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Jose Andrade Joe Parker Robert Buarque de Macedo Edward Andò Shilpa Joy Gioacchino Viggiani Raj Kumar Pal

Tim Colonius Receives APS Stanley Corrsin Award


Tim Colonius, Frank and Ora Lee Marble Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has been awarded the 2021 American Physical Society (APS) Stanley Corrsin Award. This Prize is intended to honor a recent achievement of especially high impact and significance, a particular discovery, or an innovation in the field. [Past Recipients]

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Material Inspired by Chain Mail Transforms from Flexible to Rigid on Command


Engineers at Caltech and JPL have developed a material inspired by chain mail that can transform from a foldable, fluid-like state into specific solid shapes under pressure. "We wanted to make materials that can change stiffness on command," says Chiara Daraio, G. Bradford Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics. "We'd like to create a fabric that goes from soft and foldable to rigid and load-bearing in a controllable way." To explore what materials would work best, Daraio, together with former Caltech postdoctoral researcher Yifan Wang and former Caltech graduate student Liuchi Li (PhD '19) as co-lead authors of the Nature paper, designed a number of configurations of linked particles, from linking rings to linking cubes to linking octahedrons (which resemble two pyramids connected at the base). The materials were 3-D printed out of polymers and even metals, with help from Douglas Hofmann, principal scientist at JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA. These configurations were then simulated in a computer with a model from the group of José E. Andrade, the George W. Housner Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering and Caltech's resident expert in the modeling of granular materials. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS Chiara Daraio MCE Jose Andrade KNI Yifan Wang Liuchi Li

Joseph Falson Named Moore Fellow


Joseph Falson, Assistant Professor of Materials Science, has been named as a 2021 Fellow in Materials Synthesis by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Falson's grant will enable him to pursue methods for growing highly pure crystals of new materials. He plans to build a custom piece of equipment with an ultra-high vacuum chamber corrosive materials that also offers access to the materials so that sensitive experiments may be conducted on them. "Broadly, the field is looking for fundamentally new types of materials that show some type of complex functionality," says Falson. [Caltech story]

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Professor Pellegrino Awarded Torroja Medal


Sergio Pellegrino, Joyce and Kent Kresa Professor of Aerospace and Civil Engineering; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist; Co-Director, Space-Based Solar Power Project, has been awarded the Torroja Medal from the International Association of Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS). The engraved medal represents the highest individual recognition given by the Association to members or nonmembers of the Association in recognition of outstanding and distinguished contributions to design, construction or research of shell and/or spatial structures. [Past recipients]

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