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JPL Designates Perseverance Rover’s Landing Site and Observation Point

04-12-21

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has designated the Perseverance rover’s landing site as the Octavia E. Butler Landing and the rover’s observation point to record Ingenuity helicopter tests as the Van Zyl Overlook. Jakob van Zyl (MS ’83; PhD ‘86) joined JPL in 1986 and stayed for 33 years in various positions, including director for Astronomy, Physics and Space Technology. He taught at Caltech, as a senior faculty associate in electrical engineering and aerospace, for two decades. The Ingenuity helicopter was one of his last projects at the JPL. Van Zyl retired from the JPL in 2019 and passed away unexpectedly in August 2020. Octavia Butler lived just miles away from JPL; she was a pioneering author and one of the first Black female science fiction authors. Butler was the first to write about prominent Black characters in science fiction settings, using dystopias, time travel and other tropes. She was awarded both the Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, she became the first science fiction author to receive a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Butler passed away in 2006. [USA Today]

Tags: EE Jakob van Zyl

Undergraduates Win First-Place in AIAA Region VI Student Paper Conference

04-08-21

Malcolm Tisdale, Isabella Dulá, and Luis Pabon Madrid have won first-place at the 2021 AIAA Region VI Student Conference for their paper titled "Design of a Modular and Orientable Electrodynamic Shield for Lunar Dust Mitigation." The AIAA Region VI Student Conference is a virtual technical and oral paper competition for undergraduate and graduate students of all majors. First-place winners are offered a chance to compete in the 2022 International Student Conference, taking place in conjunction with the 2022 AIAA SciTech Forum.

Students Selected for NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

04-06-21

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected graduate students Komron Shayegan, Steven Bulfer, and Daniel Mukasa to receive Graduate Research Fellowships. The selection criteria used to identify NSF fellows reflect the potential of the applicant to advance knowledge and benefit society. Those selected for a fellowship will receive support for three years of graduate study in a research-based master's or doctoral program in science or engineering. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS EE honors alumni Komron Shayegan Steven Bulfer Skye Reese Noelle Unyoung Davis Daniel Mukasa

A Swiss Army Knife for Genomic Data

04-05-21

A good way to find out what a cell is doing—whether it is growing out of control as in cancers, or is under the control of an invading virus, or is simply going about the routine business of a healthy cell—is to look at its gene expression. Lior Pachter, Bren Professor of Computational Biology and Computing and Mathematical Sciences, has developed a complex software tool that enables the processing of large sets of genomic data in about 30 minutes, using the computing power of an average laptop. Like a Swiss Army knife, the tool can be used in myriad ways for different biological needs, and will help ensure the reproducibility of scientific studies. "The interdisciplinarity of our team was crucial to conceiving of and executing this project," says Pachter. "There are people in the lab who are computer scientists, biologists, engineers. Sina Booeshaghi is in the mechanical engineering department and brings the perspective of his design background and engineering." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE CMS Lior Pachter Sina Booeshaghi

Computational Tool for Materials Physics Growing in Popularity

04-05-21

Marco Bernardi, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, has developed a new piece of software that makes it easier to study the behavior of electrons in materials—even materials that have been predicted but do not yet exist. The software, called Perturbo, is gaining traction among researchers. "Over the next decade, we will continue to expand the capabilities of our code, and make it the go-to for first-principles calculations of electron dynamics," Bernardi says. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Marco Bernardi

Lei Li Selected as 2021 TED Fellow

03-31-21

Lei Li, Postdoctoral Scholar Research Associate in Medical Engineering, has been selected as a 2021 TED Fellow. The TED Fellows program provides transformational support to a global community of over 500 remarkable individuals who are collaborating across disciplines to spark positive change around the world. Each TED Fellow was selected for their remarkable achievements, the potential impact of their work and their commitment to community building. [2021 Class of TED Fellows]

Tags: honors MedE postdocs Lei Li

Astronomers Image Magnetic Fields at the Edge of M87's Black Hole

03-24-21

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration, which produced the first-ever image of a black hole, revealed a new view of the massive object at the center of the M87 galaxy: a picture of its polarized light. This is the first time astronomers have been able to measure polarization, a signature of magnetic fields, this close to the edge of a black hole. "We are now able to see a different dimension of the light circling the M87 black hole," says Katie Bouman, Assistant Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Electrical Engineering and Astronomy, Rosenberg Scholar, and co-coordinator of the EHT Imaging Working Group. "The image we reconstructed earlier showed us how bright the light was around the black hole shadow. This image is telling us about the direction of that light." [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights CMS Katie Bouman

Untangling the Heat Paradox Along Major Faults

03-12-21

Nadia Lapusta, Lawrence A. Hanson, Jr., Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Geophysics, and graduate student Valère Lambert, seek to explain the size of the forces acting on "mature faults"—long-lived faults along major plate boundaries like the San Andreas Fault in California—in an effort to better understand the physics that drive the major earthquakes that occur along them. Understanding the physics that govern major earthquakes on different types of faults will help generate more accurate forecasts for earthquake threats. "We have a lot of data from large earthquakes along subduction zones, but the last really major earthquakes along the San Andreas were the magnitude-7.9 Fort Tejon quake in 1857 and the magnitude-7.9 San Francisco Earthquake in 1906, both of them before the age of modern seismic networks," Lapusta says. [Nature article] [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Nadia Lapusta Valère Lambert

Professor Bouman Featured in Inverse Magazine

03-10-21

Katie Bouman, Assistant Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Electrical Engineering and Astronomy; Rosenberg Scholar, was featured in Inverse Magazine as one of the astronomers who captured the first image of a black hole. In 2019, Bouman and a group of more than 200 astronomers from all over the world managed the inconceivable: They captured the first image of a black hole, rendering the invisible visible. "Ideally, to see a black hole, we would need a telescope the size of the entire Earth," says Bouman. "We had to come up with a computational telescope that size." [Inverse article]

Tags: EE research highlights CMS Katie Bouman

Wei Gao Receives 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award

03-08-21

Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering, has been selected to receive the prestigious 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award from 3M Corporation. This award recognizes outstanding new faculty who were nominated by 3M researchers and selected based on their research, experience and academic leadership. The purpose of the award is to help the faculty members achieve tenure, remain in their teaching position, and conduct research.

Tags: APhMS honors MedE KNI Wei Gao