News & Events
The molecular computational research of Erik Winfree, Associate Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, focuses on understanding how chemical systems can perform information processing and how to program a set of molecules to carry out instructions. This exciting research was recently featured in Discover. [Discover Interview]
Dr. Paul Rothemund, Senior Research Associate in Bioengineering, Computer Science, and Computation and Neural Systems, and colleagues have developed a new technique to orient and position self-assembled DNA shapes and patterns--or "DNA origami"--on surfaces that are compatible with today's semiconductor manufacturing equipment. They "have removed a key barrier to the improvement and advancement of computer chips. They accomplished this through the revolutionary approach of combining the building blocks for life with the building blocks for computing," said Professor Ares Rosakis, Chair of Division of Engineering and Applied Science and Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering. [Caltech Press Release]
Robert McEliece, Allen E. Puckett Professor and Professor of Electrical Engineering, has won the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal for exceptional contributions to the advancement of communications sciences and engineering. In particular, McEliece is being recognized for fundamental contributions to the theory and practice of error-correcting codes and to the design of deep space telecommunication systems.
Caltech Researchers Pinpoint the Mechanisms of Self-Control in the Brain. Study of dieters shows how two brain areas interact in people with the willpower to say no to unhealthy foods. "A very basic question in economics, psychology, and even religion, is why some people can exercise self-control but others cannot," notes Antonio Rangel, a Caltech Associate Professor of Economics and the paper's principal investigator. [Caltech Press Release]
Niles Pierce, Associate Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Bioengineering, and the Executive Officer for Bioengineering at Caltech, to give Earnest C. Watson Lecture "In Pursuit of Programmable Molecular Technologies" Our bodies contain amazing molecular machines whose function is encoded within the molecules themselves – RNA and protein sequences programmed by evolution to synthesize molecules, haul cargo within our cells, or regulate our development and repair. These remarkable biological proofs-of-principle inspire the emerging field of molecular programming and suggest the possibility of new technologies in which the function of therapeutic drugs and scientific instruments can be programmed at the molecular level. The lecture takes place May 20 at 8:00 p.m. in Beckman Auditorium.
Researchers led by Pietro Perona, the Allen E. Puckett Professor of Electrical Engineering, and David J. Anderson, the Roger W. Sperry Professor of Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, have trained computers to automatically analyze aggression and courtship in fruit flies, opening the way for researchers to perform large-scale, high-throughput screens for genes that control these innate behaviors. The program allows computers to examine half an hour of video footage of pairs of interacting flies in what is almost real time; characterizing the behavior of a new line of flies "by hand" might take a biologist more than 100 hours. "This is a coming-of-age moment in this field," says Perona. "By choosing among existing machine vision techniques, we were able to put together a system that is much more capable than anything that had been demonstrated before." This work is detailed in the April issue of Nature Methods. [Caltech Press Release]
Over the past few decades, the transistors in computer chips have become progressively smaller and faster, allowing upwards of a billion individual transistors to be packed into a single circuit, thus shrinking the size of electronic devices. But these circuits have an intractable design flaw: if just a single transistor fails, the entire circuit also fails. One novel way around the problem is a so-called self-healing circuit. Such circuits are "inspired by biological systems that constantly heal themselves in the presence of random and intentional failures," says Caltech professor Ali Hajimiri.
Jehoshua "Shuki" Bruck, Caltech's Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering, has won the Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Caltech's most prestigious teaching honor, the prize was established in 1993 "to honor annually a professor who demonstrates, in the broadest sense, unusual ability, creativity, and innovation in undergraduate and graduate classroom or laboratory teaching." A member of the Caltech faculty since 1994, Bruck was the founding director of Information Science and Technology (IST) at Caltech. His research combines work on the design of distributed information systems and the theoretical study of biological circuits and systems. Kudos!
Discover magazine recently published its annual 50 Best Brains in Science issue, and the "20 Under 40" list which highlights "a new generation of innovators changing the way we think about everything from theoretical mathematics to cancer therapy." Four researchers from Caltech (three from EAS) were cited: Michael Elowitz (Assistant Professor of Biology and Applied Physics; Bren Scholar; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute), Sarkis Mazmanian (Assistant Professor of Biology), Tapio Schneider (Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering), and Changhuei Yang (Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering).