News & Events


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


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.

A Swiss Army Knife for Genomic Data


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]

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Untangling the Heat Paradox Along Major Faults


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

Student-Led Moon Dust Shield Team Named Finalist in NASA Competition


As astronauts walk across the moon, land spacecraft on its surface, drive lunar rovers around, or complete other astronaut tasks, they kick up the dust, and that is a problem because it can cause premature wear on mechanical parts, damage to seals, and may pose a health risk for the people breathing it in. "The sun is shining directly on these particles and giving them an electric charge," says third-year Caltech undergraduate student Luis Pabon. "This causes it to stick to the astronaut's suit or to any sensors or cameras that you put out on the moon." The Caltech team's invention, named Habitat Orientable & Modular Electrodynamic Shield (HOMES), tackles the problem of moon dust entering a potential lunar habitat and wreaking havoc within. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MCE Luis Pabon

Rahul Arun Listed Among Finalists for Hertz Fellowships


Undergraduate Rahul Arun has been selected by the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation as a finalist for the 2021 Hertz Fellowships. “This year’s finalists possess the necessary creativity and desire to push the boundaries of applied science and technology,” said Derek Haseltine, director of the Hertz Fellowship Program. “We commend all applicants for their perseverance in spite of the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve shown incredible resiliency in adapting to changing academic and workforce dynamics.”

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Brit Wylie Awarded Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship


Graduate student Brit Wylie has been awarded a Matthew Isakowitz fellowship. The Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program is a highly selective internship, mentorship, and networking program that provides extraordinary summer opportunities to current college juniors, seniors, and graduate students passionate about commercial spaceflight. Brit is excited to work on commercial space accessibility with Rocket Lab and the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program this summer. [2021 Recipients]

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Professor Yu-Chong Tai Elected to the National Academy of Engineering


Yu-Chong Tai, Anna L. Rosen Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering; Andrew and Peggy Cherng Medical Engineering Leadership Chair; Executive Officer for Medical Engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Professor Tai was elected for "contributions to microelectromechanical system technologies and parylene-based biomedical microdevices." Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to "engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature," and to "the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education." [NAE release] [Caltech story]

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Professor Mello Receives M.M. Frocht Award


Michael Mello, Teaching Professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering, has received the 2021 M.M. Frocht Award. The award recognizes "outstanding achievement as an educator in the field of experimental mechanics." [Past Recipients]

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Waterman Awardee Dabiri Featured in National Science Foundation Video Profile


The National Science Foundation (NSF) honored John O. Dabiri, Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, with the 2020 Alan T. Waterman Award. The NSF has released a video interview with the Waterman awardees. The Alan T. Waterman Award is given to an outstanding young U.S. scientist or engineer along with a medal and other recognition. "This year's scientific pioneers are innovators who are creatively addressing some of the most challenging scientific questions," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "John Dabiri has looked to the fluid mechanics of sea life for inspiration to build better wind farms that appear to boost efficiency with a much smaller footprint." [NSF Interview with Dabiri] [NSF story] [Caltech story]

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Nadia Lapusta Elected Fellow of AGU


Nadia Lapusta, Lawrence A. Hanson, Jr., Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Geophysics, has been elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). This honor is given to individual AGU members who have made exceptional scientific contributions and gained prominence in their respective fields of Earth and space sciences. [AGU release]

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