News & Events


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.”

Tags: honors MCE Rahul Arun

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]

Tags: honors GALCIT MCE Brit Wylie

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]

Tags: EE honors MedE Yu-Chong Tai MCE

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]

Tags: honors MCE Michael Mello

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]

Tags: honors GALCIT MCE John Dabiri

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]

Tags: honors MCE Nadia Lapusta

Titanium Atom That Exists in Two Places at Once in Crystal to Blame for Unusual Phenomenon


Crystals are usually good at conducting heat. By definition, their atomic structure is highly organized, which allows atomic vibrations—heat—to flow through them as a wave. Austin Minnich, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, has discovered why a perfect crystal is not good at conducting heat, although it seemingly should be. "We have found that quantum mechanical effects can play a huge role in setting the thermal transport properties of materials even under familiar conditions like room temperature," says Austin Minnich. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MCE KNI Austin Minnich

Aaron Ames Elevated to IEEE Fellow


Aaron Ames, Bren Professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and Control and Dynamical Systems, has been elevated as a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for contributions to hybrid and safety-critical nonlinear control with demonstration on robotic systems. The IEEE Fellow is one of the most prestigious honors of the IEEE, and is bestowed upon a very limited number of Senior Members who have contributed importantly to the advancement or application of engineering, science and technology.  [Elevated class of 2021]

Tags: honors MCE CMS IST CNS Aaron Ames

Robotics Engineers Take on COVID-19


Methods that were originally created to help robots to walk and autonomous cars to drive safely can also help epidemiologists predict the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aaron Ames, Bren Professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and Control and Dynamical Systems, and colleagues took these tools and applied them to the development of an epidemiological methodology that accounts for human interventions (like mask mandates and stay-at-home orders). By utilizing the U.S. COVID-19 data from March through May, they were able to predict the infection wave during the summer to high accuracy. "This is the greatest health challenge to face our society in a generation at least. We all need to pitch in and help in any way we can," Ames says. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE CMS IST Aaron Ames CDS Andrew Singletary