Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

News & Events


Niles Pierce and Michael Elowitz on Nature List of Favourite Articles


The editors of Nature have published a list of 22 of their favourite articles from 2008 - including Programming biomolecular self-assembly pathways by Niles Pierce, Associate Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Bioengineering, and colleagues, and Frequency-modulated nuclear localization bursts coordinate gene regulation by Michael Elowitz, Assistant Professor of Biology and Applied Physics and Bren Scholar, and colleagues. 

Tags: APhMS research highlights CMS Niles Pierce Michael Elowitz

Douglas Hofmann and Colleagues Create Titanium-Based Structural Metallic-Glass Composites


Visiting scientist Douglas Hofmann (MS '06) and and colleagues, including William Johnson, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, have created structural metallic-glass composites, based in titanium, that are lighter and less expensive than any the group had previously created, while still maintaining their toughness and ductility--the ability to be deformed without breaking. They are among the toughest engineering materials that currently exist. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights William Johnson Douglas Hofmann

Professor Michael Elowitz Receives PECASE


Michael Elowitz, Assistant Professor of Biology and Applied Physics and Bren Scholar, has received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. The PECASE awards recognize outstanding scientists and engineers who, early in their careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of knowledge.

Tags: APhMS honors Michael Elowitz

Michael Elowitz, Long Cai, and Chiraj Dalal Find Cells Coordinate Gene Activity with FM Bursts


How a cell achieves the coordinated control of a number of genes at the same time, a process that's necessary for it to regulate its own behavior and development, has long puzzled scientists. Michael Elowitz, assistant professor of biology and applied physics, along with postdoctoral research scholar Long Cai, and graduate student Chiraj Dalal, have discovered a surprising answer. Just as human engineers control devices ranging from dimmer switches to retrorockets using pulsed--or frequency modulated (FM)--signals, cells tune the expression of groups of genes using discrete bursts of activation. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights health Michael Elowitz

Kerry Vahala Wins Alexander Von Humboldt Research Award


Kerry Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Professor of Applied Physics, has won an Alexander Von Humboldt Research Award. The Humboldt award recognizes academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements. Vahala has also been awarded and the IEEE David Sarnoff Award for exceptional contributions to electronics, and in particular, "for seminal contributions to improved dynamics of quantum well semiconductor lasers."

Tags: APhMS honors Kerry Vahala

Paul Bellan Gives Explanation for a Strange Property of Night-shining Clouds


An explanation for a strange property of night-shining clouds has been proposed by Paul Bellan, Professor of Applied Physics. Noctilucent clouds - thin, wispy electric blue clouds clouds hovering at 85 km altitude - are highly reflective to radar. Ice grains in noctilucent clouds are coated with a thin film of metal, made of sodium and iron. The metal film causes radar waves to reflect off ripples in the cloud in a manner analogous to how x-rays reflect from a crystal lattice. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Paul Bellan

NSF Awards Sossina Haile ACI Fellowship


The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded an American Competitiveness and Innovation (ACI) Fellowship to Sossina M. Haile, Professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, "for her timely and transformative research in the energy field and her dedication to inclusive mentoring, education and outreach across many levels." This recognition program honors current NSF grantees who have demonstrated a combination of transformative research accomplishments and outstanding contributions toward education, mentoring, and broadening participation of women, underrepresented minorities, and people with disabilities.

Tags: APhMS honors energy research highlights Sossina Haile

Julia Greer Recognized by Technology Review Magazine as one of the World's Top Innovators


Julia Greer, Assistant Professor of Materials Science, has been recognized by Technology Review magazine as one of the world's top innovators underthe age of 35 for her work with materials on a nanoscale level. Selected from more than 300 nominees by a panel of expert judges and the editorial staff of Technology Review, the TR35 is an elite group of accomplished young innovators who exemplify the spirit of innovation. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS honors MCE Julia Greer

Jeff Snyder and Colleagues Invent New Material that Will Make Cars More Efficient


Caltech Faculty Associate Jeff Snyder and colleagues have invented a new material that will make cars even more efficient by converting heat lost through engine exhaust into electricity. In a paper published July 25 in the journal Science, the scientists describe the unique thermoelectric material, which has twice the efficiency other such materials currently on the market, and works most effectively in the temperature range typical of automobile engines. The same technology could also work in power generators and heat pumps. Read more at

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Jeff Snyder

Axel van de Walle Developes Formalism to Represent Structure-property Relationships in Crystals


Axel van de Walle, Assistant Professor of Materials Science, has developed a general formalism to represent structure-property relationships in crystals. It enables the prediction, from a database of quantum mechanical calculations, of anisotropic material properties such as elasticity, piezoelectricity, dielectric constants, etc. As an application, he developed predictive models of anisotropic properties relevant to the design and optimization of III–V semiconductor epitaxial optoelectronic devices. This work was recently highlighted as the cover feature of Nature Materials. [Nature Article] [Commentary]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Axel van de Walle