Chiara Daraio Selected to Participate in the STS Forum - Future Leaders Initiative
Chiara Daraio, Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Applied Physics, has been selected to participate in the 2009 Science & Technology in Society (STS) Forum - Future Leaders Initiative. Daraio will join nine other outstanding young scientists from Japan, England, Germany, Chile, Uruguay, Malawi, China and the United States to discuss the impact of their research on societal development. Daraio's research focuses on synthesizing and testing so-called "smart" materials that have a variety of potential applications, ranging from novel methods for sustainable engineering and nondestructive evaluation of civil and mechanical infrastructure (e.g., bridges, power plants) to new acoustic lenses for biomedical imaging and surgery.
The STS Forum is organized and sponsored by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). Guruswami Ravichandran, director of the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories and John E. Goode, Jr. Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, said, "I am delighted that Dr. Daraio will be representing GALCIT and Caltech at this internationally renowned, interdisciplinary, and cross-sectoral forum". "Dr. Daraio's selection to participate in this world forum is yet another indication of the importance and far reaching impact of the research conducted by the engineering and applied science faculty", said Professor Ares Rosakis, chair of Caltech's Division of Engineering and Applied Science and Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering.
Michael Roukes and Akshay Naik Create First Nanoscale Mass Spectrometer
Michael L. Roukes, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering; Co-Director, Kavli Nanoscience Institute, and colleague Akshay Naik have created the first nanoscale mass spectrometer. This new technique simplifies and miniaturizes the measurement of the mass of molecules through the use of very tiny nanoelectromechanical system (NEMS) resonators. Askshay Naik explains, "the frequency at which the resonator vibrates is directly proportional to its mass. When a protein lands on the resonator, it causes a decrease in the frequency at which the resonator vibrates and the frequency shift is proportional to the mass of the protein". Professor Roukes points out, "the next generation of instrumentation for the life sciences must enable proteomic analysis with very high throughput. The potential power of our approach is that it is based on semiconductor microelectronics fabrication, which has allowed creation of perhaps mankind's most complex technology." [Caltech Press Release]
Michael Elowitz and Avigdor Eldar Show How Evolution Can Allow for Large Developmental Leaps
Michael Elowitz, Associate Professor of Biology and Applied Physics; Bren Scholar, and Avigdor Eldar, Postdoctoral Scholar, show how evolution can allow for large developmental leaps. Most volutionary changes happen in tiny increments: an elephant grows a little larger, a giraffe's neck a little longer. Elowitz and Eldar's team have shown that such changes may at least sometimes be the result of noise, working alongside partial penetrance. Eldar, states "if you take a bunch of cells and grow them in exactly the same environment, they'll be identical twin brothers in terms of the genes they have, but they may still show substantial differences in their behavior". Elowitz adds that "noise—these random fluctuations of proteins in the cell—is not just a nuisance in this system; it's a key part of the process that allows genetically identical cells to do very different things." [Caltech Press Release]
Oskar Painter Developes a Nanoscale Device
Oskar Painter, Associate Professor of Applied Physics, has developed a nanoscale device that can be used for force detection, optical communication, and more. The nanoscale device is called a zipper cavity because of the way its dual cantilevers-or nanobeams, as Painter calls them-move together and apart when the device is in use. "If you look at it, it actually looks like a zipper," Painter notes. The device exploits the mechanical properties of light to create an optomechanical cavity in which interactions between light and motion are greatly strengthened and enhanced. These interactions are the largest demonstrated to date. [Caltech Press Release]
Michael Winterrose and Brent Fultz Use High-Pressure "Alchemy" to Create Nonexpanding Metals
Graduate student Michael Winterrose, and Brent Fultz, professor of materials science and applied physics, and colleagues, describe the exotic behavior of materials existing at high pressures in a paper in the June 12th issue of Physical Review Letters. By squeezing a typical metal alloy at pressures hundreds of thousands of times greater than normal atmospheric pressure, the material does not expand when heated, as does nearly every normal metal, and acts like a metal with an entirely different chemical composition. This insight into the behavior of materials existing at high pressures becomes doubly interesting when you consider that some 90 percent of the matter in our solar system exists at these high pressures. [Caltech Press Release]