Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

News & Events


Winners of the 2022 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes Announced


The student winners of the 2022 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes were announced at the end of this academic year. Ida Qin, advised by Professor Joel Burdick has received the prize in Biotechnology. Her research is in comprehensive temporal understanding and state estimation during robot-assisted surgery. Alan Gu, advised by Professor Michael R. Hoffmann has received the prize in Entrepreneurship. His research is in capturing CO2 at point emission sources to accelerate reaching a goal of carbon neutrality. Joeson Wong, advised by Professor Harry A. Atwater has received the prize in Nanotechnology. His research is focused on the optoelectronic physics and engineering of atomically thin photovoltaics. Fengyu Zhou, advised by Professor Steven Low has received the prize in Environmentally Benign Renewable Energy Sources. His research involves the global optimality and relaxation exactness of the Optimal Power Flow problem in single-phase and multi-phase networks. Stacy Larochelle, advised by Professor Jean-Philippe Avouac and Professor Nadia Lapusta has received the prize in Seismo-Engineering, Prediction, and Protection. Her research uses geodesy, data analysis and modeling to further the understanding of mechanical interactions between water and the solid Earth, from fluid-induced earthquakes to groundwater extraction.

Tags: APhMS honors MCE Harry Atwater CMS Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes Nadia Lapusta Jean-Philippe Avouac Steven Low Joel Burdick Ida Qin Stacy Larochelle Fengyu Zhou

A Science Journey with Fernando Villafuerte


As part of the Science Journeys lecture series—designed to inspire scientific curiosity, especially among students in eighth grade and higher—graduate student Fernando Villafuerte discussed his path to Caltech and his research on batteries, including their role in sustainability solutions. Villafuerte works in the lab of Julia R. Greer, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Materials Science, Mechanics and Medical Engineering; and Fletcher Jones Foundation Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute. His research focuses on a novel material known as a solid polymer electrolyte, which could potentially be used to create batteries that can store more energy than currently possible. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MedE MCE Julia Greer Fernando Villafuerte

Nano-architected Material Refracts Light Backward—An Important Step Toward One Day Creating Photonic Circuits


A newly created nano-architected material exhibits a property that previously was just theoretically possible: it can refract light backward, regardless of the angle at which the light strikes the material. "Negative refraction is crucial to the future of nanophotonics, which seeks to understand and manipulate the behavior of light when it interacts with materials or solid structures at the smallest possible scales," says Julia R. Greer, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Materials Science, Mechanics and Medical Engineering; Fletcher Jones Foundation Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MedE MCE Harry Atwater Julia Greer Victoria Chernow Siying Peng Ryan Ng

Material Inspired by Chain Mail Transforms from Flexible to Rigid on Command


Engineers at Caltech and JPL have developed a material inspired by chain mail that can transform from a foldable, fluid-like state into specific solid shapes under pressure. "We wanted to make materials that can change stiffness on command," says Chiara Daraio, G. Bradford Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics. "We'd like to create a fabric that goes from soft and foldable to rigid and load-bearing in a controllable way." To explore what materials would work best, Daraio, together with former Caltech postdoctoral researcher Yifan Wang and former Caltech graduate student Liuchi Li (PhD '19) as co-lead authors of the Nature paper, designed a number of configurations of linked particles, from linking rings to linking cubes to linking octahedrons (which resemble two pyramids connected at the base). The materials were 3-D printed out of polymers and even metals, with help from Douglas Hofmann, principal scientist at JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA. These configurations were then simulated in a computer with a model from the group of José E. Andrade, the George W. Housner Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering and Caltech's resident expert in the modeling of granular materials. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS Chiara Daraio MCE Jose Andrade KNI Yifan Wang Liuchi Li

Nano-Architected Material Resists Impact Better Than Kevlar


Julia R. Greer, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Materials Science, Mechanics and Medical Engineering; Fletcher Jones Foundation Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, has developed a nano-architected material made from tiny carbon struts that is, pound for pound, more effective at stopping a projectile than Kevlar, a material commonly used in personal protective gear. "The knowledge from this work could provide design principles for ultra-lightweight impact resistant materials for use in efficient armor materials, protective coatings, and blast-resistant shields desirable in defense and space applications," says Greer. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MedE MCE Julia Greer KNI

Winners of the 2021 New Horizons Award Announced


The student winners of the 2021 New Horizons Award were announced at the end of this academic year. Sara Beery was recognized for her passion, energy, and fearlessness to improve the CMS program by founding the Women in CMS group, organizing events and discussions on racism in academia, and advocating for the support structures that improve the educational experience for all CMS students. Abigail (Abby) Jiang was recognized for her commitment to enhance the campus environment through her leadership of the Caltech Asian Pacific Islander Desi American student association (APIDA+) and of PRISM, the Caltech LGBTQ+ association, and her advocacy for other campus diversity initiatives. Daniel Mukasa was recognized for his dedication and leadership of Black Scientists and Engineers of Caltech, which catalyzed campus engagement, reflection, and reform, and for his mentorship of undergraduates through the WAVE program. Alexander Choi, Leah Ginsburg, Marcus Lee and Victoria Lee, were recognized for their collective engagement and sustained dedication to improve the quality of life for MCE graduate students that culminated in the initiation of a seminar series, an option-wide climate survey, the appointment of a Diversity Liaison, the creation of a MCE community statement, and formation of, a campus-wide data base for DEI activities.

Tags: APhMS honors MCE CMS Sara Beery Abigail Jiang Daniel Mukasa Marcus Lee Victoria Lee Alexander Choi Leah Ginsburg

EAS New Horizons Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Award


The Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences seeks nominations to recognize and honor individuals within the EAS community who have actively contributed to EAS’s goal to be a diverse, equitable, and inclusive engineering community. The award is available to members of the EAS community, including current students, postdoctoral scholars, staff, and faculty. Nominations are due Wednesday, May 19, 2021 and are accepted from anyone in the EAS community, EAS alumni and members of the Caltech community. Click here for full description of how to make a nomination.


New EAS Division Chair Announced


Harry A. Atwater, the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science and director of the Liquid Sunlight Alliance (LiSA), has been selected as the new chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. On July 1, he will begin his five-year term, taking over the Otis Booth Leadership Chair from current division chair Guruswami (Ravi) Ravichandran, the John E. Goode, Jr., Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. After more than three decades at Caltech, Atwater says he's looking forward to the opportunity to serve the Institute in a new way. "I'm excited to be able to pay back or pay forward all of the investments that Caltech has made in me," he says. "I'm excited to try to do what I can to catalyze research initiatives that my colleagues are excited to lead, and to make the division as strong and distinctive as possible." [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS honors GALCIT MCE Harry Atwater Guruswami Ravichandran

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

FUTURE Ignited


Nearly 200 undergraduates from more than 120 colleges and universities across the country joined Caltech for FUTURE Ignited, a virtual event that aimed to encourage students of color to pursue graduate studies in science and engineering. The goal of FUTURE Ignited is to diversify STEM with students of color who will go on to become incredible graduate students and scientific leaders in their respective fields. [Caltech story]