Monday, December 11, 2017

Bioengineering undergraduate wins space scholarship

Kristine Khieu might be studying the spine, but she has her sights set on space.

The fourth year bioengineering undergraduate at UC San Diego was one of six students nationwide selected to receive a prestigious Universities Space Research Association (USRA) scholarship for her research on the effects of a zero-gravity environment on spinal muscles. Khieu was also commended for her science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) outreach efforts.

USRA awards scholarships to undergraduate students who tackle challenging scientific questions in the areas of space research and exploration, particularly astrophysics and astronomy, and create technologies and solutions that positively affect people’s lives.

“My primary research interest is in astronaut physiology—how our bodies change in space,” said Khieu, who works in Alan Hargens’ Clinical Physiology Lab at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. “I actually traveled to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and got to help test some astronaut subjects.”

Khieu plans to apply to medical school, but said having an engineering background will prove useful in the medical field and beyond.

 “I love my education through bioengineering— especially through the lens of medicine— because I think most doctors don’t have that kind of engineering perspective and it’s such an advantage to have a different way of thinking to approach medicine,” she said. “I have a dream of becoming a flight surgeon—basically the doctor for astronauts—because they mesh engineering and medicine. They not only study the human body in space or in extreme environments, but they also study the engineering behind devices that keep these people alive.”

Outside of classwork and lab work, Khieu finds time to serve as president of the Tritons for Sally Ride Science club at UC San Diego, focused on STEAM outreach to engage the next generation of innovators.

“Sally Ride was the first female American astronaut, taught physics at UC San Diego and is someone I looked up to even before coming here,” Khieu said. “This foundation was started by her. She was such a role model for young girls while she was alive, and even to this day. My work is to help continue that legacy.”

Khieu was awarded the Frederick Tarantino Memorial Scholarship Award, a $4,000 scholarship in memory of Tarantino, a former USRA president and CEO. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Solid State LIDAR Startup from Jacobs School Wins Biz Competition

(Updated 12/417 to reflect the contributions of UC San Diego electrical engineering PhD student Babak Bahari.)

A startup that emerged from the UC San Diego electrical and computer engineering department took first place and $10,000 this week in the latest competition of the Triton Innovation Challenge, an annual UC San Diego business competition for environmentally focused technologies.

The team, BIC LIDAR, is working on compact, solid state lasers for LIDAR applications. For this competition, the team focused on their LIDAR system’s possible applications in wildfire detection in forestry. However, autonomous vehicles are among applications of this technology that have large potential markets. 

The researchers are aiming at size and price points that are significantly more compact and less expensive than today’s LIDAR technologies. A slide from BIC LIDAR's presentation suggests they are going for $10/device compared to LIDAR currently on the market, which comes in at more than $200/device.

Babak Bahari presenting at the Triton Innovation Challenge.

The research came out of the lab of Jacobs School of Engineering electrical engineering professor Boubacar Kante. One of the key players in the startup is Babak Bahari, a fourth year graduate student at electrical and computer engineering department at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

“We demonstrated the new laser based on completely new physics that enables us to surpass a fundamental technological barrier in LIDAR technology. With this laser, we can remove all mechanical components, shrink the size of LIDAR systems into the nano-scale, and increase the speed at least six orders of magnitude,” said Bahari.

Abdoulaye Ndao, Babak Bahari, UC San Diego electrical engineering
professor Boubacar Kante (left to right)
Want more details? The key technology: bound states in the continuum (BIC) lasers. They offer unique properties, including tunable emission angle, emission wavelength, and potential for high-power applications. The team is developing a tunable, chip-level, solid state BIC laser for LIDAR that could be deployed in many different applications including wildfire detection and autonomous vehicles. (Read the press release on related related 2017 Nature paper.)

The solid state LIDAR team was one of the inaugural cohort of startups to be accepted into the technology accelerator launched by the UC San Diego Institute for the Global Entrepreneur in May 2017. 

Second place in the same competition went to E-Way, which is a collaboration led by Wei Huang, who is a Jacobs School materials science graduate student in Joanna McKittrick’s lab, and Alejandro Conde PhD, who is currently a Rady School MBA student.

According to the UC San Diego Office of Innovation and Commercialization twitter feed @UCSDInnovation, E-Way is developing technology to safely electrify roads using solar panels

The Triton Innovation Challenge, now in its sixth year, is a business competition focused on fostering creativity and bringing to the spotlight commercially promising, environmentally focused technologies generated by the finest minds at UC San Diego. Supported through the generosity of The William and Kathryn Scripps Family Foundation Inc., the program is presented through a partnership of the Rady School of Management, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Jacobs School of Engineering.

This most recent competition awarded cash prizes totaling $20,000 to support new and innovative ideas that relate to the environment (comes from, inspired by, or directly impacts nature.)  

Monday, November 27, 2017

Joseph Wang named Honorary Doctor in Europe

Joseph Wang, Distinguished Professor and Chair of Nanoengineering at UC San Diego, was awarded a "Doctor Honoris Causa" (honorary doctorate) by two universities in Europe last week.

On Monday, Nov. 20, Charles University in Prague awarded Wang an honorary doctorate in Natural Sciences for his "outstanding academic achievements in the field of Analytical Chemistry."

And on Friday, Nov. 24, the Senate of the Iuliu HaĊ£ieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, also conferred an honorary doctorate on Wang in recognition of his "prodigious merits in the field of Electrochemistry."

Here are photos from the ceremony at Charles University in Prague:

Here are photos from the ceremony at the Iuliu HaĊ£ieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Cluj-Napoca, Romania:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

This computer program really wants you to try strawberry ham pie this Thanskgiving

Still looking for a recipe idea for your Thanksgiving pie? Janelle Shane, who got her PhD in electrical engineering at the Jacobs School, is here to help--well, soft of.
Shane has trained a neural network, a type of computer program that learn by looking at examples, to generate recipe titles, based on a database of 2237 sweet and savory pie recipes.
The results didn't disappoint.
The neural network git creative and suggested Strawberry Ham Pie and Turkey Cinnamon Pie, as well as Impossible Maple Spinach Apple Pie--whatever that is.
Other suggestions were more on point, including Baked Cream Puff Cake, Eggnog Peach Pie and Fried Pumpkin Pie.
For more fun pie names and other neural network merriment, check out Shane's blog:

So Bon Appetit! And Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Engineering Art Contest Winner: Let It Snow Crystalline Dendrites

Image of snowflake-like crystalline dendrite wins first annual Jacobs School of Engineering Art Contest

Crystalline dendrite imaged by transmission-mode Scanning Electron Microscopy. Image credit: Kevin Kaufmann
It’s extremely rare to spot a snowflake in sunny San Diego. But nanoengineering Ph.D. student Kevin Kaufmann routinely sees snowflakes through the lens of a microscope at UC San Diego—well, crystalline dendrites that resemble picturesque snowflakes.

The image of a crystalline dendrite seen here is the winning entry of the first annual Jacobs School of Engineering Art Contest. The contest provided engineers at UC San Diego an opportunity to share their research through original artwork. Submissions included photography, microscopy images, computer graphics illustrations, journal cover art, and other media. Kaufmann received a $100 Visa gift card for his winning entry, which is featured on the Jacobs School website and social media. 

Kaufmann works in the lab of nanoengineering professor Kenneth Vecchio, where he makes and studies metal alloys made of crystalline dendrites. Kaufmann captured the image of one of these crystalline dendrites using a method called transmission-mode Scanning Electron Microscopy (tSEM). This method produces images of a sample by bombarding the surface of the sample with a beam of electrons. The interactions between the electron beam and the sample then produce signals that relay information about the composition and surface features of the sample.  

For more on Kaufmann's research, read the story here.

Stay tuned to see entries that received an honorable mention. These images will also be shared on the Jacobs School FacebookInstagram and Twitter accounts in the coming weeks.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Matthew Wnuk: electrical engineer, Navy veteran

Matthew Wnuk at UC San Diego, where's he's working towards
 a master's degree in electrical engineering.
Matthew Wnuk joined the Navy in 2004 and was trained as a sonar technician at the Anti-Submarine Warfare base in Point Loma. Nine years of active duty service, an undergraduate degree, several internships and a job later, and he’s still using the skills he learned in that position, this time as an electrical engineering master’s student at UC San Diego.

Being a sonar tech has two components—electronics and intelligence—and Wnuk had the chance to serve in both capacities during his time in the Navy, which took him to Japan, the Pacific Islands and just about everywhere in between.

“For the electronics part, you trouble shoot and fix and maintain electronic suites,” Wnuk said. “If a capacitor goes bad you have to do an electronic survey of the board to figure out what went wrong. And the other side of it is intelligence—either collecting or analyzing intelligence—which is what I did my last three years, doing the analysis on all the intelligence sent in from the fleet.”

Being a sonar technician piqued his interest in electronics, so when he transitioned out of active duty, he decided to pursue a degree in electrical engineering at San Diego State University. He worked hard and excelled in the program, even serving as president of SDSU’s chapter of the IEEE honor society his senior year.

While earning his undergraduate degree, Wnuk put his military and academic experience to use through an internship with Northrop Grumman, conducting electromagnetic research with applications for UAVs. He also interned for NASA, testing circuitry for an optical receiver used on a LiDAR system for the Lunar Lander. After graduation he decided to pursue a career with the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific.

“At SSC Pacific, I’m doing electronic design of hardware for unmanned aerial vehicles and aerostats, which are giant blimps,” he said. “I’m also doing a little bit of software for controlling communications for UAVs.”

After just one year at SSC Pacific, Wnuk was ready to take on another challenge, and began his master’s degree in electrical engineering at UC San Diego while he continues to work. He’s focusing on machine learning, which is an area he thinks will have many applications in the defense sector.

“It’s been an incredible challenge,” he said. “Because the machine learning portion is more of a computer science background, which is something I didn’t have, it took about a quarter for me to get my feet on the ground. But I think I’m making good progress.”

Friday, November 10, 2017

Alan Adame: computer scientist, Army captain

Alan Adame points to a picture of himself jumping
out of a plane during his time as a paratrooper.
Alan Adame is a master’s student in the computer science and engineering department at UC San Diego, studying computer science. He’s also a captain in the U.S. Army, preparing for a tour as a research scientist at the Army Cyber Institute at West Point University.

A West Point graduate himself, Adame was commissioned to the Army as a signal officer, and deployed to Iraq as a platoon leader in 2010, not long after earning his degree.

“My job there was basically to start getting everything ready so we could hand it over to the Iraqi Army,” Adame said. “The fiber optic cable, anything we dealt with as far as communications— if the Iraqi Army wasn’t familiar with it, we would train them.”

After he returned from Iraq, Adame was stationed in Ft. Bragg, N.C. with the 82nd Airborne Division of paratroopers. There, he was tasked with ensuring everyone in the division had the platforms and systems they needed to be able to communicate on the same network. All while jumping out of planes, of course.

“No matter what you do—cook, HR personnel, whatever your job is—you jump out of an airplane,” he said. “The 82nd Airborne is a Global Response Force—the country’s 911. When a disaster happens, we deploy there to help. It’s the best job in the world.”

He performed well enough in that role that he was selected to attend graduate school, and is in his fourth quarter of the computer science master’s degree program at UC San Diego. There is no jumping out of planes, but Adame said the curriculum is challenging.

“It’s hard. I didn’t think it was going to be this hard. From the military perspective, whenever you get to do this type of opportunity it’s seen like you get to take a break, but this is not like that,” he said. “It’s been really tough. What we’re learning is cool, but it’s challenging.”

He said the atmosphere reminds him of his paratrooper days in some ways, since he’s surrounded by people at the top of their field.

“Here, academically, everybody is really, really smart. You’re trying to hang with everybody so it’s challenging mentally. Where there, everyone is really good physically. Everybody is at the top of their game, is driven, is always trying to do the right thing and work hard.”

Adame has always been interested in computers and started programming at the age of 12, so the opportunity to work as a research scientist and instructor at the recently established Army Cyber Institute is an exciting one.

“The interesting part about it is that the Center was just stood up a few years ago, and the cyber branch within the Army is a recent addition as well," Adame said. "If you’re going to be an infantryman or artillery, you can find all these field manuals that say ‘This is how you do this, this is how you plan this operation.’ Basically, what the Army Cyber Institute is doing is putting together research so we can formalize that branch to establish these kind of standards.”