Friday, September 27, 2013

Audio Conversation and Video on Si/GE Nanowires with Prof Shadi Dayeh

Lithium-ion batteries are by no means perfect. One approach to improving their performance is to look at the lithiation process at the nanoscale, and to develop new battery architectures that make use of nanotechnologies such as nanowires.

Below is a recording of a conversation with Electrical engineering professor Shadi Dayeh from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering in which we talk about some recent research in this area.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

New Students to the Jacobs School: WELCOME!...Work Hard / Get Involved / Have Fun

NanoEngineering professor Darren Lipomi speaking at the Jacobs School community welcome.
Welcome incoming students to the Jacobs School of Engineering. Everyone here at the Jacobs School is thrilled that you are here. CONGRATULATIONS on making it this far! 

This "photo of the week" (which includes NanoEngineering professor Darren Lipomi) and the other photos in this post are from a casual community welcome at the Jacobs School hosted by the UC San Diego chapters of the National Society of Black Engineering (NSBE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the IDEA Student Center

Now…get ready to work hard! Earning an engineering degree is a lot of work. But it can also be a lot of fun. One of your challenges is to seek out the fun and joy in the work. Get to know other engineering students. Make friends with people in your classes. (Everything is a little bit easier when you’re part of a community of students who are facing similar challenges.)

Thanks to electrical engineering professor Tara Javidi for welcoming students and providing insights.

Take advantage of the many resources available to you. The IDEA Student Center is a great resource, and also a great clearinghouse for finding other resources. USE THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE, GET HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT. But also, don’t get discouraged. Engineering is supposed to be hard. The curriculum is supposed to challenge you. What’s important is that you are learning the material, mastering it so that you can apply it in future classes. 

Get involved in the Jacobs School community. Thereis a lot to do outside the classroom that will help you succeed in the classroom and later on, in your first job and subsequent jobs. Get yourself into a lab and do research with a professor. Get involved in engineering student organizations, engineering team projects, and engineering outreach programs. Do summer internships. Do the Team Internship Program and Global TIES. Get involved with the Triton EngineeringStudent Council (TESC). (Have other links we should add here? Let me know: dbkane AT ucsd DOT edu )

Bear on the first day of Class / Fall Quarter 2013

Bear on the first day of Class / Fall Quarter 2013. Bear seems a little bit extra happy today, now that classes have started up again.

Upcoming talk: Probing cell metabolism using isotope tracers and metabolic flux analysis

Bioengineering professor Christian Metallo will be speaking next month at the Scripps Research Institute. His talk: “Probing cell metabolism using isotope tracers and metabolic flux analysis”. 

More info below.


Thursday, October 17th from 5-7PM
A reception will follow the presentations.  All are welcome.

Eric C. Peters, Ph.D.
Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation
“The Increasing Role of MS-based Analyses in Research-Stage Biotherapeutic Construct Optimization”

Christian Metallo, Ph.D.
Dept of Bioengineering, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering
“Probing cell metabolism using isotope tracers and metabolic flux analysis”

Host: Gary Siuzdak
Contact: Adam Schuyler (
For more information:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Welcome New Students! / Weclome Week 2013

If you are looking for information on Welcome Week 2013 for the Jacobs School of Engineering, be sure to check out the IDEA Student Center page here.  They have a good listing of the engineering orientation events.

Also, be sure to check out the UC San Diego campus-wide welcome week info here.

Environmental Engineering at the Jacobs School

Since I was pulling together some basic info on environmental engineering at UC San Diego Sustainability Resource Center, I figured we might as well post the info here as well. If you know if programs, groups, initiatives that should be added, please let me know via email or in the comments. DBKANE_at_UCSD_dot_EDU

Environmental Engineering (within UCSD) Facebook group.

The MAE section (MAE = mechanical and aerospace engineering) of the UC San Diego course catalog includes the following info on the environmental engineering major:

Environmental engineering is a four-year curriculum with fundamental engineering courses in mechanics, thermodynamics, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. In the third and fourth year, an environmental engineering sequence is offered, as well as further specialization in fluid mechanics, and a wide choice of technical electives, both from within MAE and other departments. The environmental engineering major focuses on conveying an understanding and awareness of the fundamental processes associated with human industrial activity that have environmental implications, and on equipping the next generation of engineers with the tools to develop technologies that enable sustainable economic growth.


The MAE website has the following Environmental Engineering MISSION STATEMENT (Current as of Sept 2013. Be sure to check the MAE website and UC San Diego course catalog for updated information.)

The environmental engineering major focuses on conveying an understanding and awareness of the fundamental processes associated with human industrial activity that have environmental implications, and on equipping the next generation of engineers with the tools to develop technologies that enable sustainable economic growth. The following educational objectives have been established for the environmental engineering program:

1. to provide a sound introduction to the basic sciences that underlie the disciplines of environmental engineering

2. to provide a thorough training in methods of analysis, including problem formulation and the mathematical and computational skills required by environmental engineers

3. to teach students the experimental and data analysis techniques required for engineering applications

4. to teach the fundamentals of the design process, including project management, the synthesis of information from different disciplinary areas, and innovation and creative problem solving in an engineering setting

5. to prepare students in the skills required for successful participation on teams and in leadership positions, including effective written and oral communication

6. to instill in our students an understanding of their professional and ethical responsibilities

7. to provide students with the opportunity to gain a range of experiences through classroom and extramural activities on campus and through partnerships and internships with industry, with primary and secondary schools, and with other organizations


Derek Chung (’12, Environmental Engineering, UC San Diego) gives reflections on environmental engineering.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Adam Engler kicks off fruit fly experiment at High Tech High

High Tech High 11th grader Lizzy Marples practices anesthetizing fruit flies with carbon dioxide in preparation for a six-week experiment led by Adam Engler, a professor of bioengineering at UC San Diego.  As part of his research into how genotype affects heart function and longevity, Engler and Ph.D. student Gaurav Kaushik, bred fruit flies with genetic mutations to turn off genes important to heart function. The students will spend the next six weeks tracking these mutants along with a control group in a blind study to see whether the mutation has an adverse impact on the lifespan of the fruit fly.  The natural lifespan of a fruit fly is typically six to seven weeks, making them model organisms for longevity experiments. Despite many obvious differences, the proteins in the fruit fly heart are 82 percent similar to that of humans. 

Kaushik shows High Tech High biology students how to "put fruit flies to sleep" for counting. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Star-studded line up for cybersecurity forum

PayPal. eBay. Lockheed Martin. These are some of the companies sending their tech leaders to talk about cybersecurity during a think-tank-style event at the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center Sept. 23 and 24 here at the Jacobs School.

 The featured speaker is the principal scientist for consumer security at PayPal, Markus Jakobsson, who will be speaking about the spiraling threat of online fraud and how to address is. Here is the abstract:

The Internet owes its growth and sustenance to commercial developments. However, the spectacular scalability of online fraud threatens this stability. While the human factor is a notable aspect of the problem, traditional security measures treat Internet security as a pure-bred technical challenge. Using examples relating to authentication, Nigerian scams and malware, I will show how we can improve our understanding of and defenses against online fraud by recognizing that it is a socio-technical problem.

 A number of Jacobs School faculty also will be speaking, including computer scientists Stefan Savage, Sorin Lerner, Hovav Schacham and Daniele Miccinacio. 

More info about the event here:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Student leader shares her views about how to get more women in engineering

Meera Ramakrishnan, a senior majoring in computer science, was recently interviewed by email by Gary Robbins, science writer at UT San Diego. Robbins was writing about why there are so few women in engineering. Meera wound up being quoted in the story, which you can read here. She and Gary allowed us to share their whole email exchange, which we believe makes a valuable contribution to the discussion about the obstacles that keep women out of engineering.
Meera is one of the co-founders of the undergraduate chapter of Women in Computing at UC San Diego. She will join Goldman Sachs as an analyst in January 2014.

Q: Over the past 20 years, the presence of women in the sciences -- especially chemistry and biology -- has greatly increased. In fact, women now earn more bachelor's degrees in those fields than men. During the same period, the number of women in engineering has stayed flat or gone down. I'd like to know your thoughts about why women aren't going into engineering and computer science in larger numbers.

It is an observable fact with a complex answer.

A: It starts from childhood as girls are given dolls and dresses while the boys get to play with Legos and puzzles. 

In middle school, moms might teach their daughters how to take care of a sick animal while her father teaches her brothers how to replace a brake light or fix a radio. 

I went to an all girls high school which had only one basic computer science class so many of my classmates were not given a chance to explore engineering whereas the all boys high school next to my school had over nine advanced computer science classes. In 2007, this all boys high school received about $9.8 million in total gift revenue whereas it took my high school over ten years just to raise barely $12 million. This gives the all male high schools a built in advantage to provide more and better technology classes and services for their students in comparison to the all female schools.

Through socialization, the majority of women are able to communicate emotions such as kindness and compassion better than the majority of men. Thus, more women seem to turn towards education and medicine rather than engineering as it seems to provide a more direct meaningful impact and very tangible results in society. However, if more women were exposed to engineering, they would realize how much significant work could be produced through STEM.

Q: Can you suggest ways to increase the number of women in these fields?

A: Men and women are equally intelligent and have the potential to be successful engineers. However, schools, competitions, workplaces, and society need to understand that men and women have different interests and motivations. From hosting a few coding "hackathons" in my university, I learnt a few key points.

Most of women seemed to enjoy working on problems that required discussion and collaboration. They enjoyed working on business initiatives that had a positive impact in the world - not simply coding for free pizza and red bull.

We need to start to design engineering school curricula and competitions that are women friendly so that we can stop living in a "man's world." 
We can design and share toys with girls that interest them as well as encourage them to use their critical thinking skills and expose them to engineering through toys such as the one developed by a Stanford student, Goldie Blox. Editor's note: Goldie Blox's creator is Debbie Sterling, a Stanford-trained engineer.

Harvey Mudd and a few other universities are doing wonderful jobs in redesigning their courses to interest and retain women into computer science.

"through an innovative, three-part plan, the percentage of women CS majors has shifted from 12 percent to 35 percent and reached a high of 40 percent for the class of 2011."
Q: What impact would there be on society if more women went into engineering? Would we see new or different products and services? 

A: By watching today's most impactful women in technology, I would expect to see more interdisciplinary and products and services that provide a direct and meaningful impact in society if more women entered engineering.
Maja Mataric, a professor at USC, builds robots to help special needs patients such as autistic children, stroke patients, elderly suffering from Alzheimer's, and much more. 

Vicki Hanson, an IBM Researcher, has also used her skills to help companies comprehend how to redesign software and help people with special needs through the help of computers. 

Padmasree Warrior, Cisco's CTO, has started to help and mentor women founded startups. 

Laura Mather, CSO and Co-Founder of SilverTail, created a non profit meant to fight spoofing, pharming, and email-based security threats.  

By watching today's impactful women in technology, I would expect to continue to see more interdisciplinary  products and services that provide a direct and meaningful impact in society if more women entered engineering similar to the examples I mentioned above.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Robotic Stingray Takes a Dip

It's called the Stingray. It's an autonomous underwater vehicle that can be loaded with a wide array of sensors to monitor the health of marine habitats. And it's being built by a team of undergraduate students and their graduate student adviser.

It's all part of Engineers for Exploration, a program that allows UC San Diego students to partner with the National Geographic Society, the Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute and San Diego Zoo Global.

On a recent sunny afternoon, students took the Stingray out for a test drive at Canyonview Pool here on the UC San Diego campus. Jennifer Batryn, a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo who was visiting for the summer, got into the pool. Perry Naughton, the project's graduate student adviser, supervised the test.     

Here are some pictures of their outing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Using Bitcoins to Make Illegal Purchases Online May Not Be Anonymous After All

Computer science Ph.D. student Sarah Meiklejohn (pictured) is causing a major stir in the world of cryto-currency and black market transactions. 

She’s part of a team at UC San Diego and George Mason University investigating the Bitcoin market and cybercrime.  Meiklejohn has become an expert on tracking Bitcoin transactions which, on the surface, appear to be anonymous. But the team found a way to link transactions to Bitcoin merchants and services – potentially undermining one major use of Bitcoin: funding online purchases of illegal products. 

In July, Meiklejohn
helped cybercrime expert Brian Krebs verify that users had deposited a total of two bitcoins (~$200) into a purse on the Silk Road black market to purchase heroin that would be sent to Krebs’ home. (Krebs was able to alert the police before the heroin arrived at his home.) 
More recently, a columnist at Forbes magazine asked Meiklejohn to see if she could trace an order for small amounts of marijuana from three different Bitcoin-based online black markets. Meiklejohn followed “digital breadcrumbs” on Silk Road and had little trouble tracing the drug buys back to the Forbes writer using a clustering analysis and detecting a specific point in Bitcoin’s blockchain record of transactions – linking the user to the drug buy. The Forbes columnist, Andy Greenberg, quotes Meiklejohn as saying 

There “are ways of using Bitcoin privately. But if you’re a casual Bitcoin user, you’re probably not hiding your activity very well.” 

Not surprisingly, the findings have hit paydirt on Slashdot, and Bloomberg Businessweek noted that a new paper by Meiklejohn and her colleagues “argues that the network’s increased reliance on a few large accounts makes user identities less secure.” 

That paper, “A Fistful of Bitcoins: Characterizing Payments Among Men with No Names,” will be presented at ACM Internet Measurement Conference in Barcelona Oct. 24, but an advance version is now available.

Meiklejohn’s co-authors at UC San Diego include undergraduate Marjori Pomarole, grad student Grant Jordan, Center for Networked Systems research scientist (and Jacobs SChool alum) Kirill Levchenko, former computer science postdoc Damon McCoy (now teaching at George Mason), as well as computer science professors Geoff Voelker and Stefan Savage.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Jacobs School Robot Runner Up in Maker Faire Challenge

SkySweeper, a robot developed by Jacobs School graduate student Nick Morozovsky, was a runner up in the Road to Maker Faire Challenge. A total of 66 makers entered the challenge. One received a grand prize and two were designated as runners up.

Here's how Morozovsky described the robot:

SkySweeper is designed to move along rope or cable like no other robot. Existing robots that inspect power lines are large, slow, and expensive. SkySweeper is small, fast, and almost all parts of the robot are 3D printed or available cheaply off-the-shelf.
Morozovsky won a one-year subscription to MAKE Magazine, two adult weekend passes to the World Maker Faire and a Maker's Notebook.

You can learn more about SkySweeper here and more about the Road to Maker Faire Challenge here.