2017 Year in Review
Engineers at Caltech and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign collaborate to build a drone that mirrors the key mechanisms of bat flight—helping researchers both better understand the animal’s movements and build more efficient flying robots.
Caltech’s medical engineers apply multidisciplinary engineering principles in the health sphere to design and fabricate devices and systems for translational medicine—including diagnostics, therapeutics, implants, and noninvasive imaging—that will lead to less expensive, more effective, and more accessible health care. “We want to give to the right cause, and medical engineering will help others,” trustee Peggy Cherng said of the gift.
Organized by the Caltech Postdoctoral Association, more than a thousand people—from across Caltech and from various surrounding communities—gather on Beckman Lawn before marching together through Pasadena in celebration of science.
Faustus, PhD, a stage comedy written by fourth-year chemistry graduate student, Mark Kozlowski hit the stage for the first of a four-night run at Ramo Auditorium. The protagonist’s bargain? “Four years of knowing exactly which experiments to run and how to run them in exchange for his soul.”
Graduating seniors are hosted by Caltech President Thomas F. Rosenbaum and Katherine T. Faber, the Simon Ramo Professor of Materials Science, with dinners at their home celebrating their Caltech accomplishments and transition to alumni.
New research released by the laboratory of biology professor Doris Tsao (BS ‘96), T&C Chen Center for Systems Neuroscience Leadership Chair, shows that the brain uses a simple and elegant mechanism to represent facial identity—and suggests a not-too-distant future in which monitoring brain activity can lead to a reconstruction of what a person is seeing.
Jessica Watkins, GPS Chair’s Postdoctoral Scholar and California Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate Fellow, is selected for the 2017 Astronaut Class. A multisport athlete (and assistant coach for the women’s basketball team) with two years of experience on the Mars Science Laboratory mission’s Curiosity rover, Watkins headed to Houston in August to begin two years of astronaut training.
Launched four decades ago, NASA’s Twin Voyager Probes managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) become the first and only robots to take close-up photographs of Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 1 is the most distant human-made object in space. Both spacecrafts carry a “Golden Record”—a greeting containing sounds and images of Earth to any form of life, should that be encountered. Guiding the Voyagers through all of their adventures has been Ed Stone, the mission’s longtime project scientist and Caltech’s David Morrisroe Professor of Physics.
A reimagined 24,000-square-foot, two-story campus hub will feature a large public lounge, an expanded Red Door Marketplace, the Caltech Store, music rehearsal facilities, student club rooms, a multipurpose room, and a conference room.
David Tirrell is the Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and the Carl and Shirley Larson Provostial Chair. He has been a faculty member at Caltech since 1998, chaired the division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from 1999 to 2009, and is currently the director of Caltech’s Beckman Institute. Tirrell’s research focuses on the genetic code and how modifying the molecular machinery of the cell might lead to new approaches in macromolecular design, protein evolution, biological imaging, and proteome-wide analysis of cellular processes. He is one of only 19 individuals elected to all three National Academies: Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. As the Institute’s chief academic officer, the provost is responsible for advancing the academic agenda of the Institute.
Caltech professors Barry C. Barish, the Ronald and Maxine Linde Professor of Physics, Emeritus; and Kip S. Thorne (BS ‘62), the Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus; are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their decisive contributions to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the observation of gravitational waves. They share the award with their colleague, Rainer Weiss, who is a professor of physics emeritus at MIT.
A global network of scientists announce that for the first time they have detected both the ripples in space and time known as gravitational waves as well as light produced and emitted during the same cosmic event: the spectacular collision of two neutron stars. The data provide the first concrete proof that such smashups are the birthplace of half of the universe’s elements heavier than iron, including gold and platinum. “It’s the greatest fireworks show in the universe,” said Caltech’s David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).
Led by Mory Gharib (PhD ’83), the Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering, CAST will unite engineers and scientists from many disciplines to advance research on robotics, drones, driverless cars, and machine learning.