News & Events


New Breed of Optical Soliton Wave Discovered


Kerry Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics, and colleagues have discovered a new type of optical soliton wave that travels in the wake of other soliton waves, hitching a ride on and feeding off of the energy of the other wave. Solitons are localized waves that act like particles. Professor Vahala likens these newly discovered solitons to pilot fish, carnivorous tropical fish that swim next to a shark so they can pick up scraps from the shark's meals. And by swimming in the shark's wake, the pilot fish reduce the drag of water on their own body, so they can travel with less effort. [Caltech story]

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Professor Bhattacharya Named Vice Provost


On July 15, 2016, Kaushik Bhattacharya, Howell N. Tyson, Sr., Professor of Mechanics and Materials Science, will take over from Professor Morteza Gharib as Caltech vice provost. His research group studies the mechanical behavior of solids and uses theory to guide the development of new materials. He has made contributions on a wide array of topics, ranging from the fundamental mechanics of materials, to active materials and devices, to multi-scale and multi-physics scale simulation of materials. Though trained as a theoretician, he is well known for live demonstrations of shape-memory materials in action.  "Kaushik's technical strength, deep knowledge of the Institute, energy, and enthusiasm will serve him and us well as he takes on this important role," said EAS Division Chair G. (Ravi) Ravichandran. [Caltech story]

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122nd Commencement Ceremony


Caltech’s 122nd commencement ceremony was held on Friday June 10, 2016. The commencement speaker was surgeon, writer, and public health researcher Atul Gawande, MD, MPH. He reminded the graduates that, “today, you become part of the scientific community, arguably the most powerful collective enterprise in human history. In doing so, you also inherit a role in explaining it and helping it reclaim territory of trust at a time when that territory has been shrinking.” He also cautioned them and explained, “the mistake … is to believe that the educational credentials you get today give you any special authority on truth. What you have gained is far more important: an understanding of what real truth-seeking looks like. It is the effort not of a single person but of a group of people—the bigger the better—pursuing ideas with curiosity, inquisitiveness, openness, and discipline.” [The Mistrust of Science]

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Winners of the 2016 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes Announced


The student winners of the 2016 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes were announced at a special dinner with the Demetriades - Tsafka – Kokkalis family. Rachel P. Galimidi received the prize in Biotechnology for her work with Professor Pamela Bjorkman aimed to further understand the mechanism of HIV evasion of the humoral immune response. Junle Jiang was the recipient of the prize in Seismo-Engineering, Prediction, and Protection for his work with Nadia Lapusta which used probabilistic inversion tools to understand the deep-ocean trench generated tsunamis that occurred during the subduction-zone earthquakes in Japan and Chile. Yinglu Tang working with Dr. Jeff Snyder received the prize in Environmentally Benign Renewable Energy Sources for her work on thermoelectric skutterudites for mid-temperature applications such as automotive waste heat recovery. The second winner in this category was Changhong Zhao who worked with Professor Steven Low to study the control and optimization of modern electric power systems. The winner of the prize in Nanotechnology was Gustavo Rios whose research involves development of a modular, scalable, nanofabricated neural probe system for dense 3-D electrophysiology to study animal brains. Rio’s graduate advisor was Professor Thanos Siapas. The prize in Entrepreneurship was given to Anton A. Toutov who was advised by Professor Robert Grubbs. His research interests lie in using fundamental chemistry to development radically new, sustainable ways to make everyday chemical products and generate clean energy.

Tags: Rachel P. Galimidi Pamela Bjorkman Junle Jiang Nadia Lapusta Yinglu Tang Jeff Snyder Changhong Zhao Steven Low Gustavo Rios Thanos Siapas Anton Toutov Robert Grubbs MCE APhMS CMS EE CNS MedE honors

Smaller Chips May Depend on Vacuum Tube Technology


A recent New York Times article featured Caltech alumnus, Gordon Moore (PhD ’54), and the research of Professor Axel Scherer on ultrasmall vacuum tube as a candidate to replace the transistor. [Read the article]

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Kevin Chen Receives 2016 Henry Ford II Scholar Award


Applied Physics student Kevin Chen, mentored by Professor Harry Atwater, is a recipient of the 2016 Henry Ford II Scholar Award. During his first two years at Caltech he worked on the optical and electrical components of an ultra-efficient photovoltaic module in the Atwater lab. The Henry Ford II Scholar Award is funded under an endowment provided by the Ford Motor Company Fund. The award is made annually to engineering students with the best academic record at the end of the third year of undergraduate study.

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Engineering Nanodevices to Store Information the Quantum Way


Stevan Nadj-Perge, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, is interested in creating a device that could harness the power of entangled particles within a usable technology. A large part of his research is focused on finding ways to store and process quantum information. Quantum information is very fragile and even the smallest amount of external noise messes up quantum states. There are various schemes that tackle this problem and postpone decoherence, but the one that he is most interested in involves Majorana fermions. Relatively recently theorists figured out how to engineer these particles in the lab. Nadj-Perge explains, “it turns out that, under certain conditions, when you combine certain materials and apply high magnetic fields at very cold temperatures, electrons will form a state that looks exactly as you would expect from Majorana fermions. Furthermore, such engineered states allow you to store quantum information in a way that postpones decoherence.” [Caltech story]

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Professor Atwater Receives James King Jr. Award


Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science as well as the Director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, is the 2016 recipient of the James King Jr. Award. The award is given annual by the Caltech Center for Diversity to an individual who stands out as a strong supporter of diversity. Professor Atwater received several nominations which recognized “his commitment to recruiting, training, and encouraging female scientists to join and thrive in his research group.” One of his nominators wrote, “He has stood up for his female students when they have faced gender-biased behavior from others, and is a true advocate for all his students.” Another nominator stated that he “is a glowing example of how supportive faculty members can be in advisory roles.” Professor Atwater’s “efforts have long term positive effects for combating gender imbalances in academia.”

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Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis


In a recent New York Times article Professor Harry A. Atwater, Jr. discussed the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP). He said, “The grand prize is figuring out how to make carbon dioxide be recyclable, a renewable resource. That would be a millennial advance for society.” JCAP was established in 2010 as a U.S. Department of Energy Energy Innovation Hub that aims to find new and effective ways to produce fuels using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. “You can rest assured that the energy and catalysis problems of humanity will not have been resolved five years from now,” Professor Atwater said in the interview. But there is growing interest in the work, particularly after the recently signed Paris climate treaty that calls for sharp emissions reductions to combat global warming. “We have some wind at our back that we haven’t had until recently,” he added. [New York Times article]

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Undergraduate Wins Hertz Fellowships


Applied Physics senior Paul Dieterle has been selected by the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation to receive a 2016 Hertz Fellowships.  The fellows are chosen for their intellect, their ingenuity, and their potential to bring meaningful improvement to society.  At Caltech, Paul has worked and studied under the guidance of Engineering and Applied Science Professors Painter and Schwab. His research focuses on the physics of superconducting quantum circuits, photon-phonon interactions, and many-body interactions. In the long term, he says, he aims to "construct integrated quantum systems to explore both fundamental and application-oriented physics." [Caltech story]

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Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science