Michael Hucka and Colleagues Help Launch the First Standard Graphical Notation for Biology
Dr. Michael Hucka, Senior Research Fellow in Control and Dynamical Systems and Co-Director of the Biological Network Modeling Center, and colleagues in 30 laboratories worldwide have released a new set of standards for graphically representing biological information—the biology equivalent of the circuit diagram in electronics. This visual language should make it easier to exchange complex information, so that biological models are depicted more accurately, consistently, and in a more readily understandable way. The new standard, is called the Systems Biology Graphical Notation (SBGN). "As biology focuses more on managing complexity with quantitative and systematic methods, standards such as SBGN play an essential role. SBGN combines an intuitive notation with the rigorous style of engineering and math," says John Doyle, the John G. Braun Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems, Bioengineering, and Electrical Engineering. [Caltech Press Release]
President Obama Presents Three EAS Faculty with the PECASE
In a special White House ceremony, President Obama will be presenting three EAS faculty: John Dabiri, Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Bioengineering, Beverley McKeon, Assistant Professor of Aeronautics, and Joel Tropp, Assistant Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics, with the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). "These extraordinarily gifted young scientists and engineers represent the best in our country," President Obama said. Dabiri,describes the idea behind his PECASE-winning research as "giving underwater vehicles the enhanced performance of fish (e.g. efficiency, stealth, and maneuverablity) without mimicking the shape and swimming motions of fish. Instead, we replicate the vortex dynamics in the wakes of swimming fish." His "bio-inspired systems" were used by Lydia Ruiz (PhD '09 Mechanical Engineering), to demonstrateincreases in vehicle propulsive efficiency of over 50 percent.
McKeon is receiving the PECASE for her research on fundamental questions in complex turbulent boundary layers. McKeon states that "the ultimate goal is to incorporate recent advances in the understanding of flow physics in order to develop low order models of flow over surfaces for Air Force applications". Tropp's PECASE-winning research "focuses on developing new algorithms for solving inverse problems, a basic challenge that arises throughout the mathematical sciences. Inverse problems also appear in medical imaging, in communication systems, in statistical data analysis, and a host of other areas." He uses tools from modern applied mathematics, such as optimization techniques and randomized algorithms to collect partial information about an object of interest, and incorporate additional background knowledge to develop a complete picture of the object.
Other researchers receiving the PECASE award this year are Joshua K. Willis from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the following Caltech Alumni Elizabeth Boon, (PhD '03 CCE), Markus J. Buehler, (Post doc in CCE) Michael J. Hochberg, (Ph.D. '06 EAS - Applied Physics), Justin K. Romberg, (Post doc in EAS - Applied and Computational Mathematics), Cecilia R. Aragon, (B.S. '82 PMA), Jason Graetz, (Ph.D. '03 EAS - Materials Science), and Ioannis Chasiotis, (Ph.D. '02 EAS - Aerospace).
Sheila Shull Has Won One of the Two 2009 Schmitt Staff Prizes
The Schmitt Prize recognizes a staff member of the Caltech community whose contributions embody the values and spirit that enable the Institute to achieve excellence in research and education. Sheila has been with Applied and Computational Mathematics (ACM) for almost 30 years and takes care of almost every aspect of the day-to-day activities in ACM, including proposal submission and grant management; management of staff members, visitors, and students; organization of international conferences; recruitment of students and instructors; utilization of space; and, most importantly, "care and feeding" of the ACM faculty, which is not without its challenges. As one of her nominators wrote: "It is people like her, in direct daily contact with faculty and students, that truly define the atmosphere in our Institute." Kudos Sheila!
John Doyle Discovers the Importance of Fire in Global Climate Change
Scientists Discover Importance of Fire in Global Climate Change. Researchers including John Doyle, Caltech's Braun Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems, Electrical Engineering, and Bioengineering, Emeritus, have determined that fire must be accounted for as an integral part of climate change. Their research shows that intentional deforestation fires alone contribute up to one-fifth of the human-caused increase in emissions of carbon dioxide. According to the article, increasing numbers of natural wildfires are influencing climate as well. [Science Magazine article]
Alexei Kitaev Named a MacArthur Fellow
Alexei Kitaev, Professor of Theoretical Physics and Computer Science, has been named a MacArthur Fellow, winning one of the five-year, $500,000 grants that are awarded annually to creative, original individuals and that are often referred to as the "genius" awards. Kitaev explores the mysterious behavior of quantum systems and their implications for developing practical applications, such as quantum computers. He has made important theoretical contributions to a wide array of topics within condensed-matter physics, including quasicrystals and quantum chaos. [Caltech Press Release]