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2009

Winner of the Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching Jehoshua "Shuki" Bruck , Caltech's Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering, talks about the art and science of sharing information.  
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... 12.18.09

Hareem T. Maune, a graduate student studying carbon nanotube physics, and Si-ping Han, a graduate student investigating the interactions between carbon nanotubes have developed DNA origami nanoscale breadboards for carbon nanotube circuits. "This collaborative research project is evidence of how we at Caltech select the top students in science and engineering and place them in an environment where their creativity and imagination can thrive," says Ares Rosakis, chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech and Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Mechanical Engineering. The work of these students was supervised by: Erik Winfree, Associate Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering; William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics; Paul W.K. Rothemund, Senior Research Associate, and Marc Bockrath, Associate Professor of Physics at University of California Riverside. Read More... 11.10.2009

David MacKay (CNS Phd '92), Professor in the Department of Physics at Cambridge University and author of the influential book Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air has been appointed Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, UK. He is internationally known for his research in machine learning, information theory, and communication systems, including the invention of Dasher, a software interface that enables efficient communication in any language with any muscle. He has taught Physics in Cambridge since 1995. Since 2005, he has devoted increasing amounts of time to public teaching about energy. Read More... 09.21.2009

imageCaltech Neuroscientists Find Brain Region Responsible for Our Sense of Personal Space In a finding that sheds new light on the neural mechanisms involved in social behavior,neuroscientists led by led by Ralph Adolphs, Bren Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and professor of biology, have pinpointed the brain structure responsible for our sense of personal space. The discovery, described in the August 30 issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience, could offer insight into autism and other disorders where social distance is an issue. Read more... 08.30.2009

imageResearch shows how brain imaging can be used to create new and improved solutions to the public-goods provision problem. Economists and neuroscientists at Caltech, Antonio Rangel, associate professor of economics, along with Caltech graduate student Ian Krajbich and their colleagues, have shown that they can use information obtained through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measurements of whole-brain activity to create feasible, efficient, and fair solutions to one of the stickiest dilemmas in economics, the public goods free-rider problem—long thought to be unsolvable. The paper describing the work was published September 10, 2009 in the online edition of the journal Science, called Science Express. Listen to the Caltech podcast with Antonio Rangel. (7:13 minutes) Read more... 09.10.2009

Caltech Neuroscientists Find Brain Region Responsible for Our Sense of Personal Space In a finding that sheds new light on the neural mechanisms involved in social behavior,neuroscientists led by led by Ralph Adolphs, Bren Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and professor of biology, have pinpointed the brain structure responsible for our sense of personal space. The discovery, described in the August 30 issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience, could offer insight into autism and other disorders where social distance is an issue. Read more... 08.30.2009

Paul RothemundDr. Paul Rothemund, Senior Research Associate in Bioengineering, Computer Science, and Computation and Neural Systems, and colleagues have developed a new technique to orient and position self-assembled DNA shapes and patterns—or "DNA origami"—on surfaces that are compatible with today's semiconductor manufacturing equipment. They "have removed a key barrier to the improvement and advancement of computer chips. They accomplished this through the revolutionary approach of combining the building blocks for life with the building blocks for computing," said Professor Ares Rosakis, Chair of Division of Engineering and Applied Science and Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering. Read More... 08.18.2009

Erik WinfreeMolecular Engineering— The molecular computational research of Erik Winfree, Associate Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, focuses on understanding how chemical systems can perform information processing and how to program a set of molecules to carry out instructions. This exciting research was recently featured in Discover. Read more... 08.18.2009

Caltech Scientists Reveal How Neuronal Activity is Timed in Brain's Memory-Making Circuits Study shows theta oscillations move across the hippocampus as traveling waves. Theta oscillations are a type of prominent brain rhythm that orchestrates neuronal activity in the hippocampus, a brain area critical for the formation of new memories. For several decades these oscillations were believed to be "in sync" across the hippocampus, timing the firing of neurons like a sort of central pacemaker. image A new study conducted by researchers at Caltech, Evgueniy Lubenov, a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Biological Circuit Design, and Athanassios Siapas, associate professor of computation and neural systems and Bren Scholar at Caltech, argues that this long-held assumption needs to be revised. In a paper published in this week's issue of the journal Nature, the researchers showed that instead of being in sync, theta oscillations actually sweep along the length of the hippocampus as traveling waves. Read more... 05-29-2009

Caltech Researchers Pinpoint the Mechanisms of Self-Control in the Brain. When you're on a diet, deciding to skip your favorite calorie-laden foods and eat something healthier takes a whole lot of self-control—an ability that seems to come easier to some of us than others. Now, scientists from the Caltech have uncovered differences in the brains of people who are able to exercise self-control versus those who find it almost impossible.

These findings, which are being published in the May 1 issue of the journal Science, not only provide insight into the interplay between self-control and decision making in dieters, but may explain how we make any number of decisions that require some degree of willpower.

image"A very basic question in economics, psychology, and even religion, is why some people can exercise self-control but others cannot," notes Antonio Rangel, a Caltech associate professor of economics and the paper's principal investigator. "From the perspective of modern neuroscience, the question becomes, 'What is special about the circuitry of brains that can exercise good behavioral self-control?' This paper studies this question in the context of dieting decisions and provides an important insight." Read more... 04-30-2009

Caltech Scientists Control Complex Nucleation Processes using DNA Origami Seeds. "Flowers, dogs, and just about all biological objects are created from the bottom up," says imageErik Winfree, associate professor of computer science, computation and neural systems, and bioengineering at Caltech. Along with his coworkers, Winfree is seeking to integrate bottom-up construction approaches with molecular fabrication processes to construct objects from parts that are just a few billionths of a meter in size that essentially assemble themselves. In a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Winfree and his colleagues describe the development of an information-containing DNA "seed" that can direct the self-assembled bottom-up growth of tiles of DNA in a precisely controlled fashion. In some ways, the process is similar to how the fertilized seeds of plants or animals contain information that directs the growth and development of those organisms. Read more... 04-08-2009

imageimageResearchers led by Pietro Perona, the Allen E. Puckett Professor of Electrical Engineering, and David J. Anderson, the Roger W. Sperry Professor of Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, have trained computers to automatically analyze aggression and courtship in fruit flies, opening the way for researchers to perform large-scale, high-throughput screens for genes that control these innate behaviors. The program allows computers to examine half an hour of video footage of pairs of interacting flies in what is almost real time; characterizing the behavior of a new line of flies "by hand" might take a biologist more than 100 hours. "This is a coming-of-age moment in this field," says Perona. "By choosing among existing machine vision techniques, we were able to put together a system that is much more capable than anything that had been demonstrated before." This work is detailed in the April issue of Nature Methods. Read more... 04-07-2009

Caltech Scientists Discover Mechanism for Wind Detection in Fruit FliesResearchers say flies' antennae use different populations of neurons to detect wind and sound. David J. Anderson, the Roger W. Sperry Professor of Biology at Caltech, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator explains that "we discovered that you can stop a fly dead in its tracks by blowing a gentle stream of air over it." The flies have evolved a specialized population of neurons in their antennae that let them know not only when the wind is blowing, but also the direction from which it is coming. Read more... 03-11-2009

Caltech Scientists Find Evidence for Precise Communication Across Brain Areas During Sleep. imageBy listening in on the chatter between neurons in various parts of the brain, researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have taken steps toward fully understanding just how memories are formed, transferred, and ultimately stored in the brain— and how that process varies throughout the various stages of sleep.The research team— led by Athanassios Siapas, a Bren Scholar in the Caltech Division of Biology and an associate professor of computation and neural systems--used high-tech recording and computational techniques to listen in on the firing of neurons in the brains of rats. Read more... 02-25-2009

imageJehoshua "Shuki" Bruck, Caltech's Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering, has won the Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Caltech's most prestigious teaching honor, the prize was established in 1993 "to honor annually a professor who demonstrates, in the broadest sense, unusual ability, creativity, and innovation in undergraduate and graduate classroom or laboratory teaching." A member of the Caltech faculty since 1994, Bruck was the founding director of Information Science and Technology (IST) at Caltech. His research combines work on the design of distributed information systems and the theoretical study of biological circuits and systems. Kudos! 02-25-2009

Carver MeadMead and Moore Inducted into Inventors Hall of Fame Carver Mead, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Emeritus, and Caltech alumnus Gordon Moore, are among the fifteen 2009 inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Mead helped to develop the standards and tools that permitted tens ofthousands of transistors to be packaged on a single silicon chip, what is known as very large-scale integration (VLSI). Gordon Moore credits Mead with coining the term "Moore’s Law" to describe the notion that the number of transistors that can be packaged on an integrated circuit will double every two years, and Mead performed the physics calculations to prove it. As a cofounder of both Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, Moore set the pace and standards for Silicon Valley’s chip manufacturing methods. His work established the model of the computer industry researcher-entrepreneur and help make Intel a world-leading chip maker. 02-13-2009

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