Venkat Chandrasekaran, Assistant Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, arrived at Caltech in early September 2012. His area of research is mathematical optimization. He describes, "Almost anything we wish to do in engineering design is about maximizing objectives subject to certain constraints—trading off different aspects of a system to optimize a few others. For instance, if you work in jet-engine design, you have certain constraints in the amount of material you can use, the weight of these materials, aerodynamic issues, etc. But then you want to be able to design your wings and so on in such a way that you maximize, for example, how fast you are able to go. My specific focus deals with trying to look at optimization problems that (a) are tractable to solve—not all optimization problems are ones that can be efficiently solved on a computer—and (b) arise in the information sciences." [Caltech Release]
Alexei Y. Kitaev, Professor of Theoretical Physics, Computer Science, and Mathematics, has received the $3 million Yuri Milner Fundamental Physics Prize. The prize citation recognizes Professor Kitaev's "theoretical idea of implementing robust quantum memories and fault-tolerant quantum computation using topological quantum phases with anyons and unpaired Majorana modes." This new prize is the most lucrative academic prize in the world and Professor Kitaev is one of only nine scientists to receive it this year. [New York Times Article] [The Guardian Article] [Caltech Release]
Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student Robert Karol, who is also minoring in Aerospace and Control and Dynamical Systems, was the finalist for the 2012 Friends of Caltech Libraries Senior Thesis Prize. His thesis is entitled “Peak Seeking Controller for Real Time Mobile Satellite Tracking” and was written under the direction of Professor Richard Murray and Mechanical Engineering alumnus Gunnar Ristroph (BS '06) of IJK Controls.
Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, and colleagues including Caltech alumnae Rebecca Schulman, have created a new system to copy sequence information. In their approach, tiny DNA tile crystals consisting of many copies of a piece of information are first grown, then broken into a few pieces by mechanically-induced scission, or force. The new crystal bits contain all the information needed to keep copying the sequence. Each piece then begins to replicate its information and grow until broken apart again—without the help of enzymes, an essential ingredient in biological sequence replication. [Caltech Press Release]
Undergraduate students Zibo Chen, Shayan Doroudi, Yae Lim Lee, Gregory Izatt, and Sarah Wittman have won a gold award at the 2011 International Bio-Molecular Design Competition (BIOMOD). BIOMOD is a competition for undergraduate teams who design research to address the control of biomolecules on the nanometer scale. The Caltech team's challenge was to make a synthetic DNA robot that has the ability to take a random walk —instead of walking on set path or track—on a two-dimensional origami surface that was also made out of DNA. The team is mentored by Professor Erik Winfree and sponsored by the Molecular Programming Project. [Caltech Feature] [Video of Project]
Problems where a conflict or tension exists between individual incentives and more global objective are one of the foci of Professor Katrina Ligett's research. "I'm interested in new algorithms, in understanding how difficult it is to solve problems," Ligett, Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Economics, says. "There aren't that many places where computer scientists and economists actually talk to each other. At Caltech, people are really interested in and committed to investigating at this intersection, and that's very appealing." [Caltech Feature]
Former computer science faculty member Charles Seitz is the recipient of the 2011 IEEE Computer Society Seymour Cray Computer Engineering Award. Professor Seitz is known for creating new disciplines of digital design, and was recognized “for innovations in high-performance message-passing architectures and networks.” While at Caltech Seitz focused his research on very-large-scale integration (VLSI) design and concurrent computing. [Learn more]
Steven Low, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, is a recipient of a 2011 Okawa Foundation Research Grant for his research project entitled "Uncertainty Mitigation for Renewable Energy Integration". This prize honors top young researchers working in the fields of information and telecommunications.
Fulcrum Microsystems Inc., a company founded by former students of Professor Alain J. Martin, has been acquired by Intel Corporation. Computing and Mathematical Sciences (CMS) alumni Uri V. Cummings (Ph.D. '05) and Andrew M. Lines (M.S. '95) founded Fulcrum Microsystems in late 1999 to commercialize on the nearly two decades of work that they and Professor Martin had done to come up with clockless, low-power, high-bandwidth chips for managing switched communications. [Press Release]