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Counting White Blood Cells at Home


Yu-Chong Tai, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, and colleagues have developed a portable device to count white blood cells that needs less than a pinprick's worth of blood and takes just minutes to run. The heart of the new device is a 50-micrometer-long transparent channel made out of a silicone material with a cross section of only 32 micrometers by 28 micrometers—small enough to ensure that only one white blood cell at a time can flow through the detection region. The stained blood sample flows through this microfluidic channel to the detection region, where it is illuminated with a laser, causing it to fluoresce. [Caltech Release]

Tags: EE research highlights MedE health Yu-Chong Tai MCE

International Scholarship Focused on Engineering Global Challenges Announced


The Caltech Division of Engineering and Applied Science and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering have established a new scholarship program, named after outgoing National Academy of Engineering (NAE) president Charles M. Vest at their institutions, along with six other universities around the country. "The Vest Scholarship is a superb opportunity for high-powered international graduate students to work with faculty and researchers who are international leaders in their engineering disciplines," says Chair Ares Rosakis. "At Caltech, due to its small size and strong interdisciplinary philosophy, the students will have the opportunity to work closely with not only these international leaders in engineering research, but also with their collaborators in all areas of science and technology." [Caltech Release] [Application Information]


Creating Indestructible Self-Healing Circuits


Ali Hajimiri, Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering, and colleagues have built electronic chips that repair themselves. The team has demonstrated this self-healing capability in tiny power amplifiers. The amplifiers are so small, in fact, that 76 of the chips—including everything they need to self-heal—could fit on a single penny. In perhaps the most dramatic of their experiments, the team destroyed various parts of their chips by zapping them multiple times with a high-power laser, and then observed as the chips automatically developed a work-around in less than a second. [Caltech Release]

Tags: EE energy MedE Ali Hajimiri

Disease Diagnosis at the Touch of a Button


Axel Scherer, Bernard Neches Professor of Electrical Engineering, Applied Physics and Physics, and colleagues have built a new version of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) device, which generates many copies of a pathogenic nucleic acid, allowing the infection to be detected. The device is the result of nearly 10 years of research at Caltech. In 2004, Scherer, a leader in the field of microfluidics, and George Maltezos were investigating how to manipulate biological fluids on a chip. While this was an interesting engineering problem, Maltezos began to wonder how he could apply the microfluidic techniques that he was perfecting to real-world problems. Then the H5N1 bird flu pandemic erupted in Asia, and the team had their real-world problem. [Caltech Release]

Tags: APhMS EE MedE health Axel Scherer George Maltezos

EAS Division Welcomes New Deputy Chair


Peter Schröder, Professor of Computer Science and Applied and Computational Mathematics, is the new Deputy Chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. "I look forward to working with Peter over the next several years as we continue with our quest to remain a unique collaborative community of isolated singularities that sets a compelling model as a research and teaching institution," says Chair Ares Rosakis.

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Tags: research highlights Peter Schröder

Professor Gharib Named Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors


Morteza Gharib, Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Bioinspired Engineering as well as Caltech Vice Provost for Research, has been named a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Academic inventors and innovators elected to the rank of NAI Charter Fellow are nominated by their peers "for outstanding contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society, and support and enhancement of innovation." [Caltech Spotlight]

Tags: honors GALCIT MedE Morteza Gharib

A New Tool for Secret Agents—And the Rest of Us


Ali Hajimiri, Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering, and Postdoctoral Scholar in Electrical Engineering, Kaushik Sengupta, have developed tiny inexpensive silicon microchips that generate terahertz (THz) waves that fall into a largely untapped region of the electromagnetic spectrum and that can penetrate a host of materials without the ionizing damage of X-rays. When incorporated into handheld devices, the new microchips could enable a broad range of applications in fields ranging from homeland security to wireless communications to health care, and even touchless gaming. "This extraordinary level of creativity, which has enabled imaging in the terahertz frequency range, is very much in line with Caltech's long tradition of innovation in the area of CMOS technology," says Chair Ares Rosakis. "Caltech engineers, like Ali Hajimiri, truly work in an interdisciplinary way to push the boundaries of what is possible." [Caltech Release]

Tags: EE energy research highlights MedE health Ali Hajimiri Kaushik Sengupta

3-D Dentistry


Morteza Gharib, Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Bioinspired Engineering as well as Caltech Vice Provost, has designed a handheld device, that has three apertures which take a picture of the tooth at the same time, but from different angles. The three images are then blended together using a computer algorithm to construct a 3-D image. His imaging innovation will ease your trip to the dentist and may soon energize home entertainment systems too. "Professor Gharib is as brilliant a scientist as he is an engineer and inventor," says Chair Ares Rosakis. "I think that's what we have to do to look at humanity's big problems: we have to be ready to act as pure scientists when we observe and discover as well as act as practical engineers when we invent and apply. This continuous interplay happens at Caltech better than at other institutions." [Caltech Release]

Tags: GALCIT MedE health Morteza Gharib

Knowing When to Fold 'Em


Electrical engineer Azita Emami-Neyestanak is an expert in the 21st century technology of analog and digital circuits for computers, sensors, and other applications, so when she came to Caltech in 2007, she never imagined that she would be incorporating in her research an art form that originated centuries ago. But origami—the Japanese art of paper folding—could play a critical role in her project to design an artificial retina, which may one day help thousands of blind and visually impaired people regain their vision. [Caltech Release]

Tags: research highlights MedE Azita Emami-Neyestanak

Progress for Paraplegics


Joel W. Burdick, Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering, and Yu-Chong Tai, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, are developing new technologies to expand their research which has enabled a paraplegic man to stand and move his legs voluntarily. The team has until now used intelligent guesswork to determine which stimuli might work best. But soon, using a new algorithm developed by Professor Burdick, they will be able to rely on a computer to determine the optimum stimulation levels, based on the patient's response to previous stimuli. This would allow patients to go home after the extensive rehab process with a system that could be continually adjusted by computer. [Caltech Release] [ENGenious Progress Report]

Tags: EE research highlights MedE health Yu-Chong Tai MCE Joel Burdick