05/05/10 — Picture this: The security of computers worldwide hangs in the balance. Cult-like followers of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras are suspected of a nefarious plot to crack the cryptographic code protecting virtually everyone's digital data. Who ya gonna call? In his debut thriller, Tetraktys, Ari Juels (Ph.D'96 EECS) crafted a stereotype-shattering sleuth to take on the bad guys. His fictional hero: an intrepid young doctoral candidate schooled in the classics and studying computer science at-you guessed it-UC Berkeley's College of Engineering.
03/03/10 — After 70 years in environmental engineering, Harvey Ludwig (B.S.'38, M.S.'42 CE) has learned a thing or two about the field. Ludwig ran his own environmental engineering consulting firm in the United States for 26 years before moving to Thailand to start a company that consulted on water and sanitation projects there and in other developing countries around Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It was an eye-opening experience, and ever since, Ludwig has freely shared his insights on how to translate Western technologies into best practices for emerging markets.
02/03/10 — Berkeley Engineering alumna Michelle Khine, now an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at UC Irvine, has discovered an inventive scientific approach to fabricating cheap microfluidic devices using Shrinky Dinks. When her method of printing microfluidic patterns on Shrinky Dink sheets -- using a laser-jet printer, then heating them in a toaster oven to create patterns of channels and microwells -- was featured and published online in Lab Chip, it had more downloads in one month than any other paper previously posted by the UK's Royal Society of Chemistry.
11/13/09 — In November 2008, California voters passed a $9.95-billion bond issue to build a bullet train that would zip passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles via the Central Valley at speeds up to 220 miles per hour. A few months later, the Obama administration threw its heft behind the high-speed rail concept by offering nearly $10 billion to HSR projects. Clearly, many Americans are smitten with the romance of the rails. But last month, at an overflow symposium at UC Berkeley, a panel of experts in the fields of transportation engineering and city and regional planning urged caution.
10/08/09 — With its estimated 137 million objects, artifacts, works of art and natural specimens, the Smithsonian Institution is known to some as "the nation's attic." On the contrary, says Secretary G. Wayne Clough (Ph.D.'69 CEE), the world's largest museum and research complex is a vibrant, "happening" place. "We care about much more than just the objects or the facts. Much of our search is for meaning based on connections and relationships. These relationships between humans and the tangible objects in our immediate world of everyday life, over time, constitute our identity and make our culture what it is."
09/04/09 — "Practice makes perfect" is the maxim drummed into anyone struggling to learn a new motor skill, be it riding a bike or developing a killer backhand in tennis. New research by UC Berkeley assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences Jose Carmena and colleagues now reveals that the brain can also achieve this motor memory with a disembodied device. The study provides hope that physically disabled people could one day master control of artificial limbs with greater ease.
08/03/09 — A new generation of inexpensive programmable thermostats with the capacity to communicate may provide a simple and versatile tool for addressing California's complex, billion-dollar summer peak energy demand problems. Engineering professor David Auslander - working with utility companies, engineers and policy wonks - has created a new set of design rules for the programmable communicating thermostat (PCT) that could help pave the way for greater energy efficiency in homes. Energy specialists have long known that programmable thermostats (PTs) have the potential to save homeowners money, reduce the need for new power plants and shrink the amount of pollutants and climate-altering carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere. But unfortunately, fewer than 20 percent of Californians take the time to program their thermostats.
06/04/09 — Last year, Connie Chang-Hasnain and graduate student researcher Linus Chuang were searching for a better lab recipe for growing nanowires, conductive threads so thin that every atom they contain has a significant effect on their overall electrical properties. Following the vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) technique for creating semiconductor crystal nanowires, they deposited successive layers of gallium arsenide onto a silicon wafer substrate. But in one low-temperature batch, an area of the silicon lacked the usual gold nanoparticles from which each crystal grows. Under careful examination of the region, they didn't find what they were expecting. Instead of uniform-diameter threads sticking up, they saw tall, needle-like pyramids with hexagonal bases and sharp points. They had discovered a new nanostructure.
05/02/09 — If the Hayward Fault ruptures during a Cal home game, Memorial Stadium fans would be in for a wild ride. But they should be safe-even if they're seated in the most vulnerable end-zone sections. That's the outcome that David Friedman (B.S'75 CE) envisions for the massive retrofit of UC Berkeley's landmark but seismically poor football venue. Friedman, senior principal at San Francisco–based Forell/Elsesser Engineers, is the lead engineer for the stadium's renovation. Built in 1923, Memorial Stadium straddles the Hayward Fault and is in need of seismic upgrades.
02/02/09 — Individuals with diabetes live by the numbers. Glucose levels. Insulin dosages. Carbohydrate consumption. Dates. Times. Amounts. By writing each number in a logbook, they help their doctors manage the disease so they can stay healthy. The recordkeeping is onerous; yet, without complete data sets, doctors may miss trends and recommend ineffective treatments. Without tightly controlled day-to-day management, diabetes can lead to serious complications. As a side project to his research in mechanical engineering, recent graduate Chris Hannemann (M.S.'08 ME) began developing a system to help automate the process. His proposal harnesses Web-based applications and popular mobile devices to make it easier to live with the disease.
11/02/08 — According to the World Health Organization, some 10 million children under the age of five die each year. Almost all of these children could survive with access to simple and inexpensive interventions, better maternal health care and safer sanitation and drinking water. At the same time, our increasing longevity accounts for large rises in cancer, heart disease, stroke and other age-related chronic illnesses.
11/02/08 — Paul Jacobs (B.S. '84, M.S. '86, Ph.D. '89 EECS) sees no limits to what next-generation cell phones will do. As a development engineer, an executive and now CEO of Qualcomm, the San Diego-based wireless technology company, Jacobs has played a major role in the transformation of the mobile phone. Along with their original function in voice communications, the devices have evolved into wireless computers, music players, digital cameras, navigational tools, and medical diagnostic and monitoring equipment. And, says Jacobs, still more advances are on the way. "Innovation comes from being open to diverse ideas," says Jacobs, who holds more than 35 patents for his inventions. "The world changes and you change."
10/02/08 — In the fall of 1975, a young General Motors engineer named Larry Burns loaded up his customized Chevy and headed to Berkeley. The Michigan native came west for doctoral studies in transportation engineering. “It's an area that has served me quite well,” he says. Today, Burns is in charge of next-generation cars and other leading-edge technology for the world's largest automaker. “I wake up every day focused on reinventing the automobile,” he says. A 2007 New York Times article called him “the most visible executive at the American auto companies on green issues.”
09/02/08 — Pilotless aircraft let the military quickly gather intelligence about hot spots without having to put pilots at risk or wait for the next imaging satellite flyover. But many tasks, both military and civilian, can be accomplished better by teams of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) programmed to collaborate. Multiple autonomous UAVs can cover more ground than a single plane, and with their own smarts, they demand less human attention. To develop this technology, mechanical engineering professor Karl Hedrick co-directs the Center for Collaborative Control of Unmanned Vehicles.
08/02/08 — The topic has become a persistent one in engineering and entrepreneurial circles: Is the United States losing its technological edge? Reports like last month's “America's engineering crisis” on CNBC's Street Signs, on which I had the opportunity to appear with my esteemed colleague Jim Plummer of Stanford, fuel the perception that U.S. engineers are becoming extinct.
08/02/08 — As a student, Chandrakant Patel (B.S.'83 ME) rode the bus every day from the low-income Graystone Hotel in San Francisco's Tenderloin, where he lived, to the verdant UC Berkeley campus, where he studied. Today, a lot has changed for Patel, now a fellow at HP Laboratories in Palo Alto, leading the charge to develop a new generation of energy-efficient data centers.
06/02/08 — Someday, you might read the morning's news headlines on the back of your cereal box. That's the latest possibility demonstrated by the EECS Organic Electronics Group. They have recently been experimenting with zinc oxide, a familiar ingredient in sunblock and diaper cream that has the special properties of working as a semiconductor while also being 93 percent transparent. The researchers already have a palette of inks that can deposit conducting, semiconducting and insulating materials-the building blocks of all solid-state electronics-on a variety of surfaces.
06/02/08 — In Bangladesh last year, Johanna Mathieu saw unmistakable signs of the poisoning afflicting the impoverished country. "Everyone would show us their hands," says the 26-year-old doctoral student in mechanical engineering. The painful and disfiguring sores, blisters and dark spots are telltale indicators of the deadly toll exacted by arsenic-laced water wells. Mathieu is working with an interdisciplinary group to develop a simple, inexpensive process for removing the toxic element from the water supply.
05/02/08 — Computer mice are a weighty matter for BingYune Chen. Chen, a senior who graduates this month in bioengineering, is studying how weight affects the speed, accuracy and ease of use of a computer mouse. “It's a new issue,” says the 22-year-old Chen, who helped conduct a pilot project as an undergraduate researcher at the UCSF–UCB Ergonomics Laboratory, where he is now an employee. While extensive research has been done on the design of computer mice, Chen says, little is known about mouse weight and its impact on performance.
03/02/08 — On February 8, 26-year-old mechanical engineering student Kenneth Armijo hit the road in a unique experiment exploring the use of GPS-equipped cell phones as traffic monitors. Nearly 150 UC Berkeley students were behind-the-wheel participants in the “Mobile Century” test. Navigating a fleet of 100 cars carrying special mobile phones, the student drivers traveled up and down a 10-mile stretch of the Nimitz Freeway for more than seven hours. The result was a computerized map bristling with tiny flags for each car and its velocity, creating a detailed picture of actual traffic conditions.