05/05/10 — Whenever you see a headline about a new threat to our health, safety or well-being, rest assured that a Berkeley engineer is thinking of ways to mitigate that threat in the future. Civil engineer Robert Bea, for example, has spent 55 years thinking about offshore oil drilling platforms and how to make them more reliable. So, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20 and began gushing 5,000 barrels a day into the Gulf of Mexico, Bea was one of the first experts contacted and interviewed by the press.
05/05/10 — UC Berkeley assistant professor of bioengineering Mohammad Mofrad has been busy uncovering the mysteries of how human cells behave when physical force is applied to them, working at the exact intersection of engineering and biology. Mofrad and a handful of fellow researchers are in the vanguard of a subspecialty called cellular mechanobiology, or cellular biomechanics, where they're stirring up the entire field of biology by adding physics to the mix. The ramifications of their work may one day bring about better treatments for cancer and cardiovascular disease as well as HIV/AIDS and the common flu.
04/07/10 — The health care reform bill enacted last month is the most far-reaching domestic policy the nation has seen in decades. Only time will tell us all the ramifications of this historic legislation. As the acting dean of the College of Engineering I ask, how can engineers help patients, physicians and providers make the best use of the changes ahead?
02/03/10 — No offense to medical schools, but students last fall liked taking "Anti-Medical School," a new graduate seminar at Berkeley. While medical schools generally teach what is known in medicine, Anti-Medical School explores what is unknown and unsolved in medicine, and that's what students found compelling. At each weekly lecture, like the one on Alzheimer's taught by neurologist and neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley, a UCSF physician presents a problem in need of an engineering solution in hopes of engaging the students in solving thorny, real-world clinical challenges as part of their master's or doctorate research.
12/15/09 — Some economists attribute about 50 percent of the annual rise in health care costs to medical technology. Technological advances have allowed doctors to treat previously untreatable conditions and prolong both the duration and quality of life. However, as engineers, we believe that new technology opens up greater access and that scalability holds the power to drive down costs. Witness, for example, Moore's Law at work in the area of information and communications technology.
06/04/09 — We spend up to 90 percent of our time indoors but probably don't give much thought to the quality of the air we breathe until we step outside. That could be a mistake, says Beverly Coleman (M.S.'05, Ph.D.'09 CEE), who received her doctorate just last month.
05/02/09 — Roughly the size of a matchstick, a slender titanium tube could become a pint-sized weapon against chronic hepatitis C and a host of other debilitating diseases. Three UCSF/UC Berkeley doctoral students are designing a tiny implantable device capable of delivering steady and minute quantities of potent drugs into the bloodstream. The Nano Precision Pump could reduce serious side effects caused by injections of far larger doses of medicine-improving patient quality of life, compliance and cure rates, the students say.
03/02/09 — A large part of gasoline and diesel engine pollution consists of two components: soot and nitrogen oxides, or NOx. Soot is made up of tiny carbon particles that hang in the air and dirty it, but NOx, a mix of nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, has a more complicated story. NOx feeds chemical pathways that are fueled by sunlight and produce the noxious brew we call smog. In general, reducing NOx tailpipe emissions reduces this pollution. But, as CEE professor Robert Harley has found, there is an exception to this rule, known as the ozone weekend effect, that can confound air quality management efforts unless it is understood.
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.
10/02/08 — Most people hope to live healthy, independent lives through their elderly years. But that's not always the case because, as people age, they and their loved ones have to worry about not only illnesses, but also injuries, especially from falls. For seniors, falling is the leading cause of injury deaths, nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions. But one team of researchers is working to enable the elderly to live independently through a network of body sensors. The project could allow computers to remotely monitor and analyze the activity of seniors so that, if they fall or stop moving, help can arrive quickly.
08/02/08 — High axial myopia, or extreme nearsightedness, is one of the world's leading causes of blindness. The condition stems from weakness in the sclera, the eyeball's white outer wall, which causes it to deform even under normal pressure within the eyeball. James Su, a graduate student researcher co-advised by MSE and Bioengineering Professor Kevin Healy and School of Optometry Professor Christine Wildsoet, is developing a promising new treatment for the condition, based on a synthetic biomaterial known as hydrogel.
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 — There are about six billion base pairs in the human genome, and our family tree includes about six billion living humans. So, although DNA sequencing begins in a laboratory, it requires research-level computer science and statistics to crunch the resulting mass of data and make sense of the results. As EECS and statistics professor Yun Song remarks, “Just 15 years ago, it was very difficult for population genetics researchers to run their computationally intensive analyses on desktop computers. It's thanks to relatively recent improvements in computers and algorithms that these problems have become tractable.”
12/02/07 — No cancer is good, but brain cancers are among the worst. The most common type, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), can strike at any age and is usually fatal. Bioengineering professor Sanjay Kumar is studying the deadly brain cancer in a promising new way and developing new forms of therapy that might halt it.
12/02/07 — Using a device that's roughly the size and price of an upscale cell phone, Berkeley Engineers hope to halt the spread of diseases afflicting millions in the developing world. Dubbed SeroScreen, the handheld instrument will test blood and other bodily fluids for the presence of infection and deliver an on-site diagnosis within minutes for influenza, skin infections, mosquito-borne viruses and other ailments.