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.
05/02/09 — Scheduling problems, which involve searching for an optimal or near-optimal schedule for a set of tasks, are notoriously complex because simple searches are overwhelmed by their explosively vast number of possibilities. But with large-scale manufacturing and distribution operations, fractional improvements in scheduling can have large-scale impacts on the bottom line, which is why industrial engineers are routinely called upon to create customized sophisticated strategies for specific scheduling problems. Now, Professor Rhonda Righter has applied industrial engineering–style analysis to a different type of scheduling problem: after a mass casualty event, such as a natural disaster, a wreck or an attack, how should a medical emergency response team allocate its attention to patients, in order to save the most lives?
03/02/09 — The urgent business of protecting the American people from terrorism and other threats will almost certainly follow a different course under the Obama administration. In particular, the security of electronic information supporting our most critical systems – for instance, financial, medical and civil infrastructure data – is likely to be defined by a stronger effort to reconcile the competing needs of public security, personal privacy and utility.
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.
03/02/09 — Brown grease - a nasty melange of leftover animal fat, pan scrapings and other gunky residue - is a sewer pipe's worst enemy. In San Francisco, a pilot project led by two Berkeley Engineering alumni is in the works to explore for the first time how wastewater treatment plants throughout California might turn the unappealing stuff into biodiesel fuel. "For the city, it's going to be a win-win situation," says Domenec Jolis (Ph.D.'92 CEE), a senior engineer at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the project's co-principal investigator.
03/02/09 — In the quest for smarter cars of the future, Hunter Mack (M.S.'04, Ph.D.'07 ME) is putting a new spin on the internal combustion engine. Mack's focus as a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Engineering is an innovative system called HCCI that behaves like a cross between a gas and a diesel engine. HCCI, shorthand for homogeneous charge compression ignition, delivers up to 30 percent better fuel economy than gas engines, emits far fewer emissions than a typical diesel and isn't fussy about what's pumped in its tank. And because HCCI is a modification of a conventional engine, the system as a whole or elements of it could be installed in new cars within 5 to 10 years.
02/02/09 — As we listened to President Obama's inaugural address on January 20, we were encouraged by his remarks emphasizing the role of science. However, the nation's research community would be shortsighted to take these words simply as an invitation to submit funding requests and expand programs. Instead, we must mobilize quickly to identify the most ambitious challenges we are capable of tackling-in other words, our “moon shots” for the 21st century.
02/02/09 — With Enhanced GPS, cell phones will soon be able to pinpoint a user's location down to a specific street address. For users, this new capability will improve directions, mapping and other location-based phone services. Meanwhile, marketers plan to use the data to track consumer preferences and personalize recommendations shown onscreen. While improved recommendations are nice, so is personal privacy, and having some company tracking your every move poses risks, no matter what the information is used for. Engineering professor John Canny is developing a privacy-protection scheme called Ant Club Trails that will let companies personalize your recommendations while preventing them from determining your identity.
02/02/09 — Baking a French-inspired strawberry tart and running engineering calculations for a building project make a perfect pairing for Anita Chu (B.S.'98, M.S.'99 CEE). The San Francisco engineer is a pastry chef, an award-winning dessert blogger and photographer, and recently published her first cookbook. "I think there are a lot of similarities between engineering and pastry," Chu says. "Pastry is all about very precise measurement and technique, and that applies to engineering, too."
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.
01/01/09 — The turmoil on Wall Street has raised a host of intractable questions. Many of us wonder, for example, if the financial marketplace has become too complex to be properly understood and managed. As The Economist notes, “America's financial system is undergoing a radical reassessment of what are acceptable levels of capital, leverage and interest rates” and – more fundamentally – acceptable levels of risk.
01/01/09 — Light interacts with glass, water and other transparent materials in long-understood ways that define the capabilities of traditional optical devices. But Professor Xiang Zhang's lab is engineering materials with fundamentally new optical properties that could enable far more powerful microscopes and microchips, denser optical storage, and even -- disclaimers in place -- the very beginnings of an invisibility shield that camouflages objects by bending light around them.
01/01/09 — Tim Jacobi adores hurtling through the air, whipping around hairpin turns and feeling his stomach do loops. The Berkeley Engineering master's candidate in mechanical engineering is a roller coaster junkie. "It's such a rush, basically," explains Jacobi, who traces his passion to his early teens. These days, Jacobi is experiencing a new thrill: He designs amusement park rides. His latest assignment involves devising the launch system for what is expected to be the world's fastest pneumatically launched roller coaster.
01/01/09 — Wielding screwdrivers and shears, a crew of Oakland middle-school girls was doing some serious damage to a pair of hapless computers. The girls pried open a PC tower and a laptop and eagerly began extracting such components as the memory, hard drive and power supply. "This is awesome," said Jessica Nguyen, a sixth grader at Montera Middle School. "It's so much fun to take things apart!" Berkeley Engineering alumnae are volunteering as mentors for Techbridge, an Oakland-based program that introduces girls in grades 5 through 12 to technology, science and engineering with a variety of after-school and summer activities.
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 — According to the UN, lack of access to electricity and fuel in rural areas contributes to 1.6 million deaths per year and perpetuates poverty. For engineers and energy suppliers working in this environment, bringing power to these populations requires a multi-pronged effort, not just to build the grids themselves, but also to plug into the human factors of operating within a particular culture and under what is usually a cash-strapped government. Christian Casillas, a Ph.D. student advised by Professor Daniel Kammen in the Energy and Resources Group, is balancing these two sides of the problem, working out the details of a roadmap to bring reliable electricity to the fishing villages along Nicaragua's eastern coast.
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."
11/02/08 — Up to 5 percent of the globe's climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions result from manufacturing the durable and immensely popular construction material known as Portland cement, says Cagla Meral, a 27-year-old doctoral student in the civil and environmental engineering department. Convinced that cement is far too useful and ubiquitous to ever be replaced, Meral is working to develop a greener form of it. Her research explores how carbon dioxide can be "sequestered" or locked back into blended cement while maintaining strength and other important properties of cement-based materials like concrete.
10/02/08 — With Wall Street in a tailspin these last few weeks, it is a pleasure to have positive financial news to report for Berkeley Engineering. Alumnus Coleman Fung (B.S'87 IEOR) has pledged a $15 million gift that will enable the college's Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR) to broaden its scope and enhance its programs. Among comparable departments in the country, UC Berkeley's is the smallest. Coleman Fung's gift will provide the resources to pursue new strategic directions.
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.