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.
11/13/09 — Twenty miles out to sea, far from seabirds and boat traffic, a 300-foot wind turbine spins in the breeze. It's not alone. Thirty wind turbines are generating electricity in something called an offshore wind farm. Each turbine is integrated into a highly advanced floating platform and tethered by thick chains to the sea floor. Electricity flows into a giant undersea cable that extends toward shore. At 200 megawatts, this floating farm of clean energy powers more than 60,000 homes. It's still a futuristic vision, but ocean engineers and entrepreneurs Dominique Roddier (Ph.D'00 Naval Architecture) and Christian Cermelli (M.S'90, Ph.D'95 Naval Architecture) are one step closer to bringing their unique solution, WindFloat, to life.
11/13/09 — Bollywood is in the building! Bioengineering undergraduates Nickesh Viswanathan and Anwesh Thakur are two of the male dancers in red who shook up NBC-TV's America's Got Talent this summer with their showstopping routine to “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire. Their group, Ishaara, was the first Bollywood dance group to advance in the show's history, making it all the way to the quarterfinals before they were eliminated.
10/08/09 — Today's college campuses are seeing a level of student activism not seen since the 1960s. What form does this activism take among engineering students? Here at Berkeley Engineering, you will find hosts of students committed to delivering new solutions to real-world problems.
10/08/09 — After 32 years at other universities, Matthew Tirrell joined Berkeley in July, and from his new Stanley Hall office, he ruminates on the job he's just taken, that of Department of Bioengineering chair. "A chair's creativity is needed when faculty members want help getting their ideas enacted -- that's enabling. And sometimes a chair gets a good idea of his or her own and has a chance to lead. Managing is fine, but I like enabling and leading best. I'd like to help this department define what it could be."
10/08/09 — Transfer student Romy Fain came to Berkeley Engineering via a route that could have been plotted by Rube Goldberg. Originally a creative arts major at San Francisco State University, Fain ventured out as a touring musician, a bike mechanic, the owner of her own metal fabrication company and even a circus strongwoman before arriving in Berkeley two years ago to pursue her bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Now entering her senior year, Fain believes she's landed right where she belongs.
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 — Communicating with you-our alumni, our supporters, our friends-is one of our most important priorities. We want you to know what's going on at Berkeley Engineering and we want to hear back from you. It is through your good works and your good will that the college stays strong and spreads word of its excellence in teaching, in research and in all its endeavors.
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.
09/04/09 — Barney Smits (B.S.'92 ME) rides Bay Area Rapid Transit every weekday from his Oakland home to his office, two blocks from Oakland's 19th St. station. "I take it just about everywhere I can," he says. "To the opera in the city, to the airport when I'm traveling. Once you're used to it, it's the absolute best, easiest way of getting around." But then he might be biased. Smits, 53, is the transit system's principal mechanical engineer, a job he's held for several years. He's one of the guys who makes sure that the 20 miles of tunnel and 208 miles of track and all the stations and system facilities are safe for riders like him, and you.
09/04/09 — In the world of quirky contests, the U.S. National Concrete Canoe Competition isn't as far-out as, say, the Extreme Ironing World Championships or as appalling as the World Bog Snorkeling Championships, but it has its own ability to astound the public and lure fanatical participants. As devoted undertakings go, it is a little silly and a lot serious, especially here at Berkeley Engineering, where a team of 25 civil engineers won the national championship this summer, their first since 1992.
08/03/09 — What do you see when you think engineer? Our non-engineering colleagues might envision a middle-aged man at a construction site, sporting a hardhat and poring over a set of plans. But we know that engineering has exploded in recent years due to globalization, the IT and biotech booms, clean energy and a host of other factors. As Lawrence Fisher reports in our spring Forefront ("Engineering evolved"), the field today is so broadly multidisciplinary that new applications require the talents of everyone from "software savants and materials mavens" to "aerospace adepts."
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.
08/03/09 — Daryl Chrzan, a noted researcher in the field of computational materials science, is a diehard skateboarder. Besides carving the bowls at local skate parks, Chrzan loves to think about the science behind the sport. The Berkeley professor of materials science and engineering considers such questions as the physics involved in stunts, the evolution of the skateboard wheel, the limits of a skateboard's strength and even the g-forces experienced in spectacular spills. For the past two years, Chrzan has posed-and tried to answer-those puzzles in a one-unit freshman seminar called Physics and Materials Science of Skateboarding. His hands-on class puts a new spin on a popular, if educationally unsung pastime.
06/04/09 — “If you haven't gotten the ideal job yet, don't take any job! Be bold and creative: take a year off. Look for great leadership development opportunities. Become a volunteer math or science teacher in underserved communities in America or in poor villages in Africa, South America or Asia.”
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.
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.
06/04/09 — A music video that playfully celebrates all things nano has become a megahit for three Berkeley Engineering graduate students and their Cal team.
05/02/09 — From Monica Tanza, a mechanical engineering senior interested in sustainable design, to Cagla Meral, a civil and environmental engineering Ph.D. student working on greener cement, women are pursuing their ambitions at Berkeley Engineering.
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.