CONVERGENCE The Magazine of Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara SIXTEEN, FALL 2011
Quantum Mechanicsâ€™ Killer App
Q&A with Craig Hawker Director of the Materials Research Laboratory
Robotic Renaissance Robots of All Shapes and Sizes
Puppet Masters Hidden Influence of Parasites
Shorts News Briefs and Updates
A Note From the Top
Times Higher Education (THE) ranked UCSB number 16 in the world for engineering and technology.
IN THE WORLD
Dean, College of Engineering
Dean of Science College of Letters & Science
Scientific Director California NanoSystems Institute
When you think of our nation’s most accomplished and prestigious universities for science and engineering, which come to mind? Stanford and Caltech? UC Berkeley? Did you know that UC Santa Barbara tops the same lists as the most well-known institutions and, in some cases, ranks higher? While university ranking systems differ widely, from U.S. News and World Report to the National Research Council (NRC) rankings, UCSB tops the lists for all of them. In the NRC’s 2010 report on U.S. Research-Doctorate Programs, 10 of our 31 doctoral programs ranked in the Top 5. All of the departments in UCSB’s College of Engineering made the Top 5 lists for their programs. In Materials, UCSB was ranked number1 across its range— above any engineering department in the country. What makes UCSB rank so highly? From report to report, it’s a combination of impact of research, reputation with our peers, the brightest incoming students, awards, citations, research grant funding, and much more. Around campus, we also like to think that our interdisciplinary approach to solutions-oriented research with global impact helps us attract great students and distinguished faculty. Engineering and the sciences at UCSB form a unique community that seeks out opportunity and pursues it vigorously. This year the College of Engineering bids farewell to outgoing Acting Dean Larry Coldren, and we thank him for two years of incredible leadership—and for remaining a valued member of our faculty. We proudly welcome incoming dean, Rod C. Alferness, who joins us following a distinguished career that culminated as Chief Scientist at Bell Labs. When we asked Rod why he chose UCSB, he cited his experience from many years at Bell Labs that instilled in him a critical need to solve the world’s key problems. What he saw in UCSB was a highly functional model wherein disciplines work together to efficiently pool funding resources for top-level research, and how this model empowers researchers to be driven to succeed. David and Pierre couldn’t agree more.
THE ranked UCSB number 35 in the world overall in their World University Rankings.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UCSB number 10 in its annual listing of “Top 50 Public National Universities”
The report ranked UCSB as 42 on the list of “Best National Universities”
Washington Monthly ranked UCSB 13 in a list of the “Top 30 National Universities”
U.S. News and World Report ranked the College of Engineering at UCSB number 11 in the nation for public university engineering graduate schools The report ranked the College of Engineering number 21 in the nation for engineering grad schools, public and
11 21 IN THE U.S.
Thomson Reuters ranked Materials research at UCSB as second in the world in terms of research impact by number of published citations
U.S. News & World Report ranked the UCSB Materials Department graduate program as number 4 in the nation
CONTENTS SIXTEEEN, fall 2011
2 LEAP Building quantum computers to perform at extraordinary speed is still in its early stages, but UC Santa Barbaraâ€™s physicists and engineers are leading the way.
During the Renaissance period artists, engineers and scientists were alive with new ideas and creations. So are we...
Q&A with Craig Hawker
The Materials Research Laboratory is the only West Coast NSF-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. Craig Hawker tells us what makes the MRL unique.
The power of parasites to inflict misery, fight invaders and influence ecosystems.
Catch up on research news, awards, and announcements in engineering and the sciences.
CONVERGENCE The Magazine of Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One byte at a time. 2 VOLUME 16, FALL 2011
by Michael Todd
The field of quantum information suffers a pachyderm-sized problem: there currently is no quantum computer. The enormity of the challenge contrasts with the nature of quantum mechanics—the science of harnessing the state of particles—which is usually carried out at the subatomic scale. At UC Santa Barbara, a keen-eyed and clear-speaking A-team Quantum computing think tank of physicists, mathematicians, and engineers are taking on “Although there’s a lot of fancy physics going on inside a computing technology game-changer—development of your laptop, the logical processes are classical,” explains elements for a quantum computer. Many of them are working mathematician Michael Freedman, the recipient of a Fields alongside physicist David Awschalom at the Center for Medal—the math equivalent of a Nobel. He heads the onSpintronics and Quantum Computation, which is part of the campus Microsoft research group known as Station Q, which California NanoSystems Institute. They are devouring this focuses on topological quantum computing. “It’s been realized particular elephant using tools as varied in the last twenty years that information as their disciplines, from home-grown can be processed in a more powerful way diamonds and state-of-the-art clean room “Right now we are engaged by inherently using quantum mechanics facilities, to a humble whiteboard packed in the storage and manipulation of with diagrams and equations. in the fundamental research information.” To say that quantum information which will determine “This is what quantum computing is technology impacts such tasks as about,” Freedman says. “But the question whether a quantum imaging, probing and communications is, ‘How are you going to store and is an understatement, but the computer can be built manipulate quantum states?’ ” holy grail remains quantum computing. To get there, the with essentially present “There are lots of fascinating conversations multi-disciplinary UCSB team must going on at different points of the technology. If we find there take the leap beyond classical physics and problem,” Freedman observes, contrasting into an entirely new paradigm. the work of theorists at Station Q to, say, are no showstoppers, then “As you make things smaller and smaller, you leave this regime of the world of classical physics and classical behavior and enter this new area of quantum behavior,” explains UC Santa Barbara physicist David Awschalom, whose team is developing new schemes for processing quantum information with electron and nuclear spins in semiconductors.
I would say the quantum computer could be built very fast.”
UCSB materials scientist Chris Palmstrom or physicist John Martinis. “But ultimately we have the same job—figuring out what’s going on, what can be done to make it work better.”
Michael Freedman Station Q
“As objects become smaller and smaller, unusual properties of matter—quantum properties—that are normally invisible in our everyday world eventually emerge.” Those properties— which include tantalizing things like time travel and teleportation—open up startling new realms even as they push the current ability to wrangle particles. “So quantum information scientists pose this question: ‘Can you use these quantum properties of matter to build a new technology?’ ” Awschalom says. “Not by replacing the word ‘classical’ with ‘quantum’ but by doing things that are completely different, that you couldn’t do with classical technology.”
Quantum computing must pass from the most abstract to the most concrete before it becomes reality. The quest starts with mathematical imagining, Freedman says, “a sort of very high level mathematical view which doesn’t include even the notion of an electron or an atom or materials science or anything like that. It floats above the constituents of the real world.” To translate that mathematical ideal into what would be a programmable machine, he continued, we must pass through layers of knowledge and expertise—“from math to theoretical physics to sort of quasi-theoretical physics. And then those people work with bench-top experimentalists, and those experimentalists interact with materials scientists, growers who make certain exotic crystal structures that can be probed.”
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“Santa Barbara is uniquely qualified to explore some of these areas,” says Awschalom, “because to make the small boxes, to make the small devices, in which you can start to explore some of these quantum properties, you need very good materials science, very good physics, very good electrical engineering, very good theoretical science. Here you have all these people in the same place to bounce ideas off of. The DNA of Santa Barbara is very different—people are in the mode of collaborating.”
“We grope around unaware of the quantum mechanical nature of the universe. We live in this world of averages, which is the classical world. We lose at least half of what’s going on. When our eyes are opened to this other world, and our information can be processed in the full richness that physics allows, then we’ll finally be able to see.”
UCSB physicist Andrew Cleland calls it “cross-pollination” fostered by shared first-class facilities and faculty that likes to reach consensus—“actually a pretty rare combo.”
Station Q tackles topology in quantum computing
A quantum computer, in short, would speak the same language as our quantum world.
At UCSB, that mathematical imagining at the genesis of quantum computing entrains at Station Q. Microsoft debuted the quantum computing think tank six years ago at Freedman’s instigation. He had spent the previous nine years at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington campus working on several problems, including the topological mathematics at the core of Station Q’s theorizing.
The researchers share a contagious excitement, with many likening their quest to the breakthrough in transistors half a century ago. But their exact road forward remains a bit mysterious. “It’s a little like driving really fast on low beams,” Awschalom suggests: both exhilarating and scary.
Freedman describes Microsoft’s corporate research division as a new Bells Labs, the private industry research colossus that in its prime developed things like transistors, lasers and even basic research concepts such as the universe’s background radiation. As such, he said Microsoft’s research arm can be more interested in the long term than the next fiscal quarter.
“My research could become obsolete within a year if someone else comes up with a really great idea,” observes Martinis, who with Cleland was credited with last year’s greatest scientific breakthrough by the journal Science. “I think that’s unlikely,” he admits, adding, “or maybe we’ll be the ones with the idea.”
“It wouldn’t make sense for a computer company with that large of a research investment—certainly the largest of all the computer companies—not to have a presence in this new frontier,” Freedman says. If nothing less, Microsoft could not afford to be blindsided by these developments.
Applications light years beyond binary code
Most technology today is based on the classical behavior of matter, like electrons moving in circuits. It’s deterministic—in a transistor, for example, the electron is there or it’s not. In quantum mechanics, you can ask the same questions—is it a “So instead of just wanting to be clueless,” he adds with a hint wave or a particle, is it a one or a zero?—and the answer can of mischief, “we’ve decided to build a quantum computer.” be yes and no, as well as everything in Such an undertaking required an between (albeit with different probabilities academic locale with a strong physics for each value). “It’s a little like driving really center; the presence of the Kavli Institute Freedman describes these quantum states for Theoretical Physics sealed the deal for fast on low beams... both as fundamental degrees of freedom, the Santa Barbara. “degrees that nature hands you, like exhilarating and scary.” Station Q’s 10 scientists—mostly the spin of an electron or the spin of a David Awschalom physicists—and many visitors focus on nucleus, the polarization of a photon.” UCSB topological field quantum computing Harnessing these properties would give a theory, one approach to storing and quantum computer huge abilities toward manipulating quantum states. solving nettlesome problems in areas like Topology’s advantage lies in preserving the stability of number theory and topology. A quantum computer’s cascade information, although Freedman admits that devising the of parallel calculations wouldn’t necessarily be better at solving exotic physical materials needed for implementation can seem every problem ever thrown at a machine, but it could address like taking a “detour.” some that are impossible or wildly impractical for classical computers. One of the best-known concepts of quantum mechanics recalls that observing the quantum state changes it. “So if you’re Some of the specific problems a quantum computer might talking to electron spin, you’re trying to speak to it—but the crack include designing high-temperature superconductors, whole universe is also trying to speak to it,” Freedman says. simulating concrete but complex physical problems like air flow around jets, crafting amazing information memory “The virtue of using topological degrees of freedom is that banks, speeding up the screening for new pharmaceuticals—or they’re not stored in one place. They have a collective aspect” even, Freedman says just a bit woefully, paving the way for that’s been likened to a hologram. While this makes it harder “quantum quants” on Wall Street. for people to manipulate them, it also makes it harder for the environment to influence them. “It doesn’t know how to speak “The scientific capabilities associated with a quantum to these degrees of freedom, so they’re all yours. You have their computer,” Freedman says, “will be as much ahead of those attention alone.” associated with a classical computer as a computer is over pencil and paper.
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Right now, much of Station Q’s attention is glued to providing the mathematical firepower to guide the detection of a lowenergy particle known as majorana fermion. That’s a necessary next step to confirm the station’s theoretical approach, and after it’s found, others will “engineer a habitat for the majorana and have it do the computations we require.”
foot the bill for much of the work on quantum computing at UCSB and elsewhere.
“Although we do not have a quantum computer,” says UCSB computer science theoretician Wim van Dam, “we understand how such a device would work.”
“Quantum information theory—what you do with quantum mechanics—has been relatively easy. What has been harder than expected is quantum algorithms. …You know that you can do the following with quantum bits and so forth, but how can I do this efficiently, how can I implement this algorithm to where the running time is not like two centuries? That has been unexpectedly hard, how to do things efficiently.”
He conjures algorithms in which “a quantum computer would outperform any possible classical computer.” Van Dam’s efforts underpin the rationale for a quantum computer in the first place. “We already have some reasons, but the more reasons we have, the more likely it will be that we build one.”
Shor’s breakthrough created expectations that all sorts of problems could be solved in short order. It hasn’t turned out that way.
But van Dam remains sanguine. “It’s kind of hard finding such a good algorithm at the
Microsoft Station Q: Front row, (left to right) Michael Freedman, Roman Lutchyn, Kevin Walker, Matthew Hastings, Zhenghan Wang.. Back row, (left to right) Hongchen Jiang, Simon Trebst, Chetan Nayak, Paul Fendley, and Sean Fraer. (Not pictured: Bela Bauer, Parsa Bonderson and Lukasz Fidkowski.) Quantum computing has a particular affinity to number theory and topology, two fields that stoutly resist efficient assault by classical computers and algorithms. “A lot of problems in computer science are not about number theory, they are like optimization—find the shortest route or optimize the schedule,” says van Dam. “But a lot of the quantum computing problems discovered since Peter Shor have to do with number theory.”
Challenges in quantum algorithms The big breakthrough in quantum algorithms, van Dam explained, came in the mid-1990s when Shor, an MIT mathematician, created an algorithm for finding the prime factors of an integer—like five and three for 15. While easily enough done for 15, it’s devilishly harder for big numbers. Codes and encryption live or die based on that difficulty, which explains why the U.S. military and intelligence agencies
beginning of the field, then not finding another good algorithm each year.” But while “some people say we haven’t discovered anything good since Shor,” van Dam recently co-authored a review paper that enthuses over algorithms developed in the last half decade. “This has been somewhat frustrating, but also kind of fascinating, to see the weird algorithms that you come up with that nobody would have predicted. Then there are the kind of standard problems that you would think of that you want to solve that we haven’t been able to find an algorithm to solve. It’s kind of humbling…” Perhaps it’s not surprising that such a paradigm shift requires a new way of approaching problems. “It is a very bad idea to come up with the problem that you want to solve and then to come up with a quantum algorithm; the discovery tends to go the other way around,”
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van Dam says. “You find some sort of quantum mechanical phenomenon, and then we see what this is a good tool for. So first we find the hammer, then we find the nail.”
Expanding vistas for the use of quantum mechanics
As we’ve seen, there is no single approach being taken to create a quantum computer. “There’s probably half a dozen physical systems out there,” Cleland says. “Each has their strengths but each has their weaknesses.”
The ion trap breakthrough
Quantum mechanics informs more than the quest for a quantum computer. To Freedman, we’ve always lived in a quantum world, but until now have only been able to view it classically. To extend that metaphor, that vision would allow us to see many obscured vistas much clearer, perhaps in a very literal way with magnetometers with unprecedented resolution or maybe with an amazingly better microscope. While this might seem an obvious need for spies or soldiers, it offers benefits for the movement of financial information— whether foreign exchange transactions or your bank record— or whatever personal material individuals might someday store in the cloud.
Quantum computing in its infancy
The leading technology is the “ion trap,” in which ions are captured in a magnetic field and its state manipulated there. Martinis and Cleland pioneered a different direction, using low-temperature superconductors, that the journal Science called the biggest breakthrough of 2010 in science. Martinis explains that a lot of what made their effort noteworthy is that it’s an exceptionally rare animal—a quantum device that works on a macroscopic scale. “Usually they’re a very small system,” he says of other approaches, “and it’s a single electron or a single atom. What people have been figuring out is how to manipulate a single bit or a single atom or a single electron, which is a very interesting development in its own right. “It has great coherence—you put it in quantum state and it will stay there for a long time. What happens is it’s very challenging to couple them together. The problem is that constituent element is an atom, and to put these atoms together someway to talk to each other, it’s just very, very hard because typically you have to master very small dimensions.”
The existence or nonexistence of a “quantum computer” is, appropriately, a probabilistic matter. Lockheed Martin, for example, says it has purchased one from the Canadian company D-Wave Systems—but it won’t be available for 10 years. Freedman said he doubts anything like a programmable quantum computer is in the cards in the very near future. “It’s a ways off, but maybe not as long as many people have thought. I’d say right now we are engaged in the fundamental research which will determine whether a quantum computer can be built with essentially present technology. If we find there are no showstoppers, then I would say the quantum computer could be built very fast.”
The UCSB team “designed the machine—a tiny metal paddle of semiconductor, visible to the naked eye—and coaxed it into dancing with a quantum groove. First, they cooled the paddle until it reached its ‘ground state,’ or the lowest energy state permitted by the laws of quantum mechanics (a goal long-sought by physicists). They then raised the widget’s energy by a single quantum to produce a purely quantummechanical state of motion.”
Experimentalists like Martinis and Cleland, meanwhile, have created a circuit that looks like a classical chip but that computes things using quantum states. But its abilities are sufficiently limited so that the researchers are reluctant to call it a quantum computer.
Their approach, as the editors of Science wrote, was visible:
Martinis explains: “Instead of our quantum system being a single atom, a single electron, it is the currents and voltages flowing in a macroscopic number of atoms. This quantum wave function exists in millions or billions of atoms.
As Cleland says with Ultrafast optical pulses are used to manipulate and measure the spin of a a laugh, “This whole single electron in diamond. circuit is quantum “Since this wave mechanical—and function lives in many, many atoms, you have a big quantum if you look at it that way, it’s not that interesting.” He too is mechanical system, something you can readily make with wary of anyone suggesting we have quantum computers now, integrated circuit fabrication,” he says. suggesting there’s a fair bit of hype and simulation in such claims.
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Graduate student Will Koehl and California NanoSystems Institute postdoctoral researcher Lee Bassett (left to right) stand in front of an experiment built to explore quantum information processing in semiconductors. Behind stands Professor David Awschalom The end result resembles a classical integrated circuit. “We do it here in the clean room,” Martinis says. “It requires great infrastructure—it’s difficult to do anywhere, but it’s fairly straightforward.” The ground state is just above absolute zero, but then, “refrigeration technology is very well developed.” The numbers that give the circuit its classical beauty are its biggest downside. The circuit’s size means it is touching lots of atoms, and those introduce defects. As Freedman might say, the environment interrupts the conversation. The defects can cause the quantum state to lose its memory—its coherence— quickly. Ion traps have great coherence—they hold onto the state information tenaciously—but they can’t couple together and scale up easily. “You need like 10,000 to 20,000 entangled systems, and they’ve got more like a dozen now,” Cleland says. The superconductor approach scales marvelously, but its coherence is a wasted asset. “It’s the opposite problem—we could build a system with 10,000 qubits, but it wouldn’t work because we’d lose coherence.” “Having both good coherence and coupling together in a way that you can scale up, that’s very hard to have together,” Martinis says. “Nature does not make it impossible, but nature makes it hard to do those two things. That’s our job—to beat nature into submission.” Referring to the ‘qubit’—the quantum bit that is the fundamental building block of a quantum information system and is essentially a subset of Freedman’s degrees of freedom— Martinis said his team has been able to put together various
demonstrations with one, two and three qubits, all the way to nine. (Thanks to their properties, even small numbers of qubits can do yeoman’s work; one proposal for encoding routine financial transactions, for example, uses three.) “We’ve been able to put together a system in an architecture that we think mimics, in at least a small scale, a quantum computer. Certainly not enough to do major computation tasks, but it’s a kind of good demonstration system for showing how you would put together a quantum computer,” says Cleland. For the last two decades, Awschalom explains, scientists have been developing new experimental techniques and engineering materials from the nanometer scale upward to control and manipulate electron spins and their properties—“but always many of them.”
Quantum chips and home grown diamonds Integrated circuits, which form the backbone of today’s information technology, function by coordinating the movements of electrical charges in a carefully choreographed dance directed by billions of electrical gates. In addition to charge, however, the electron has a magnetic property known as ‘spin,’ a purely quantum mechanical state of the particle that can also be manipulated using forces applied from outside. Contrary to theoretical expectations, researchers in the Awschalom group have demonstrated that electron spins and their quantum properties can be surprisingly accessible and far more robust than anyone anticipated.
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Other factors make this diamond approach even more attractive—the diamond protects the electron from the quantum-mechanical noise of the outside world, allowing these delicate quantum processes to function at room temperature rather than the near-absolute zero temperatures required for most other approaches. And perhaps even more important for future technological uses, the process can be scaled beyond one qubit and integrated with existing semiconductor technologies, possibly leading to new hybrid quantum-classical machines.
Industry has already found some uses for spin—hard drives became much smaller and faster 14 years ago with the commercialization of a spin-based electronics technology made from alternating layers of magnetic and non-magnetic metals called the giant magneto-resistance (GMR) read head. During the last decade, Awschalom and his students have discovered and unraveled the physics behind fundamentally new phenomena that allow them to generate, manipulate, and transport electron spins along with their quantum properties in a variety of semiconductors—a surprising development in the field of semiconductor science and technology. By showing that electron spins in semiconductors and semiconductor nanostructures can be carefully controlled, their experiments have shown that spin offers a unique opportunity to develop new information technologies that exploit the seemingly otherworldly rules of quantum physics. “For a truly quantum technology one challenge is to manipulate a single elementary particle, which until recently has been a significant obstacle— to control just one electron spin, or even one nuclear spin,” Awschalom says. “And as is often the case in our world, the answer appeared through a combination of materials development and new physics.”
“When our eyes are
opened to this other world, and our information can be processed in the full richness that physics allows, then we’ll finally be able to see.” Michael Freedman Station Q
Professor Ania Bleszynski Jayich of the physics department has also caught the quantum fever, pursuing research to probe quantum effects at the nanoscale. Exploiting the ease of monitoring a single electron spin in diamond, she is developing a new imaging tool to detect the very small magnetic fields produced by single electrons and nuclei. Jayich says “It’s pretty amazing to think that our magnetic field sensor is a single atomsized object.” The far-reaching potential of this tool in biology and materials science is extremely exciting. “Just imagine doing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of individual proteins inside a cell, “states Jayich.
“My group is not building a quantum computer,” Awschalom says. “At the moment this is simply not our goal—rather we are interested in how we can manipulate quantum states of matter, how to entangle them to create unique opportunities for fundamental measurements, and how quantum physics may be exploited for new technologies. We are confident that the applications will move far beyond computing into areas we have yet to imagine. As new results emerge from groups around the world, people will realize, ‘You know, that’s a solution to something we’ve been thinking about, and we have this great idea—we’re going to make this thing.’ And that’s part of the excitement of this field.”
In this case, the ‘new physics’ comes from a material that is actually very old: diamond. And in Awschalom’s group, they’ve been growing them. But rather than making flawless diamonds, his team is intentionally building defects into the structure—and the defects are what make these diamonds so valuable. Oddly enough, their idea is based on abandoning the traditional goal of fabricating ‘perfect’ nanostructures, and to embrace defects. “After all,” says Awschalom, “in semiconductors, like people, it’s the defects that make things interesting.” The perfect carbon lattice of a pure diamond doesn’t do much for the quantum experimentalist. But remove one of those carbon atoms—“make a defect you normally don’t want”— and if there’s a nitrogen atom nearby, you can trap a single electron surprisingly well. “The spin of this single electron can be controlled with exquisite precision using electrical techniques up to gigahertz frequencies, and then read-out using a simple hand-held laser. This ability to measure and manipulate a single quantum state on the desktop opens the door to a host of new quantum physics experiments that had previously been simply unthinkable,” says Awschalom.
LINKS: Awschalom group
Wim van Dam
Recently, Awschalom and his students have demonstrated a scheme in which they are able to move the quantum state of an electron spin into the adjacent subatomic core of a nitrogen atom: a true quantum memory based on a single nuclear spin. This quantum gate operates on nanosecond time scales, and offers a scalable pathway to subatomic storage of extraordinary densities.
Microsoft Station Q
Center for Spintronics and Quantum Computation www.csqc.ucsb.edu
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What is this?
Find the answer on the inside back cover
by Anna Davison
Since its founding in 1992, the Materials Research Laboratory (MRL) at UC Santa Barbara has become a vital hub for materials research at UCSB and beyond. It’s also been a key driver in the success of the field at UCSB—last year the National Research Council ranked the Materials Department number one out of the materials doctoral programs in the United States. The MRL, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and became an NSF Materials Research Science & Engineering Center in 1996, offers facilities for materials characterization, computation, polymer characterization, spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction.
Besides providing advanced research capabilities, though, the MRL fosters a community of scientists and engineers working toward innovations that reach across energy technology, medicine and the environment. The MRL is directed by Craig Hawker, a professor of materials and of chemistry and biochemistry, who came to UCSB in 2004 from IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose. Convergence spoke to Hawker about the philosophy that has made the MRL so successful.
Tell us about the role of the MRL both in terms of materials research here and more broadly in terms of its place in the campus. We provide infrastructure and a community for the broader materials efforts at UCSB. We’re here to support research and act as an innovation engine for new projects. Over the years we can point to many such success stories that clearly demonstrate the power of this approach with new programs being incubated and then blossoming into independently supported major programs. One of the key things we focus on at the MRL is leverage. It’s almost as if the MRL is operating as an organizational startup. We provide seed money, the investment is multiplied, and we get people writing their own grants to support our core mission. It’s almost a virtuous circle: we’re successful, we attract more support, we become more successful, and so on and so forth. We’re constantly refining and changing the direction of the MRL. We spin off programs and then reinvent ourselves, continually bringing new people in. They bring new enthusiasm and new ideas into the organization.
What sets the MRL apart? It’s not an organization driven only by myself, or by Professor Ram Seshadri, the Associate Director, or Maureen Evans, our Assistant Director. We are also not solely driven by faculty or students. It’s an organization driven by everyone involved in the MRL and I think that’s absolutely key. Everyone has a stake in the success of the MRL. That’s a central reason why I think we are an important and integral part of UCSB. This success we’ve seen on campus really derives from the environment we have around here. The MRL reinforces this environment, this community, and adds significantly to it.
How do you help students? We directly support students at UCSB but we impact a much greater number. Even if students think they’re not associated with the MRL, we touch their existence through outreach and mentoring opportunities, characterization facilities, etcetera— we make their lives better. I jokingly tell them the MRL will help them get their Ph.D. sooner. That always gets a laugh but I’m actually deadly serious. Just in terms of facilities, the MRL operates a range of state-of-the-art equipment. However, even more important are the MRL Technical Directors who are experts, absolutely up-to-date with current characterization techniques and who can advise the students on exactly what experiments to run. The Technical Directors are worth their weight in gold. If we can enable students to get their work done more easily, while at the same time producing better results— then we’re succeeding in our role. The other thing I think the MRL contributes to on campus is the community and the philosophy of how we do research. There’s a lack of barriers between departments, a lack of barriers between colleges and between faculty members. The MRL has been critical to this evolution. As just one example, many (students) in my group are actually co-supervised by other faculty members. That, I think, is a wonderful thing. They can flourish without the unnatural constraints that you see at other universities: students in one group or department cannot work
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by Anna Davison
get a lot of benefit, particularly from being exposed to an international environment, which is becoming more important as science and engineering become global enterprises. This is a formative experience for many of these students. More than 75 percent of CISEI participants have gone on to earn graduate degrees. Any program that’s greater than 25 percent is considered to be pretty good; more than 75 percent is spectacular. That’s an example of a very innovative program that’s setting a bar for what others do.
with researchers in other groups or departments, or they can’t use this piece of equipment, or they can’t do that. The success of UCSB is a product of this philosophy that the MRL has generated over the years.
How has that philosophy blossomed over the course of the MRL’s existence? During the evolution of the MRL, we have taken some of the best things in academic research, some of the best things about industry research and put them together. All of our stakeholders buy into this philosophy: the faculty
How would you describe the status the MRL has now attained? We don’t have the historical or financial advantages of the Stanfords and the MITs and we don’t have their size, but I think we are no longer the underdogs because of the outstanding efforts of the faculty, the students and the staff over the last 20 years. It’s taken a long time to develop this community and philosophy which is now attracting the best students and the best researchers worldwide. In terms of younger faculty, we’ve hired outstanding people over the last five years or so. Every one, to a person, is going to become world-class and the most important thing we can do over the next five to 10 years is to hire more outstanding junior faculty. They can show us the research directions and topics for the future, and then we can ride their coattails.
“It’s arguably the best place in the world to do materials research, or indeed engineering.” Craig Hawker buys into it, the students and researchers buy into it. In addition, something that is traditionally overlooked and underappreciated is the buy-in of the staff. Maureen, Ram and I put a lot of effort into engaging and empowering our staff. We want to make sure the staff is happy and appreciated. It works to everyone’s benefit. I’m proud of the way the MRL staff really works hard to be exceptional and I think they are.
How do you top all this? Where do you go from here? We’ve done the groundwork. We have established ourselves as leaders, and we must now build on this and create something even more special. My vision for the future is to make UCSB the place for materials research and education. The recent multi-year, multi-million dollar investment by the Dow Chemical Company to establish the Dow Materials Institute within the MRL is a perfect example. We’ve done good stuff, now we can do great stuff. It’s a hard sell at times because it’s pretty easy to be happy with the status quo, but now we have to ask, ‘How can we make this better? How can we do this differently and inspire the next generation?’
The MRL has a strong focus on education and outreach. Tell me about those efforts and how they pay off. I think the MRL has been ahead of the curve on that. We are a central nexus for educational outreach at UCSB with myriad programs for K-12, research experience for undergraduates, research experience for teachers, and diversity while also providing general outreach to the community. We’re particularly proud of the international experience program for undergraduates: Cooperative International Science and Engineering Internships (CISEI) (sponsored by the MRL and UCSB’s International Center for Materials Research). We partner with about 10 academic institutions all round the world—in Chile, Japan, Australia, and Europe for example. They will send us two or three undergraduate interns and we send two or three people from UCSB or other U.S. institutions to each international partner. Students who go overseas
This is just the end of the first phase. We’ve built this culture of multidisciplinary research, of outreach, of societal impacts. The next five to 10 years will be about building on that success and taking it to the next level.
Links: Materials Research Laboratory www.mrl.ucsb.edu
Cooperative International Science and Engineering Internships program www.mrl.ucsb.edu/CISEI
Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers www.mrsec.org
Hawker Research Group
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D I D
A G A I N !
National Science Foundation Renews $20 million in Funds for Renowned UCSB Materials Research Through 2017 Successful interdisciplinary work and community impact help UC Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory secure NSF support among top university competitors
The Materials Research Laboratory (MRL) at UC Santa Barbara received $20 million in renewed support from the National Science Foundation over the next six years for its distinctive research and education programs. Renewed NSF support ensures a future for materials research programs at UCSB that address societal needs in energy, environment and sustainability. While top universities across the state and country are competing for federal dollars in tough economic times, the UCSB Materials Department has strategically turned a collaborative, cross-disciplinary research approach into a program that expands the impact of their NSF funding. The MRL is the only facility of its kind on the West Coast to receive funding from the NSF. Demonstrated commitment to broader community impact, local economic support, and recognized achievement in research are critical to their success. “The success of the MRL is driven by all the stakeholders and myriad of visitors we get from around the world,” says Craig Hawker, Director of the MRL “We see our role as being an innovation engine.
It’s a very multi-faceted program.”
As a designated Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) in the NSF’s national network of lab facilities, the MRL located on the UCSB campus provides a unique shared resource that extends beyond campus to attract regional businesses, schools, and international experts.
ROBOTIC RENAISSANCE The Non-Robotic Robot
In popular parlance, the term “robotic” verges on the insulting. It implies uninspired, unthinking and repetitive. Yet at the same time, robots themselves are cool—striding through popular culture in science fiction and reality shows, alongside (or in place of) military troops, serving as science ambassadors in classrooms or pluckily plodding though nuclear disasters in Japan.
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by Michael Todd
At UC Santa Barbara, the fluidity and diversity of real life inspires the approach to this new-old technology, bridging the divide between “clone” and “cool.” Many robotics projects seem to draw more from the menagerie than the hardware store, with rats and mice, dogs and dragonflies, even maple seeds and bacteria, influencing the design of hardware and software, and how robotics is taught in academia. While specifics vary, robots are generally defined as having some mobility, whether as an arm attached to a post or an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) soaring overhead. They have the ability to make some decisions on their own, even if that only goes as far as how hard to screw in a bolt, and they can do this more or less autonomously. In short, a robot can move, it can think and it can make itself useful. Ignoring fiction, explained Professor Katie Byl, the first age of robots dawned in the 1980s when stationary robots doing repetitive tasks with high positional accuracy defined the term (and conjured the pejorative aspects of “robotic”). “It’s a robot that is designed for something like machining a part where the tool has to be pressed with high force and high accuracy against an end effector—not the kind of dynamics for a robot to interface with your grandmother,” explained Byl, whose working group at UCSB is named the Robotics Lab. While these industrial robots remain and grow in importance, the state of the art moved toward robots that could move around on their own, initially over artificially smooth terrain and now over increasingly genuine—i.e. uneven and unknown —ground, sea or sky. Once they can ramble successfully, they should be able to exploit their environment and work without much—or any—real-time human guidance. The progress ranges from the very theoretical to the very practical. Professor João Hespanha, for example, has just demonstrated aerial robots the U.S. army would like to use to track down insurgents firing mortar shells in Afghanistan. “In the future,” said professor Francesco Bullo, whose own work centers on robotic coordination, “people envision robots everywhere. You can imagine small, almost like ‘smart dust,’ agents in a very, very small space that move, sense, transit, maybe perform an action as well. But the reality is that a robot needs a battery. One can imagine everything, but the reality is that we’re
nowhere near having anything on the microscale, even less at the nanoscale.” So while the sky is the limit, there are still some very basic hurdles to step over, like bipedal walking. Turning to fiction, from the homicidal NS-5s of the film “I, Robot” to the droids of “Star Wars” to Marvin the Paranoid Android of “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” they all shared the ability to walk. Having been raised on a diet of Hollywood robots that are as agile as ballerinas, “a lot of my grad students were surprised that wasn’t a solved project yet because everyone saw it in movies,” Byl reflected. “They make it look like we already have walking robots.” Adding to this perception are the odd Japanese humanoid robots that exhibit a large range of life-like motions—albeit “on the same stage, the same set of stairs, three times a day doing the same choreographed motions,” as she noted. “The real challenge is to get a robot to perform as well as my two-year-old son, Pieter, who can kind of crawl up and down stairs with his own technique and can make a stack of blocks 20-high. Those are the kind of problems that are extremely challenging right now, akin to playing grand master chess for a computer, because there’s so much uncertainty about what you’re going to encounter.” This challenge, more broadly addressed as locomotion (and its cousin manipulation), is an area of special interest for Byl. Before coming to UCSB last year, Byl was at Harvard University, where she worked with private industry robot maker Boston Dynamics on LittleDog. This four-legged motorized beast (and its brother BigDog) remains a trend-setting investigator of “the fundamental relationships among motor learning, dynamic control, perception of the environment, and roughterrain locomotion,” the company explains. At UCSB, Byl and her lab have extended that work on traversing so-called rough terrain, on two legs as well as four, and have also creating small, flapping-wing
“The real challenge is to get a robot to perform as well as my twoyear-old son, Pieter, who can kind of crawl up and down stairs with his own technique and can make a stack of blocks 20-high. Those are the kind of problems that are extremely challenging right now, akin to playing grand master chess for a computer, because there’s so much Katie Byl, UCSB Peter Allen
uncertainty about what you’re going to encounter.”
robots that can not only move but can sense terrain and make their own paths. In her office at Harold Frank Hall she demonstrates a variety of small robots, from solar-powered “micro-aerial vehicles” to a purely mechanical device that, using passive dynamics, could almost walk downhill forever. These “fun, dynamic motion problems” in engineering are often bio-inspired, she continued—drawn from nature without exactly mimicking nature. Byl dislikes the term biomimicry, saying it suggests “taking something that works and trying to reverse engineer what the structure is, as opposed to looking at a particular principle that has been successfully used in nature and trying to boil it down to a small set of principles you can use as building blocks. You can fall into a trap of trying to copy something that works without understanding why it works.”
The Wright Brothers realized birds had conquered yaw, pitch and roll, and set
Picking up a miniature fly developed at Harvard, she noted that its flapping wings recall those of a real fly, but use a piezo-electric movement rather than trying to replicate the musculature of a fly. She points to the Wright Brothers as a pair of engineers who, realizing birds had conquered yaw, pitch and roll, set about figuring out those challenges rather than creating a flapping, feathered flying machine.
about figuring out those challenges rather than creating a flapping, feathered flying machine.
At a different extreme, she fears the legacy of “stiff” industrial robots might lead some to take the long way around a robotics problem, with researchers trying to emulate the tradition of high positional accuracy and aiming to ratchet up the degrees of freedom rather than addressing the “basic impedance problems” of locomotion. Like many of the researchers studying robotics and its cousins at UCSB, Hespanha was drawn here by the strength of the work going on in control engineering. “Controlling systems is so general you find it in many departments—electrical engineering, mechanical, chemical engineering, civil engineering—but in most universities this group is spread across many departments,” he explained. “Even though UCSB is a small school compared to others,” he continued, giving some examples of larger Midwestern universities, “at UCSB all these things are working together, so we can offer more courses than many of the big schools.” The hotbed of this multidisciplinary effort is the Center for Control, Dynamical Systems and Computation, which Professor Petar V. Kokotovic founded two decades ago; Hespanha is its director, and Bullo is the associate director. Few schools have a dedicated department of robotics or its brother discipline of mechatronics, and even at the center its eclectic focuses offer only a few “or pure-play” robotics options. Byl’s Robotics Lab is the rare entity at UCSB where “robot” actually appears in the name; the lab is part of both the center and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Tam Nyguen
The Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies at UCSB also studies some robotics issues—like Hespanha’s mortarseeking drones—that have defense applications, and develops bio-inspired roots. And other departments have their eyes on robotic applications: in Computer Science, for example, researchers like Matt Turk and Tobias Höllerer, who are working on the human and computer interface, see immediate robotic implications.
Byl’s group is currently working on semi-autonomous control of the LittleDog robot for rough terrain locomotion. LittleDog is a small quadruped manufactured by Boston Dynamics. Shown above are doctoral student Brian Satzinger (at left) and Katie Byl.
This all suggests the birthing of a robot requires many parents, many of whom—such as those working on wireless communications—may not have realized how entrenched
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“The robots that I work with are really airplanes, but what makes them robots as opposed to traditional airplanes is they are intelligent systems, they make decisions by themselves. They are fully autonomous and they work together.”
João Hespanha, UCSB
“The Unicorn UAV is basically a foam wing powered by an electric motor. It has an onboard auto-pilot fed by a GPS unit, three-axis rate gyros and accelerometers, differential and absolute air pressure sensors, and a magnetometer. The autopilot communicates with a ground station through a radio link. We use Unicorns to test our cooperative control algorithms at Camp Roberts, a California National Guard Facility near Paso Robles. The Toyon Research Corporation in Santa Barbara has been a long-term research partner in this area.” João Hespanha, UCSB they were in the robot family. As Bullo explained, a plethora of technological breakthroughs in computers, cameras, gyroscopes, GPS, sensors, batteries, and more computing that, combined with substantial theoretical developments, have broken robots out of their structured environments into the workaday world.
Using microphones placed on the ground, these prototypes identify the location of the firing, then vector in a second UAV to snap a picture. Because in places like Afghanistan these very mobile weapons can be fired and moved quickly, often from amid urban areas crowded with innocents, nailing down where these weapons are would be a boon for the military and the civilians.
His own area of expertise lies in crafting models and theories of how robots would perform the useful tasks these breakthroughs allow. “The applications you’re seeing now,” Bullo said, “are the ones that bring together the best of breed from all of these practical technologies but also theoretical algorithms.
Unlike Byl’s flapping-winged robots, Hespanha’s drones look like fixed-wing aircraft. “The robots that I work with are really airplanes,” he explained, “but what makes them robots as opposed to traditional airplanes is they are intelligent systems, they make decisions by themselves. They are fully autonomous and they work together.”
“Once you have the perception of the environment, you have to ask yourself, ‘How are my robots going to act among themselves, how are they going to interact with the environment, how are they going to interact with their human operators and with humans moving in the environment?’ ” His algorithms in the burgeoning field of network science tend to blur neat distinctions between robotics and the natural world, since the underlying principles that might govern a robotic network would also find a home in activities as far afield as running a power grid or divining the intricacies of human society.
In another project, he’s working on tiny aircraft shaped like maple-tree seeds, but with antenna and tiny propellers, that a GI can pull from his pocket and throw in the air and that will follow him “like a dog,” reporting the soldier’s status and action back to headquarters. While these projects have easily understood military applications—as do many of the robot projects, which are often funded by the Army or the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—they also have considerable potential to be useful in civilian life.
The connection becomes more intuitive as Bullo points out that “your brain is composed of a massive network of interacting neurons,” and that in biology, the models, methodology and tools for understanding multi-agent systems are common and broadly applicable. So as robots learn to live in the environment, their masters learn to draw from it.
Wheeled robots are used in Bullo’s labratory to experiment with patrolling, exploration and coordination algorithms.
One U.S. Army-funded project in which Hespanha has been deeply involved is creating UAVs that can spot exactly where a small explosion—such as that from a mortar—has taken place.
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“The robots are collecting information, sharing it and adapting in real time to things that are Francesco Bullo, UCSB
Some of Bullo’s algorithms are also inspired by nature. The strategy that drives the search algorithm has been inspired by the movements of bacteria. Other efforts have been inspired by fish. Bullo’s work on gossiping robots has been inspired by animal herd communication. Rather than sharing choice tidbits about who’s oiling who, groups of these gossiping robots communicate small bits of immediately applicable information, doing it with the lowest possible communication requirements to nearby robots, essentially whispering in each other’s ears. Look no further than lions, ant and bird flocks for examples, he added. The robots—or ducks—could be shouting this information, but that effort uses lots more energy and creates interference for others.
Like those Japanese humanoid robots, Bullo said, “it is relatively easy to coordinate groups of robots if every robot knows every bit of useful information. Rather it’s much more realistic—and much more challenging—if you’re not so sure where is a safe place for a robot to travel, where there is an obstacle, where there is a phenomenon of interest to measure, and so forth. Basically the robots are collecting information, sharing it and adapting in real time to things that are happening in the real world.”
Links: Francesco Bullo
happening in the real world.”
LEARNING ROBOTICS The multidisciplinary and hands-on nature of robotics make it a hit among students—and a valuable tool for teachers. At UCSB, undergraduate and graduate robotics courses are routinely oversubscribed, and courses taught by Brad Paden and Katie Byl must turn away some of the eager. Part of the attraction is likely its fun quotient; Legos and Microsoft Kinect, after all, are legitimate teaching tools. Professor Brad Paden’s introductory robotics control class, for example, is described as an “overview of robot control technology from open-loop manipulators and sensing systems, to single-joint servovalves and servomotors, to integrated adaptive force and position control using feedback form machine vision and touch sensing systems. Design emphasis on accurate tracking accomplished with minimal algorithm complexity.” That boils down to splitting into teams to make “roborats,” which compete against each other at the end of the course— vying for the honor of collecting the most “cheese.” Those aren’t the only robotic rodents roaming around campus. The UCSB student branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) recently completed its “micromouse” which, in the best traditions of the lab, had to negotiate a maze of which it had no prior knowledge. To address this challenge, the students created three sub-teams to tackle the software, mechanics and electronics of the beast. (The organization’s mouse joined 13 others in a first-ever California Micromouse Competition at UC San Diego this May.) In another project, the students created an “autonomous package delivery robot” built around an electric wheelchair. The project involved upgrading the chair’s electronics, fitting it with the appropriate sensors to help it navigate and writing the software to help it navigate, move and operate on its own.
That kind of hands-on learning will be a larger part of the undergraduate curriculum thanks to Instructional Improvement grants Byl and Bullo received. The resulting curriculum, Bullo said, “really redesigned the undergraduate course from scratch.” While robotics is very graphical, he said, the classic texts really focused on factoryfloor type robots, which, while valuable, don’t reflect future need to understand the kinematics and dynamics of life outside the shop. Because robotics draws from so many disciplines, it’s an excellent vehicle to teach them. That’s what drives Amir AboShaeer, a UCSB mechanical engineering graduate who founded the Dos Pueblos (High School) Engineering Academy at his Goleta alma mater in 2002. His success in engaging students in science, technology, engineering and math garnered Abo-Shaeer a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation last year—the first given to a public school teacher. His program is also the focus of a new book—“The New Cool: A Visionary Teacher, His FIRST Robotics Team, and the Ultimate Battle of Smarts”—by best-selling author Neil Bascomb. The capping event for the Dos Pueblos academy’s seniors, much as it is for the UCSB undergrads and the IEEE students, is entering their robots in an international competition. In this case the contest is Dean Kamen’s For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition. The academy has twice taken the Best Quality award at the championships. “The thing about robotics that’s nice at the high school level is that the stuff the kids have learned in high school is what they actually use to design and build the robot,” Abo-Shaeer said. “There are other things that would be harder to teach from an engineering standpoint—it would be hard to teach chemical engineering in a high school setting, for example—but kids at that age can understand how to put together a pretty sophisticated robot with what they’ve learned.”
The end result, he said, “is a more nuanced metric, but no doubt when you look at that educationally we’re achieving success.”
by Anna Davison
The extraordinary influence of parasites
For organisms that are typically tiny and well-hidden parasites wield considerable power. They’re responsible for much human misery and huge economic losses, but they’re a useful tool to control pests and weeds, and, as UCSB researchers have shown, they’re a tremendously important part of a healthy ecosystem. “About 50 percent of animal diversity is parasites,” says Kevin Lafferty, an adjunct faculty member at UCSB and research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “There is as wide a range of life-forms inside a fish as there is in an estuary. “It’s the most popular lifestyle on earth,” he adds. And it’s one with a great many bizarre variations. There are gaping-jawed parasites that tunnel through the flesh of their hosts, tiny worms that travel through blood vessels, and invaders that consume their host’s reproductive organs then co-opt their body. “They’re small but it doesn’t make them any less fascinating than what you see on Animal Planet,” says Lafferty. Lafferty, together with UCSB Professor Armand Kuris and researcher Ryan Hechinger—working together as the Ecological Parasitology Laboratory—is studying some of the elaborate strategies that parasites use to manipulate their hosts, and investigating their role in ecosystems. Their research has important implications for how we deal with infectious diseases, how native ecosystems, crops and fisheries can be defended from invaders, and in the monitoring and study of ecosystems. “We’d like to see full integration of parasites into ecology as a discipline,” Lafferty adds. “Most ecologists stop at the outside of the organism.”
“Similar systems occur throughout the world, not just in estuaries, but also in freshwater and in marine environments,” Hechinger says.
Have parasites? Will travel Parasites are found around the globe, from rainforests to kelp beds to crop fields, and they’re actually a hallmark of a healthy ecosystem.
The good fight
“In places where there’s a lot of action, that’s where you’ll find a lot of parasites,” Lafferty says. “Any place we go we’ll find stuff that hasn’t been found before.”
The delicate balance of these natural ecosystems is easily upset by human impacts, disease, and foreign invaders. When animals or plants spread beyond their native range, colonizing faraway forests, oceans and estuaries, they don’t bring their full array of parasitic baggage. Without these hangers-on to keep them in check, the invaders are more prone to create problems in their new habitat—proliferating at the expense of the usual inhabitants. Ecosystems can be thrown off balance, species imperiled, and agriculture and fisheries threatened.
“Our lab is willing to deal with anything, any ecosystem,” Kuris adds. “We’re not tied to any specific kind of host, we’re not tied to any specific kind of disease. …It’s something of a point of pride, that we think we can go anywhere and figure it out.” Although the UCSB researchers have carried out work on an isolated coral atoll in the Pacific Ocean and in the heart of Africa, some of their most notable research has risen out of the muddy environs of marshes and estuaries on the West Coast of the United States and Mexico. These are excellent laboratories, Kuris explains, because they’re well delineated—“you know within a couple of feet whether you’re in an estuary or a salt marsh. That’s not true of a forest or a lake”—and not as complex as a coral reef or a tropical rainforest.
The UCSB researchers have found that parasites slowly accumulate on and in organisms that have expanded far out of their usual habitat, “but that can take hundreds of years,” Lafferty says. “Parasites never catch up entirely.” To understand the problem, the scientists are studying various invaders and the parasites left behind in their home ranges, and investigating ways of redressing the balance.
“They’re simple enough that we can understand how they work,” Lafferty says, “and we don’t have to put on a scuba tank.”
“Parasites can have benefits for us in terms of their impacts on things we don’t like,” Lafferty says. “Because parasites have this bad connotation, the focus of research has been on how to diagnose and eradicate them. We don’t come at the problem from same direction.”
Body of life The Carpinteria Salt Marsh, part of the UC Natural Reserve System, is a particularly convenient study site—a short drive south of the UCSB campus—and it’s packed with parasites. According to a study by Kuris and his colleagues, the total biomass of the parasites in the 70-hectare marsh is more than that of all the top predators—the fish and birds. The total parasite tonnage is equivalent to “a few elephants worth,” Kuris says, adding, to make the point, “they’d be staring at you as you drive by. You couldn’t ignore that. That, to me, says you cannot ignore what they do in food webs.” More recently, the UCSB researchers have examined the place of parasites in estuary ecosystems in terms of their level on the food chain and how much energy passes through them. That work is the subject of a forthcoming paper in the journal Science.
“If parasites are half of all species, how can we possibly understand how life works if we don’t look at them?” Ryan Hechinger, UCSB
Parasites are already a mainstay of biological control—in particular, parasitoid insects that attack plant pests—and there’s plenty of opportunity to expand the armory. Bodysnatching parasitic worms that the UCSB scientists have studied in the Carpinteria Salt Marsh could potentially be used to control invasive snails—wielding the worms’ extraordinarily sophisticated and specific methods of manipulation to fight other invaders.
Lifestyles of the bizarre and manipulative A parasite might seem to have it easy—settled in someone else’s home, freeloading food— but it’s actually a tough life.
“Parasites are very successful once they reach a host—but it’s very difficult to do that,” Kuris says. They’ve got to find that host amid the bustle of a forest, marsh or reef, then overcome the organism’s defenses in order to establish a home for themselves.
Because parasites are so abundant and so influential—“major ecological players,” Hechinger says—they have great potential to be used as tools to understand and monitor ecosystems and, more broadly, to gain insights into evolutionary biology.
“They have to succeed in a hostile environment,” Kuris say. Making it as a moocher calls for a very specialized lifestyle and a delicate balance. The parasite must co-opt sufficient resources to survive, but it can’t do too much damage to the organism it depends on for survival—not unless the parasite is ready to make the hop into another host.
“It’s much easier to pick up 100 snails and dissect them than to deal with other larger organisms. They’re like little data loggers,” Hechinger says. “We’re getting great empirical evidence that they do reflect the surrounding diversity.” The Department of Defense, which manages huge swathes of wetland, is interested in this aspect of the researchers’ work, Hechinger says, and there’s every indication that parasites could be a valuable tool for studying many different ecosystems.
To succeed, parasites have developed remarkably complex lifestyles and sophisticated means of mastering their hosts— methods that range from body-snatching to castration to mind-manipulation.
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“They castrate, and then they steal the body for themselves. It is now theirs to drive. I like to call them body-snatchers.” Ryan Hechinger, UCSB
Invasion of the body-snatchers: Castes of castrators Lurking among the showy egrets and glimmering fish that inhabit Carpinteria Salt Marsh are armies of tiny worms aiming for a takeover—parasites with a sophisticated social order that helps them pull off their nefarious plans. These flatworms invade the California horn snails that abound in the mudflats, co-opting the snails’ bodies for their own parasitic purposes. “I like to call them body-snatchers,” Hechinger says. The worms begin their takeover by destroying their host’s gonads—parasitic castration is also practiced by barnacles that colonize crabs, protozoans that invade sea stars and fungi that infect plants. Having robbed the snail of the ability to reproduce, the worms then divert their host’s energies to their own growth—unlike most parasites, which are typically tiny relative to their hosts, these worms can constitute up to 40 percent of the weight of the snail—and then pump out multitudes of free-swimming larvae that seek out fish and other hosts.
“They castrate, and then they steal the body for themselves,” Hechinger says. “It is now theirs to drive.”
UCSB undergraduate Sayward Halling shows off a vial with hundreds of clonally produced larvae (the white spots in the water) that have left the worm colony in the infected snail to continue their life cycle.
It’s a sophisticated and comprehensive takeover: the body-snatching worm actually messes with the hormonal systems that control the growth and reproduction of its host—changing the snail’s behavior. “Body-snatchers are extreme specialists,” Hechinger says. “You have to be pretty tied-in to the physiology of a single organism.”
With so much invested in their co-opted host, the worms will fiercely defend their territory. “If they find another worm in the snail, they kill them. Only one can drive the car,” Hechinger explains. Inside the body-snatched snail, a colony of worms develops that has two distinct castes: soldiers and reproducers. Like honeybees, which have queens and workers, these parasitic flatworms “have a division of labor,” Hechinger says.
The soldiers are about 100 times smaller than reproductives, but what they lack in heft, these warriors make up for in tactics and weaponry. Their mouths are just as big as the relatively gargantuan reproducers and “they’ll swallow an enemy whole if it’s small enough, or they’ll take on a much bigger opponent by latching onto it and sucking out its insides,” Hechinger explains, adding, “They are not without ambition.” The UCSB researchers were the first to discover such a division of labor in trematode worms—it’s otherwise only known in one mammal, some insects and an anemone—but Hechinger suspects the phenomenon is ubiquitous among these kinds of worms and says he’s since noticed it in a number of other species “without really looking for it.” Trematode worms are tremendously abundant, with about 20,000 species found around the world. The California horn snail that inhabits estuaries like the Carpinteria Salt Marsh plays host to at least 20 different species, the researchers found, and up to 40 percent of all the snails in the marsh are infected, with all the large snails occupied by colonies of trematodes. Not only could these common parasitic worms prove to be useful tools to study ecosystem functioning and health, they’ll offer new ways of investigating the evolution of sociality, Hechinger says. “This is just a perfect tool to let us get at basic evolutionary questions,” he says.
Doing the mind-warp: Parasites on the brain Of all the discomforting, disturbing and downright creepy ways that parasites manipulate their hosts, mind-control might just be the most eye-opening—and humans aren’t immune. Many parasites mess with the minds of animals they inhabit to make them more likely to be gobbled up by a predator— the parasite’s next host. When worms invade fish, they make them more active and hence an easier target for birds. Crickets infected with a certain parasite seek out a watery suicide by hopping into rivers, where they’re gobbled up by fish. The common protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii causes infected rodents to become blasé about predators—and it also has eye-opening effects on humans. Toxoplasma makes mice and rats more active and less fearful of cats and cat odors, which otherwise send rodents scurrying away in terror. This bold behavior means infected animals are more likely to wander into the claws of feline predators—cats are Toxoplasma’s primary host, although “it infects all warmblooded animals in all habitats,” Lafferty says. “It’s in the air, in the sea, on land. Toxo’s everywhere. It’s probably the most successful organism on the planet.”
“It’s actually more radical than honeybees,” Kuris adds.
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Mouse mind-control helps Toxoplasma host-hop from rodent to cat, but the parasite also messes with the brains of humans it colonizes.
differences in “aggregate personalities” around the world and concluded that Toxoplasma could be responsible for some of the global variation in human culture.
Humans infected with the parasite—from infected meat or contaminated cat feces— exhibit various long-term personality changes. They’re subtle, but significant at a population level.
We’re not the primary targets of Toxoplasma’s behavioral meddling—it’s hardly common for people to be consumed by cats, after all— but rather, incidental victims.
Free mud treatments are part of the job when researching ecological parasitology in coastal estuaries, as evidenced by principle investigator Ryan Hechinger.
Among the many interesting implications of Toxoplasma mind control is its potential for influencing accident rates. Studies have found that people injured in vehicle accidents are more likely to be infected than the general population—a consequence that merits attention, Lafferty says.
Fascinatingly, the effects vary according to gender. Infected women tend to be more intelligent, conscientious, kind and outgoing, while infected men are apt to be less intelligent and to take more risks. Infected people of both sexes are more prone to worry, selfdoubt and guilt.
If a widespread treatment program was implemented, Lafferty says, making some quick mental calculations, “If you do the math, you can reduce the accident rate by 20 to 30 percent. That’s on the order of seatbelts.”
“It’s fascinating to me that men and women respond so differently,” Lafferty adds. “It’s as good evidence as any of what married folk know—that men’s and women’s brains work differently.” It’s not known for sure how the parasite manipulates behavior, but it may be by influencing levels of neurochemicals—perhaps as a result of the brain’s immune response to infection. The result is “subtle things, slight shifts in distributions of personality and intelligence,” says Lafferty, who in 2006 authored a provocative paper in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society (B) in which he pondered the implications of human Toxoplasma infection in terms of global cultural differences. Most healthy people infected with the parasite don’t have any symptoms, although a few experience a mild flu-like illness. Toxoplasmosis can have serious consequences, however, for people with weakened immune systems and for developing fetuses—that’s why pregnant women are advised not to clean cat litter boxes. At least 20 percent of U.S. teenagers and adults are infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and it’s thought that worldwide, a third of the population may play host to Toxoplasma. The prevalence of the parasite varies greatly around the globe because of factors such as climate, food preparation and consumption practices and the degree of contact with cats. In some areas, such as France, with its tradition of eating raw or lightly cooked meats, most of the population is infected, but in other parts of the globe it’s exceedingly rare. In his 2006 paper, Lafferty found a correlation between this variation and
Lafferty’s work stirred up considerable interest and prompted wide-ranging discussions among scientists and the media. He even received a letter from a convicted criminal who hoped Toxoplasma might be the next Twinkie defense—a means of exonerating him.
He’d like to see a major study undertaken—one that tracks the long-term behavioral consequences of treating people infected with Toxoplasma or a long-term study comparing infected with uninfected groups. While many scientists are skeptical about the idea of parasites being able to modify the behavior of their hosts, Hechinger notes, he argues that it’s inevitable in the evolutionary sense. “It basically has to happen in lots of situations,” he says. “It’s adaptively advantageous, so those individuals will be selected for. “Behavior modification seems to be common around the world,” Hechinger adds. “Many of them do it. If we look closely enough we see that.”
Misery and mortality Parasites are to blame for some of mankind’s most devastating diseases—malaria, African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), Chagas disease and Schistosomiasis—and for scourges that threaten natural ecosystems and offer valuable lessons for understanding and responding to infectious diseases in humans. Parasitic diseases aren’t a huge problem for people in the first world—Lyme disease and Giardiasis are among the exceptions—but in developing areas they take a tremendous toll that’s
Students’ test scores shoot up after you deworm them.” Armand Kuris, UCSB
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“It contributes to the dulling down of entire nations.
marked not only in the tally of lost lives but in suffering and loss of productivity and potential.
Schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms that is thought to affect more than 200 million people worldwide, “contributes to the dulling down of entire nations,” Kuris says. “Students’ test scores shoot up after you deworm them.” Kuris has studied Schistosoma worms and their interplay with freshwater snails that play host to them in an area of Senegal that’s one of the epicenters of the disease—and where infection rates have risen sharply since the Senegal River was dammed. “People are infected very quickly with a lot of worms and there’s a lot of mortality,” Lafferty says. The problem, evidently, was that the dam brought down populations of crayfish that feed on snails, leading to a boom in numbers of the mollusks—and in the parasitic worms they host, which can invade humans when they bathe or wade in water. Kuris and his colleagues, including post-doctoral researcher Sanna Sokolow, are experimenting with redressing the balance by reintroducing crayfish to the river “to return that control element to the ecosystem,” he says.
Work like this, he adds, has important implications for how we deal with other infectious diseases—in particular, he says, the importance of looking at the situation from an ecological perspective in order to figure out how to knock down the transmission rate, rather than focusing only on efforts to treat or cure people after they’ve been infected. “Transmission is an ecological problem,” Kuris says. “We’re talking about reducing the transmission rate. Then everything gets more possible: the drug gets more useful, the treating of people becomes more feasible, the economics change. The problems get much more manageable.” Citing multi-million-dollar vaccine programs, Kuris says a strategy based on the ecological approach could provide a heftier payoff. In the case of Schistosomiasis, “for $10 million I can deliver a gigantic public health story,” he says.
Complications of a disease One of the few parasitic human illnesses that has a hold in the United States is Lyme disease, which is transmitted by feeding ticks—ectoparasites—that harbor the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes the disease.
Although it’s rarely fatal—it can be successful treated at the early stages—the illness can be debilitating, causing flu-like symptoms and, in advanced stages, neurological and cardiac problems.
Although working in the field or remote laboratories can be long, hard, and dirty, this type of work—in California and Mexico estuaries and other types of ecosystems around the world--plays a major part in the science of the UCSB Ecological & Evolutionary Parasitology group--and the researchers clearly enjoy their work. (Right) It is not just graduate students and faculty that get down and get dirty. Undergraduates also get experience in the world of parasites, getting their hands truly dirty.
The disease is most prevalent in the northeast of the country, even though Lyme disease bacteria, ticks and other host animals like mice are common enough in California. The difference, explains Cheryl Briggs, a UCSB professor and the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Systems Biology, is that “we have a lot of lizards here.” They make very agreeable homes for ticks— it’s common for a single reptile to be hosting several dozen of the arachnids, Briggs says—but the animals actually help reduce the prevalence of the disease by cleansing feeding ticks of Lyme bacteria thanks to an immune response that sends bacteriabursting proteins coursing through the lizards’ blood. “Any tick that feeds on a lizard comes off uninfected,” Briggs says. Humans produce similar defense proteins but they don’t have the same effect on Lyme disease bacteria, and nobody’s tried using lizard blood to treat human patients, Briggs notes.
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Brigg’s investigations into Lyme disease included a study in which lizards were moved out of a particular area, which, rather than leading to an increase in disease prevalence because of the loss of the reptilian disinfectors, actually had the opposite effect because it removed some of the ticks’ food source. This discovery added to the understanding of the complex ecology of the disease—and underscored the importance of the ecological approach in studying disease.
Scourge of the Sierra When Briggs began studying populations of native frogs in California’s Sierra Nevada, she was focused on the threat they faced from ravenous non-native fish. Soon, though, an even bigger problem surfaced: the disease chytridiomycosis, which is caused by a parasitic fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, that colonizes the skin of frogs. “The disease became a more important threat to the remaining population of frogs than the fish were,” Briggs says. “People starting noticing it all over the world since the 1990s,” she adds. “Every time people go to a new place they manage to find it.” The disease has been directly linked to the extinction or serious decline of hundreds of species of amphibians and “Over the last decade it’s just swept over the Sierra, leading to extinction after extinction after extinction,” Briggs says. “Now most of the Sierra is pretty much frog-free. “We got tired of watching all these extinctions and we decided to get in there and do something,” Briggs says.
Much of Brigg’s work involves modeling, which is an invaluable tool in studying all kinds of infectious diseases, she says—from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to foot and mouth to influenza. Chytridiomycosis, Briggs adds, “is a model for an emerging infectious disease,” and unlike illnesses spreading through human populations, “it’s a situation where we can go in and do experiments—manipulate the system,” she says. Insights from studying diseases in natural systems, she says, can be a great help in understanding infectious diseases that affect humans, and in figuring out how to deal with them—a connection that’s begun to be explored and emphasized only relatively recently. “It’s at a time when we’re seeing all these emerging diseases both in humans and in wildlife and agriculture and plants,” Briggs says. LINKS: Kevin Lafferty
Infected frogs can be treated with an anti-fungal agent, which provides a temporary cure, but Briggs and her colleagues are looking for better solutions and examining the complex dynamics of the disease in natural systems. They’re investigating why some populations of frogs have a degree of immunity to the disease and studying the interactions between the parasitic fungus and microbes commonly found on the skin of frogs.
Some of these bacteria produce fungus-fighting chemicals, so the researchers are investigating the potential for probiotic treatments: inoculating frogs with strains of bacteria that protect them from the Batrachochytrium fungus.
Armand Kuris lifesci.ucsb.edu/eemb/faculty/kuris
Ryan Hechinger lifesci.ucsb.edu/~hechinge
Ecological Parasitology Laboratory Cheryl Briggs
News from Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara
UCSB Scientist Helps Discover Planet that Orbits Two Suns UCSB astrophysicist Avi Shporer is part of the NASA team that has found the first known planet with two suns, also known as a circumbinary planet, meaning it orbits a binary star system, as opposed to a single star like our sun. The discovery is published this week in the journal Science. Although some scientists have claimed to detect such a planet in the past, none of those claims have been widely accepted by the scientific community. The system is called Kepler-16, and it is the 16th planetary system discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. It is located approximately 220 light years from our sun, near the constellation Cygnus, in the Milky Way galaxy. Rare Supernova Birth Explosion Witnessed by Astronomers Physics professor Andy Howell is one of the leaders of a team that discovered supernova PTF 11kly - in the Pinwheel Galaxy located in the “Big Dipper” - when its explosion was witnessed in August 2011. Roughly 21 million light years away, astronomers say this is closer to Earth than any other of its kind in a generation. Scientists at UCSB-affiliated Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) got a rare glimpse into the birth of a supernova, which reaches the brightness of more than a billion suns within three weeks after explosion. It was discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) survey, which uses the Robotic telescopes at LCOGT to scan the sky nightly and alert observers when something has changed. It is designed to observe and uncover astronomical events as they happen. Beetles Used as Biocontrol for Invasive Tree in Western U.S. Biologists at UCSB have shown that an Asian beetle (Diorhabda carinulata) may help to slow down water loss in the Southwestern United States by eating the leaves of tamarisk, or saltcedar, an invasive tree of western rivers. The UCSB worked colleagues from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to publish the first substantive data in this study that appears in the journal Oecologia. The study was conducted in the Great Basin of Nevada as part of a USDA Agricultural Research Service program.
During the first year of the study, roughly 2,500 acre-feet of water was saved, or about “the same amount of water that would be used to irrigate 1,000 agricultural acres in a year,” said Tom Dudley, associate research biologist at UCSB. “At a value of almost a half million dollars, this amount of water could provide for the annual water needs of 5,000 to 10,000 households. Climate History of Northern Antarctica Revealed in Sand Grains and Fossilized Pollen Researchers used marine sediment sand and fossilized pollen fossil to conduct the most detailed reconstruction to date of climate history from the continental shelves surrounding Antarctica to reveal that “glacial expansion in the Antarctic Peninsula was a long, gradual process that was influenced by atmospheric, tectonic, and oceanographic changes,” said Sophie Warny, a Louisiana State University geologist who led the palynological reconstruction. The last remnant of Antarctic vegetation existed in a tundra landscape about 12 million years ago. Led by a team at Rice University, the group included UCSB earth science professor Alexander Simms. The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed significantly in recent decades and rapid decline of its glaciers has led to widespread speculation about how the rest of the continent’s ice sheets will react to rising global temperatures. Cold Water Helped Microbes Clean Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill UCSB scientists identified microbes present in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and have explained how cooler water temperature played a key role in the way bacteria were able to consume the hydrocarbon gases. The uniqueness of this oil spill was that happened at such great depth and contained high levels of natural gas. Bacteria found in abundance in deep-water samples were related to psychrophilic, or cold-loving bacteria.
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“Most bacteria grow more slowly at cooler temperatures...But psychrophilic bacteria actually grow faster at cold temperatures,” said Molly Redmond, a postdoctoral scholar working with David Valentine, a geochemist and professor of earth science at UCSB. “The ability of oil-eating bacteria to also grow with natural gas as their foodstuff is important, because these bacteria may have grown to high numbers by eating the more-abundant gas, and then turned their attention to other components of the oil,” said Valentine. Ocean Viruses Have Significant Effect on Marine Biology Viruses fill the ocean and have a significant effect on ocean biology, specifically marine microbiology, according to Craig A. Carlson, professor with UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, and his colleagues. The new findings, resulting from a decade of research in the water column of the Saragasso Sea off Bermuda, reveal striking recurring patterns of marine virioplankton dynamics in the open sea, which have implications regarding our understanding of cycling of nutrients in the world’s oceans. “Microbial interactions, between oceanic viruses and bacteria, take place on the nanometer scale but are extremely important in governing the flow of energy and the cycling of nutrients like carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus on the ecosystem scale of the world’s oceans,” said Carlson. World’s Largest Lake Sheds Light on Ecosystem Responses to Climate Variability Siberia’s Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest, deepest, and largest freshwater lake, has provided scientists with insight into the ways that climate change affects water temperature and, in turn, life in the lake. “Lake Baikal has the greatest biodiversity of any lake in the world,” explained Stephanie Hampton, deputy director of UC Santa Barbara’s National Center
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News from Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS). “And, thanks to the dedication of three generations of a family of Russian scientists, we have remarkable data on climate and lake temperature.” Co-author Lyubov Izmest’eva at Irkutsk State University and first author Steve Katz, of NOAA’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, explained that the research team discovered many climate variability signals in the data. For example, changes in Lake Baikal water temperature correlate with monthly variability in El Niño indices, reflecting sea surface temperatures over the Pacific Ocean tens of thousands of kilometers away. Scientists Track Environmental Influences on Giant Kelp with Help from Satellite Data UCSB researchers have developed new methods for studying how environmental factors and climate affect giant kelp forest
ecosystems at unprecedented spatial and temporal scales. The scientists merged data collected underwater by UCSB divers with satellite images of giant kelp canopies taken by the Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper. The UCSB scientists tracked the dynamics of giant kelp throughout the entire Santa Barbara Channel at approximately sixweek intervals over a period of 25 years, from 1984 through 2009. David Siegel, co-author, professor of geography and co-director of UCSB’s Earth Research Institute, noted that having 25 years of imagery from the same satellite is unprecedented. Landsat 5 was originally planned to be in use for only three years. Fruits and Vegetables Depend on Bees and Other Pollinators Fruits and vegetables key to the human diet globally depend heavily on bees and other pollinating animals, as shown in a new study from a working group at UCSB’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). The results of this study demonstrate the potential impact of this pollinator decline on human health. Bees and other animal pollinators are experiencing declines in many parts of the globe. The researchers estimate that up to 40 percent of some essential nutrients provided by fruits and vegetables could be lost without pollinators.
Researchers Investigate Impacts of “Locavore” Eating With Santa Barbara County ranking in the top 1 percent of counties in the U.S. in value of agricultural products, UCSB environmental studies professor David Cleveland and his students launched a comprehensive study of just how “localized”the agrifood system for fruits and vegetables is in Santa Barbara County. Their 2009-10 study looked at the effects of localization on greenhouse gas emissions and nutrition. The researchers found that more than 99 percent of the produce grown in Santa Barbara County is exported, and more than 95 percent of the produce consumed in the county is imported. The study also found that, if all produce consumed here was grown in the county, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions less than 1 percent of total agrifood system emissions, and it would not necessarily affect nutrition. Promising Early Diagnosis Discovery for Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, and Other Diseases UCSB chemists have made a discovery that has the potential for use in the early diagnosis and eventual treatment of plaquerelated diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Type 2 diabetes. A study published by Michael T. Bowers, professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, explains that understanding the fundamental forces that relate aggregation, shape, and biochemistry of soluble peptide aggregates is central to developing diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for amyloid diseases. The amyloid diseases are characterized by plaque that aggregates into toxic agents that interact with cellular machinery. Other amyloid diseases include Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and atherosclerosis. Amyloid plaques are protein fibrils that, in the case of Alzheimer’s disease, develop prior to the appearance of symptoms. Arthritis Drug May Also Help Inherited Kidney Disease Recent work in the lab of Thomas Weimbs, associate professor in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, and in the Neuroscience Research Institute at UCSB, has revealed a key difference between kidney cysts and normal kidney tissue. The discovery reveals that patients with an inherited kidney disease may be helped by Leflunomide, a drug that is currently approved for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Leflunomide was shown to inhibit the STAT6 pathway in cells. This signaling pathway is locked in a state of continuous
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activation in kidney cysts, but dormant in healthy kidneys. Over 600,000 people in the U.S., and 12 million worldwide, are affected by autosomal-dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). The disease is characterized by the proliferation of cysts that eventually debilitate the kidneys, causing kidney failure in half of all patients by the time they reach age 50. Discovery Sheds Light on Biochemical Key to Dementia It is known that dementia is caused by losing neuronal capacity. On a biochemical level this can be caused by a peptide called amyloid bet, which kills neurons by targeting the neuronal protein “tau.” The UCSB research team of Stuart Feinstein, professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and co-director of UCSB’s Neuroscience Research Institute, set out to understand what happens to tau and discovered the way it is destroyed is different than previously assumed by scientists. A previous scientific assumption was that tau becomes excessively phosphorylated by amyloid beta, thus losing the function to stabilize the microtubles that connect neurons with their targets in the body. Their surprising observation was the complete fragmentation of tau within one to two hours of exposure of the cells to amyloid beta, not phosphorylation. “The more precisely they understand the biochemistry of the target, the better attack a pharmaceutical company can make on a problem,” explained Feinstein. Breakthrough Technology Finds Cancer Cells in Bodily Fluids A team of researchers at UCSB has developed a technology that can be used to discriminate cancerous prostate cells in bodily fluids from those that are healthy. The team, led by first author Alessia Pallaoro, UCSB postdoctoral fellow in Chemistry and Biochemistry, developed a novel technique to discriminate between cancerous and non-cancerous cells using a type of laser spectroscopy called surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) and silver nanoparticles, which are biotags. They are confident that it will be useful in developing a microdevice that will help in understanding when prostate cancer will metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body. They are working to translate the technology into a diagnostic microdevice in which cells would be mixed with nanoparticles and passed through a laser, then discriminated by the ratio of two signals.
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News from Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara DNA Nanosensors Could Personalize Cancer Drug Delivery Sensors made from custom DNA molecules could be used to personalize cancer treatments and monitor the quality of stem cells, according to an international team of researchers led by scientists at UCSB and the University of Rome Tor Vergata. The new nanosensors can quickly detect a broad class of proteins called transcription factors, which serve as the master control switches of life. When
scientists turn stem cells into specialized cells, they do so by changing the levels of a few transcription factors. This process is called cell reprogramming. “Our sensors monitor transcription factor activities, and could be used to make sure that stem cells have been properly reprogrammed,” said Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, co-first author of the study and UCSB postdoctoral researcher in Chemistry and Biochemistry. The discovery could also enable physicians to use the right combination of drugs for each patient. Study Explains How Fat and Obesity Cause Diabetes A new study led by Jamey D. Marth, director of the Center for Nanomedicine, a collaboration between the University of California, Santa Barbara and SanfordBurnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham), has revealed a pathway that links high-fat diets to a sequence of molecular events responsible for the onset and severity of diabetes. High levels of fat shut down a key enzyme that promotes glucose sensing in pancreatic beta cells –– revealing a pathway implicated in the Type 2 diabetes epidemic. Marth and his colleagues are now considering various methods to augment beta cell GnT-4a enzyme activity in humans, as a means to prevent and possibly cure Type 2 diabetes. In the United States,
more than 24 million children and adults have diabetes. In adults, Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Nanoscale Imaging Promising for Early Detection and Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis Achieving a new method of nanoscopic imaging, a research team in Chemical Engineering at UCSB studied the myelin sheath, the membrane surrounding nerves that is compromised in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). “Myelin membranes are a class of biological membranes that are only two molecules thick, less than one millionth of a millimeter,” said Jacob Israelachvili, one of the senior authors and professor of chemical engineering and of materials at UCSB. “The membranes wrap around the nerve axons to form the myelin sheath.” Deterioration of the myelin sheath leads to sensory and motor disorders and neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. The researchers examined domains, or clusters of lipid molecules that constitute myelin membranes, on the molecular level using fluorescence imaging and other measurements. New Genetic Understanding of How Retinas Develop New research studies at UCSB are contributing to the basic biological understanding of how retinas develop. “These studies individually demonstrate the genetic determinants of nerve cell number,” said Benjamin E. Reese, senior author and professor with the Neuroscience Research Institute and the department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “Together, they show that different nerve cell types are modulated independent of one another.” Irene Whitney, graduate student and first author of both articles, and Mary Raven, staff scientist and co-author, have been able to identify genomic loci where polymorphic genes must contribute to such natural variation. They also identified a promising candidate gene at a locus on chromosome 13, a transcription factor gene called Islet-1. Efforts to use genetic engineering and stem cell biology to repair diseased retinas depend upon a fuller appreciation of the developmental biology of the retina, explained Reese. New Instrument Keeps An Electronic ‘Eye’ on Nanoparticles A UCSB research team that developed a new instrument capable of detecting individual nanoparticles with diameters as small as a few tens of nanometers.
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The instrument was developed in the lab of UCSB physics professor Andrew Cleland in collaboration with the group of Erkki Ruoslahti, Distinguished Professor, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute at UCSB. Researcher Jean-Luc Fraikin, a postdoctoral associate at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute’s Center for Nanomedicine, and in the Soh Lab in the department of Mechanical Engineering, compares the device to a nanoscale turnstile, which can count and measure particles as they pass individually through the electronic “eye” of the instrument. The instrument measures the volume of each nanoparticle, allowing for very rapid and precise size analysis of complex mixtures. UCSB Physicists Demonstrate the Quantum von Neumann Architecture on a Chip Physicists at UCSB have demonstrated a quantum integrated circuit that implements the quantum von Neumann architecture. In this architecture, a longlived quantum random access memory can be programmed using a quantum central processing unit, all constructed on a single chip, providing the key components for a computer. The study shows that quantum large-scaleintegration is within reach. The quantum integrated circuit includes two quantum bits (qubits), a quantum communication bus, two bits of quantum memory, and a resetting register comprising a simple quantum computer. Research was performed by Matteo Mariantoni, postdoctoral fellow in Physics, under the direction of Andrew N. Cleland and John M. Martinis, professors of physics. Mariantoni was supported in this work by an Elings Prize Fellowship in Experimental Science from UCSB’s California NanoSystems Institute.
Scientists Suppress Quantum ‘Bug’ Decoherence Using High Magnetic Fields Using high magnetic fields, Susumu Takahashi, a postdoctoral Physics researcher at UCSB’s Institute of Terahertz Science and Technology, and his colleagues managed to suppress decoherence, which is one of the key stumbling blocks in quantum computing.
Decoherence has been described as a “quantum bug” that destroys fundamental properties that quantum computers would rely on. It is a form of noise or interference, knocking a quantum particle out of superposition –– robbing it of that special property that makes it so useful. Team Demonstrates Subatomic Quantum Memory in Diamond A team of physicists at UCSB, led by David Awschalom, and the University of Konstanz in Germany have developed a breakthrough in the use of diamond in quantum physics. They were able to coax the fragile quantum information contained within a single electron in diamond to move into an adjacent single nitrogen nucleus, and then back again using on-chip wiring. Awschalom said the discovery shows the high-fidelity operation of a quantum mechanical gate at the atomic level, enabling the transfer of full quantum information to and from one electron spin and a single nuclear spin at room temperature. The process is scalable, and opens the door to new solid-state quantum device development. Awschalom is the director of UCSB’s Center for Spintronics & Quantum Computation and professor of physics, electrical and computer engineering, and director of the California NanoSystems Institute. Applying Einstein’s Theory to Superconducting Circuits In recent years, UCSB scientists showed that they could reproduce a basic superconductor using Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Now, using the same theory, they have demonstrated that the Josephson junction could be reproduced. The Josephson junction, a device that was first discovered by Brian David Josephson in the early 1960s, is a main ingredient in applications of superconductivity. Gary Horowitz, professor of physics, said that Einstein’s general theory of relativity is now being used to explain several aspects of non-gravitational physics. Horowitz said that he and his coauthors used tools from string theory to develop the a gravitational model, or a gravitational dual – a dual description of a
superconductor using gravity, black holes, and all of the traditional ingredients of general relativity. 3D Photonic Crystals Have Both Electronic and Optical Properties In an advance that could open new avenues for solar cells, lasers, metamaterials, and more, Pierre Wiltzius, Dean of Science and professor of physics at UCSB, collaborated with a team from the University of Illinois to demonstrate the first optoelectronically active 3-D photonic crystal. “The importance of this research lies in the bridging between photonics and electronics,” said Wiltzius. To create a 3-D photonic crystal that is both electronically and optically active, the researchers started with a template of tiny spheres packed together. Then, they deposited the semiconductor gallium arsenide (GaAs) through the template, filling in the gaps between the spheres. The GaAs grows as a single crystal from the bottom up, a process called epitaxy. The epitaxial approach eliminates many of the defects introduced by top-down fabrication methods, a popular pathway for creating 3-D photonic structures. Theorists Crack LED Lighting Performance ‘Droop’ Problem Researchers at UCSB have discovered the cause of “LED droop” or the drop in efficiency that occurs in light-emitting diodes. Their work will help engineers develop a new generation of this energyefficient lighting that could replace incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. Van de Walle and his colleagues are working to improve the performance of nitride-based LEDs, which are non-toxic and long-lasting light sources. Droop occurs when LEDs are operating at the high powers required to illuminate a room. They concluded droop can be attributed to Auger recombination, a process that occurs in semiconductors, in which three charge-carriers interact without giving off light. The researchers also discovered that indirect Auger effects are significant, expanding upon previous theories that only accounted for direct Auger processes. Quality Graphene Growth Critical for Next Generation Electronics Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have discovered a method to synthesize high quality graphene - a “wonder” material that is the thinnest and strongest in the world - in a controlled manner that may pave the way for next-generation electronics application.
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Kaustav Banerjee, professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Nanoelectronics Research Lab at UCSB, led the research team to perfect methods of growing sheets of graphene. The discovery by UCSB researchers turns graphene production into an industryfriendly process by improving the quality and uniformity of graphene using efficient and reproducible methods. Novel Polymer Characterization Method Turns Nobel Theory into Benchtop Tool for Industry UCSB professor Omar Saleh and graduate student Andrew Dittmore of the Materials department have successfully measured the structure and other critical parameters of a long, string-like polymer molecule – polyethylene glycol, or PEG – by stretching it with an instrument called magnetic tweezers. This new and highly efficient way to characterize the structure of polymers at the nanoscale effectively creates a routine analytical tool that could be used by industries that rely on polymer science to innovate new products, from drug delivery gels to renewable bio-materials. In 1974, Paul Flory won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his theories regarding polymer structure in a solvent. The team cites Flory and UCSB professor Philip Pincus as inspiration for their study. New Equation Predicts Molecular Hydrophobic Interactions Chemical engineering researchers at UC Santa Barbara have developed a novel method to study hydrophobic forces at the atomic level, and have for the first time defined a mathematical equation to measure a substance’s hydrophobic character.
“This discovery represents a breakthrough that is a culmination of decades of research,” says Jacob Israelachvili, UCSB professor of chemical engineering. “The equation is intended to be a tool for scientists to begin quantifying and predicting molecular and surface forces between organic substances in water.” The physical model to describe the hydrophobic interactions of molecules has eluded scientists and engineers since the 19th century.
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News from Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara Hydrophobic interactions are central to explaining why oil and water don’t mix, how proteins are structured, and what holds biological membranes together. Scientific Computing Center Boosted by Million-Dollar Cluster UCSB’s Center for Scientific Computing (CSC) has expanded computing resources for campus researchers with a new, stateof-the-art, high-performance, $1 million computing cluster. The new Hewlett-Packard cluster has the computing power of 12 TeraFLOPS, or 12 trillion floating point operations per second. For UCSB research groups that do very large calculations at national supercomputing centers, the new system provides a test bed for code development and testing before a project is moved into production on a supercomputer. The new computing capability will allow CSC to pursue collaborations with external academic and industrial partners, further cementing its leadership role in computational research. NSF Funds Program to Develop and Bring Wireless Technology to Rural Africa With a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), UCSB scholars Elizabeth Belding, a professor of Computer Science, and Lisa Parks, professor of Media Studies, are
embarking on a project that will bring the information superhighway to the homes and businesses of Macha, located in rural Zambia, Africa. Belding’s research group is working at the frontiers of wireless networking, developing novel wireless network technology that is both energy efficient and able to survive electrical blackouts. Grant to Help Researcher Study Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill With a grant of $22.5 million for the next three years from Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI), professor Uta Passow will continue her study on “Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs in the Gulf of Mexico” as part of a consortium led by the University of Mississippi. Passow, a researcher in UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, spent much of 2011
in the Gulf of Mexico analyzing the environmental impact of oil spilled as a result of the Deepwater Horizon spill. The GRI, created in part with funds from British Petroleum (BP), recently announced a $112.5 million award to fund eight research consortia. $15M Grant Establishes New Dow Institute for Materials Research & Fellowship Program The Dow Chemical Company has awarded UCSB up to $15 million to establish a collaborative research initiative that will help shape the future of technology in areas that will benefit society. The Dow Materials Institute at UCSB will educate future scientists and engineers and advance the discovery of revolutionary new materials with applications that range from novel polymers to next-generation microelectronics. The recent five-year award also includes a philanthropic component consisting of a $2 million endowment that will provide ongoing funding to support the research of outstanding graduate students. “The Dow Discovery Fellowships are an enormous validation and boost for our doctoral program in chemical engineering,” said Michael Doherty, chair of chemical engineering at UCSB. New Center for BioEngineering Established at UCSB UCSB’s new Center for BioEngineering (CBE), proposed by Frank Doyle, associate dean of research in the College of Engineering, was approved earlier this year by the Academic Senate. The Center is a locus of research and teaching –– at the interface of biology, engineering, and physical sciences –– that is already producing results that benefit industry and medicine. Research at the CBE is yielding important advances in the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of common and devastating diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and macular degeneration. CBE has collaborations with several medical institutions, including the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, the SanfordBurnham Medical Research Institute, the Morgridge Institute for Research, and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. NIH Awards $4.5M for Smart Artificial Pancreas Research The National Institutes for Health (NIH) have awarded $4.5 million to a group of international diabetes researchers to engineer an artificial pancreas system that will monitor and adapt to the body’s complex real-time changes in behavior and physiology.
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UCSB is playing the lead role in organizing this international consortium of prominent diabetes researchers - including UCSB professor Frank Doyle, Associate Dean for Research at the College of Engineering. The team is an assembly of world leaders in the fields of computer modeling, control systems, simulation and clinical research. Department of Defense Initiative Awards UCSB $14 Million UCSB will receive more than $14 million over five years in two awards from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Multicampus University Research Initiative (MURI) program, from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Recipients are: David Awschalom, director, Center for Spintronics and Quantum Computation: $7.5 million for “Quantum Memories in Photon-Atomic Solid State Systems.” Kwang-Ting “Tim” Cheng, professor of electrical and computer engineering: $7 million for developing solutions for building new three-dimensional integrated circuits that integrate a novel nanomemristor technology. PhD Student Receives IEEE Fellowship in Nanoelectronics UCSB Ph.D. student Deblina Sarkar has been honored with a 2011 IEEE Electron Devices Society PhD Student Fellowship Award for her research exploring novel techniques for improving the energy efficiency and performance of nextgeneration nano-devices.
Sarkar was the only U.S. academic to receive one of three such Fellowships this year. It is the first such recognition from the IEEE for the UCSB campus. UCSB Nobel Laureate Honored as Solvay Centenary Chair On the 100th anniversary of the first Solvay Conference on Physics, the International Solvay Institutes have created a special “Solvay Centenary Chair,” which has been granted to David J. Gross.
German Humboldt Award Goes to UCSB Physics Professor Anthony Zee, professor of physics with the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UCSB has received the Humboldt Research Award, presented by the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation in Germany. In addition to acknowledging his scholarly achievements to date, the foundation has invited Zee to carry out a research project of his choice, in cooperation with colleagues in Germany.
Gross shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics for his seminal contributions to particle physics and string theory. He holds the Gluck Chair in Theoretical Physics at and is director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UCSB. Computer Science Professor Receives Fulbright Award Matthew Turk, a professor of computer science and of media arts and technology at UCSB has been awarded a FulbrightNokia Distinguished Chair in Information and Communications Technologies. The Fulbright Distinguished Chair position, which is among the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholar Program, will enable him to conduct research in Finland in 2011-12. IBM Faculty Award Honors Professor’s Security Research Christopher Kruegel has been honored as one of the recipients of a 2011 IBM Faculty Award for his collaborative research with IBM on the detection, analysis, and mitigation of malicious software. Kruegel is an associate professor of computer science, and a member of the Computer Security Group in the Computer Science department at UCSB, working on topics such as protection from malware, web security, and social network security. UCSB Professor Receives DARPA Young Faculty Award Mechanical engineering professor Rouslan Krechetnikov has been awarded a DARPA Young Faculty Award for a proposal entitled, “Low-dimensional modeling and identification of finite-amplitude instabilities in complex systems.” The objective of the DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA) program is to identify and engage rising research stars in junior faculty positions at U.S. academic institutions and expose them to Department of Defense needs as well as DARPA’s program development process. Professor Awarded Sloan Fellowship in Neuroscience Electrical and computer engineering professor Katherine Byl is among this year’s winners of 2011 Sloan Research Fellowships announced today by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Byl’s research focuses on dynamic systems and control, with particular interest in modeling and control techniques used in bio-inspired robot locomotion and manipulation in real-world environments. Byl has worked on a wide range of research topics in the control of dynamic systems, including magnetic bearing control, flapping-wing microrobotics, and piezoelectric noise cancellation for aircraft.
Professor Receives NIH New Innovator Award Songi Han, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSB, has been selected to receive a coveted 2011 New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She is one of 49 researchers in the nation to be so honored. Han will receive a $1.5 million grant to expand her research to understand molecular mechanisms of protein aggregation underlying neurodegenerative diseases. ACS Awards Professor Murphee Award in Engineering Chemistry UCSB chemical engineering professor Michael Doherty has received the 2012 E. V. Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry from the American Chemical Society (ACS). Doherty is Chair of the Chemical Engineering department at UCSB. The purpose of the award is to stimulate fundamental research in industrial and engineering chemistry, the development of chemical engineering principles and their application to industrial processes. Honorees receive $5,000 with the award, which is sponsored by the Exxon Mobil Research and Engineering Company. UCSB Professor Receives Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award Bruce H. Lipshutz, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSB, was awarded the 2011 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in recognition of his pioneering use of nanotechnology. He was one of five award winners and the only winner from academia. The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards Program recognizes individuals and organizations for successful research, development, and implementation of outstanding green chemical technologies. It promotes innovative chemical technologies that prevent pollution and have broad applicability in industry.
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Professor Awarded Prestigious Prizes in Medical Research James A. “Jamie” Thomson, a UCSB professor and renowned stem cell expert, is one of three scientists who have been named the recipients of the 11th annual Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research. The $500,000 is the largest award in medicine and science in the United States. Thomson was also awarded the 2011 King Faisal International Prize for Medicine. Thomson’s research showed that human skin cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem cells with all the properties of embryonic stem cells.
Thomson is a professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; co-director of UCSB’s Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering –– which is part of UCSB’s Neuroscience Research Institute. Emmy Award Goes to Materials Professor Shuji Nakamura The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) has named Shuji Nakamura, UCSB professor of materials and of electrical and computer engineering, among the winners of the 63rd Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards. Nakamura, who is also co-director of the UCSB Solid State Lighting and Energy Center, is being recognized for his pioneering development of large-venue, large-screen direct view color displays.
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News from Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara
“I am very pleased to receive the Technology and Engineering Emmy Award for my work leading to high-efficiency blue, green, and white LED’s, which are now used in backlighting LCD TV’s, mobile devices, large-screen direct view color video screens, and, eventually, general illumination,” said Nakamura. White House Honors Two UCSB Professors Presidential Early Career Awards President Obama named two UCSB assistant professors as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award is the highest honor the nation can bestow on a scientist or engineer at the beginning of his or her career.
Benjamin Mazin of physics, and Sumita Pennathur of mechanical engineering are among 94 individuals across the country to receive the early career awards, which recognize recipients’ exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge.
NSF CAREER Awards Recognize Promising Assistant Professors Four professors at UCSB, three in science and engineering, have been awarded National Science Foundation CAREER Awards, the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of the early career development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. The 2011 recipients were Rouslan Krechetnikov, mechanical engineering; Javier Read de Alaniz, chemistry; and Luke Theogarajan, electrical and computer engineering. Physicist to Head CMS Project at Large Hadron Collider Joseph Incandela, professor of physics at UC Santa Barbara, has been elected by his colleagues as the next spokesperson for the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe. Incandela is the first U.S. scientist to be elected spokesperson for an experiment at the LHC, the world’s largest particle accelerator. The LHC was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research. New Department Chairs Named for Materials, Computer Science Tresa Pollock, who joined the UCSB faculty in 2010 and is the Alcoa Professor of Materials, is the new Chair of the Materials Department, replacing Jim Speck. Pollock’s work focuses on materials and structures for advanced energy and transportation technologies. Subhash Suri is he new Chair of the Department of Computer Science, replacing Amr El Abbadi. Suri’s research interests are in algorithms, wireless sensor networks, data streams, computational geometry and game theory. National Academy of Engineering Members from UCSB A prominent UCSB faculty member and a distinguished alumnus of its College of Engineering are among the 68 new members elected this year by the National Academy of Engineering. David Awschalom, a professor of physics and of electrical and computer engineering. Awschalom leads the California NanoSystems Institute at UCSB. Yulun Wang, an inventor and worldrenowned authority on robotics and health care who earned his Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering at UCSB. He is the founder and head of InTouch Health in Goleta.
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Rod C. Alferness, the Richard A. Auhll Professor and new Dean of the College of Engineering, brings the count of College of Engineering faculty members to 18. Three Professors Join American Academy of Arts and Sciences Three faculty members from UCSB have been elected fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. They include Glenn H. Fredrickson, professor of chemical engineering and of materials; L. Gary Leal, professor of chemical engineering; and Ann Taves, professor of Catholic studies. Their selection bring to 28 the number of UCSB faculty members who have been elected fellows of the prestigious academy. Two UCSB Professors Elected to National Academy of Sciences Two UC Santa Barbara faculty members –– Michael Gazzaniga, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and director of the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind; and Boris Shraiman, a permanent member of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, and professor in the Department of Physics –– have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Gazzaniga and Shraiman were among 72 new members from the U.S., and 18 foreign associates from 15 countries, who were elected to the Academy today in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. The election of Gazzaniga and Shraiman brings to 35 the number of active UCSB faculty members elected to the academy. STAGE International Competition Open for Submitted Plays The biennial Scientists, Technologists and Artists Generating Exploration (STAGE) Competition is now accepting submission of plays. The winner will receive a $10,000 USD prize, along with possible opportunities for developing and promoting the winning script. Previous STAGE judges include Pulitzer, Tony, Olivier & Nobel-winning judges, including Dr. David Gross, Dr. Alan Heeger & Sir Anthony Leggett. STAGE is accepting submissions as well as sponsorship support. For information, visit: stage.cnsi.ucsb.edu Links to these articles and all of Convergence content can be found at: convergence.ucsb.edu
Sources: Convergence staff, George Foulsham, Gail Gallessich, Andrea Estrada and Eileen Conrad from the Office of Public Affairs.
What is this? Answer from page 09 The image shows an artist’s (Peter Allen) rendition of the energy profile of a highly charged InGaAs quantum post embedded in a quantum well. InGaAs quantum posts are nanostructures that confine charge to small regions within GaAs crystals grown by molecular beam epitaxy at UCSB. They are approximately cylindrical in shape, with heights and diameters of about 30 nm. The figure shows a single quantum post containing six electrons. Strong Coulomb repulsion between electrons in the post prevents further electrons from entering, causing electrons to fill the surrounding quantum well. The high electron density (yellow) in the post pushes the energies of its conduction band up through the electronic Fermi level, much like a volcano pushing itself out from under the ocean. In the experiment, terahertz radiation is applied to the quantum post/well system in this highly charged state. Terahertz radiation is absorbed by electrons in the posts, which pushes them into the well, effectively “ionizing” electrons from the quantum posts. This provides a unique solid state system in which to study the physics of ionization, at ionization energies much lower than those naturally present in real atoms. Credit: “Terahertz ionization of highly charged quantum posts in a perforated electron gas,” Morris, C. M., Stehr, D., Kim, H. C., Truong, T., Pryor, C., Petroff, P. M., and Sherwin, M. S. Nano Letters Articles.
About the Cover Artist’s (Peter Allen) conception of individual nuclear spin memories, where information encoded within the circling electron spins is coherently transferred into the subatomic core of the nearby atoms. Fabricated in single crystal diamond films, these single nuclear spin storage devices operate within 100 nanoseconds and suggest pathways to develop systems with unprecedented storage densities. “A quantum memory intrinsic to single nitrogen– vacancy centres in diamond,” G. D. Fuchs, G. Burkard, P. V. Klimov, and D. D. Awschalom, Nature Physics 7, 789 (2011).
CONVERGENCE The Magazine of Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara
SIXTEEN, FALL 2011 Anna Davison and Melissa Van De Werfhorst Peter Allen Anna Davison, Michael Todd and Melissa De Werfhorst
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