CONVERGENCE The Magazine of Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara $2.95
The Robot Will See You Now Surface Attention Q & A with Tanya Atwater Light My Fire Silicon from Sea Life
SPRING 2006, FOUR
Message From the Deans
When we launched this magazine a little more than a year ago, we named it Convergence because we were seeing a host of examples in which faculty and students in engineering and the sciences were finding exciting and promising ways to bring thought and research from a variety of different fields together. Now we’re finding that the number of ways this convergence of disciplines is occurring has been accelerating and as a result, the very nature of engineering and the sciences is beginning to change. The bottom line: we need each other. In countless ways at UC Santa Barbara, faculty and students at Engineering and the Sciences find that in order to move their research forward, they need someone from another discipline with whom to collaborate on the work. You’ll find some examples of this featured in every issue of the magazine. True, this convergence of disciplines, especially in engineering and the sciences, is happening all over the country. What is striking is that we at UC Santa Barbara are finding we’re exceedingly and unusually good at interdisciplinary work. Visiting scholars tell us they don’t often see the openness within departments and the ease of multi-disciplinary collaboration that they find here. In many ways, we have the fresh and committed attitude of a start-up, and although we’re part of the prestigious, well-established and large University of California system, we don’t carry the burdens of a century or two of established policies or departmental histories that could bind our imaginations. And we’ve got an entrepreneurial attitude. We want our research to be applied, used and tested. Is it the salt air? Is it something about the beauty of the place, or its youth as an institution? Perhaps. Whatever the cause, we know that we’re in a new age, a time when no discipline in engineering and the sciences can effectively stand alone – and none of us would want to.
Matthew Tirrell Dean, College of Engineering
Martin Moskovits Dean of Mathematical, Life and Physical Sciences, College of Letters & Science
Evelyn Hu Co-Director, California NanoSystems Institute
spring 2006, four
The Robot Will See You Now Virtual doctors on the move.
Surface Attention Why some things stick and others slide.
Light My Fire UC Santa Barbara students put an ancient question to the test in prime time.
Silicon from Sea Life
8Q 12 13 16
Even simple sponges have a bit to teach humans about leading-edge engineering.
What is this?
Shorts...Have you heard? Laser Tag
A new device bridges the electron gap.
Have you told us what you think? SEE PAGE 12
CONVERGENCE T he M a g a z i n e o f E n g i n e e r i n g and the Sciences at UC S anta Bar bar a
The Robot Will Se That’s not a doctor making the rounds, but it’s close. It’s a robot called RP-7, produced by a Goleta-based company with roots in UC Santa Barbara engineering and the sciences.
If InTouch Health has its way, patients are likely to see a lot more of these virtual docs in coming years. InTouch, led by a team of UCSB engineering and science graduates, is in the vanguard of a technology that might be called robotics with a human face. Nearly 60 of the company’s Remote Presence (RP) robots are now deployed in nearly 30 hospitals, and Yulun Wang, PhD., InTouch’s founder and CEO, sees a much larger role ahead for his robots in America’s healthcare system. The reason, he says, is demographics – specifically, the convergence of two long-term trends in the population as a whole and in the healthcare workforce. While an aging America demands more and more medical care, fewer professionals are available to deliver it. “The shortage of physicians and nurses is at an all-time high and getting worse,” Wang says, and for him the RP-7 is the logical solution. “What we need is a technology to let this smaller group of people serve this expanding population.” The RP-7 is a robot just over five feet tall, with a video screen for a face and balls for feet. It can’t climb stairs or open doors, but it is otherwise highly
ee You Now mobile. It hears and sees, with different lenses for different tasks (wide-angle for navigating hallways, close-up for examining patients and reading charts). Its screen displays the face of the physician, life-size and in real time. The doctor can be miles away, but it’s almost as if he or she is in the room. This robo-doc has a lineage going back to the 1980s, when UCSB had the largest robotics research institute west of the Mississippi. Wang was a doctoral student in electrical engineering at the time, and Professor Steven Butner was his thesis advisor. Two other engineers now in key positions at InTouch Health, Bill Stout and Steve Jordan, were also involved with the center – Stout as a staff engineer, Jordan an engineering undergraduate. In those days, the focus of robotics research was on manufacturing microelectronics, not delivering health care, but Wang and the others were learning a technology that turned out to have a wide range of possible uses. One of these was surgery. By the early 90s, the traditional robotics venues in manufacturing and defense were in recession. But Wang saw opportunity in the increasingly cost-conscious healthcare sector. He started a company, Computer Motion, that made arm-sized robots used in surgeries. Wang says Computer Motion reached about $25 million in annual sales before it was hit with “heavyduty patent litigation” and finally merged with the robotics maker Intuitive Surgical Inc. in 2003. By then, Wang had already moved on. The year before he had started up InTouch Health and was assembling the same team – Stout and Jordan – that had worked with him at Computer Motion.
This time around, the goal was to get robotics out of the operating room and on the move. Jordan, who leads InTouch Health’s R&D as its vice president of engineering, says mobile robotics posed more of a challenge, with “a broader scope of technologies,” than the earlier “manipulator robotics” in the surgical arm. On the other hand, the InTouch team could see plenty of uses for a robot not confined to one site. “Fundamentally it’s a communication tool,” a way of “projecting yourself into a different environment,” Jordan says. The hospital environment was one that the InTouch team already knew well from its experience with the earlier company. So that’s where the RP-7 has made its debut. In essence, the robot is a physician’s eyes, ears, face and voice. It enables doctors to see, communicate with and monitor the progress of hospitalized patients from as far away as the high-speed Internet will allow. “Physicians using our robot should be able to do exactly what they could do if they were standing there next to the patient,” Wang says. The only limitation is that the robot can’t reach out and touch the patient – though InTouch is currently testing a digital stethoscope that could be used by a nurse to take readings on the patient and transmit them via the robot to the doctor. The RP-7 software also can be integrated with a hospital’s electronic medical records. The latest version of the RP-7 sells for about $150,000 and typically is leased for about $5,000 a month. Stout, who directs overseas production as InTouch director of operations, says hospitals now using one or more Remote Presence Robots include the UCLA Medical Center’s Neurosurgery Intensive Care Unit, Glendale Adventist Medical Center in California, Mission Hospital in Orange County, Calif., California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, as well as hospitals in Kansas, Detroit and London. The company also sells a robot for nursing homes, called the Companion, but its current focus is on marketing the RP-7 to hospitals.
The RP-7 is a robot just over five feet tall, with a video screen for a face and balls for feet. It can’t climb stairs or open doors, but it is otherwise highly mobile.
InTouch, now up to about 45 employees, assembles the robots at its Santa Barbara headquarters from mostly outsourced parts. It is just a few blocks away from UCSB and is close in other ways as well. The top executives are alumni of the university – in addition to Wang with his UCSB PhD, Stout has an MS in physics and Jordan has a BS in electrical engineering. Wang’s PhD adviser Butner, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, is closely involved with the company as an unofficial scientific consultant and talent scout. InTouch recently hired two of his students. Butner’s role goes beyond mere advice and into substantial R&D. For instance, he and his students developed the hardware and software for an improved camera control system in the newest generation of InTouch Robots. Butner calls his relationship with Wang “very synergistic,” with benefits on both sides. InTouch gets leading-edge technology, while Butner gets the joy of solving real-world problems. “It’s very exciting that I can get something out of my lab and show that it has value to industry,” he says.
As InTouch’s sales volume grows, Wang hopes to see the company turn profitable this year. In the meantime, it has been gaining recognition for its innovative technology. In October 2005, it was honored by Cisco Systems Inc. as a winner in the Operational Excellence category of the Cisco Growing with Technology Awards. InTouch was among a handful of grand prize winners in five categories with more than 600 applicants. Last spring, the American Telemedicine Association named InTouch a winner of its 2004 Innovation Awards for Telemedicine. InTouch is also venturing outside health care to explore other possible uses. After all, the power to “extend human perception,” as Wang puts it, comes in handy in any number of settings. Jordan says robots could be a powerful “communication tool” in offshore manufacturing, putting the customer virtually on the factory floor to watch the production process and talk with onsite supervisors – all from thousands of miles away. He points to a potentially vast market among the children of aging parents: “My parents live on the East Coast. They’re getting older. It would be good to check up on them.” A robot, Jordan says, “can see if the stove is off or if they’ve fallen down.”
Physicians using our robot should be able to do exactly what they could do if they were standing there next to the patient,” Wang says. The only limitation is that the robot can’t reach out and touch the patient.
satisfaction at Johns Hopkins found that “patients prefer seeing their own physician through the robot than another physician attending in person.” Most of the time the robot is accompanied by a nurse, but it doesn’t seem to rattle patients when a robot comes into a room alone. “Kids especially like it,” says Jordan. Wang argues that, for all its futuristic feel, the RP-7 is an antidote to isolation just as the telephone is.
Then there is the power of the robot as a presentation tool. Unlike a static projector, a robot can cruise up and down the aisles with its display (and with the right fittings it can project an image as well). Stout says Cisco uses InTouch technology in this way, and InTouch itself uses robotics to keep in touch with its overseas service group. “We talk to them and they talk to us through our robots,” he says. “It’s amazing how quickly the robot part drops away and you’re having a conversation with that person.”
With so many forces working to make health care more impersonal -- an aging population, a dwindling number of healers and caregivers, and a relentless need to cut costs -- Wang sees his robots coming to the rescue: “I would submit that what we’re doing here is trying to rehumanize the system in light of these challenges.”
So the technophiles and customers are charmed. But what do the patients think? Strange as it may sound, they seem to welcome the robots as a source of human contact. To put it another way, seeing a familiar face on the robot screen is more comforting than facing a stranger in person. Wang says a study of patient
Why do some things stick and others slide? UC Santa Barbara’s Jacob Israelachvili and his colleagues probe the complex micro-world where materials make contact. Most of us don’t go through life wondering how motor oil, duct tape and brake pads work. We just count on them to do their
jobs. Not so Israelachvili, a UCSB professor of chemical engineering and materials science. As one of the leading experts on the interactions of surfaces, he has spent his career examining processes that are widely taken for granted but are anything but simple. Along the way, he and his collaborators have discovered remarkable properties with potential applications from MEMS to medicine. Israelachvili’s focus is tribology, the study of friction, adhesion, lubrication and wear. It’s an ancient branch of science, going back to the first insights about the physics of friction. But it also plays a key role in the new fields of nanotechnology and bioengineering. It covers a vast range of materials and phenomena, including (but hardly limited to) the lubrication of human joints, membrane bonds in the brain and spinal cord, ultra-thin films for lubricating micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), friction and slippage in earthquakes, the stickiness of geckos’ feet, and the building of robots. It draws on physics, chemistry, geology, biology and engineering. These days, it’s a pretty hot field.
Off the Glamour Track It wasn’t that way when Israelachvili, now 61, got into it. Born in Israel, he moved to England and studied physics at Cambridge in the 1960s. This was in the heyday of radio astronomy, quasars and solid-state physics, but when Israelachvili looked for scholarships or grants to fund his doctoral studies he found that the available funding in those areas were restricted to British subjects.
Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory had money for him to do “unglamorous work like adhesion and friction,” he says. “Essentially I got into it because the Surface Physics Department was the only department that would take me.” In those days, he says, physicists shied away from tribology because it was a “very messy” field. “Adhesion, friction and lubrication involve complex systems – nonequilibrium systems, polymers and complex fluids such as oils. This was not a field that physicists felt was actually physics in many cases, and if they did see it as physics it was too complicated to do any theoretical work in.”
Israelachvili’s focus is tribology, the study of friction, adhesion, lubrication and wear. It’s an ancient branch of science, going back to the first insights about the physics of friction. But it also plays a key role in the new fields of nanotechnology and bioengineering.
Surfaces get a lot more attention these days. One reason is the rise of nanotechnology. The smaller things get, the larger their surfaceto-volume ratio and the more crucial surface interactions become. Interest in naturally-occurring adhesion, lubrication and wear has soared as researchers work to understand degenerative diseases involving the surfaces and membranes in our bodies, such as multiple sclerosis, and to develop better synthetic materials. Greater computing power, simulation techniques and more sensitive instruments such as the atomic force microscope have helped scientists detect and analyze the complex behavior of surfaces as they slip or grip.
Measuring by the Molecule Israelachvili has played a significant part in these advances. Among other things, he developed an instrument called the surface forces apparatus (SFA) that measures the attraction and
Photo by Jeff Clark
repulsion between two surfaces at very small scales – down to a tenth of a nanometer (or one ten-billionth of a meter). For his pioneering work he was named a fellow of the Royal Society of London. He also has been honored by the National Academy of Engineering as a Foreign Associate and by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers with its 1991 Alpha Chi Sigma Award for Research. He received The 2004 Materials Research Society Medal and has been elected to the US National Academy of Science.
When Membranes Come Unglued One is research on bioadhesion – why geckos are so good at climbing walls (and keeping their sticky toes clean), or how mussels can stay anchored to their rocks in violent surf. Bioadhesion is also being studied in the human body. Israelachvili and Zasadzinski have found why adhesion breaks down and a water gap widens between membranes in the brain and spinal cord in early stages of multiple sclerosis. Some proteins crucial to bridging the membranes lose their electrostatic charge, and Israelachvili says the challenge now is to figure out why.
Israelachvili’s academic career has taken him from England to Sweden, where he did post-doctoral work in biophysics, to Australia, where he held a research post in applied mathematics and neurobiology, and finally to UCSB. He came to Santa Barbara in 1986, starting out with appointments in two departments, Materials and Chemical Engineering. He later added a third, in Biomolecular Science and Engineering.
Continued on page 24
At Santa Barbara, he works with a number of collaborators including professors Gary Leal and Joe Zasadzinski of Chemical Engineering, Phil Pincus of Materials, Jean Carlson of Physics, Herb Waite of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Jim Boles of Geology, Matthew Tirrell of Chemical Engineering and Materials, and Kimberly Turner of Mechanical Engineering. As this list suggests, the range of topics in tribology is broad and cross-disciplinary. “I do lots of different things,” Israelachvili says. “It’s difficult to talk about focus.” But it’s possible to pick out certain themes in the work he and his colleagues are doing.
Jacob Israelachvili’s SFA (surface forces apparatus) is used to measure the interactive adhesion and friction forces between two surfaces.
Q&A: Tanya Atwa &
Tanya Atwater, professor of Earth Science at UC Santa Barbara, believes that distinguished research and excellence in teaching go hand in hand. She has followed that credo in her own career. Atwater’s original work in the areas of sea-floor spreading and plate tectonics has earned her membership in the National Academy of Sciences. She also has been recognized for innovations in teaching, such as the use of computer animation to illustrate geologic processes. In 2002, she was one of six recipients of the National Science Foundation’s Director’s Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars. Atwater, 63, earned her doctorate at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and has been on the UCSB faculty since 1980. She is director of the university’s Educational Multi-Media Visualization Center. Convergence recently talked with Atwater about her twin passions -- for science and teaching: Let’s start with some background. How far back does your interest in geology go, and what got you interested in it? My family was always out in the wilderness. I rode in a basket over Kearsarge Pass in the Sierra Nevada when I was nine months old. My mother was a botanist and my dad was an engineer. They just really loved the natural world. We lived in the middle of Los Angeles, and it was a kind of calling for them to get city kids out into the wilderness. I discovered geology when I accidentally took a course in my junior year at MIT. I also discovered that it is quite hard to do geology in the East because the rocks are all covered by greenery or snow or both. So I moved out west to Berkeley and finished my degree there in geophysics. Were you fascinated with maps? Absolutely. I think I came out of the womb holding a map. When my family took long road trips, I was always the one following our route on the map. You say on your Web page, “I used to think I wasn’t a good scientist if I admitted my passion.” What changed your mind on this point? I thought that way for a couple of reasons. One was that science is supposed to be objective and not have things like human emotions and urges tangled up in it; it’s our whole goal to get the observer out of the
water picture. If you feel passionate about something, that breaks the rule. Also, there weren’t very many women in physical science and I wanted to be taken seriously. But the truth, I realized, is that all good scientists are passionate about what they do. I think our passion is really about figuring out stuff -- letting the observations take us where they do. It’s just so exciting when you know about a number of seemingly disconnected observations and suddenly they all click together in some new order and logic. Oh man, is that exciting. People tell me all the time, “Gee, you really love this stuff.” It’s true! It feeds me. People really respond to my enthusiasm, even if they don’t understand everything I’m talking about.
interesting. The key to our long term survival is to interest as many of the world’s citizens as possible in science. How do you carry that mission to communicate beyond the university? I give lots and lots of lecture-shows. About half of them are research lectures for colleagues, but others are for groups like the Lions Club. I pretty much present for any group that wants to hear a talk and see pictures and animations of the earth.
How have you changed as a teacher over the years?
I’ve changed quite a bit in the introductory, general education courses. These days I present a lot less detailed content. I’ve learned that it’s easy to overload All good scientists are passionate about what they do. I people with information. think our passion is really about figuring out stuff -- letting the observations take us where they do. When you come out of To improve science literacy, we need to reach graduate school and start your first teaching students before college. College students are job, you’re excited about all the cool stuff self-selected scholars. The K-8 years are you’ve just learned, but when you try to teach the most important. By high school, a lot of all that material you just blow the students students have already opted out of science. away. So I do lots of teacher workshops. I never say no to a group of teachers. Also, I’m more aware that what I teach may be all that the general education students will learn in college about my subject. They call them “introductory” courses, but for many of these students they are “terminal” courses. The goal of a class like that is to make the future citizenry like the earth and like science. What I really want to do with those students is to make them think that earth science is exciting and
And how have your students changed? They’re profoundly more computer savvy. They have much more computer skill than most of us teachers. That kind of levels the playing field. I know more than they do
Q&A: Tanya Atwater about my subject, but when it comes to computing I need them to rescue me.
The students work with Flash, Final Cut, and other programs. I am always amazed at how fast they get up to speed on new programs. They’re really proud of their agility; it’s a pleasure to watch them.
It’s often said that teaching – especially of undergraduates -- doesn’t get proper respect at research universities. Is this your view?
My goal is to create animations that illuminate and explain simple ideas and processes without sacrificing accuracy and depth. I really enjoy the challenge of making an animation that shows the details for the specialist while helping the beginner see and understand the simpler big picture. In the 1980s, I made an old-fashioned plastic cel animation to introduce plate tectonics. It’s used in the fifth grade, it’s used in graduate school and my colleagues say they learn something from it, too.
The premise of a research university is that a researcher who is deeply engaged with his or her subject is likely to do a better job teaching it. People who are in the process of creating knowledge in the world are better at teaching that process and that knowledge. Of course this assumption isn’t foolproof, but I think it is mostly right.
Animation is effective, I think, because the human brain is set up to see moving things. They are much more intuitive than static images. They make What really has changed these days is that teaching teaching easier, too. Before I quality is seen as important in its own right. had animation, I was waving my arms wildly in lectures, as if trying make my in its own right. If you do a really bad job slides move. I think that in 10 or 20 years, all teaching, you won’t get promotions. Teaching classrooms will be full of moving imagery. The and research theoretically are weighted the subset of students who are klutzy readers (like same. That’s not quite true in practice, but it’s I was) but good visualizers will be well served, truer than people may think. at last. What really has changed these days is that teaching quality is seen as important
Talk about the role of multi-media in your teaching and in the Educational Multi-Media Visualization Center. What technology do you use, and how is it effective? There’s a really old animation program called Morph. I’ve worked with it so much that it is second nature to me. The students for the most part think it is stupid and oldfashioned, and maybe they are right, but it ain’t broke, so…
I would love to get some of those video game designers to do some stealth teaching while they’re at it; sneak some geology stuff into their games. The little computer animations we put out, they’re so shoestring.
What do students most need to know about science? I think our goal should be to turn all students into lifelong learners; that should be number one, because everything in our world is changing so fast and any particular information that we teach today will be outdated in a decade, if not sooner. Also, students need to understand and respect the scientific method, something that is deeply embedded in the evolution vs. creationism controversy. I have huge respect for religion and it has important work to do, but it should stay out of our bailiwick because we have important work to do, too – things like making the lights work, understanding and preparing for earthquakes and tsunamis, documenting global warming and predicting its likely effects, and so on and on. The scientific method teaches some really important things, like the need to always question. The whole process of questioning and testing things is critical for discovery. How can good teaching be taught?
Tanya and Keith Tsudama, a senior geology major, discuss plate tectonics.
One of the things I’ve learned is that each person is different. There are lots and lots of ways to teach well. You do need to want your students to learn your material and have a conviction that the world will be a better place and they’ll be better off if they learn it. If you don’t believe that, you won’t be a good teacher. Also, to be a good teacher you need to pay attention to the students and their needs and dreams. The students know right away if you don’t care about them, or if you don’t care about your subject.
What do you do for fun – and does geology play a role? I love camping, hiking, backpacking, river running, all the things that get me in the wilderness. All the time I’m out there I’m deep into what the scenery is telling me. I also love gardening, doing the crosswords and listening to music. And I love driving across the huge landscapes of the West. For variety, beauty and hugeness, the Western U.S. can’t be beat.
WHAT IS THIS?
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News and Events from the Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara
Needle-free immunizations may cut infection and disease. The World
Health Organization estimates that as many as one-third of immunization injections are unsafe in four of its six geographical regions. In third world countries, improper and unsafe use of the needles used in injections causes millions of cases of hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and thousands of HIV infections. Samir Mitragotri, a professor of chemical engineering here, says the myriad shortcomings of injections have led
to active research and development of needle-free methods of immunization. In a paper published in December in Nature Reviews Immunology, Mitragotri reviewed in detail the characteristics – and pros and cons – of the currently available methods of immunization, which include topical application to the skin, pills, nasal sprays, injections, and others. Considerable advances have been made in the past decade, especially in transdermal (through the skin) and nasal immunization. Mitragotri says that he anticipates that needle-free methods will reduce the economic burden associated with needle-caused
infections, eventually proving to be economically feasible. A wide range of interdisciplinary researchers and businesses are focusing on needlefree immunization delivery methods, says Mitragotri, helping ensure that needle-free immunizations will eventually be commonly used.
Researchers here have potentially opened up a new avenue toward room temperature quantum information processing. By
demonstrating the ability to image and control single isolated electron spins in diamond, they unexpectedly discovered a new channel for transferring information to other surrounding spins — an initial step towards spin-based information processing. Quantum information processing uses the remarkable aspects of quantum mechanics as the basis for a new generation of computing and secure communication. The spin of a particle is quantum mechanical in nature, and is considered a viable way to implement such technologies. A team of researchers including graduate students Ryan Epstein and Felix Mendoza, and their advisor, David Awschalom, a professor of physics, were intrigued by the long-lived electronic spins of socalled nitrogen-vacancy impurities in the diamond crystal – defects that only consist of two atomic sites. So, about two years ago, they embarked on developing a sensitive room temperature microscope that would allow them to study individual defects through their light emission. This microscope, with its unique precision in the control of the magnetic field alignment, has allowed them to not only detect individual nitrogen-vacancy defects, but also
small numbers of previously invisible ‘dark’ spins from nitrogen defects in their vicinity. These spins are called ‘dark’ because they cannot be directly detected by light emission and yet, it appears that they may prove extremely useful. The paper, “Anisotropic interactions of a single spin and dark-spin spectroscopy in diamond,” was published by Nature Physics in November, 2005.
An Internet tool that traces the movement of paper U.S. money provides a breakthrough in predicting the spread of epidemics. By applying
statistical laws of human travel in the United States, researches have developed a mathematical description to model the spread of infectious disease. The internet game for tracking the movement of bills, located at www.wheresgeorge. com, allows participants to register their money and monitor its geographic circulation. "We were confident that we could learn a lot from the data collected at the billtracking website, but the results turned out far beyond our expectations," said Lars Hufnagel, a post-doctoral fellow at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics here and co-author of an article describing the research in the January 26 issue of the journal Nature. Pandemics historically have moved slowly across geographical areas because people could typically travel relatively slowly. But the speed of transportation today will most likely allow future pandemics to spread more quickly. Like viruses, money is transported by people from place to place. Using the game data, the researchers developed a powerful mathematical theory that describes the observed movements of travelers amazingly well over distances from just a few kilometers to a few thousand. The study represents a major breakthrough for the mathematical modeling of the spread of epidemics.
News and Events from the Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara
The auditorium of the new Life Sciences and Technology building was named for George and Joy Rathmann, celebrated on campus February 4 with a dedication ceremony and a reception. The
building, which will support an exciting array of biological science researchers who work in fields such as regenerative medicine and bio-engineering, will be formally opened soon. Gifts associated with the Rathmann endowed fund will help support the breakthrough research that will be conducted there and will help fund graduate fellowships. George Rathmann’s connection to UCSB began in the early 1980’s when, as the CEO of Amgen, he worked closely with John Carbon, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and an original member of Amgen’s Scientific Advisory Board. Over the years, Rathmann has given a number of lectures on campus and has helped develop a relationship between UCSB and Amgen. The Rathmanns lead an effort to honor John Carbon as he was preparing to retire from UCSB.
Rathmann recruited Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer and company cofounders Bill Bowes and Pitch Johnson to join him in establishing the John Carbon Endowed Chair in Biochemistry and the Amgen Laboratory. The professor who will hold the John Carbon Chair – now being recruited -- and the Amgen Laboratory he or she will occupy, will be housed in the new Life Sciences and Technology building.
UCSB researchers win prestigious AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize.
A discovery by four UCSB researchers has earned them the prestigious 20042005 AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, the oldest award conferred by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), publisher of the journal Science. The paper which earned the researchers the award, "Observation of the Spin Hall Effect in Semiconductors," was published in Science on December 10, 2004. At the time of publication, all four authors were affiliated with the Center for Spintronics and Quantum Computation at UC Santa Barbara. The authors of the paper are: Yuichiro K. Kato, Roberto C. Myers, Arthur C. Gossard, and David Awschalom. Awschalom is a professor of physics, electrical and computer engineering, and director of the Center for Spintronics and Quantum Computation at UCSB. Arthur Gossard is a UCSB professor of materials, and electrical and computer engineering. Myers, currently a graduate student in materials at UCSB, works jointly with Awschalom and Gossard. Kato was a graduate student working in David Awschalom's group at the time of the experiments and is now a post-doctoral student in chemistry at Stanford University.
Eckart Meiburg, a professor and the chairman of the Department of Mechanical and Environmental Engineering has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). Meiburg was cited by
the APS as elected for the development and use of computer codes to elucidate significant fluid dynamical problems, including: molecular dynamics, interfacial, thermo-capillary, particleladen and porous-media flows, wakes, rotating jets and gravity currents. The American Physical Society is the world’s largest professional body of physicists, representing over 43,000 physicists in academia and industry in the US and internationally.
George “Bud” Homsy was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest professional distinctions in engineering. Academy membership
honors those who have made important contributions to engineering theory and practice, through research, innovation, or education. The citation from the NAE reads: “For innovative experimental and theoretical studies of multiphase and interfacial flow phenomena and for the development of educational materials in fluid mechanics.”
Sanjit K. Mitra, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, was named the 2006 recipient of the IEEE James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education Medal. Mitra was cited by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for outstanding contributions to electrical engineering education through pioneering textbooks, innovative laboratory development and curriculum reform. The IEE James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education Medal was established in 1956 to recognize a career of outstanding contributions to education in the fields of interest to IEEE.
Nadir Dagli, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was named a fellow of the IEEE.
The IEEE is the world's leading professional association for the advancement of technology and is a leading authority on areas ranging from
News and Events from the Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics.
Engineering Alumni Ethan Smith wins top prize in competition at University College London and London Business School. A
postgraduate student in computer science participated in the “Entrepeneurs’ Challenge,” based on his idea to produce screens for a range of computing and mobile devices that would create raised dots. The system allows visually-impaired users to read Braille.
Two Engineering professors receive UC Discovery Grants.
Divyakant Agrawal, professor of computer science, won for his proposal, “Exploiting PTP Overlays for Secure and Privacy-preserving Query-processing Over Distributed Information Services,” and Umesh K. Mishra, professor of Electrical and Computer Enginnering, won for his proposal, “Advanced Technology for V-Band AlGaN/GaN Power Amplifiers.” UC Discovery Grants are funded by the University of California and the state with matching support by California businesses to promote and support high quality, early stage research, to speed utilization of the discoveries, and to advance understanding of the role of science and technology in the state’s knowledge-based economy.
Jeff Moehlis, a professor of mechanical engineering, won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. Moehlis was
recognized as a young faculty member who shows unusual promise as a researcher and educator, and he is considered by NSF to be among the teacher-scholars most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. He received a grant for his research proposal, “Dynamics of Individual Couple Oscillators,” which includes five years of funding.
The Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation of Tokyo and UCSB are extending their successful research and education alliance for a new term of four years. Under the terms of the
new agreement, Mitsubishi Chemical will invest between $8.5 million and $10 million at UCSB over the next four years. The funds will support research as well as the administration of the MC-CAM center. The total also includes a philanthropic contribution of $800,000 to permanently endow new graduate fellowships in materials and chemical engineering. With the support of Mitsubishi Chemical – Japan's largest chemical company – UCSB formed a highly productive research unit called the Mitsubishi Chemical Center for Advanced Materials (MCCAM) in 2001. Directed by Glenn Fredrickson, a professor of chemical engineering and materials, the MCCAM is affiliated with the College of Engineering and Materials Research Laboratory, a national center supported by the National Science Foundation. The center's main areas of focus are materials for display technologies, solid-state lighting, fuel cells and batteries, information storage media, and polymers for automotive applications, among others.
In its first five years, MC-CAM research has resulted in 33 scientific publications and 30 invention disclosures, which is considered a very high ratio of inventions to publications. To date Mitsubishi Chemical has taken options on 26 of those inventions. In addition, the center's research has led to nine joint UCSB/Mitsubishi Chemical patent applications. Written and reported by staff writers and editors, and by staff from the Office of Public Affairs.
i g h t my UCSB engineering students Kari Lukes and Jessica Nelson put an ancient question to the test – in prime time. “Kari and Jess came to mind, because they were working on projects at the time,” Beltz says. “I knew they were good mechanical engineering students, especially on design.” Lukes is a first-year student in the MS-PhD program, with a focus on micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). Nelson is a senior. Beltz told them about the Archimedes solar death-ray test, and they took it from there.
Did Archimedes really invent a death ray? It was said that the great philosopher and mathematician of ancient times invented a weapon that focused the light of the sun and could set ships on fire from 100 feet a w a y. T h e producers of Discovery Channel series MythBusters wanted to subject that tale to a reality check. Lukes and Nelson took up the challenge.
The pair, who had not met until Beltz brought them together, got in touch with the producers and quickly got to work. To test the death-ray legend, Lukes and Nelson had to put together a working scale model and videotape it in action – all in a week.
The result was a televised demonstration of some ingenious engineering on a tight budget. The project started last summer with Mechanical Engineering Professor Glenn Beltz, who had appeared earlier in another Discovery Channel series, Superweapons of the Ancient World. (He was part of a team trying to recreate another Archimedean weapon, a giant claw that could lift enemy warships out of the water). At the time, Beltz said, he was frustrated that the Superweapons producers weren’t inviting students to participate. So when he learned that an upcoming MythBusters program on Archimedes’ death ray was open to all comers, he jumped at the chance to get a couple of UCSB’s students involved.
With little time or money available, Lukes and Nelson hit upon a simple, low-cost design. Rather than trying to find a concave mirror of the right focal length (five feet for the scale model), they made a spherical array of flat mirrors. Except for the smaller size and the mirror glass in place of more authentic polished bronze, Lukes says it was “similar to what Archimedes would have used at the time.” They spent about $30 for glass cutters, plywood, balsa wood and a couple of cheap fulllength mirrors. “Our focal point ended up being a little bit short,” she says, “but we videotaped it and it did ignite some paper and balsa wood.”
"Our focal point ended up being a little bit short," Lukes says, "but...it did ignite some paper and balsa wood."
That was enough for the show’s production company, Beyond International, which put Lukes and Nelson on the short list of competitors invited to test their models at the taping in San Francisco last September. “It was basically a competition between us and the boys,” says Nelson of the competing team, a Harvard student and a recent UC Berkeley graduate who had found a discarded parabolic mirror and were trying their luck with that.
been able to build. They built a huge array of polishedbronze mirrors that ignited the hull of a mock Roman ship, but only after the ship was maneuvered into just the right position. A typical enemy warship would not have been so obliging. For this and other reasons, the show’s hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman declared the death-ray myth “busted.” But the UCSB students came away with no regrets. “I had a terrific time,” said Lukes. “It was a great networking experience.” Nelson says she realized how much she enjoys hands-on work. “I learned that I’m not sure I want to be an engineer in the strict sense of the word,” she says. “I like to build stuff.”
So who won? The test of the models, shown on an episode that aired in January, was inconclusive. Lukes’ and Nelson’s design ignited the target but took longer than the allowed time. Their rivals’ mirror had too short a focal length, but they crafted a new one that, with some tweaking, ignited a target at the right distance. Neither demonstration settled the question of whether Archimedes could have used sunlight as a weapon in the heat of battle. It was left to a team from MIT, also featured on the MythBusters episode, to test a full-scale death-ray that Archimedes might have
Hyneman and the UCSB students are joined by MythBusters cast member Kari Byron (second from left) as a cameraman films the set-up process.
Laser Tag With a new device for bridging the electron-photon gap, UCSB researchers are pointing the way to faster, cheaper computers and networks.
It’s called a hybrid silicon evanescent laser, and if it’s not yet a household name, it’s big news in the world of optics. Developed last year by Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor John Bowers and two of his graduate students, Alex Fang and Hyundai Park, it has the potential to make a big impact on computing and communications. The key is in the laser’s way of integrating different semiconductor materials to join their respective strengths in a single package. First there is silicon, which forms the device’s base and its waveguide (the transparent path through which the laser beam is guided). Attached to this is a layered structure of semiconductor compounds such as indium phosphide, called “III-V” materials after the columns in which their elements appear in the Periodic Table. The silicon makes the design compatible with other
devices and with standard production technology. The III-V compounds provide the high optical gain (light amplification) that silicon cannot achieve. It’s the “best of both worlds,” as Bowers puts it. But is it a breakthrough? “We’re not there yet,” Bowers says. He and his students haven’t reached their real goal of developing an “electrically pumped” integrated hybrid laser. The new laser is optically pumped – activated by a beam of light rather than directly by an electrical current. However, Bowers says that achievement may be only a couple of years away. In about the same amount of time, he also hopes to be able to produce the lasers in the manner of a silicon integrated circuit, on wafer-size (six-inch) silicon substrate.
Once laser technology reaches that point, it could lead to dramatic changes in computer performance and economics. It would enable manufacturers to use high-capacity fiber optics in place of the copper circuitry – the bus -- that links chips and devices in most computers today. Fang says engineers have been skillful at pushing the bus to greater and greater speeds, but it can’t get past its natural limits. “Copper can only push data at a given rate, and fiber beats it,” he says. As semiconductors get smaller, faster and more powerful, connection speed will become more of an issue, and the copper bottleneck more of a problem. Devices to convert electrical current to laser light can solve that problem economically if they are cheap, efficient and integrated with other silicon-based devices. And lasers are just one possible application of the new hybrid technology. “Once we prove we can make lasers with this technology,” Park says, “we can make other devices such as modulators or amplifiers.” Park and Fang are both third-year doctoral students. Park has been working with Bowers for the past year and a half on the hybrid laser project, and Fang has been on board for the past year. Bowers has long been focused on optoelectronic technology. In 1999, he co-founded photonic switch maker Calient Networks and continues to serve as the company's chief technical officer. At UCSB, he has been involved in research aimed at developing next-generation networks for the Internet. What’s different about his hybrid laser project, he says, is its location in the network architecture. Switches are at the network’s core. The new work “sits on the edge” and deals with the problem of “how to get things on the network.” The laser project is being funded by grants from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Intel Corp.
How the New Laser Works Light from a laser diode enters the device and is focused by a cylindrical lens through a layer of indium phosphide (InP). It then undergoes optical gain -- amplification -- in a structure of other “III-V” compounds including aluminum gallium indium arsenide (AlGaInAs). It emerges through a silicon waveguide.
Silicon from Sea Life Even simple sponges have a lot to teach humans about engineering, so UCSB scientists are looking to marine biology for clues to new technologies. It’s not that sponges would fit any conventional notion of “smart.” They are considered among the most rudimentary multi-cellular animals; one would search their cells and cavities in vain for anything that resembles a higher-animal brain. But as Dan Morse, a UCSB professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, notes, these common marine organisms are prodigious producers of elegantly woven silicon structures. Their “precision of nano-scale architectural controls exceeds that of present-day human engineering,” he says. What’s more, “these materials are made under conditions congruent with life.” They turn out “gigatons per year of biologically produced silica” – outstripping human production by many thousand-fold – without the high temperatures, high pressure and toxic chemicals used by homo sapiens on dry land. Morse, who heads UCSB’s Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies, is among the scientists from both biological and physical sciences who are studying the natural production of materials that play a central role in human high technology. They want to understand and eventually imitate the remarkable engineering ability found even in simple organisms.
From Mussels to Bones
Along with sponges and silica, Morse and other scientists have studied the wonders of natural engineering in mussels, worms, squid, octopus and abalone, as well as in human bones. Their work, he says, follows “the common theme of biological inspiration for revolutionary advances in research at the intersection of biotechnology, nanotechnology and engineering.”
The Venus' flowerbasket sponge, Euplectella, is an object of intense interest because it is able to create a highly complex structure out of very simple elements. Its cells make tiny needles of silica (silicon dioxide) and weave them into a skeleton that resembles woven or spun fiberglass. Morse and other UCSB professors – Brad Chmelka in chemical engineering, Paul Hansma in physics and Galen Stucky in chemistry and biochemistry – have analyzed the process at the molecular level in a simpler sponge and have found that each needle contains what Morse calls a “silicatein.” This is a protein with a difference. It not only acts as a passive template to guide the growth of the silica needle, but it’s also an active player, a catalyst. “This was the first time in the study of enzymes that an active enzyme was found within a mineral,” Morse says.
An electron micrograph (above left) shows the fiberglasslike spicules from which the sponge E. aspergillum assembles a remarkably regular threedimensional silica network (right). A false-colored cross section of one spicule (above right) reveals the layered silica cement that solidifies and strengthens the structure.
Cheaper Solar Cells?
The silicatein is like a tiny robot, programmed to build a mineral structure in a certain way. Using techniques of genetic engineering, the UCSB researchers have extracted its working parts – the chemicals that specifically act as the catalyst and growth template for the silica. Now they have something on the way to becoming practical, maybe even revolutionary. The biological compounds and the fundamental molecular mechanisms they discovered are capable of making not just silicon-based compounds but other valuable semiconductors such as titanium oxide, gallium oxide and zinc dioxide. Morse, a participant in the world's largest solar energy R&D program, sees commercial viability “a few years off,” with the potential to cut the manufacturing cost of photovoltaic materials and lightweight lithium-ion batteries. Abalones have been another source of engineering insight. Morse, Stucky and Hansma have been studying these local shellfish since the 1980s, with a particular eye on how they form their strong, multihued shells. One key question they answered was how a structure that is almost wholly made up of calcium carbonate, with less than 3% protein, is 3,000 times more fracture resistant than calcium carbonate in its usual crystalline state. Stucky says the small amount of protein in the shell works like powerful fibers to bind fragments of inorganic compounds together and direct the growth of the shell’s
complex mineral structure. Those proteins were found to have a remarkable ability to stretch without breaking. “You could pull on them and then they would give. You could pull on them some more and they would give some more,” Stucky says. They are also self-healing. Under stress, they break so-called “sacrificial bonds,” allowing hidden lengths of polymers to unwind temporarily. When the pressure relaxes, the bonds reform and the polymers re-tighten.
Learning from a Clever Engineer
Hansma notes that this energyabsorbing “molecular glue” is also found in human bones, where it serves as a shock absorber to prevent fractures. It’s an example of what he calls nature’s “clever engineering” that makes the most of a few materials. Human engineers can make use of synthetics such as carbon fiber or silicon carbide, he says, while “biology is kind of limited in its choices.” Hansma says he has “mostly been looking for biological kinds of applications” rather than trying to invent new synthetic materials. “We’ve been more involved in learning nature’s secrets rather than making things,” he adds. But he, Stucky and Morse have come up with two patents so far, one for self-healing silicon materials and another for adhesive and energy-dissipating materials. And the search for nature’s fabrication secrets may just be starting. Stucky and Herb Waite, a UCSB professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, are now studying polychaete worms, small marine animals with big appetites, to learn why their teeth have a wear resistance greater
A synthetic system (left) has been developed to mimic the mineralizing process of silicatein. The molecule’s two main components, attached to gold nanoparticles, are shown in red and blue. When these meet, a reaction shown here by a flash leads to the formation of silica at room temperature. Inside the silicatein molecule (right), the catalytic center docks with a TEOS (tetraethyloxilane) molecule that can be used to form silica.
than any synthetic material. Waite has also been advancing materials science with his study of mussels and how they attach so firmly to rocks. Morse is intrigued with the “remarkable ability of squids and octopus to rapidly change the color and reflectance of their skin” and says, “The elucidation of the underlying biological mechanisms suggests new materials and opto-electronic applications.” At this point, the potential of biologically inspired engineering looks as deep as the sea.
SurfaceAttention Continued from page 7
problem in technology and industry” when it comes to joining surfaces, but that it poses no problem at all for marine animals such as mussels: “It’s really striking to realize that all of these organisms make an attachment hold fast under conditions of sea water, and that this is routine.”
The sticking power of gecko feet is intriguing to Israelachvili and other researchers because it is both strong and variable. Geckos use millions of foot hairs, called setae, to grip walls, but they turn off the stickiness every time they lift a foot to take the next step. This process could lead to remarkable new materials if it can be fully understood and the chemicals that drive it can be isolated and synthesized. “It’s easy to make a strong adhesive, but not so easy to make one that adheres strongly and then immediately lets go,” says Israelachvili. He also says a gecko-like ability to rapidly attach and detach could come in handy in robotics.
Waite, a UCSB professor affiliated with several departments in life sciences and chemistry as well as the Marine Sciences Institute, studies mussels with an eye toward explaining the remarkable sticking power of these organisms. “One of the interesting paradoxes of adhesion,” Waite says, is that the presence of water is “a really serious
Working with the surface forces apparatus and the atomic force microscope at Israelachvili’s lab, Waite has so far homed in on two sets of proteins in the foot of the mussel; one of these forms a bridge between two surfaces, while the other forms coatings that don’t stick unless they’re rubbed together strongly. He says he now has to figure out the chemistry that distinguishes the bridging mode from the lying down (non-sticking) mode. A solution to mysteries such as these could lead to revolutionary new materials. It also could produce cures for disease. Such is the ultimate goal in the study of bioadhesion in MS. It also figures in another research theme, the study of biolubrication. This subject is of particular interest in the fight against arthritis. Natural water-based lubricants in the body perform better than any synthetic oil-based product. Synthesizing them – or getting the body to produce more of them – might delay the degradation of cartilage at human joints. Here again, nature is far ahead of human industry and technology in working with (and in) water. Synthetic lubricants are mostly oil-based, and, until recently, most machines have operated at too high a temperature for water to work. But with new MEMS devices being designed to work at room temperature – and requiring efficient lubrication at a molecular scale – water-based lubricants could play a major role if scientists can learn how to synthesize them. That’s one more reason why the study of surfaces in motion is now at center stage in the physical, engineering and biological sciences, and seems sure to stay there.
Two surfaces can slide smoothly across each other or by ‘stick-slip’ motion, producing earthquakes and sound as when a door squeaks or a violin is played. The 3 panels show the complex ‘stick-slip’ motions of three different violins: (i) a fine modern violin, (ii) a master Italian violin, and (iii) a cheap factory-made violin. The factory-made instrument has a weak response at certain frequencies. The master violin responds to all frequencies and thus produces the richest sound.
CONVERGENCE The Magazine of Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara
What it is! Answer from page 12
A portion of the articulated mineralized skeletal system of the Caribbean sponge Discodermia dissoluta. This specific scanning electron micrograph illustrates a mutually conforming joint connecting three neighboring silica spicules together to form a rigid framework. Researchers at UCSB are studying this and other species to gain insight into the synthesis mechanisms of robust three-dimensional microcomposites for advanced applications. For scale, the below scanning electron micrograph of a human hair was taken at approximately the same magnification.
SPRING 2006, FOUR Editor in Chief: Barbara Bronson Gray Creative Director: Peter Allen Senior Writer: Tom Gray Editorial Board: Matthew Tirrell, Dean, College of Engineering Martin Moskovits, Dean of Mathematical, Life and Physical Sciences, College of Letters and Science Evelyn Hu, Co-Director, California NanoSystems Institute Christy Ross, Assistant Dean for Strategy and Corporate Programs, Engineering and the Sciences Kristi Newton, Assistant Dean of Development, Engineering and the Sciences Barbara Bronson Gray, Communications and Media Relations, Engineering and the Sciences Peter Allen, Marketing Director, Engineering and the Sciences Joy Williams, Assistant Dean for Budget and Administration, Engineering Denise Leming, Executitive Assistant to the Dean, College of Letters and Science Convergence is a publication of Engineering and the Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5130. •
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