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Grand Challenge 4: Engineer the Tools of Scientific Discovery

Long-distance human space flight and cheaper, more powerful atom smashers are tools that engineers are creating to understand nature’s unanswered questions. While searching for new ways to image the body and explore the cosmos, engineers will also generate enterprises that enhance the joy of living.


Stem Cell Grant Boosts Muscle Research

Bioengineering Professor Shyni Varghese
Bioengineering Professor Shyni Varghese

Bioengineering Professor Shyni Varghese recently took home a $2.3M grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine that will enable her to explore embryonic stem cellbased transplantation therapy for treating muscle wasting.

Varghese will focus on the most common form of muscle wasting, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which is characterized by progressive skeletal muscle degeneration in young children. “The plan is to optimize the microenvironmental factors that contribute to differentiation in the embryonic stem cells, then engineer a population of clinically viable muscle progenitor cells that are derived from these stem cells,” says Varghese.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is also supporting the creation of a new 2,775 square-foot lab facility at the Jacobs School for researchers at the school as well as faculty from the Division of Physical Sciences. In the new laboratory, researchers will develop nanotechnology, biomaterials, instrumentation, bioreactors and other technologies important to the stem cell research effort.


Visualizing Molecular Biology

A combination of computer science and genomics is behind Cytoscape, a tool that enhances global collaboration on a wide range of cutting edge research. Developed by a team led by Trey Ideker, a Jacobs School bioengineering professor, the Cytoscape application lets scientists visualize molecular interaction networks and integrate those interactions with other bioinformatics data.

An image from cytoscape, an open source platform for network analysis and visualization.
An image from cytoscape, an open source platform for network analysis and visualization.

Phased Array on Display

The UCSD DARPA Smart Q-Band 4x4 Array Transmitter, the world’s most complex silicon phased array chip. The UCSD DARPA Smart Q-Band 4x4 Array Transmitter, the world’s most complex silicon phased array chip.

A DARPA-funded "phased array," or radio frequency integrated circuit, developed by a team of faculty and students led by Gabriel M. Rebeiz, professor of electrical engineering, was designed for U.S. defense satellite communication and radar systems, but it will likely spill over into automotive satellite systems, direct broadcast TV and other commercial applications.

Slow Light, Faster Computers

Slowing and controlling light at the nanoscale could eventually lead to significantly faster computers with less energy requirements. This vision may be a step closer to reality thanks to new work published in Nature Photonics on light disorder and associated physical phenomena such as localization in fabricated photonic devices. Electrical and computer engineering professor Shayan Mookherjea led the project, in collaboration with mechanical engineering professor Prabhakar Bandaru.The researchers' discovery that the slowing of light can occur together with localization opens the door for more exploration in the field of photonics.

A section of a lightslowing structure that Jacobs School engineers used in their work which merges two previously unrelated areas in optics - slow light and Anderson localization.
A section of a lightslowing structure that Jacobs School engineers used in their work which merges two previously unrelated areas in optics - slow light and Anderson localization.