News Release

Silica Nanoparticles for Cancer Treatment Take Top Prize at Research Expo 2014

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Bioengineering graduate student Ya-San Yeh, won best poster in bioengineering and the grand prize, Rudee Outstanding Poster award, at Research Expo 2014 for her research on silica nanoparticles for cancer treatment. Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications. 

San Diego, Calif., April 18, 2014 -- Ya-San Yeh, a University of California, San Diego graduate student working in the laboratory of Sadik Esener won the grand prize at Research Expo 2014 for her research on silica nanoparticles for cancer treatment. Yeh received the Rudee Outstanding Poster Award as well as the best departmental poster in bioengineering. Esener is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and nanoengineering.

The silica nanoparticle presented by Yeh is a flexible platform that can be used to house a variety of enzyme treatments for cancer or other diseases by hiding the enzymes, which are typically taken from foreign organisms such as E. coli, away from the human immune system. In her poster presentation at Research Expo, Yeh focused on the enzyme L-asparaginase from E.Coli, which is already FDA-approved for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of cancer that most commonly affects children. The enzyme reacts with amino acids that are an essential nutrient for cancer cells, depleting the amino acid and essentially starving the cancer cell.  By helping the foreign enzyme evade the body’s immune system, the nanoparticles promise to improve the effectiveness of this treatment. The nanoparticle acts like a filter in the bloodstream. Its pores are large enough to capture amino acids, but too small for the enzymes to escape.

Yeh and five other graduate students representing each of the six academic departments of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering received best poster awards. Research Expo, now in its 33rd year, is an annual showcase of top graduate research projects.  During the poster session, students were judged on the quality of their work and how well they articulated the significance of their research to society. This dual challenge is a key component of the Jacobs School’s mission to develop engineers with both the technical knowledge and leadership to drive tomorrow’s innovation economy.

 “The graduate students presenting here today are our future leaders who will solve our world’s most pressing issues,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla, who presented the awards at a ceremony and networking reception with industry partners and faculty along with Albert P. Pisano, Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering.

Research Expo serves a major goal of the Jacobs School to give students opportunities to connect with industry partners in meaningful ways. “We have absolutely stellar graduate students. We want to showcase them,” said Dean Pisano.

Department Winners

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UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Dean Albert P. Pisano (far left) and UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla (far right) pose with graduate students who won the best poster award for their academic department during a reception at Research Expo 2014. Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications.

Matthew Jacobsen, the winner in the computer science category, developed a computer vision tracking system that is faster and more accurate than the current state of the art. He developed an algorithm that divides the processing within the system between software running on a CPU and custom hardware implemented using a field-programmable gate array. This innovative system can track a single target at 1160 frames per second or 57 independent targets at 30 frames per second. That’s 68 times faster than an approach that uses software only. This considerable increase in computing power improves the accuracy of the tracking algorithm by tracking multiple items on the target. For example, the system will track six items for one hand - each of the fingers and the palm - making it significantly more accurate.

Edouard Yreux and Michael Hillman won the structural engineering category for computer simulation methods they developed to model impacts that generate fragmentation in structures, such as bullet impacts on concrete, among other applications. Their method is based on individual points rather than the traditional mesh-based methods. Yreux and Hillman’s adviser, J.S. Chen, is a pioneer in the field of meshfree methods and recently joined the Jacobs School of Engineering after 12 years on faculty at UCLA.

Liane Matthes, the winner in the mechanical and aerospace engineering category, developed a method that would help improve the reliability of hard disk drives. The method looks at the spacing between the magnetic disk on which data is stored within the drive and the magnetic head used to read and write data. Matthes collected and analyzed data generated by a contact sensor located in the magnetic head and found a signal that predicts when the head makes contact with the disk. 

Zhelin Sun, the winner in the electrical and computer engineering category, presented his research on the forces that create spontaneous “attraction, bending, and bridging between vertically aligned silicon nanowires.”

Adam Printz, the winner in the nanoengineering category, reported his research on “conjugated polymers exhibiting good photovoltaic behavior and high tensile elasticity.”

Ya-San Yeh, the winner in bioengineering, developed "silica nanoparticles for enzyme delivery in cancer treatment."

Dean Pisano’s Students

Engineering students under the supervision of Dean Albert P. Pisano fielded 14 posters, including work by Lilla Safford Smith on micro chip cooling.  She built innovative evaporator structures that can cool chips with micro- scale features. The structures are built on silicon chips and can be directly incorporated into electronics.

“The idea behind this project is to use liquid, in this case de-ionized water, to absorb the heat produced by any kind of electronic device, then evaporate the liquid to dissipate heat,” Safford Smith said.


Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering