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News Release

Research Expo Highlights UC San Diego's Engineering Prowess

Jacobs School Ph.D. student Raj Krishnan nabbed the Rudee Research Expo Outstanding Poster Award in nanoengineering.

San Diego, CA, February 26, 2009 -- From novel nanoengineering approaches to space robots, ‘green’ computing, weather prediction technology and structural health monitoring, engineering students at the University of California, San Diego strutted their stuff during the Jacobs School of Engineering's Research Expo 2009. The annual event, held on Feb. 19, attracted more than 500 people, including 240 graduate students who presented their research during a highly attended poster session. Research Expo also included technical breakout sessions by Jacobs School faculty, a luncheon featuring Dr. Firouz Naderi, associate director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and a networking reception.

One of the main drivers behind Research Expo is to showcase the breakthrough research by Jacobs School students and faculty. The poster session tent was abuzz as industry leaders, faculty and students mingled and discussed everything from potential commercial applications for Jacobs School research to industry-academic collaborations, and even future job opportunities.

Raj Krishnan, the Rudee Research Expo Outstanding Poster Award winner for his poster in nanotechnology, “Novel Dielectrophorectic Device for Cancer Cell, Stem Cell and DNA Biomarker Isolation and Detection,” was excited about the possible future commercial applications of his work.

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“We want to build a device that will isolate or separate any nanoparticle or cell that we want to work with,” said Krishnan a bioengineering Ph.D. student. “The key is to be able to isolate the cells of interest, for example, cancer cells or stem cells or nanoparticles that are related to disease biomarkers such as high molecular weight DNA for early cancer detection. We want to be able to do this quicker, cheaper and easier.

Krishnan and his co-workers in Professor Michael Heller's lab are using AC electric fields for sorting cells and nanoparticles. “This is a technology that has been around for awhile, but what’s interesting is we have been able to take it to a new level that no one has been able to do so far,” he explained. “We’re able to take nanoparticles and pull them out of complex solutions like blood or plasma.”

Krishnan also nabbed the SAIC Best Poster Award for nanoengineering, and the Science and Engineering Library Award for Best Use of Literature. For a complete list of Research Expo winners, please click  here. To view all research poster abstracts, click here.

Steve Hart, cofounder of San Diego-based digital satellite communications company ViaSat, a Research Expo sponsor, said the event is one of the highlights of his year.

“Events like Research Expo give you a more positive look at the future,” said Hart, also a UC San Diego alumnus. “The way we will get out of this economic mess is through innovation, education and collaboration. You get to see all three of those at Research Expo. UCSD is one of the premier institutions for engineering. This is a place that generates innovation.”

John Fratamico Jr., senior vice president and general manager of the Technology and Advanced Systems Business Unit at SAIC, another Research Expo sponsor, was also impressed by the variety of research being done by Jacobs School students.

“I saw a lot of examples of people pulling together different skill sets to do something that was innovative,” Fratamico said. “That’s what we look for in graduate research programs.”

Other Research Expo sponsors included BD and Northrop Grumman. Many industry leaders supported Research Expo by volunteering as judges for the student poser session. Marc Bernard, a UC San Diego alumnus and cofounder and chief technical officer for San Diego-based Air-Trak, was a judge for the second year in a row.

“It’s enlightening to see the wide variety of research going on at the Jacobs School,” said Bernard, also a member of the Jacobs School Alumni Council. “Last year I saw some research I was able to take back to my business, and this year I think I got the same result.

“Research Expo is a good way to encourage work and reward good ideas,” he said. “It’s important to have that relationship with the university so you can maintain a high tech work force in the San Diego area.”

Gaurav Dhiman, a computer science and engineering Ph.D. student, hopes to be part of that future work force.

“This is an amazing experience and an awesome opportunity for us to display our research and for people who are interested in this type of work to know what we are doing,” said Dhiman, a Research Expo poster presenter. “We can give them contacts and links to our publications. This is also a good opportunity with respect to future employment.”

Dhiman’s poster, “System Level Power Management Using Online Learning,” focused on a novel online learning algorithm based approach to drive system level power management.

“Our main goal is to understand how you can manage power in the best possible way across various physical machines,” Dhiman explained. “We would like to characterize different workloads that run on different machines and how it relates to the different power requirements. How can we spread workloads around systems in such a way so we get a balanced power, which reduces the maintenance and cooling costs?”

Over in the nanoengineering section of the poster session, Ph.D. student Sara Zare, along with fellow student Daniel Kagan, was explaining the purpose of their research. Their poster, “Electric Field Guided Nano Wires: A New Approach to Nano Fabrication,” focused on creating a tiny alternative lab on a chip device.

“I love to showcase my research because nanoengineering is a new field of science,” Zare said. “Nanoengineering has applications for everything from mechanical engineering to bioengineering to structural engineering.”

Tom Bewley, a Jacobs School mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE) professor, was also enthusiastic about his students’ presentations. In 2008, one of Bewley’ students, Christopher M. Schmidt-Wetekam won the grand prize for his poster featuring a hopping robot called “iHop.”

“Chris had a lot of success last year and we hope for the same this year,” Bewley said. “There are a lot of people at this event so it gives us good exposure. Now that these designs are becoming more mature we can go out and show that we have something unique here at UCSD. We are looking for the right markets to go with those.”

One of Bewley’s MAE students presenting this year was Christopher Colburn, whose poster, “Object-Oriented Implementation of the Enve Estimation/Forecasting Algorithm and Its Applications to High-Performance Turbulence Codes,” focused on efficient local, regional and global weather forecasting for everything from hurricanes to the effects on air quality from fires and even explosives.

“If a bomb were to go off in Los Angeles, for example, we're developing the technology to forecast where the fallout of the bomb would go,” Colburn said. “The end-goal of our algorithm is to give people the best information possible, which brings up another interesting question, how do you give people the best information you can without instilling fear? I believe that people will be inclined to make better decisions if they are given more accurate information.”

As Colburn and his fellow students promoted their research, industry leaders like Ron Emerick from Sun Microsystems, spent time perusing the tent looking for interesting research that could be applicable to their companies.

“All the projects seem applicable to the real world,” Emerick said, adding that this was his first time attending Research Expo. “Grad students are hungry and we can feed them funding so they can do research for us which, would cost us a lot more to do that internally.”

Jacobs School Dean Frieder Seible said the goal of Research Expo is to foster collaboration between Jacobs School alumni, industry partners, faculty and students.

“Our role at the Jacobs School is to not only provide intellectual capital but also the human capital for our economy,” Seible said. “Now is the time when we need to look forward and to show what we can do in terms of research, development and innovation.”



Media Contacts

Daniel Kane
Jacobs School of Engineering

Andrea Siedsma
Jacobs School of Engineering