2014 News

Professor Derek Dunn-Rankin builds music box tower May 16, 2014
UCI Engineers Make Music with Class Project

Who knew that making music would become essential to the mechanical engineering curriculum?

For six years now, all UCI mechanical engineering seniors have taken a required course that has them designing, building and testing a music box. Not your ordinary jewelry-storing, ballerina-twirling, dresser-adorning music box, but a geometrically shaped, painted, stackable module that, with the drop of a metal ball, plays two seconds of original music. When the boxes are placed on top of one another in a tall tower, they are designed to play as a round. The first year, the assigned song was “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Professor Derek Dunn-Rankin came up with the idea. Students in his class often start by deconstructing a thermo-electro-mechanical device, a hair dryer for example, to see how it works. As they move on to the musical box stack project, students are grouped into teams of four or five and assigned a number. Teams receive a set of parts that are sufficient to build a minimally functioning music box – some plywood, dowels, a microprocessor, an amplifier, wires, a switch, a servomotor and a speaker – but they are free to modify or replace any of the parts to improve the box’s performance. Although each person in the group is responsible for one element of the device, the students must all work together to create a functioning music box. Typically, there is a structures person, a programmer, one who works on lighting and servos, and someone who creates the sound and mounts components. There is overlap, but everyone has a core responsibility.

Dunn-Rankin chose this challenge for three reasons. First, it’s cooperative rather than competitive. “All of the head-to-head design competitions are great for energy and enthusiasm, but they can mistakenly encourage secretive design rather than expansive design, and it is the latter that leads to high performance,” says Dunn Rankin, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department chair. “In this class, students are free, even encouraged, to learn best practices from their colleagues and to implement them.”

Samueli School Dean Gregory Washington May 16, 2014
Broadcom MASTERS International Students Visit the Samueli School, Calit2

Twenty-three middle school students from around the world visited the Samueli School of Engineering in May as part of the 2014 Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) International program.

The student delegates represented more than a dozen countries including Australia, Canada, China, Finland, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, United Kingdom and the United States. Broadcom MASTERS International provides a unique opportunity for select 6th, 7th and 8th grade students to spend a week in Southern California, participate in fun and engaging hands-on science and engineering activities and attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. These students were selected based on their excellence in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

Samueli School Dean Gregory Washington welcomed the students to UCI, encouraging them to continue pursuing their interest and study in STEM fields. He also explained Anteater Engineering pride and taught them the Anteater “Zot!” hand sign and chant.

Xiaoqing Pan May 15, 2014
Prominent Materials Science Physicist to Join UCI Faculty

Xiaoqing Pan will oversee new $20 million research institute

Xiaoqing Pan, an internationally recognized researcher in the physics of materials, will join the UC Irvine faculty and lead a $20 million initiative to establish a world-class electron microscopy and materials science research facility.

The Irvine Materials Research Institute will help foster discovery of new properties in potentially lifesaving and technologically important materials through characterization - probing the internal structure of a material's atoms. The institute will serve as an interdisciplinary nexus for the study and development of these materials, enabling such advances as better solar cells, sustainable batteries and semiconductors, and treatments for bacterial and viral infections.

The transmission electron microscopes to be set up at the IMRI use beams of electrons instead of light waves to image a specimen with atomic resolution. This method produces a more detailed view at substantially greater magnification than with any optical microscope. UC Irvine researchers will utilize these microscopes to examine biological materials (such as microorganisms and cells), large molecules, medical biopsy samples, metals, minerals, ceramics and the characteristics of various surfaces.

"UC Irvine is making an investment of $20 million to develop cutting-edge capabilities in transmission electron microscopy," said Howard Gillman, provost and executive vice chancellor. "Bringing Professor Pan here to lead this institute is a real triumph for us in the materials science area. The research facility will establish our national prominence in this field and broadly benefit our programs in engineering, physical sciences, biological sciences and medicine."

"The electron microscopy initiative and the IMRI at UC Irvine will provide me with new tools and great opportunities for potential collaborations with the many researchers on campus," said Pan, a physicist. "I am grateful for the chance to help shape the university's future development through a combination of assisting students, developing departments, establishing the institute and moving forward in my own research."

Hamid Jafarkhani May 7, 2014
Jafarkhani’s Seminal Paper on Wireless Communications Technology Recognized

UCI Chancellor’s Professor Hamid Jafarkhani has been recognized by the IEEE for a paper he published 15 years ago.  The IEEE Communications Society Award for Advances in Communication is given to an outstanding paper that opens new lines of work, envisions bold approaches to communications, formulates new problems to solve and essentially enlarges the field of communications engineering.  

Jafarkhani’s paper, published in 1999, described his research on space-time block coding, a technique used today in wireless communication systems. Jafarkhani was working at AT&T Labs when he and his colleagues established the concept of space-time block coding and showed how to design codes for a wireless communications system with multiple antennas, such as Wi-Fi. Today, space-time block coding is a well-established field in communications, actively researched and widely used. This paper has been cited more than 1,000 times.

“It is an honor to receive such a prestigious award,” says Jafarkhani, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and director of UCI’s Center for Pervasive Communications and Computing.

National Science Foundation May 2, 2014
Seven Engineering Grad Students Earn NSF Research Fellowships

The National Science Foundation has granted seven UC Irvine engineering graduate students a research fellowship. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. 

"The School of Engineering is thrilled that such dedicated and talented students have chosen UCI for their graduate work - these awards recognize years of consistent and exceptional effort,” says Lee Swindlehurst, associate dean for research and graduate studies. “The number of awards the school received this year is a strong indicator of both the quality of our graduate student body and the hard work of our faculty in focused recruiting of top-tier domestic students."

Across campus, 37 students won fellowships this year, putting UCI ninth in the nation and tied for second within the University of California system for the prestigious awards. Here are the Samueli School’s 2014 fellowship awardees.

UCI's DBF team takes second in annual competition Apr 29, 2014
Anteater Engineers Place Second in 2014 Design/Build/Fly Contest

UC Irvine’s engineering students placed second at the 18th annual American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation Design/Build/Fly (DBF) competition in Wichita, Kansas, in April. This is UCI’s third straight top-two finish.

“We were confident that we would achieve a great overall result, and the team did not disappoint. Each member of the team put an incredible amount of time and effort into this project. It was truly an amazing experience working with everyone,” says Lawrence Ng, a senior aerospace engineering student and UCI’s DBF project manager.

A partnership between the AIAA Foundation, Cessna Aircraft Company, and Raytheon Missile Systems, the annual DBF competition provides students an opportunity to design and build a radio-controlled aircraft to perform specific missions. Participants who complete a letter of intent and submit a report on time are invited to bring their plane to a central location for a fly off. Winners are determined by a combination of their report score and their flight mission score.

This year’s assignment was a simulation of a backcountry, rough field, bush plane with three missions: ground taxi over a rough field; maximum load; and a timed emergency medical mission (carrying two pretend patients and nurses). The competition was fierce, with 80 universities participating.  

Most of UCI’s 31-member team drove to Wichita for the competition. UCI’s report scored high, and the Anteaters entered the flight portion ranked third. UCI was neck and neck with USC; they had similar flight performances. It ultimately came down to the weight of the plane, and USC’s was around 1 pound lighter, giving it the edge to take first place. The score of each mission is divided by the plane’s weight when empty.

 global integrated drought monitoring and prediction system (GIDMaPS) Apr 28, 2014
UCI Engineer Introduces Drought Monitoring and Prediction System

Samueli School civil and environmental engineering researchers have introduced the global integrated drought monitoring and prediction system (GIDMaPS) that could help farmers, commodity investors, local governments and global relief organizations react to drought.

The system provides meteorological and agricultural drought information based on multiple satellite-and model-based precipitation and soil moisture data sets. The researchers published the work in Scientific Data.

Developed by Assistant Professor Amir AghaKouchak's team, the GIDMaPS data significantly extends current capabilities of drought assessment systems. The GIDMaPS’ seasonal forecast gives essential information for users to receive early warning of drought, enabling them to take preventive measures and plan mitigation strategies.

“Drought has been a major problem throughout history. This information would be instrumental in reducing drought impacts, especially in developing countries where there are no other drought monitoring and prediction information,” says AghaKouchak.

From left: Rainer Doemer, Weiwei Chen and Giovanni De Micheli Apr 23, 2014
Two from UCI Earn Awards at DATE

Engineering professor Rainer Doemer won a Best Paper Award at the 2014 the Design, Automation and Test in Europe (DATE) conference held in Germany last month.

The DATE conference and exhibition brings together designers and design automation users, researchers and vendors, as well as specialists in the hardware and software design, test and manufacturing of electronic circuits and systems. Doemer’s paper, “May-Happen-in-Parallel Analysis based on Segment Graphs for Safe ESL Models,” was selected out of a record number of over 1,000 submissions.

At the same conference, engineering alumna Weiwei Chen received the Outstanding Dissertation Award.  Chen earned her doctorate from UCI in 2013. Her dissertation topic was “Out-of-Order Parallel Simulation for Electronic System-Level Design.” She worked under the guidance of Doemer in the Center for Embedded Computer Systems (CECS).

“It’s rewarding to see our work so recognized in front of an international audience of experts in design automation and embedded systems,” says Doemer an associate professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. “Receiving the Best Paper Award is extraordinary, but seeing Weiwei's dissertation winning another prize at the same event is just fantastic.”

Professors Abraham Lee (left) and Ian Papautsky at kick-off meeting for CADMIM Apr 10, 2014
New NSF Center Leverages Industry Partnerships to Improve Microfluidic Devices

Thirteen industry partners gathered today at UC Irvine’s Samueli School of Engineering for the inaugural meeting of a newly established National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC). The Center for Advanced Design and Manufacturing of Integrated Microfluidics (CADMIM) will develop design tools and manufacturing technologies for integrated microfluidics, also known as labs-on-a-chip. These tiny devices can be used for cost-effective, quick and easy diagnosis of problems in the environment, agriculture and human health.  

The mission of the center is to advance research and education on the science, engineering and applications of integrated microfluidic design and expandable production through dedicated ongoing industrial partnerships.

Much of the development of labs-on-a-chip has so far been achieved at universities, without much consideration of the materials being able to intersect with other components and existing technology infrastructure. Abraham Lee, the William Link professor and chair of the biomedical engineering department who will serve as CADMIM director and principal investigator, sees the center as a way to achieve higher levels of integration with academia and industry.

“The design of microfluidic technology has been either bottom up, driven by the academic researchers motivated by curiosity and innovation, or top down, driven by industry looking to solve problems within the current technology systems,” says Lee. “I see CADMIM being able to connect the two approaches and enabling real progress.”

This project is designed to help patients with Parkinson's Disease Mar 31, 2014
97 Senior Projects Displayed at Winter Design Review

Engineering students proudly showed off their senior design projects at the 2014 Winter Design Review in mid-March. More than 500 students were involved in 97 projects.

Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, talks about "The California Opportunity." Mar 25, 2014
Symposium Gathers Leaders in Fuel Cell Technology

The National Fuel Cell Symposium in late February offered a meeting of the minds for researchers, policymakers and industry representatives – all important stakeholders -- in fuel cell technology.

“Finding cleaner, better, more effective ways to power ourselves around, and power the things we use every day is one of the most important challenges we face in the world today,” said UC Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake.

Hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Fuel Cell Research Center (NFCRC) at UCI’s Samueli School, the symposium at the Beckman Center was attended by nearly 300 people. The day’s speakers expressed their excitement that the future had arrived for fuel cells.  

“Fuel cells are beginning to play a major role in the provision and generation of electrical power and in the next generation of automobiles,” said Scott Samuelsen, director, NFCRC, and Samueli School HORIBA professor emeritus.

“This symposium brings together leaders from academia, government and industry; it’s an unprecedented opportunity to not only share knowledge and network, but to organize around how to move forward,” said Gregory Washington, dean of the Samueli School.

Professor James Earthman demonstrating how titanium clubs can cause golf course fires Mar 19, 2014
Titanium Clubs Can Cause Golf Course Fires, UCI Study Finds

Sparks fly when head hits rocks in the rough, potentially igniting brush

Titanium alloy golf clubs can cause dangerous wildfires, according to UC Irvine scientists. When a club coated with the lightweight metal is swung and strikes a rock, it creates sparks that can heat to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit for long enough to ignite dry foliage, according to findings published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Fire and Materials. Orange County, Calif., fire investigators asked UC Irvine to determine whether such clubs could have caused blazes at Shady Canyon Golf Course in Irvine and Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo a few years ago.

“One fire almost reached homes before they stopped it. This unintended hazard could potentially lead to someone’s death,” said Samueli School chemical engineering & materials science professor James Earthman, lead author on the paper. “A very real danger exists, particularly in the Southwest, as long as certain golf clubs remain in use.” He suspected that the titanium heads on some clubs designed for use in “the rough” – natural areas off irrigated fairways – could be to blame for the fires.

 


          
Assistant Professor Kristen Davis judges the water filtration competition Mar 14, 2014
Samueli School Celebrates E-Week

Nearly 900 engineering students participated in E-Week 2014, organized by the Samueli School’s Engineering Student Council (ESC).  This year’s theme was “The Art of Engineering,” and all students who checked in received a Samueli School t-shirt. The celebration featured the Dean’s Pancake Breakfast, an Awards Banquet, 10 competitions, a BBQ and the annual softball game, pitting students against faculty. Students broke the professors’ long-running winning streak with a tie game. 

E-Week is an annual event aimed at increasing public awareness and appreciation for the engineering profession. Established in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers, the weeklong celebration provides an avenue for students to demonstrate inventiveness and imagination through a variety of events.

“This week is intended to benefit the engineering students, and if they take advantage of the opportunity, they can get a lot out of it,” says Liz Brooks, ESC president. “The week is put on to celebrate engineering and acknowledge all of the hard work engineers do every single day. After participating in UCI’s E-Week since I was a freshman, I can say it is continuously improving every year.”

Payam Heydari (center) with officers of the Orange County Engineering Council Mar 13, 2014
OC Engineering Council Names Payam Heydari a Distinguished Educator

The Orange County Engineering Council honored Payam Heydari with a Distinguished Engineering Educator Award at its National Engineering Week awards banquet in February. Heydari, a professor of electrical engineering, was recognized for his academic excellence.

Heydari has contributed to the advancement in his field through his significant research accomplishments. His expertise is in the design and analysis of novel terahertz, millimeter-wave and radio-frequency integrated circuits. His research group recently showcased the most complex imaging receiver chip in the world at the 2014 IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference.

A former associate chair for graduate affairs, Heydari is actively involved in the effort to attract graduate students to the Samueli School. His teaching was recognized by the UCI Engineering Student Council in 2010 with a Faculty of the Year Award.

“It is nice to be recognized on a local level with this award,” says Heydari.

Mar 5, 2014
Thomas Yuen ’74 earns UCI Alumni Association’s Extraordinarius award

Thomas Yuen, entrepreneur, philanthropist and community leader, will receive UC Irvine’s Extraordinarius award May 15 at the 44th annual Lauds & Laurels ceremony, sponsored by the UCI Alumni Association. He is among 18 campus faculty, staff, students and alumni who will be honored.

“Lauds & Laurels is our opportunity to publicly recognize and thank those people who make a positive impact on the university and our community,” said Jeff Minhas ’04, interim assistant vice chancellor for alumni relations and UCIAA executive director.

The event, which is being held in the UC Irvine Student Center’s Pacific Ballroom, begins with a reception at 6 p.m.

A 1974 graduate of UC Irvine, Yuen has been widely recognized for his superlative business accomplishments, philanthropy and volunteer work. He is the first of the university’s 150,000 alumni to garner both the Extraordinarius award and the UCI Medal, presented in 1990 for his exemplary service.

Yuen arrived in the U.S. from Hong Kong in 1970 and four years later received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UC Irvine’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering. In 1980, he and two friends founded personal computer manufacturer AST Research, which grew into a Fortune 500 company. Later, Yuen became chairman and CEO of SRS Labs, a world leader in audio and voice technology. Today he’s chairman and CEO of PrimeGen Biotech LLC, a private stem cell research company.

He has served on the UC Irvine Foundation board of trustees and continues to be a major donor – along with his wife, Misa – to the campus and UC Irvine Douglas Hospital, particularly in support of cutting-edge stem cell research.

From left: Engineering graduate students Jolie McLane, Eugene Lee and Sophia Lin Feb 24, 2014
A Hundred Tiny Hands Hopes to Inspire Young Scientists

Michelle Khine is known for her playful approach to science. She used a toy – Shrinky Dinks – to invent a method of quickly and cheaply developing custom microfluidic chips for researchers to use in their labs. Now she and her student researchers are inventing toys to inspire kids to not only conduct science, but also become inventors themselves.

The associate professor of biomedical engineering, most recently named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 1000, issued a challenge to the graduate students working in her laboratory. “Many of the students in my lab serve as Rocket Science Tutors, so they are working with kids already,” says Khine. “I wanted them to think about how to get children interested in becoming inventors.”

They came up with three ideas for educational toy kits that are “fun, creative, and chock-full of scientific content and ah-ha moments for any child at heart.” Khine and her students formed an academic nonprofit co-op called A Hundred Tiny Hands and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to produce the kits. Contributors to the Kickstarter campaign will receive the kits and other fun gifts in return (such as kid-sized lab coats), or they can donate to a school in need and have their donation matched with contributions from Tiny Hands.

Each kit’s packaging features a cartoon character based on the corresponding graduate student and includes a booklet using the character to help children learn the scientific concepts. The idea with the kits is to create a virtual community of young inventors. A Hundred Tiny Hands plans to hold fun challenges – who can build the biggest Polytropolis city with the maximum number of lit up buildings generated from a nine-volt battery? It also intends to encourage kids to upload their own invention ideas, and the graduate students would help them make and produce their own custom kits, including a cartoon character made from their likeness to star as the main character in the booklet and on the box.

Chang Liu's research featured in Nature Chemical Biology Feb 21, 2014
Biomedical Engineer Designs a Living Cell with Second DNA Replication System

UC Irvine’s Chang Liu has created an engineered living cell with a second DNA replication system that mutates independently of and without harming the cell’s original genome. This parallel replication cell works like a two-lane highway -- with a fast lane and a slow lane -- for direct evolution in a lab setting.  With it, biomedical engineers will be able to rapidly evolve a huge array of biomolecules with custom desired functions. Liu and his research group published their work in the March issue of Nature Chemical Biology.

“Using the evolutionary process in a bioengineering lab is historically a very inefficient endeavor because you have to constantly move DNA into and out of cells,” explains Liu, an assistant professor in biomedical engineering. “This is because high mutation rates, necessary to create enough diversity to find new function on laboratory timescales, are only available in a test tube. High mutation rates are not available inside cells. In fact, organismal mutation rates must be kept extremely low because modern organisms have large complex genomes that are easily broken by high mutation rates.”

The parallel replication system designed by Liu can be made highly error-prone without hurting the genome, and any gene encoded on the new system will undergo rapid evolution. “Genes of interest placed in the fast lane can potentially evolve thousands to millions of times faster than they would if they were encoded in the genome, or the slow lane,” says Liu.

Anima Anandkumar Feb 18, 2014
Anandkumar Receives ‘Early-Career’ Sloan Research Fellowship for her Work in Machine Learning

Anima Anandkumar, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, has been awarded a 2014 Sloan Research Fellowship for her work at the interface of theory and practice of large-scale machine learning and high-dimensional statistics. Bestowed annually since 1955 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the two-year fellowships go to 126 early-career scientists and scholars in the U.S. and Canada whose achievements and potential identify them as the next generation of scientific leaders. Fellows – who are nominated by their peers – receive $50,000 to further their work. “It’s a great honor to join the prestigious ranks of Sloan Fellows,” Anandkumar says. “The support from the Sloan Foundation will enable me to continue my research on large-scale machine learning.”


Her work, broadly speaking, involves building intelligent computers that can learn from the world around them, said her colleague Padhraic Smyth, a professor of computer science and statistics in the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences. “This field is very hot right now, both in academic research and in the commercial world,” he said. “Companies such as Google and Microsoft and many others are using machine learning to develop self-driving cars, intelligent speech recognition, smart cameras, search engines that can better understand what you type, and more.” Machine learning also is helping biologists better understand cancer data and climate scientists to interpret patterns in vast quantities of climate data, said Smyth.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman Feb 14, 2014
Department of Energy Makes Solar Decathlon Official at UCI

On a clear and appropriately sunny Southern California day, the Calit2 courtyard yesterday provided a picturesque setting for a formal announcement that many at UC Irvine had been anticipating eagerly.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman Feb 13, 2014
UC Irvine to lead “Team Orange” at Solar Decathlon 2015

Deputy Energy Secretary announces contestants, decathlon site in campus visit

UC Irvine and three fellow Orange County campuses will compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2015, the international student competition to design and build the best solar-powered home. Chapman University, Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College will join UC Irvine as “Team Orange” to create a residence that reflects the traits of the drought-resistant, sun-loving California poppy.

“I’m thrilled that Team Orange has been selected to compete in this world-class event,” said Gregory Washington, dean of UC Irvine’s Samueli School of Engineering, who will lead the effort. His research specialty is “smart” materials that harvest energy. “We and our partners will show California and the nation that our campuses and Orange County lead the way on innovative, affordable solar power and other clean energy advances. The home team can definitely win.”

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman will visit UC Irvine today to announce the 20 teams selected to compete in Solar Decathlon 2015, which will be held at the Orange County Great Park. (The event will be live streamed at www.energy.gov/live.) Teams, from colleges and universities across the country and around the world, will now begin the nearly two-year process of building solar-powered houses that are affordable, innovative and highly energy-efficient.

“As President Obama made clear in the State of the Union address, we need an all-of-the-above energy strategy that creates a safer and more sustainable planet, while ensuring American students and workers have the skills they need for the challenging jobs of today and tomorrow,” Poneman said. “The Solar Decathlon provides the next generation of America’s architects, engineers and entrepreneurs with the real-world experience and training they need to strengthen U.S. innovation and support new, clean sources of energy.”

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