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Note From The Chair

In each issue of ENGenious we like to feature one of the academic options, and this time the Electrical Engineering option has stepped forward to share with you a glimpse of recent research activities. I have to say, this is not your father's EE, as the phrase goes. The variety of research is astonishing, and embraces phenomena from genomics to computational finance, alongside traditional areas such as communications and signal processing. But even "traditional" areas here are always at the cutting edge, as will be evident.

There is also a focus on prostheses in this issue. Joel Burdick and Richard Andersen present their work on the world's first cognitive neural prosthesis, which allows the direction of a physical activity (in this case, computer cursor movement) by pure thought alone. Yu-Chong Tai and Wolfgang Fink report on their work in creating a retinal prosthesis, which takes advantage of "smart skin" invented in the Tai lab.

The Institute's capital campaign, "There's only one. Caltech," is in full swing and it gives me great pleasure to announce four tremendous gifts which will transform the research and education in the Division for decades to come.

The first two are in support of Caltech's Nanoscience Initiative, which ultimately seeks to develop integrated nanoscale systems that will lead to true nanoscale technology. Caltech scientists and engineers have been working in the trenches of the nano world for more than a decade. Recognizing the maturity of our on-going efforts in the field, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has granted us $25.4 million to reach this next level. Integrated nanoscale systems are only possible through a new collaborative science that transcends what individual laboratories can attempt, and the state-of-the-art infrastructure and equipment that the Moore gift allows us to implement will be unprecedented in the research community. Similarly, Fred Kavli and the Kavli Foundation awarded a $7.5 million grant to Caltech in March to establish the Kavli Nanoscience Institute (KNI). Under the direction of Michael Roukes, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering, the KNI will allow us to co-locate many of the disparate groups on campus and create a formal home for the nanoscience community at Caltech.

The Division's research thrust into Information Science and Technology (IST), described in these pages previously, has received a huge endorsement in the form of two outstanding gifts: the first is $25 million from the Annenberg Foundation. The second is $22 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. I invite you to turn the page to read more on how these gifts will be used to formally establish the nation's intellectual and academic center for information science.

These gifts are inspiring, and will change the lives of many—from our students and faculty to all the persons who will eventually be touched by the life-enriching and life-saving technologies that will grow from these magnanimous seeds.

As always, we welcome your feedback.


Richard M. Murray
Chair, Division of Engineering and Applied Science

Cover image caption: Visualization of two distinct plasmonic modes in an array of twelve 10-nm silver particles. A plasmon can be pictured as a fluid compression wave in the "sea" of free electrons in a metal. The field of plasmonics studies hybrid excitations which share the characteristics of light and of electron oscillations. This unique quality allows the concentration of intense optical fields in regions much smaller than a wavelength, and therefore enables the miniaturization of optical devices to the nanoscale. Key potential applications include any area of photonics in which intense electric fields are crucial, such as nonlinear optics or sensing of very small volumes.The simulated structures (left) interact strongly with light in two frequency bands. At infrared frequencies the whole array acts like a single antenna (top array), while visible light induces an electron oscillation in each individual particle (bottom array). This is an example of how plasmonic systems allow a great deal of flexibility for engineering a specific spectral response.These simulations come from the lab of Harry A. Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science. Atwater and his group are among the pioneers in photonics and in particular, were the first to experimentally show propagation in a plasmon nanoparticle antenna waveguide. Above: Actual smart skin sample demonstrating its flexibility at wrapping around a curved surface.


Note From The Chair

Letter from the E&AS Chair: Richard Murray

Snap Shots

'Round About the Institute: Recent Events and Openings on Campus

Idea Flow

Teaching at the Intersection of Science, Engineering, and Business
by Kenneth A. Pickar

Progress Reports

Immobilization of Arsenic in the L.A. Aqueduct:
How and How Long?
by Janet G. Hering

By Pure Thought Alone: The Development of the First Cognitive Neural Prosthesis
by Joel W. Burdick and Richard A. Andersen


Don Cohen: Marvelous Mathematics, Myriad Manifestations
by Thomas Hou

Research Note

Retinal Implant Research: The Possibility of Artificial Vision
by Yu-Chong Tai and Wolfgang Fink

Option Profile

The EE Enterprise: Sweeping into Uncharted
by P. P. Vaidyanathan

New Faculty

Who's New: Two New Faculty and Moore Scholar
Welcome to Mathieu Desbrun, Houman Owhadi, and Sandra M. Troian