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This issue of ENGenious features a number of our faculty, alumni, and students who are working at the edges of fundamental science to invent the technologies of the future and to tackle the biggest problems facing humanity. As you read, I encourage you to think about the Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) Division and Caltech's greatest achievement—the creation of new schools of thought. These schools of thought reflect our combined achievements and excellence in both research and education. It starts with the faculty's dedication and commitment to training students in their area of expertise or singularities of excellence, which is supported by mastery of the fundamentals. Then these students become the next generation of academics, researchers, technologists, and leaders who in turn train their own students and associates, and in the process they influence industry, the economy, and even government policy and societal perceptions. They are the inheritors and carriers of both our educational and our research philosophies.

One may ask how the small number of faculty in the EAS Division can have so great an impact that Caltech can maintain the top position in the Times Higher Education world university rankings in the area of engineering and technology for multiple years. First, by design, we don't cover all areas in engineering and applied science. We dynamically choose only the ones that we consider the most important, and we are ready to retire the ones that are not intellectually stimulating. Our faculty do not represent a continuum of research interests and specialties. We are, in the words of my old Caltech mentors, Professors Jim Knowles and Eli Sternberg, a collection of isolated singularities. However, in order for these isolated areas of excellence to be effective, the second principle has to be introduced. This principle dictates that the barriers between disciplines, departments, and even divisions remain very low so that both faculty and students can cross them, if they wish, without spending unnecessary energy. This is a principle that is also shared throughout the Institute and necessitates the existence of a truly interdisciplinary culture in which turf and labels become secondary to intellectual exchange. Other major engineering schools speak of the value of interdisciplinary research; our difference is that we have practiced it since our founding over 100 years ago. It was simply critical to our survival.

In this analogy, the isolated singularities of excellence represent our chosen disciplinary strengths in research and teaching, while our interdisciplinary research groups and centers can be viewed as sparks created between the disciplines. These energetic sparks of interdisciplinary brilliance may or may not be short-lived, but they are triggered by our desire to tackle society's big problems and are facilitated by low barriers to enter new fields. New challenges, such as renewable energy, and new ideas, such as bioinspired engineering, create new and sometimes unexpected sparks. Long-standing problems, such as terrestrial hazards involving both the fluid and the solid earth, represent longer-lasting sparks. Indeed, engineers do best when they tackle and mitigate humanity's biggest calamities and problems.

Ares J. Rosakis
Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Chair, Division of Engineering and Applied Science


Cover image: The image shows details of the deformation of a polycrystalline shape memory alloy at the microscale. Shape memory materials are active or smart materials that have an ability to "remember" a given shape. The process of deformation in these materials is extremely complex, with different features emerging at different length-scales. The image shows the pattern at a micron scale and represents three different levels of load. [Image credit: Andrew Richards]


Cover image: Cell division is a ubiquitous process in biology. A dividing cell undergoes drastic three-dimensional conformational changes, starting from a spread football shape, then turning into a sphere, and finally splitting apart into two daughter cells. During this process, the cell remains connected to its surroundings through the slender extensions at either tip. The forces applied by the cell to its surroundings can be computed through the Cauchy relation (t = σ n), where t is the traction force, σ is a measure of the stress within the material, and n describes the shape of the cell. [Image credit: Jacob Notbohm, Ayelet Lesman]

The Caltech Division of Engineering and Applied Science consists of seven departments and is home to more than 75 faculty who are working at the edges of fundamental science to invent the technologies of the future.

We invite you to learn more about the Division through our website,


Message From The Chair

Ares Rosakis

Snap Shots

Protecting the Brain with Infrared Light
Testing an Extreme-Terrain Rover
Reinventing the Toilet
Redefining the Limits of Photovoltaic Efficiency
Transforming Our Knowledge of the Quantum World

Who's New

Venkat Chandrasekaran
Andrei Faraon
Scott Diddams
Peter Schmid

EAS Feature

Medicine, Energy, Defense, Space, and Earthquakes
The Far-Reaching Arm of Solid Mechanics Research at Caltech

Alumni Profile

Janet Blume
Academic Leader, Educator, and Innovator with a Commitment to Time and Care

Research and Teaching Note

Learning from Data
How to Deliver a Quality Online Course to Serious Learners

Idea Flow

Finding the Balance
A New Perspective on the Complex World of Water Management


Investing in Engineering and Science
We Can't Afford Not To!

Progress Report

Calculations in the Sand
Random Walks in Physical Biology

Campus Resource

Cultural Ambassador for Science
Brian Brophy, Director of Theater Arts at Caltech


Trity Pourbahrami


Vicki Chiu


Leona Kershaw
Tina Rutch

Copy Editor

Sara Arnold

Contributing Writer

Jill Andrews

Image Credits

Cover: Cell division: Jacob Notbohm, Ayelet Lesman; Polycrystalline shape-memory alloy: Andrew Richards
p. 2: Marc Adams, Jonathan Mihaly, Jon Tandy, Ares J. Rosakis
pp. 3 (Rosakis), 4 (Emami-Neyestanak, Sherman), 6 (Chandrasekaran, Faraon), 8 (Rosakis), 9 (Ortiz), 10 (Andrade), 12 (Daraio), 19 (Bhattacharya), 24, 40, 43: Briana Ticehurst p. 4 (Tanner): Sara Ahmed
p. 5: Toilet Challenge: Lance Hayashida (top), Michael Hoffmann (bottom); LMI: Alain Harrus; IQIM: George Retseck
p. 6: Courtesy of Scott Diddams and Peter Schmid
p. 9 (hypervelocity impact): Michael Ortiz
p. 10: Caltech Geomechanics Group
p. 11 (Parkfield): Courtesy of Nadia Lapusta, featured in Science, May 11, 2012
pp. 11 (Lapusta), 12 (Pellegrino), 13 (background image of Daraio's research), 14 (Knauss), 15, 21, 27: Vicki Chiu
p. 13 (decelerator): Sergio Pellegrino
p. 14 (crack propagating): Wolfgang Knauss
pp. 16–18: Lance Hayashida
p. 18 (background image of Kochmann's research): Courtesy of Dennis Kochmann
p. 19 (Knowles): Bob Paz
pp. 20, 22: Courtesy of Janet Blume
pp. 28–29: Courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources
pp. 30, 32–33: Courtesy of Subra Suresh
p. 31: National Science Board, Science and Engineering Indicators 2012
p. 35: Michael Salvatore Tierney
pp. 36–38: Courtesy of Rob Phillips
p. 42: Jonathan Wolfe
p. 44: Cindy de Mesa
Inside back cover: Benny Chan Fotoworks