Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fudan University and UC San Diego hold joint nanotechnology workshop

On July 12, Fudan University and the University of California San Diego held their first joint Workshop on Nanomaterials and Nanoengineering. The event featured a full day of presentations on cutting edge nano research from UC San Diego, Fudan University and other leading research institutions in China.

“We would like to enhance the collaboration between UC San Diego and Fudan in the areas of science and engineering. This workshop will help bring on more exchanges of ideas and activities between both universities,” said Yongfeng Mei, professor of materials chemistry and physics at Fudan University and co-organizer of the event. Mei is already working with UC San Diego researchers on projects focusing on metamaterials and micro and nanomotors.

“In an effort towards future collaborations, we’re building a bridge between the leading materials program in China and the only nanoengineering department in the United States,” said Joseph Wang, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of NanoEngineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, who co-organized the event with Mei.

The joint workshop was held to honor Wang in his appointment as Honorary Professor of Fudan University. He received the honorary professorship in recognition of his pioneering contributions in nanoscience, nanomachines and nanobiotechnology.

On behalf of Fudan University, Professor Yongfeng Mei (left) and Ms. Ann Wenqing Tang, Associate Dean of International Relations (center)  present Professor Joseph Wang (right) with an Honorary Professor Award.
Joseph Wang (right) presents a UC San Diego banner to Fudan University.
At the workshop, Wang presented his lab’s work on nanomachines for medical, military, security and environmental applications. Examples include the first demonstration of nanomachines in living animals, nanomachines for cleaning up carbon dioxide pollution in water and microcannons that could fire drug-filled nanobullets at disease targets.

Other UC San Diego nanoengineering professors who gave talks at the event were:

Yi Chen
Talk title: Cell Membrane-Mediated DNA Nanostructure Formation

Description: The assembly of membrane proteins and membrane-associated proteins triggers various fundamental biological processes including cell uptake, signal transduction and inter-cellular communication. DNA nanotechnology, which enables precise control on the nanometer scale, is an alternative way to unravel such mechanisms. Chen’s lab used membrane-assisted assembly of DNA 2-D array nanostructures to mimic the pattern produced by assembly of triskelion. The successful construction of such membrane structures was confirmed by atomic force microscopy imaging.

Zhaowei Liu
Talk title: High Speed Super Resolution Microscopy

Description: Liu’s group developed high speed super resolution microscopy for various biological applications. His team demonstrated a new super resolution technique that achieves 50 nanometer wide field imaging at real movie speed.

Liangfang Zhang
Talk title: Biomimetic Nanoparticles for Drug Delivery, Detoxification and Vaccination

Description: Zhang reported on the biological functionalization of polymeric nanoparticles with a layer of membrane coating derived from natural red blood cells (RBCs). This approach aims to camouflage the nanoparticle surface with the erythrocyte exterior for long circulation while retaining the applicability of the cores that support the RBC membrane shell. In vivo results revealed superior pharmacokinetics and biodistribution by the RBC-mimicking nanoparticles compared to control particles coated with the state-of-the-art synthetic stealth materials. Three types of exciting applications of this biomimetic nanoparticle system were discussed: drug delivery, systemic detoxification and toxin vaccination.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Highlights from the 2016 UC San Diego Center for Visual Computing Retreat

UC San Diego held its first annual Center for Visual Computing Retreat May 20-21, 2016. Faculty members of the Center reviewed the work that has been done since it’s opening in 2015. The Center was created to find innovative solutions in computer vision and computer graphics. The retreat included 50+ participants, including 19 visitors from nine industrial sponsors.

At the retreat, Ravi Ramamoorthi, Director of the Center and Ronald L. Graham professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department, and Jacobs School of Engineering Dean Albert P. Pisano gave opening remarks and introduced the Center.

Following opening remarks, Ramamoorthi and other UC San Diego faculty members from the Computer Science and Engineering Department and Calit2 gave updates on their research:

Thomas A. DeFanti, R​esearch Scientist, Calit2
Cameras for Virtual Reality Displays

Ravi Ramamoorthi, PhD, ​Director, Center for Visual Computing | Professor, CSE

Sampling and Reconstruction of High­Dimensional Visual Appearance

Zhuowen Tu, PhD, P​rofessor, Cognitive Science, CSE
Deep Supervision for Deep Learning: Training, Regularization, and Multi­Scale Learning

Jürgen Schulze, PhD, A​ssociate Research Scientist, Computer Science
Virtual Reality with Head Mounted Displays

The majority of the first day consisted of student presentations on past and ongoing work, as well as a poster session in the evening.

Computer science and engineering professor Henrik Wann Jensen also spoke on the challenges presented by light transport simulation.

Following more student presentations on Day 2, Ramamoorthi, professor of computer science Jurgen Schulze and cognitive science professor Zhuowen Tu served on a panel featuring a discussion about 3D and VR imaging.

The retreat concluded with feedback from sponsors, including Cubic, which posted a blog post about the event.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Curbing the HIV Epidemic: UC San Diego Students Design Low-Cost HIV Viral Load Monitoring System for Tijuana, Mexico

A group of students from the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego will spend the summer trying to curb the HIV epidemic in Tijuana, Mexico. 
Two teams from UC San Diego’s Engineering World Health (EWH) student organization and Global TIES program are combining forces this summer to bring a device they created to monitor viral load in HIV patients to a clinical setting in Tijuana, Mexico for testing. 
The teams were tasked with building a low-cost HIV monitoring device for a hospital in Mozambique. UC San Diego Health doctors Matt Strain and Davey Smith are advising both of the teams. 
“Patients in the United States on HIV therapy are tested every three to six months to make sure their treatment is still effective,” said Yajur Maker, Co-President of Engineering World Health and bioengineering undergraduate student at the Jacobs School. “This enables doctors to change the patient’s therapy if the virus has become resistant to the drugs being given.”
To establish when the virus has become resistant, the patient’s viral load or the amount of virus present in the blood, must be assessed.
“If a therapy is working, the viral load goes down,” said Maker. “If the virus has become resistant, it goes up.”
Viral load test equipment costs roughly $80,000, and $65 per test. The students from the Global TIES Open Viral Load (OVL) Team and EWH have each developed prototype viral load testing devices that cost under $2,000.  The projected cost per test is $5. 
The two teams are combining forces to take their completed devices to a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico for testing, with the help of their advisors.
EWH Team
“We’ll adopt the best components from each team’s design and incorporate them into a system that’s ready for field implementation,” said Maker.
The teams have won over $31,000 in funding this year, including the Open Viral Load and Engineering World Health systems winning first and second place respectively in the Big Ideas at Berkeley Global Health track and receiving $2,000 each from the UCSD Social Innovation Fund. 
"The Open Viral Load Team was one of two [Global TIES] teams selected for this year's Clinton Global Initiative University, said Mandy Bratton, the Executive Director for Global TIES at UC San Diego.  “We are very proud of the work these students are doing and the impact it promises to have for HIV patients in low resource areas.”
Low-Cost HIV Monitoring
The key is determining the viral load, or the copies of HIV present in the body. After a certain threshold, or above a certain number of copies, the virus is determined to be resistant to HIV therapy, and patients must start new therapies. However, in low resource settings and without the necessary equipment, changing therapies is nearly impossible for doctors to justify.
The OVL and EWH teams are approaching the problem differently. In EWH’s case, the device consists of a low-cost centrifuge, PCR thermocycler, and a gel electrophoresis box.
The centrifuge, part of the Open Viral Load HIV-Monitoring device, processes blood.
“The centrifuge processes the blood so that we can get to the viral RNA,” said Maker. “After we extract the RNA, we amplify a gene specific to HIV using the thermocycler. Finally, we run it through the gel box to see whether viral RNA is present in large quantities. This helps doctors make the call on whether the patient’s HIV medication is not working. This process isn’t novel, but we’re making it accessible to hospitals and clinics in low-resource areas, such as Tijuana, which is so close to home.”
The difference between EWH’s device and the device the Global TIES team has built is the output.
“The difference is a qualitative versus a quantitative output. EWH’s device has a qualitative yes or no output, identifying for the doctor when a viral load threshold has been reached,” said Maker. “On the other hand, the OVL Team has built a device that quantifies the amount of virus present.”
Hayley Chong and Kirk Hutchison are part of the OVL Team. 
Chong is a third year bioengineering major. “I chose Global TIES as a freshman because every student I met that was in the program was passionate about their project,” said Chong.
Hutchison, a second year biology major, chose to participate in Global TIES after hearing a talk by a Global TIES member at an event.
“Global TIES is the reason I came to UC San Diego,” said Hutchison.
The two joined the OVL Team at the same time, after taking the introductory course  in the Global TIES program. 
“We decided to come up with a way to quantify the viral load,” said Chong. “We started with a microwell chip – once we extract the RNA, we can deposit it on the microwell chip and use a fluorescent probe to detect the number of copies in each sample. If five wells on the chip light up, there are five copies of the virus.”
The device is also advantageous because its components can be used separately to identify other diseases. Students will also be working with Dr. Davey Smith this summer to adapt the device as a rapid response test for the Zika virus.
Over the course of the summer, groups of students from the two teams now look to clinically validate the designs and begin field implementation. Lab testing will continue under Drs. Strain and Smith here in the U.S. and with their new partner Dr. Jose Roman Chavez Mendez at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) in Tijuana. With the teams collaborating and working together this summer, the future looks bright as they look to make an impact on the first of many low-resource settings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Year in Review: Engineers for a Sustainable World

From solar energy to water waste management, Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) projects are making an impact on our planet. ESW at UC San Diego creates more sustainable, socially and economically responsible communities. ESW at UC San Diego was awarded the National ESW Chapter of the Year Award this past spring and six teams from the organization were selected to present at Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) in April 2016, including Lotus and Solar Chill.

Check out some of the 2016 projects below!


Lotus is a project aimed to clear human waste from rivers and oceans by filtering waste from rivers — all without use of external energy. This waste includes chemical waste, most commonly runoffs from urban areas, and solid waste, such as any items from garbage cans. According to Ayat Amin, a senior computer science student and leader of Lotus, this waste begins in land, moves through rivers and falls into the oceans.

“We rarely think of it this way, but the oceans are the world's biggest natural reserve, but they are quickly becoming the world's landfill,” Amin said.

Within the past two years, Lotus is almost at a fully designed solution; she hopes to design solutions for “frustrating” global problems. “It will never solve the problem entirely, but it's always a step in the right direction,” Amin told the Jacobs School of Engineering.





SIBRE is focusing on developing affordable, safer batteries that are also the most sustainable in the market. Batteries are one of the most economical forms of compact grid energy storage. In particular, the project aims to improve established zinc-based batteries as well as promote newer batteries made from high-density magnesium, aluminum, potassium, and sodium. Ryan Toh, bioengineering senior and leader of the project, notes that the team projects $60/kWh, in comparison to Tesla’s projection of $200/kWh. As the project moves forward, testing of power, capacity, life, and cycle count will take place. In addition, the effects of discharging and recharging on performance will be taken into account. Once batteries have run through the entire recharge cycle count, they will be recycled to make new batteries. Low-cost batteries have the potential to play a large part in future energy storage and rechargeables.


Solar Chill began as a solar charging station that would allow students to recharge their electric batteries while resting on sustainable seating. Structural engineering students Cyrus Jahanian and Ellen Potts were the inspiration for the project as they had seen numerous hammocks in Costa Rica, which were part of the initial design that were eventually removed.

Third year chemical engineer and ESW Outreach and Finance Solar Chill Lead, Cynthia Chan, described her experience on the team as rewarding, especially in having the opportunity to work with individuals from various backgrounds. In addition, progress on Solar Chill has been almost entirely by students.




Learn more about Engineers for a Sustainable World at UC San Diego at

UC San Diego Students Fabricate Device to Protect Seniors from a Fall

The AirSave team demonstrated their device during their presentation at the electrical engineering design competition in June
Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older killing more than 400,000 people each year. “This number is projected to increase due to the shift in the baby-boomer population,” said Jun Lu, a recent electrical engineering graduate of the University of California San Diego (BS ’16). “It is a common occurrence, seniors talk about how falling or the fear of falling affects their lives everyday but there is not a widely accepted solution.”

For Lu, that number became real when his great grandmother died after a fall. Together with electrical engineering graduate students Aida Shahi and Borhan Vasli (who are both specializing in machine learning), and Gabriel Frischer, a third year neuroscience major at UC San Diego, Lu created a device to protect seniors from this kind of accident.

The AirSave team took second place at the UC San Diego Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s design competition in June
The device, called the AirSave impact protection system, took second place at the UC San Diego Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s design competition in June. The competition was part of the university’s Aging and Innovation Initiative and is the result of a collaboration between the Jacobs School of Engineering and the Stein Institute for Research on Aging. The goal for the projects in the competition was to improve quality of life for senior citizens.

Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune

During their research, they found that fatal falls occur mainly due to an impact of the hip, however impacts to the spine, neck and head are also common and can be catastrophic for the seniors. “We wanted to create something all-encompassing,” said Frischer.

The device includes a set of four air bags (one protecting the neck and cranium and three around the waist for hip protection) and a CO2 cartridge from a paintball gun to inflate them just before hitting the ground.

The students are using the resources in the UC San Diego EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio to fabricate prototypes. “We used the 3D printers to fabricate the airbags and the housing for the electrical components, and other tools like the function generators,” said Lu. “It’s a collaborative space, so we were also able to come up with ideas by talking to other students.”

"The AirSave Team was in the Maker Studio nearly every hour that we were open, and it is no surprise that their hard work and dedication earned them top marks in the competition," said Jesse DeWald, the facility’s director. "I think the best part of the AirSave Team using the EnVision Maker Studio, is that they inspired the other students around them to think about these very important problems and to help them realize that they have the tools and abilities to design the solutions to the problems."

“We learned a lot about the process of designing something,” said Frischer. “The biggest lesson was that we needed to design for the people we were making the device for. Initially, we thought we wanted to create a vest, but after talking to seniors, we decided on an exoskeleton.”

AirSave "exoskeleton" design
The change came about after the students spoke with residents at the La Costa Glen retirement community in Carlsbad and similar facilities.
“Everyone has a different style,” said Frischer. “It became clear that the seniors wanted a device they could wear underneath their clothes and still be comfortable. The frame of the exoskeleton is made of impact-absorbing foam, which adds an addition layer of protection on top of the airbags. Our design is unique, light, completely concealable under the wearers clothing and highly protective.”
The AirSave system includes a sensor that collects acceleration and coordination data and determines whether the person is falling, or just bending over to pick something up.
“We’re still working to improve the algorithm,” said Lu. “It’s pretty good though – the only thing it can’t differentiate is the jumping motion.”
When the AirSave team demonstrated their device during their presentation at the electrical engineering design competition in June, Frischer performed an actual tumble while wearing an accelerometer prototype so that the audience could see the rapid acceleration data from the sensor on the screen.
“The next step is to connect the airbag inflation component to the sensing component, which requires a high voltage battery, said Lu, who plans to work on the project full time next year. “The best part is, this is only the beginning.”
You can learn more about the project and how you can get involved here.
Additional Design Competition Results
In first place was the group that developed the MightyCart, a motorized, foldable shopping cart users steer by pressing sensors on the handle, making it easier to handle heavy loads. Ryan Collins, Gannon Gesiriech, Boulos Haddad and Kevin Nematzadeh — known collectively as Fountain of Youth — took home the $4,000 top prize.
The team that took home third place at the Design Competition was Team VITA, which developed pressure-sensitive carpet tiles embedded with LED lights that light a person’s path in the dark and alert others when someone has fallen. The team members were Chao-yu Lee, Wen Li, Pushen Wang and Edward Zhong. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

High school student researchers develop early detection test for ovarian cancer

Two students in a UC San Diego bioengineering lab are on the verge of a medical breakthrough -- and they're only in high school. Meet Gitanjali and Priyanka Multani, inventors of a new test for early detection of ovarian cancer.

"We've created a blood test essentially, so it's non-invasive, easier and more cost effective," Gitanjali said. Gitanjali and Priyanka are identical twins who will be seniors at Torrey Pines High School starting this fall. They developed the technology under the tutelage of UC San Diego bioengineering professor Ratnesh Lal. Their project tied for a first place ACS Science Award at the 62nd Annual Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair on March 16, 2016.

Their story was featured on CW6 San Diego. Read the article and watch the interview here.

Friday, June 17, 2016

On May 26, the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center successfully completed its third year and seventh Cohort as an NSF I-Corps site. To celebrate, the Center threw a reception for all the students, faculty, and mentors who have participated, ending the night with presentations from Spring Quarter’s 12 teams. During the final presentations, teams presented their ideas, target markets, and lessons learned from customer interviews conducted throughout the quarter.

Each of the mentors ranked the presenting teams categories of progress throughout the program, as well as quality of presentations. Each and every mentor believes that the teams have developed significantly from their initial idea pitches to their final presentations.

For example, the idea for Catalyst Technologies was initially developed in India.  Through customer discovery and market research, Lenord Melvix, the Entrepreneurial Lead, pivoted his focus from Indian to small American hydroponic farmers who were interested in seeing how his solutions could significantly cut their operation costs.

Dr. Seth Alexander of GenTag Solutions identified that designing multiple "all-in-one kits" that allow technicians to tag and capture RNA are much more useful and potentially profitable than his initial offering of a "do-it-yourself" method for clinical and academic researchers. He was able to gather this crucial information through the customer discovery process, an important tactic taught by mentors at the Center.

Armando Armillo of Saros created unique 3D Printers for community maker spaces and individual hobbyists. Through the customer discovery process,  these customer segments revealed the need for a niche quality of 3D printing between high-cost industry grade and the slower, lower-cost consumer grade 3D printing.

Saharnaz Baghdadchi of Singular Imaging, a team from the Phase II group, is developing a single-pixel imaging microscope that reduces the time and cost of stem cell tissue sample processing.  Through customer discovery, researchers confirmed that a beneficial application of the microscope is its high-definition quality, providing images of greater depth for brain imaging research.

Over the past three years, the von Liebig Center (vLC) has trained approximately 100 teams (250 student and faculty participants) in the process of starting a company using the customer discovery process and lean startup methodology.  The two-phase program has resulted in over 2,780 customer interviews conducted, and 19 teams have since filed patents, 44 teams have created prototypes, and 9 teams have gone to the NSF I-Corps Teams (National) program.

According to a survey sent out to the teams, participants revealed that the best part of the (vLC) I-Corps program was the focus on mentor relationships, the cultivation of the entrepreneurial mindset, the understanding the customer discovery process, and enhanced presentation skills.

“The best part of the I-Corps program was going through the process of determining the value of your technology,” says Dustin Fraley of the HeatSeq project. “Great framework for developing a business plan and justifying why your technology is needed through potential user interviews,” Fraley said, commenting that it was an invaluable experience.

Beyond commercialization of technology, the von Liebig Center also hopes to impart and encourage an entrepreneurial mindset in students, faculty, and staff that will help in job searches, identifying other areas of research that are translatable, and writing more competitive grant proposals. This is in line with the vision of Don Millard, the Deputy Division Director of the Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) Division at the National Science Foundation. Millard has held this philosophy since the NSF I-Corps program was founded. Millard attended the Institute of the Global Entrepreneur launch on June 2nd and met with the Center about the strong outcomes UC San Diego’s NSF I-Corps site has produced.

“The best thing I learned was entrepreneur-like thinking. I'm currently looking into other potentially translatable technologies in my lab with the mindset imparted to me by the I-Corps program,” says Wangzhong Sheng, from the AMDepot project.

The NSF I-Corps program will be offered again in Fall 2016. Applications are open and teams will be selected in September. Click here to apply!

As a tribute to the success of NSF von Liebig Center, 5 out of the 8 finalists in the UCSD Entrepreneur Challenge -- NanoVR, Pain Measurement Technologies, Clip Diagnostics, Locana, and Genrix – had participated in the vLC I-Corps program and were awarded funds towards their projects by placing in the top 3 of their track.

Read more about the winners here, and take a look through Priya Bisarya’s experience here