Thursday, March 16, 2017

Contextual Robotics Director testifies in Washington DC

Henrik Christensen, the director of the Contextual Robotics Institute at the Jacobs School, testified March 16 in front of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a bipartisan group that monitors and investigates the national security impllications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and China.

The hearing's theme was "China's pursuit of next frontier tech: computing, robotics and biotechnology."  Christensen's testimony was part of a panel on military and industrial robotics. He was quoted on the topic of industrial robotics and China in a January story in The New York Times.

Below is a summary in tweets of Christensen's testimony:

More info on the Contextual Robotics Institute at UC San Diego here:

Christensen's website here:

Friday, March 10, 2017

Osaka University - 5 cohorts strong!

A fifth cohort of ten students and faculty from Osaka University attended the 2-week Global Innovation Training program at UC San Diego to learn how to bring their ideas from the lab to the market. The Global Innovation Training Program is an opportunity for our international partners are introduced to commercialization skills including team formation, customer validation, building the business model, and go-to-market planning.

Jonathan Masters (instructor) and Dennis Abremski (IGE Director) with Ayumi Kawasaki receiving her certificate for the program. 

During this cohort, the attendees were able to practice their presentation skills and highlight their ideas and technology through a poster session open to the UC San Diego Community. Serial entrepreneurs Jonathan Masters (Lead Instructor of Osaka Program) and Albert Liu (Lead Mentor of Osaka Program) selected 4 of the 10 projects presented and created 2 to 3 person teams to work on each project together.

Within the duration of the program, everyone participated in team building exercises with the Gordon Center and experiential design exercises with DD Studio CEO, Charles Cunbburn. Human-centered Design is a process to understand customer needs, which is the initial step in the Lean Launchpad process of commercialization taught at IGE. The group also visited local startup companies, such as Whova and NanoCellect Biomedical, and hosted guest speakers such as NSF I-Corps graduate, Lorenzo Ferrari, and Ichiro “Ike” Toriyama, Sony R&D Director.

At the end of the program, the teams presented what they had learned over the 2-week period to a panel of serial entrepreneurs and investors. Derek Footer, Jan Dehesh and Richard Kuntz selected as the winning team, but they said all 4 teams have great ideas with a strong chance for success.

The whole class visiting the Pepper House. is a company aimed at creating drug candidates for pharmaceuticals using a novel gene-based method of developing new compounds from plants. Winning team members include Ayumi Kawasaki, Ryo Iwamoto, & Mario Nagase, who are all doctoral students in Science & Engineering.

Other technological ideas explored in the program included: VisFlu, a company aimed to provide diagnosis of any infectious disease in the world with a gene-based kit that can detect viruses and drug resistance in 15 mins, Nanaota created a new lithium ion battery using nanomaterials to last longer and avoid the risk of fire, and MIRAI, a portable and inexpensive analyzer that utilizes infrared light to maintain quality control during drug development using.

To learn more about our Global Innovation Training programs at IGE, please visit:

Becoming an Entrepreneurial Leader

Gordon Center and Von Liebig Center comes together for Entrepreneur Magic

Gaurav Agrawal, a member of both the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center and the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center, has become a co-founder and Vice President of Blue LINC, an incubator that allows students to bridge the gap between real world healthcare issues and students with the knowledge to solve them.

Gaurav attributes his success with Blue LINC to his personal and leadership development from both the Gordon Center and von Liebig Center. “Participation in I-Corps made me a stronger and more confident public speaker. The Gordon Center program really provided wonderful insight into my own tendencies with respect to communication, leadership style, and more, whether it is an individual or group setting. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on myself and to learn from my fellow student leaders. I now find that I pay closer attention to the way I act, the words I use, and the body language of myself and those around me. I am confident that these soft skills will help me succeed as an entrepreneur as well.” said Gaurav.

Blue LINC consists of a group of graduate students with backgrounds in medicine, business, engineering, and design who came together to establish a biomedical incubator. The incubator allows fairly new businesses to develop themselves and their teams professionally. Gaurav co-found Blue LINC alongside Kevin Jubbal (President), Nick Forsh (Director of Internal Affairs), and Vish Ramesh (Director of External Affairs). In its first year, Blue LINC hopes to create opportunities, develop programs, and make connections for individuals, while also focusing on medical needs.

Gaurav believes that this program can be a huge reward to the university in the long run. The incubator could open the door to more opportunities, while also creating a collaborative environment across different departments campus wide. Gaurav is looking forward to more student involvement to take on leadership roles in Blue LINC.  He also hopes to expand the program by establishing an advisory board to support the current and future leadership of the program.

Blue LINC cofounders Kevin Jubbal, Gaurav Agrawal, Vish Ramesh, and Nick Forsch. 

If you would like to learn more about the Gordon Scholar program or UC San Diego’s NSF I-Corps program please visit the Institute for the Global Entrepreneur. Both the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center and the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center are part of the Institute for the Global Entrepreneur.

To learn more about Blue LINC, visit their website:

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Meet the EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio Coordinator

Meet Colin Zyskowski, a graduate student in computer music. Colin is Jesse’s right-hand man. We asked him, “What exactly do you do?”

I oversee the undergraduate staff, help maintain the equipment, assist classes with the tools, and I assist Jesse with his mountain of day to day tasks, including the website. We’ll have a new project demonstration and tutorial page up soon.

How did you end up in this position?

I worked with COSMOS over the summer teaching the music technology cluster in EnVision. That was my first exposure to the space. I had been looking for a place like that since I started my PhD at UC San Diego. I started volunteering the following quarter.

What is your goal?

I want to go into academia. I really like the atmosphere – being around a group of people on the cutting-edge of research.

Do you feel like your time at EnVision fits into that?

Oh absolutely. I like that it’s geared towards prototyping. I myself do a lot with hardware design.

What is your dissertation on?

Audio processing on mobile robotic networks - I'm researching various methods and applications for processing audio on groups of robots. These robots communicate with each other via wireless networks that I have built. The audio processing takes place on small computers or microcontrollers including the Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone Black, and a board that I designed and fabricated. The applications that I have focused on are musical performance, sound-source localization, dynamic audio spatialization, and positional determination. The network also has various functions, such as streaming audio, spatial mapping, group learning, and cooperative performance. I'm currently in my fifth year of the PhD program, and am planning to graduate in the spring of 2018. I work primarily with Miller Puckette (music) and Mauricio de Oliveira (mechanical engineering).

What else are you working on?

I also play music (guitar, drums, piano, bass), work as an audio engineer, build quirky electronic instruments, and do a lot of woodworking.    

You can see some of Colin’s projects here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Computer science alum receives major award in software programming

A University of California San Diego alumnus in computer science, Ross Tate (Ph.D. ’12), is one of two professors selected to receive the Dahl-Nygaard Prizes for 2017. The prizes are awarded annually by the Association Internationale pour les Technologies Objets (AITO).

Tate will accept the award at the 31st European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming (ECOOP) in June, set to take place in Barcelona, Spain. Now a professor of computer science at Cornell University, Tate will received the Dahl-Nygaard Prize for a “younger researcher who has demonstrated great potential for following in the footsteps of two pioneers in the area of programming and simulation.”

The late Ole-Johan Dahl and Kristen Nygaard did foundational work on object-oriented programming, particularly with the Simula language – widely considered one of the most important inventions in software engineering. Both Dahl and Nygaard died in 2002.

AITO cited Ross Tate’s “fundamental contributions to type systems with applications to object-oriented languages.”

In highlighting his contributions, the association reached back to his landmark work while still a graduate student at UC San Diego. Published in 2011 at the Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation (PLDI), Tate found that “although wildcards as in Java are undecidable in theory, programmers only use specific flavors of wildcards, which keeps them decidable in practice.”

According to AITO, the 2017 prize also recognizes that Tate has had a “strong industrial impact via his involvement in the production languages Ceylon (Red Hat) and Kotlin (JetBrains).” For Red Hat, Tate says his “role on the team is primarily as type-system advisor, making sure Ceylon's powerful features all work together cohesively.” He is also a type-system advisor to the JetBrains team, but notes that the “two projects are very different, both in how they operate, and in what they are working towards.”

Then-Ph.D. student Tate did his dissertation at UC San Diego under computer science professor Sorin Lerner on “Equality Saturation: Using Equational Reasoning to Optimize Imperative Functions”. 

After completing his Ph.D. in 2012, Tate immediately joined the Cornell faculty and continued his research on wildcards and type systems. According to AITO, he later proposed that “F-bounded polymorphism can be replaced by simpler concepts that were sufficient for the use that programmers made of generics in a large corpus” (as outlined by Tate and co-authors in a paper presented at PLDI 2014).

Tate also discovered that Java wildcards and Scala path-dependent types, in combination with implicit null pointers, make the languages unsound. That discovery was presented in 2016 at the Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages and Applications (OOPSLA) in Amsterdam. The UC San Diego alumnus also wrote a popular article on the unsoundness issue for the Hackernoon website. In “Java is Unsound: The Industry Perspective,” Tate notes that the OOPSLA article was written for academics, so he drafted the popular article to discuss the issue – primarily focusing on Java –from the point of view of general developers in industry. (See related links below to read Tate’s Hackernoon article.)

AITO also awards the Dahl-Nygaard Prize to a “senior researcher with outstanding career contributions”. For the 2017 Senior prize, the association picked Google software engineer Gilad Bracha, citing his “outstanding work on many topics relevant to the field of object-orientation, including mixins, Java generics, Strongtalk and Newspeak.”

Related Links

Monday, January 30, 2017

Eggshells -- nature's ceramic material

UC San Diego engineers investigate why eggshells are so strong

Think breaking an egg is easy? Try holding it sideways between your hands and pressing it, you'll find that it's almost impossible to break. That's what Eric Nicholas Hahn, a UC San Diego Ph.D. alumnus from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, demonstrates in the video below:

Hahn was part of a team of researchers led by mechanical engineering professor Marc Meyers that investigated what makes eggshells so strong. Their findings were published last week in Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

The function of the eggshell is to protect the embryo from the environment, but it cannot be too strong otherwise the chick would not be able to break out and hatch. It is made of calcium carbonate, an important biomineral, which is different from hydroxyapatite, the mineral component of bone.

In the study, eggs of different sizes, from quail to ostrich, were tested on their strength using an electromechanical system that compressed the eggs between two pieces of rubber. When an egg is compressed in this way, tensile stresses develop radially in the shell. It is only when this radial tensile stress reaches a critical level, equal to the tensile strength of calcium carbonate, that the egg breaks.

Eric Nicholas Hahn, the first author of the study.
Chicken eggs were found to have a compressive strength of 100 lbs, whereas ostrich eggs gave values of more than 1000 lbs. Size and shell thickness were the most important factors in determining shell strength. The strength of eggshells decreases with increasing size and thus thickness, but the force required to break the egg increases because the stress (force/area) is less.

"This paper revealed, for the first time, the mechanism by which the eggs break when subjected to axial compression. It is not the compression by my hands that breaks the egg, but the tension generated radially,” Meyers said.

Meyers was interested in this topic since he was a child growing up in Brazil. He added, "We would like to check the universality of our equations by testing eggs of all kinds of birds. There are a variety of interesting birds that we did not test because their eggs are difficult to come by: penguins, eagles, dinosaur..."

Source: The Royal Society Publishing Blog

Full paper: "Nature's technical ceramic: the avian eggshell."