Monday, August 5, 2013

News of the Week

Biosensing tattoos. Wireless electrodes. Fire fighting robots. It was a busy week in the news for the Jacobs School of Engineering.

Geert Schmid-Schönbein, bioengineering professor and chair, was featured in a Voice of San Diego article on the philosophical and often practical question on the balance and, sometimes, the tension, between research and development. In the competition for limited research funding, is there too much pressure to focus on commercial applications? Do researchers have enough room to ponder more open-ended scientific problems that may take 20 or 30 years to develop a marketable idea, medical treatment or solution, assuming it ever does?

VOSD writer Kelly Bennett also interviewed Rosibel Ochoa, director of the Jacobs School of Engineering’s von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center, which provides seed funding and advisory services to faculty and students who want to examine whether there is a commercial market for their research.   
Ochoa said researchers have nothing to fear from the commercialization process.

“Most of the research that is being conducted is trying to address a problem somehow,” said Ochoa. “Even though you are in the very early stages of the discovery, or the learning process, you should always have in mind, ‘If I’m successful, what is the path to get that discovery into the hands of a patient?’”

Finding potential markets for his discoveries is exciting, said Schmid-Schönbein. But he’s still got a soft spot for his first love.

“Nothing is more exciting than sitting together with a student who’s just made a discovery,” he said. “It’s electrifying. There are no millions of dollars you can give me that would match that.”

Meanwhile, the LA Times featured biosensor tattoos developed in the nanoengineering lab of professor Joe Wang. The tattoos measure lactate in sweat to alter athletes when they are on the verge of overexertion. LA Times explains the science:  

Normally, aerobic metabolism supplies muscles with enough energy to keep them going. But they might not cut it during during intense physical activity. To compensate, muscles consume their stores of glycogen and release energy anaerobically. This process produces lactate, which then gets converted to lactic acid. Over time, lactic acid accumulates in the muscles, eventually triggering the intense exhaustion associated with hitting “the wall.”

Doctors and trainers often use lactate as an indicator of physical exertion, usually by measuring its levels in blood drawn every few minutes. UCSD nanoengineer Joseph Wang came up with a less invasive solution. He developed a sensor that monitors lactate levels in sweat instead of blood, so that athletes can apply it to their skin — much like a temporary tattoo.
UT San Diego science writer Gary Robbins featured UC San Diego startup Cognionics in an online interview this week.  Cognionics was founded by UC San Diego alumnus Mike Chi (Ph.D. '11), an electrical engineer who developed his technology while working in the laboratory of bioengineering professor Gert Cauwenberghs and launched his company with funding and advisory services from the Jacobs School's von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center. Cognionics' EEG headset is wireless and relies on dry electrode technology. These major advancements remove the long, messy setup required for conventional EEG and allow doctors and researchers to monitor their patients and subjects in more natural, real-world environments outside the hospital or laboratory. 

The Scientist featured Calit2 Director Larry Smarr in this video, where he explains his efforts to record data about his own body. Smarr talks about his fight with Crohn's disease, weight loss and getting a better understanding of your own body. His goal is to fend off future health problems.

KPBS, the local NPR affiliate in San Diego, has a story about how Jacobs School graduate student Sarah Meiklejohn helped foil a plot to frame an influential security blogger by the name of David Krebs. Russian hackers where planning to mail heroin to Krebs' house, then call the police on him. Meiklejohn helped Krebs determine that the hackers had indeed purchased the drugs. KPBS explains:

"I just helped confirm that the hacker who was boasting about doing this is likely the perpetrator," said Meiklejohn. Her insider knowledge of Bitcoin and clandestine online marketplaces like Silk Road helped her connect—with a reasonable degree of certainty—the Russian hackers with the heroin shipped to Krebs' house.
"The hacker posted, publicly, a Bitcoin address on a forum," she said, retracing the steps she took to verify Krebs' suspicions.

The website Government Technology featured a firefighting robot built in the lab of Jacobs School Professor Thomas Bewley. More from Gov Tech:

The vision for the project is for it to become common practice for every fire department to own a squad of cheap, semi-autonomous robots that can enter superheated situations and emerge unscathed. The student team of Yuncong Chen, Will Warren, and Daniel Yang recently won a $10,000 grand prize for their robot prototype at the Student Infrared Imaging Competition.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, this blog is really amazing and provide me answers to all my questions. This is really informative and I will for sure refer my friends the same. I got the freebies with the ComLuv premium and adding this now makes it all even juicier than degrees online