Thursday, May 25, 2017

Engineer Talks Tech with Congressional Staff in Washington, D.C.

Electrical engineering professor Patrick Mercier demonstrates the temporary tattoo alcohol biosensor and other UC San Diego wearable technologies to Congressional staff members.

In the wake of the March for Science, scientists and science supporters worldwide are actively seeking ways to connect and engage with their political representatives, in hopes of bridging the gap between science and public policy.

Patrick Mercier, an electrical engineering professor at UC San Diego, got the chance to do just that at an event on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. He met with staff members working for representatives for San Diego County and for California Senator Dianne Feinstein. He also showcased research projects conducted under the umbrella of the Center for Wearable Sensors at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

The event was the BioMedical Technology Exhibition hosted by the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) in partnership with the Congressional Research and Development Caucus and the Congressional Robotics Caucus. Mercier was among a group of researchers to present their cutting-edge technologies to Congressional staff in the U.S. House of Representatives. The event took place on May 5, 2017.

Researchers from several universities and institutions provided live demonstrations of their federally-funded biomedical engineering devices and technologies that have the potential to revolutionize access to health care. These researchers also participated in 18 meetings with Congressional staff, facilitated by AIMBE — the first step in starting a dialog and becoming a trusted advisor to their lawmakers.

At the exhibition, Mercier showcased several technologies that he, along with nanoengineering professor Joseph Wang, developed at UC San Diego: a temporary tattoo that monitors blood alcohol levels from sweat; a “Tricorder-like” device that can be worn on the chest to simultaneously measure heart rate and lactate levels; and MouthSense, which is a mouth guard sensor that monitors biomarkers in saliva such as lactate, cortisol and uric acid. These technologies demonstrate how UC San Diego researchers are developing wearable devices that can be seamlessly integrated into everyday life to provide continuous, non-invasive and real-time health monitoring.

Left: Mercier discusses NIH-funded research with Congressional staffers. Right: Mercier with Krishna Kandarpa, Director of Research Sciences & Strategic Divisions at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

“All staff members, particularly those in our local offices were very enthusiastic about the technology we’ve developed and are encouraged that investment in NIH research leads to new and interesting devices that can potentially help improve healthcare and lower costs,” Mercier said. Such investment, he said, facilitates commercialization of innovative, early-stage technologies such as MouthSense, which Mercier and Wang spun off as a startup.

Mercier met with a variety of Congressional staff members, including those from the offices of San Diego county Congress members Scott Peters, Darrell Issa and Susan Davis, as well as the office of California Senator Feinstein.

“It was nice to personally explain to these offices that funding NIH (and other scientific research agencies like NSF) has not only a local financial impact, but also a possibility to have a long term impact on healthcare in general. The timing of this event was perfect, as congress just passed an omnibus bill to increase NIH funding, which is now being looked at by the Senate.”

Here’s a list of other technologies showcased at AIMBE’s BioMedical Technology Exhibition:
·         Smart glasses that adjust prescription based on where you are looking (University of Utah)
·         MobiLab: Cell phone-based rapid chlamydia test (Johns Hopkins University)
·         Robotic cane (University of Arkansas at Little Rock)
·         Unobtrusive ultrasound system for blood pressure measurement (MIT)
·         MRI compatible robotics (Children’s National Health System)
·         LASER treatment of burns and traumatic scars (Harvard University and Miami Dermatology and Laser)

·         Real-time surgical guidance in neck surgery using imaging (Vanderbilt University)

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