Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering is meeting employer needs in STEM

At the U.S. News STEM Solutions 2017 conference, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Dean Albert P. Pisano participated in the closing keynote session. Pisano shared the stage with Rep. Scott Peters; Debra Reed, Chairman, President and CEO of Sempra Energy; Francis deSouza, President and CEO of Illumina; and Mark Dankberg, Chairman of the Board and CEO of ViaSat.

The high-powered group discussed the importance of meeting the STEM challenges in San Diego and beyond, as well as the key roles that community colleges play in filling the STEM pipeline.

“I spend a lot of time listening to corporate executives to learn from them exactly what their workforce needs are, so that we at the Jacobs School can be preparing students to the best of our ability,” said Pisano.

Increasing and supporting STEM-related degree programs at institutions of higher education is crucial, but it’s the not whole picture, Pisano noted. If students don't know what types of STEM jobs are available to them, how will they know to choose a STEM field of study?

Pisano highlighted the need to introduce to students at a young age the various types of STEM careers that are available to them.

The Jacobs School of Engineering helps in this important task through a variety of outreach programs, some of which are run by the Jacobs School’s IDEA Engineering Student Center. In addition, the Jacobs School administers UC San Diego’s instantiation of the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science, or COSMOS.

COSMOS is a four-week residential program for high school students with demonstrated achievements in math and science that gives this kind of introduction to a career in engineering. COSMOS is offered at four University of California campuses and aims to encourage high school students interested in science, technology, engineering and math to continue pursuing these fields in college.

At UC San Diego, COSMOS has been in place for 12 years. Students who are admitted to the program select from nine clusters depending on their interests, which range from computers in everyday life and the amazing red blood cell, to tissue engineering and robot inventors.

Learn how to apply to COSMOS here.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Faculty and students from the Center for Visual Computing will present 17 papers at CVPR 2017

Faculty and students from the Center for Visual Computing will present 12 papers at CVPR 2017, the premier international forum for computer vision research this year, held in Honolulu, Hawaii.

1. Robust Energy Minimization for BRDF-Invariant Shape From Light Fields
Zhengqin Li, Zexiang Xu, Ravi Ramamoorthi, Manmohan Chandraker

2. Light Field Blind Motion Deblurring
Pratul P. Srinivasan, Ren Ng, Ravi Ramamoorthi

3. Deeply Supervised Salient Object Detection With Short Connections
Qibin Hou, Ming-Ming Cheng, Xiaowei Hu, Ali Borji, Zhuowen Tu, Philip H. S. Torr

4. Aggregated Residual Transformations for Deep Neural Networks
Saining Xie, Ross Girshick, Piotr Dollár, Zhuowen Tu, Kaiming He

5. Semantically Consistent Regularization for Zero-Shot Recognition
Pedro Morgado, Nuno Vasconcelos

6. AGA: Attribute-Guided Augmentation
Mandar Dixit, Roland Kwitt, Marc Niethammer, Nuno Vasconcelos

7. Deep Learning With Low Precision by Half-Wave Gaussian Quantization
Zhaowei Cai, Xiaodong He, Jian Sun, Nuno Vasconcelos

8. Deep Supervision With Shape Concepts for Occlusion-Aware 3D Object Parsing
Chi Li, M. Zeeshan Zia, Quoc-Huy Tran, Xiang Yu, Gregory D. Hager, Manmohan Chandraker

9. DESIRE: Distant Future Prediction in Dynamic Scenes With Interacting Agents
Namhoon Lee, Wongun Choi, Paul Vernaza, Christopher B. Choy, Philip H. S. Torr, Manmohan Chandraker

10. Deep Network Flow for Multi-Object Tracking
Samuel Schulter, Paul Vernaza, Wongun Choi, Manmohan Chandraker

11. Learning Random-Walk Label Propagation for Weakly-Supervised Semantic Segmentation
Paul Vernaza, Manmohan Chandraker

12. Person Re-Identification in the Wild
Liang Zheng, Hengheng Zhang, Shaoyan Sun, Manmohan Chandraker, Yi Yang, Qi Tian

13. A Point Set Generation Network for 3D Object Reconstruction from a Single Image
Hao Su, Haoqiang Fan and Leonidas Guibas.

14. PointNet: Deep Learning on Point Sets for 3D Classification and Segmentation

Hao Su, Charles Qi, Kaichun Mo and Leonidas Guibas.

15. SyncSpecCNN: Synchronized Spectral CNN for 3D Shape Segmentation 

Li Yi, Hao Su, Xingwen Guo and Leonidas Guibas.

16. Learning Shape Abstractions by Assembling Volumetric Primitives

Shubham Tulsiani, Hao Su, Leonidas Guibas, Alexei A. Efros and
Jitendra Malik.

17. Learning Non-Lambertian Object Intrinsics across ShapeNet Categories

Jian Shi, Yue Dong, Hao Su and Stella X. Yu.

Monday, June 5, 2017

South 8 Technologies wins Clean Tech prize at UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge

A new battery technology that will allow electric vehicles to travel farther on a single charge — with significant improvement in safety and cold weather performance — received the Clean Tech top prize of $60,000 in the 10th annual UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge pitch competition on May 30, 2017.

The winning technology was developed by a team of engineers and business students at UC San Diego who have founded a new company, called South 8 Technologies, in order to push this technology to market. "We're very grateful for this award and visibility. It's a confidence booster to know that we're developing the right tech at the right time," said UC San Diego materials science and engineering Ph.D. alumnus and South 8 Technologies founder Cyrus Rustomji.

South 8 Technologies was one of six finalist teams that competed in this year's Entrepreneur Challenge. The competition consisted of three tracks: High Tech, Life Tech and Clean Tech. Teams from each track pitched their business plans to local entrepreneurs and professionals with the aim of getting funds to help turn their startups into successful businesses.

The South 8 team developed a technology that enables lithium batteries to run at record low temperatures, down to -60 degrees Celsius (-76 degrees Fahrenheit). In comparison, today's lithium batteries have a low temperature limit of -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit). "One of the big issues with electric vehicles is proper thermal management of the battery pack in cold winter months because batteries do not perform well at low temperature, which can decrease mileage. Our batteries can circumvent this issue," said Jungwoo Lee, a nanoengineering Ph.D. student at UC San Diego and member of South 8 Technologies.

The ability to operate at low temperature is also useful for extreme environment applications such as heavy-duty automotive engine cold-start, high atmosphere WiFi drones or weather balloons, satellites and aerospace applications. The technology can even be extended to ultra-low temperature applications, such as batteries to power spacecraft for interplanetary exploration.

Researchers achieved this exceptional low temperature performance by replacing the conventional liquid electrolyte in lithium batteries with what's called a liquefied gas electrolyte — gas that's stored under mild pressures in the liquid state. "Our liquefied gas electrolytes are conceptually similar to a propane tank for your barbecue grill. Propane is a gas at room temperature and pressure but may be liquefied when stored in a tank under its own vapor pressure," Rustomji said.

"Most work is currently being done in exploring liquid electrolytes and many battery researchers are exploring solid state electrolytes as another alternative. But we're going in the completely opposite direction by exploring gas-based electrolytes."

The technology offers other advantages as well. Liquefied gas electrolytes can potentially increase the energy density of lithium batteries by 50 to 100 percent, meaning that electric vehicles travel much farther on a single charge. These electrolytes also alleviate a problem called thermal runaway, which is when a battery's internal temperature gets hot enough to set off a dangerous chain of chemical reactions that in turn heat up the battery even more. "Our liquefied gas electrolyte offers a unique method of mitigating this thermal runaway which makes the battery safer," Rustomji said.

Rustomji came up with the idea to use liquefied gas electrolytes as a graduate student in the Sustainable Power and Energy Center (SPEC) at UC San Diego under professor Shirley Meng. After graduating with his Ph.D. in 2015, Rustomji continued on as a postdoc to further improve the novel battery chemistry and later joined with Lee and two other engineers in Meng’s lab who soon after became part of the core South 8 Technologies team.

"I couldn't be more grateful for this team," Rustomji said. "They often credit me with inventing this technology, but it's always been a team effort from the start. I owe the early success of South 8 Technologies to our talented engineers and advisor Professor Meng, who have been incredibly supportive, and to the MBA students and business advisor on our team who have been helpful in shaping our business focus."

Lee also noted that part of the team's success stems from a pilot program launched by the UC San Diego Institute for the Global Entrepreneur. Lee and several other members of South 8 Technologies are part of the first class of this pilot program, which teams Jacobs School of Engineering graduate students with MBA students in the Rady School of Management and teaches these students how to develop a business plan. 

"The classes taught us how to better pitch our tech to business people," Lee said. "As engineers, we often describe a technological advance as something that's X percentage better than Y. But to succeed in the business world, we need to describe our tech as something that results in greater value to the customer — something that is worth replacing the existing product."

One of the big selling points made by the South 8 team is that their new electrolyte can be seamlessly integrated into existing battery manufacturing processes. "I think what caught the judges' attention at the Entrepreneur Challenge is that we've developed an inexpensive, drop-in replacement electrolyte which is compatible with conventional batteries being made today. There's no need to redesign an entire manufacturing supply line. I think this is where so many other battery startups have failed," Rustomji said.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Center for Visual Computing papers at SIGGRAPH 2017

Faculty and students from the Center for Visual Computing will present five papers at SIGGRAPH 2017, the premier international forum for computer graphics research this year, held in Los Angeles.

Center for Visual Computing papers at SIGGRAPH 2017:

1. "Antialiasing Complex Global Illumination Effects in Path-space” by Laurent Belcour, Lingqi Yan, Ravi Ramamoorthi and Derek Nowrouzezahrai

2. “An Efficient and Practical Near and Far Field Fur Reflectance Model” by Lingqi Yan, Henrik Wann Jensen and Ravi Ramamoorthi

3. "Light Field Video Capture Using a Learning-Based Hybrid Imaging System” by Ting-Chun Wang, Junyan Zhu, Nima Khademi Kalantari, Alexei A. Efros and Ravi Ramamoorthi

4. “Deep High Dynamic Range Imaging of Dynamic Scenes” by Nima Khademi Kalantari and Ravi Ramamoorthi

5. "Patch-Based Optimization for Image-Based Texture Mapping” by Sai Bi, Nima Khademi Kalantari and Ravi Ramamoorthi

6. "Learning Hierarchical Shape Segmentation and Labeling from Online Repositories" by Li Yi, Leonidas J. Guibas, Aaron Hertzmann, Vladimir G. Kim, Hao Su, Ersin Yumer

For more about the Center for Visual Computing visit

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.