Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jacobs School Research Helped Bring Gollum to the Silver Screen

Are you going to see The Desolation of Smaug? (Or have you seen it already?) Well, that eerie, blueish glow on Gollum's skin is courtesy of algorithms developed by Jacobs School Prof. Henrik Wann Jensen. (Jensen did the work while a research associate at Stanford). Jensen's research earned him an Academy Award back in 2004.
Joe Letteri, the co-creator of the character and an Oscar winner, explains in a Nature article:

Digital characters also have to appear realistic in their surroundings, whether that is a photographed environment or a complete digital creation such as the jungles of Pandora. So we looked to understand how light and materials interact in nature. One of the best examples of this interaction is subsurface scattering. We first developed a technique to replicate this mechanism of light transport to create the translucency of Gollum's skin, leveraging pioneering research by computer-graphics specialist Henrik Wann Jensen and his colleagues at Stanford University in California (see The thick skin of a dinosaur can be simulated by bouncing light off the exterior. But human skin is softer and more translucent, so light enters and bounces around dozens of times before exiting. These properties, which are easily observed by putting your hand in front of a bright light, are crucial to a realistic portrayal.
Alumni from Jensen's lab here at the Jacobs School have gone on to work for Google, Disney and other animation companies.

 A list of some ground-breaking projects below:

Computer Simulations Shed Light on the Physics of Rainbows

Nice Threads! Computer scientists develop new model to simulate cloth on a computer with unprecedented accuracy

It's all about the hair

Render smoke without being a computation hog

Computer graphics spills from milk to medicine

Vote for MiP!

MiP, a robot designed by the UCSD Coordinated Robotics Lab and toymaker WowWee is up for a Last Gadget Standing Award and you can help it win!
You can vote here:
And watch a fun video preview for the robot here:
MiP balances on two wheels and is fully interactive with its surroundings. It responds to gesture commands and can be linked via Bluetooth to smart phones and other devices. It can dance to your iTunes playlists and play simple games with your kids. 
Oh, and it can hold a tray with objects on it (including another MiP).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pulse Magazine from the Jacobs School of Engineering

Pulse magazine: Winter 2013 / 2014 is printed!

If you're a Jacobs School of Engineering alum (or from a department that eventually became part of the Jacobs School, of course), we hope that you're on the mailing list to receive the paper-version of Pulse. If you an alumnus but not on the mailing list, please contact Daniel Kane at: dbkane AT ucsd DOT edu

And if you're an alumnus, but would like to keep up to date with the Jacobs School of Engineering through Pulse, email Daniel Kane at:

dbkane AT ucsd DOT edu

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Video: Robot balancing on top of another robot!

What's more fun that a robot balancing on its own? A robot balancing on its own on top of another robot balancing on its own. Meet Stunt MiP and Switchblade, two robots designed in the Coordinated Robotics Lab here at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

Graduate students and postdocs from the lab demoed their robots at the Mini San Diego Maker Faire Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. 
Switchblade has made headlines before. It is a threaded vehicle (like a tank, but much smaller). It can pop wheelies and will ultimately be able to climb stairs while carrying an impressive array of sensors. It's already equipped with a real-time video camera. StuntMiP is a newcomer, a robot that can balance like a Segway on two wheels. The small robot made its debut as a kit that students assembled themselves during a controls class taught by Prof. Tom Bewley, who leads the Coordinated Robotics Lab.
It's been a busy week for Bewley. On Dec. 5, he welcomed senior executives and engineers from Cymer, Texas Instruments, National Instruments, ATA Engineering, WowWee and Brain Corporation during the last session of the newly revamped Embedded Control and Robotics course, MAE 143c, which he taught this fall quarter. The event was essential an industry recognition night for all these companies.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Congrats ECE Prof Sujit Dey / IEEE Fellow

Electrical engineering professor Sujit Dey
Congratulations to electrical engineering professor Sujit Dey, who is one of 62 IEEE Computer Society members and associates to be elevated to IEEE Fellow status in 2014 "for contributions to the design and testing of low-power systems and system-on-chips."

Dey leads the Mobile Systems Design Lab in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. He is faculty director of the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center. The team in his lab is currently doing R&D in a field that could be the focus of future commercialization efforts: cloud-based mobile gaming.

Dey is also a longtime participant in the UC San Diego Division of Calit2, now known as the Qualcomm Institute

The IEEE Fellow honor recognizes unusual distinction in the profession. Dey was a co-PI (with PI Ramesh Rao) on the Ericsson- and UC Discovery Grant-funded Adaptive Systems project launched in 2002, prior to founding Ortiva Wireless in 2004. Ortiva was subsequently acquired by Israel-based Allot Communications in early 2012. 

Dey was awarded a proof-of-concept grant from the von Liebig Center in 2004 to create a prototype that became the core technology to launch Ortiva Wireless, which enables proactive management of mobile video and rich media content delivery. Dey said the von Liebig Center helped him get the funding he needed to hire students, develop an advanced prototype that could be presented to potential customers and investors, and to offer valuable advice in the business development and technology transfer process.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nanosponge Vaccine Resarch from Liangfang Zhang in NanoEngineering

It has certainly been an exciting year for Liangfang Zhang and the other researchers in his Nanomaterials & Nanomedicine Laboratory over in NanoEngineering here at UC San Diego.

They published two "nanosponge" papers in Nature Nanotechnology (nanosponges as toxin grabbers, and nanosponges as experimental vaccines) Zhang was named one of Technology Review's 35 Innovators Under 35, and graduate student Ronnie Fang won top poster at Research Expo 2013. (And no doubt, this is the very abridged version.)

It will be very exciting to see how the nanosponge technology develops over the next year. Will any clinical studies get started? Will other researchers around the world publish exciting results based on the nanosponge platform?

This story in Chemistry World offers a couple of different perspectives on the research: "Caged toxin for safer, better bacterial vaccines" by Simon Hadlington, a science writer in the UK.

Bradley Fikes' story in UT San Diego spells out the mechanics of how the nanosponges are used to trigger immune-system protection from MRSA toxins.

Below is a video that describes the nanosponge for toxin removal paper.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

UPDATED: Rocket Club Blasts Off

About 100 people turned out on RIMAC field at 8:30 a.m. this Saturday Dec. 7 to watch the Triton Rocket Club, a pre-professional student organization, run static fire tests of seven student-designed rocket engines.
Of those, 50 were club members who were there with their rocket engines.
Six teams with colorful names such as the Ultimizer and the Imperfectionists, were made up of new members or freshmen. Another team consists of returning students. That team used Ammonium percholarate composite propellant, also known as APCP--the same fuel used in space shuttle boosters. Their goal is to be the first university to reach space with a rocket for which every single component is designed by students. During the static fire tests, that engine produced almost 240 lbs of thrust.
The Triton Rocket Club, founded in fall quarter 2011 at UC San Diego, aims to help students interested in rocketry get practical and technical experience. Another goal is to help students get internships.
Learn more about the club here:
Here's a short video recapping Saturday's tests:

Here's a fun video recapping their activities during the 2012-13 academic year: