Monday, July 30, 2018

COSMOS Week 2: Tissue engineering, synthetic biology and science communication

By Kritin Karkare

COSMOS students use electrical circuits to model genetic mechanisms in biological systems.
COSMOS, the California State Summer School for Math and Science, is a four-week summer science and engineering program focused on teaching motivated high school students topics rarely seen in high school curriculums. My name is Kritin Karkare and I’m a bioengineering undergraduate at UC San Diego, COSMOS Cluster 8 alumnus, and current Cluster 7 teaching assistant. For the four weeks of the program, I’ll be covering COSMOS life as a teaching assistant through this blog. In the first post, I provided an introduction to COSMOS and interviewed Charles Tu, the UC San Diego COSMOS director.

Week 2 of COSMOS is wrapped up, and this week I am joined by two students from clusters 7 and 8: Synthetic Biology, and Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, respectively. Read on for their thoughts on the program, and my experience so far as a cluster assistant!

The following are interviews with Joyita Bhattacharjee from Cluster 8: Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, and Lea Twicken and Julia Picker from Cluster 7: Synthetic Biology.

Why did you choose your cluster?
Joyita: I chose the cluster because I was very interested in biology. I'm very interested in regenerative medicine because that's a huge field right now and a lot of people are in need of it because of sports injuries, etc.
Lea: I went to a talk by J. Craig Venter, a synthetic biologist famous for sequencing the human genome and creating synthetic bacterial DNA. He came to a school in our district. My science teacher also suggested I check out summer science stuff so I looked into it.
Julia: My aunt sent me a link to COSMOS. I saw synthetic biology and thought it would be perfect because my friend and I were working on this club in school for genetic engineering and medicineI really wanted to learn about this stuff since it sounded like something fun to do.
Cluster 7 students visit the J. Craig Venter Institute to hear about synthetic biology research.

What have you worked on so far, and what is your final project?
Joyita: So far we've learned culturing, making dilution basic laboratory procedures. My project is seeing if inserting an extracellular matrix (ECM) prevents cells from dying due to hydrogen peroxide damage.

How did you get interested in biology?
Lea: When I was in middle school I thought I hated biology. I had a really bad biology teacher in 7th grade that made it all about memorization. I thought I really liked physics since my dad did physics. We had a required science fair project every year, and every single year, I ended up doing a biology topic-- I thought it was interesting. By eighth grade I did this project where I grew bacteria in my kitchen. Growing it in the kitchen was a terrible idea, but I was like that seems really cool.  
Julia: For me it's a funny story. In middle school we did Punnett squares. We did a lab where you have to make a baby with your partner. You have a bag of genes and then you combine them together and then draw it. This genetics unit made me like biology.  I could get a sense for why I am the way I am with biology, or maybe it was my vain middle school foolishness.

Any favorite memories so far?
Joyita: Recently we went on a field trip to BioMatrix and they showed us a bio printer. I thought that was pretty cool because we saw the bio printer print out a scaffold just using cartilage. 

What do you like about your cluster?
Joyita: Everything is very hands on and the stuff we learn is very high level, so I feel like it's a very good bonding ground  because everyone has to work together to get the homework done or explain the concepts to each other. It's definitely a good learning experience.

Cluster Assistant Thoughts

This is my second year helping with Cluster 7, and do you know what the hardest thing for me still is? Science communication! For those of you in outreach, you know that translating dense college research into sizeable chunks for high school, middle school, and elementary school students is hard. I’ve tried explaining my own major bioinformatics to elementary school students, and I struggle figuring out how to talk about coding and biology without producing confused looks on their faces within thirty seconds.  
The same line of thinking applies to COSMOS. In our Synthetic Biology cluster, many students have only taken one year of high school biology, yet through the program we need to expose them to electrical circuit design, recombinant DNA techniques, and more. My role as a TA is to translate the research-heavy facts into topics the students can explore and learn more about.
Cluster 7 students prepare an agarose gel electrophoresis to determine fragment sizes of DNA.
Motivating students to ask their own open-ended questions is my favorite part of outreach. Their eyes light up when they get the chance to design their own experiment; sometimes it requires push and shove to get them to think of multiple hypotheses and potential outcomes but the effort is worth it, especially at the end when they can call their completed projects their own.  

An integral part of the COSMOS curriculum is science communication. It is a skill relatively unseen in high school (and undergraduate!) curriculums and for the students to practice it now, will be a boon to their future as potential scientists and engineers. During weeks 1 and 2, they wrote essays on different ethical considerations for synthetic biology applications, such as bioterrorism, designer babies, GMOs and more. In addition, teams start preparing their projects to present the final two days of COSMOS. It is exciting that in just four weeks, they get so much exposure and a glimpse of the work that researchers do on a daily basis.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Clip from NanoXpo 2018: Yao Jiang

Yao Jiang, a grad student in Prof. Liangfang Zhang’s lab, is making nanoparticles that can “train the immune system to fight cancer.” These nanoparticles are coated in the membranes of cancer cells and have shown promise in mice.

Jiang describes her project in this video, taken at NanoXpo 2018 this past May:

Poster title: "Cancer cell membrane-coated nanoparticles for anticancer vaccination"

NanoXpo is an annual event held by the Graduate Society of Nanoengineers to showcase graduate research in the UC San Diego Department of NanoEngineering.

Friday, July 20, 2018

COSMOS 2018: Week 1

Kritin Karkare, a UC San Diego
bioengineering student, COSMOS TA
and former COSMOS student.
Welcome to the summer 2018 edition of COSMOS, the California State Summer School for Math and Science. I'm Kritin Karkare, a bioengineering undergraduate student here at the Jacobs School of Engineering, and a COSMOS teaching assistant this summer. Over the next four weeks of the program, I'll be giving an inside look at COSMOS, a summer science and engineering high school program that is spread across four of the University of California campuses: UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside and UC Davis. I participated in COSMOS as a high school student, and this summer I'm working as a teaching assistant in a cluster focused on synthetic biology. I'll be sharing my experiences, as well as interviewing students and professors to give more insight into the program. As a COSMOS 2014 alumnus, I was part of Cluster 8: Tissue Engineering, and I largely credit this program with motivating me to pursue bioengineering my freshman year at UC San Diego.

COSMOS is organized into clusters, which focus on fields that are largely unexplored in great detail in typical high school curriculums: earthquake engineering, synthetic biology, biodiesel fuel engineering and more. Students focus on one cluster during COSMOS. Aside from lecture and lab time, students go on field trips to places related to their field; last summer, Cluster 7 (Synthetic Biology) visited Illumina, the pioneering genome sequencing company, and Cluster 3 (Living Oceans and Global Climate Change) visited the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Students also practice their science communication skillssomething not typically taught in high schools—by learning how to write a technical report and an ethics essay that is submitted to the COSMOS Ethics Science and Technology Contest. In the last two weeks, students produce a final project to showcase the knowledge they have learned and present it to parents, professors and peers.

Charles Tu, UC San Diego COSMOS program director
The following is an interview with Professor Charles Tu, UC San Diego COSMOS Program Director and Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Emeritus. At UC San Diego, COSMOS is run by the Jacobs School of Engineering. The responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

How did you get involved with COSMOS?
About 12 years ago, I was associate dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering. There were three COSMOS faculty directors in different departments: one in biology, one in chemical engineering, and one in engineering. The program was run out of the School of Engineering from the Dean's office, and I was assigned to be in charge. Little did I know it would become a very important part of my life at UC San Diego.

What do you do for COSMOS outside of the summer program itself?
As director, during the school year I try to interact with other directors of COSMOS because there are three other sites: Davis, Santa Cruz and Irvine. I also talk to faculty who might be interested in starting new clusters here at UC San Diego. If instructors take a sabbatical for a year or have to take a break for other reasons, it is up to me to find an instructor for that cluster. I also try to expand to more clusters to improve the program for students. This year we had 800 applicants but can only accept 200 since we’re limited by budget and the number of beds in the dorm. Twelve years ago, we only had seven clusters, and now we have 10. I’m always looking for ways to expand student access to the program to meet that need.

What have been some of your favorite memories from COSMOS?
These usually come from the students themselves. For example, I see students maybe a block or a building away waving at me saying ‘Good morning, Dr. Tu’.  That makes me feel very good. I scuba dive regularly, and one time I didn't know that the students were at La Jolla Shores. I went diving, and when I came out I saw the COSMOS students there and we had fun talking in a different environment. So that was a great opportune moment.

What takeaways should students get from COSMOS?
One important takeaway is teamwork, because here we emphasize team projects. In real life projects are very complex and require multi-disciplinary teams of people.

What have been some of your favorite team projects?
COSMOS students learn about biodiesel from renewable sources
I remember a Cluster 1 team project developed a robot that had an arm that picked up trash, like crumpled up paper. Then the arm would pick it up and move it to a trash can. In Cluster 4 we have students who build structures with glue, sugar or some sticks and then put them on a shake table so they shake and fall apart, then have them build a similar one with reinforcement. In my own cluster 5 I was impressed with a couple of students who proposed their own projects, since we usually suggest projects for students to work on, though students can propose their own. One thing a group proposed and actually did was build a laser keyboard, which was a very impressive project.

What would you say is your favorite part of COSMOS?
My favorite part would be the students, especially meeting with them. Another favorite part is actually teaching COSMOS students, who are eager to learn and all very good students.  They ask great questions! Yesterday, the Discovery Lecture speaker told me at the end that all the COSMOS students asked more questions than the students in her class. I think that's my favorite part is that there's more interaction. It's good to know that the students are curious.

Anything for the students to look forward to in COSMOS?
They should look forward to finishing their project. The projects are open ended so they need to work hard to the very end. With projects it's always amazing to see the difference between the initial concept and the end product. You don't know what's going to happen since there are obstacles. Students get to feel this sense of achievement and accomplishment. I don't think they will look forward to departing at the end from their friends.

Favorite subject in high school?
My favorite subject in high school was math. I liked to solve puzzles.        

How did you get interested in science and engineering?
I grew up in Taiwan and moved to this country in Grade 10, but my English was not very good. I could not study biology since the names were so long and hard to pronounce. Math was a universal language and much easier for me, and physics used a lot of math.

What about electrical engineering? You're now in EE.
I did my Ph.D. in applied science. Then I was hired by ATT/ Bell Labs. I was doing something called service science and used a technique called spectroscopy to measure the property of metal surfaces and used similar techniques to study semiconductors and the surface of devices. Then I was hired into Bell Labs and was assigned to take over a lab which grows semi-conductors in thin films and transistors. At that time, transistors was electrical engineering. I was in a very good position in the company and well supported. However, my company wanted to move my department from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to be close to the factory. I thought if I have to move, I might as well look around. So I ended up here at UC San Diego.

Do you find that you like research better than industry?
I find that I made the right decision to come to academia. We are a research university and we have to get grants to hire graduate students. Each professor is an entrepreneurwe are basically a small company. I'm always interacting with bright Ph.D. students, so I learn a lot from my students. Research is generating new knowledge. Through this interaction with students it enriches my life. I think that I made the right choice.

Tissue engineering at UC San Diego: a summer to remember

This summer, there is a group of about 20 high school students who are immersed in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine at UC San Diego. The students are part of the state-wide COSMOS program, which is a four-week, sleep-in-the-dorms, engineering-science-and-technology camp for high school students.

COSMOS stands for California State Summer School in Mathematics and Science, and at UC San Diego, COSMOS is run by the Jacobs School of Engineering. COSMOS students attend clusters – like tissue engineering and regenerative medicine – that are designed to introduce students to STEM subjects not traditionally offered in high school.

UC San Diego COSMOS Cluster 8 on a field trip to Advanced BioMatrix in July 2018.

In addition to getting a crash course on the foundations of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, this lucky group is also learning to use some of the latest tools and techniques of the trade.

As a part of their learning, the students got to spend a day at Advanced BioMatrix, which is a San Diego company that is working and developing new products in this area. The students got to see first-hand cutting edge 3D bioprinting (for printing living tissues and potentially organs), 3D cell culture, and tissue engineering. This is the third year COSMOS students have taken a field trip to Advanced BioMatrix.

In the second half of their COSMOS month, the students will get to work on teams in a real research project. They’ll get to experience what it’s like to brainstorm about research questions, approaches and hypotheses. They’ll then design and conduct experiments, analyze results, and create and deliver presentations in paper, oral, and poster forms.

Advanced BioMatrix donated collagen products that the students use in their own 3D cell culture projects as part of the COSMOS program.

“We are extremely impressed by the caliber of students in the COSMOS program. They ask high level questions, far above their grade. You can see that they truly want to learn,” said David Bagley, President, Advanced BioMatrix.

Advanced MioMatrix posted this photo in this post on their own LinkedIn feed.

Cluster 8 which is Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. It’s co-taught by Roberto Gaetani and Robert Sah. Robert Gaetani is a Research Scientist, Department of Bioengineering at UC San Diego and the  Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine; and Robert Sah is a professor of bioengineering and orthopedic surgery at UC San Diego. The bioengineering department at the Jacobs School of Engineering is consistently ranked among the top 2 or 3 in the nation, according to the US News rankings of bioengineering graduate programs.

Last summer, Cluster 8 was featured in a story in the San Diego Union Tribune: "High school students explore tissue engineering at UCSD."

Learn more about the COSMOS UC San Diego program here. Each year, COSMOS applications are accepted during the month of January for the upcoming summer.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Bottling the Sun

by Andy Zhao

As a Ph.D. student in Materials Science, I spend my days in lab similar to how Justin Timberlake spends his days in the studiopondering the intricacies of solar thermal energy storage. Here is Justin on the mechanics of how a solar thermal power plant works in his song Mirrors:

            And now it’s clear as this promise
            That we’re making two reflections into one
            ‘Cause it’s like you’re my mirror

In a solar thermal power plant, mirrors are used to reflect and concentrate sunlight to heat up a storage material. I like to think of it like a gigantic thermos. In the morning, you fill up your thermos with hot coffee, and whenever you need a boost in energy, the hot coffee is waiting for you. Here is the thermos outside of Las Vegas that powers 75,000 homes all day and night:

Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant. Photos courtesy of Solar Reserve
Like I saidGIGANTIC. This plant outside Las Vegas came online in 2015 and is the current state of the art in grid-level thermal energy storage. It works by first pumping up nitrate salts to the top of the tower. There, the concentrated sunlight heats the salts up to a blistering 550 C (1,022 F). The hot molten salts are then pumped down into storage tanks, awaiting the sun’s departure to ignite the lights of Vegas (actually the suburban areas off The Strip, but igniting suburban lights doesn’t sound as hot).

Solar thermal power plants typically use nitrate salts because they have extremely high heat capacities, which means they can store loads of energy in a small volume. Also, mixtures of nitrates have low melting points, making them easy to melt and pump around. And because nitrates are stable up to 550 C, they can efficiently convert heat to electricity. Above this temperature, nitrates break down into other chemicals and lose their energy storage abilities.

That’s basically how solar thermal power plants work. Interestingly, the technology has been criticized for killing a bunch of birds accidentally caught in the mirrors’ crossfire. But there is one bird in particular that energy storage has actually been aiming to take downthe Duck.

To explain our Duck problem (I promise there will be more pictures of ducks soon), first let me show you a graph depicting how much energy the entire state of California used on July 4, 2018, where zero on the x-axis signifies the start of the day at midnight:

And here is how much of that energy was provided by clean and renewable energy, mostly from solar (yellow line) and wind (blue line):

Now, if you subtract the energy provided by solar and wind from the total demand, you obtain the net demand trend, better known in the energy community as the fabled “Duck Curve”:

I know what you’re thinking because I thought the same thing when I first saw it—“Where is the duck?!” Let me help you with my phenomenal Photoshop skills:

I don’t know whose bright idea it was to name this the Duck Curve, but the Duck signifies the energy provided by natural gas and other fossil fuels. As California builds more solar panels and wind turbines, the Duck becomes smaller and smaller.

Solar panels are widely thought of as the silver bullet that will kill the big bad fossil fuel industry, represented here as the “Mighty Duck.” It makes sense since there is enough sunlight that strikes the Earth every 2 hours to power the world for an entire year. But there is a persisting problemthe sun sets every night. Hurling more solar panels at the problem does not kill the Duck, it just dodges the incoming projectiles by stretching its creepy neck, lingering through the night. #DuckDodgers #MightyDucks

To successfully cut off the Duck’s head, we need a way to store excess solar energy during the day so we can use it at night. Enter my (and Justin Timberlake’s) favorite technologysolar thermal energy storage. Solar thermal power plants, similar to the one outside Las Vegas, are currently under construction around the world and are expected to be cost competitive with natural gas. Grid level batteries are also being heavily researched and developed, but they are still much more expensive than solar thermal energy storage.

Scientists and engineers are exploring new materials other than nitrates that could increase solar thermal energy’s operating temperature, energy density and storage time, which could further decrease the cost of energy storage. For example, metal fluorides are being studied for their ability to store energy as latent heatthe energy it takes to change a material from one phase to another. To put latent heat into context, let’s look at the energy you can extract from one liter of liquid water before turning it into ice. When you cool water to exactly its freezing point (0 C), it will remain a liquid. You can squeeze out an additional 333,550 joules of energy before it transforms into iceenough to power a 60 Watt lightbulb for one and a half hours. In comparison, fluorides have twice this latent heat and can be used at much higher temperatures than water.

Researchers are also studying thermochemical energy storage to increase the energy density and storage time of solar thermal power plants. In this process, concentrated sunlight heats up a chemical, driving a reaction to create fuel that stores the thermal energy as chemical potential energy. When the energy is needed, the chemical reaction is reversed. The chemical fuels that drive this reaction retain the sun’s energy much longer and more densely than either nitrates or fluorides.

I am currently working on a project in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory that uses metal sulfides as a potential thermochemical storage material. We are designing and building prototypes of reactors that heat up metal sulfides to separate them into their metal and sulfur constituents to store energy. When this energy is needed, sulfur and metal are recombined to cause an extremely exothermic reaction. At UC San Diego, we are also developing new techniques to understand how thermal storage materials (nitrates, fluorides and sulfides) transport and store heat at such high temperatures.

While next generation solar thermal power plants that run on latent heat or thermochemical energy are far from commercialization, solar thermal plants that run on nitrate salts have already begun competing with fossil fuels around the world. And as California begins its journey towards 50 percent clean and renewable energy by 2030, solar thermal energy storage will play a key role in eating the Duck.

Personally, my preferred way to deal with a duck is dominating the tea-smoked duck at VillageNorth restaurant in San Diego.

Friday, July 13, 2018

2018 John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research

Richard A. Moyera Research Scientist at the UC San Diego Center for Energy Research, is one of three people who have been awarded the 2018 John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research from the American Physical Society (APS). The other two awardees are Todd E. Evans of General Atomics and Max E. Fenstermacher of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
The citation for their award:
"For the first experimental demonstration of the stabilization of edge localized modes in high-confinement diverted discharges by application of very small edge-resonant magnetic perturbations, leading to the adoption of suppression coils in the ITER design."
Richard A. Moyer is also a senior lecturer of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. His research focuses on understanding and controlling transients in tokamak plasmas that can limit the performance or damage the device, with a goal of developing actuators to suppress or mitigate the consequences of these events
The 2018 John Dawson Award is based in part on research done at DIII-D, a U.S. Department of Energy user facility operated by General Atomics in San Diego. Read more about the award in the General Atomics press release.

Bioengineers reflect on USA Science and Engineering Festival

By Kritin Karkare

UC San Diego bioengineering students at the USA Science and
Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C.

In early April, Washington, D.C. is flooded with science exhibitors, enthusiastic parents, children, and all things science and engineering at the annual United States of America Science and Engineering Festival (USASEF), which drew an estimated 370,000 visitors this year. USASEF is put on by Science Spark, a non-profit science outreach organization that also hosts the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering; the festival is sponsored by organizations such as Lockheed Martin, the Department of Defense’s STEM program, NASA, the U.S. Air Force, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and more.

This year, eight members from the UC San Diego Bioengineering Graduate Society (BEGS) and four members from the undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) flew to D.C. to engage the next generation of scientists and engineers with their model of an extracellular matrix, and learn more about science and engineering outreach on a national scale. The following are excerpts from interviews done with Jacobs School of Engineering undergraduates Julie Yip, Taylor Martin, Reo Yoo and Katherine Nguyen, and BEGS outreach vice president Julia Hardy. They’ve been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Bioengineers teach festival attendees about the extracellular
matrix and drug/fluorescent targeting.

Q: How did you get interested in outreach?

Katherine Nguyen:  I come from a Vietnamese community and a lot of what greatly affects the decisions for what we do is that our parents lived through a war and came over to the U.S. to try to live life and survive. A lot of my life I've been pushed to do something that will get me money. But growing up in America, you can do whatever you want! It felt very different for me. During my senior year of high school I was dealing with the struggle to figure out what major I should choose. I didn't have any clue, but I had an older mentor who also came from Vietnam. She told me do whatever you want to do: if you want to be an engineer, you can be an engineer. I realized that sometimes people only need that one ‘yes’ to push them to do great things. I wanted to relay that same sentiment and tell young children you can do engineering, even if you’re not sure yet that you’ll be successful at it. I wanted to be that one ‘yes.’

Julia Hardy: It was pretty natural for me, I couldn't imagine not doing it. I was involved in a lot of community service work and I got into engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I saw in high school how I was treated when I said I was going to go into engineering and I saw this confused look on peoples’ faces. They see this athlete who's outgoing, going into engineering and think, ‘Why would you want to do that?’ I knew I wanted to do engineering since I was in seventh grade. Why wouldn't I want to do that? I knew that by talking about it I could encourage other girls in my grade and girls younger than me that I mentored in high school to go into engineering. I wanted to continue spreading that word and show girls that they could do whatever they want, especially engineering because they may feel it's not cool to be into science and engineering.

Bioengineering students at their booth at USASEF
What did you expect going in to the USASEF trip, and what was it like in reality?

Taylor Martin: The BEGS president told me it was going to be big. I was like okay, it's going to be bigger than SDFSE.
Katherine Nguyen: That was an understatement.
Taylor Martin: It was huge. There was a flight simulator - you could put 10 people in this little pod and it would move around to simulate an army aircraft. There were multiple convention rooms.
Reo Yoo: Because of how the convention center was setup, there was even an underground component.
Katherine: There was an upstairs too.
Taylor: You'd see at the start of every day this mess of people coming down the escalator. The other thing I hadn't really thought about was the diversity of booths. There were Army, Navy and defense booths plus engineering companies, university labs— so many different things.
Katherine:  All these things were really enjoyable. USASEF is mostly geared toward children, but because of how big the scale was they were able to accommodate for a lot of people. Johns Hopkins University brought a motor so that you could build your own battery motor. It was really fun for college students and parents to go enjoy science as well.
Reo: For me, it really changed the perspective of SDFSE. I feel like when we go as UCSD, we're such a big deal in San Diego. When we went to USASEF, we were this tiny booth— we got some foot traffic, but there was so much more.

What was your favorite memory?

Julie Yip: I had a good conversation with a sophomore in high school. She was really interested in organic chemistry and liked programming and said that she wanted more experience programming.  I talked to her for about half an hour to forty-five minutes just about what she could do to get more experience, trying to motivate her and talking to her. She was cool and passionate.

Katherine Nguyen: There are so many stories about how cute or smart they are. This group of girls asked us some good questions.  I asked them if they were really interested in science.  And they said 'Oh yeah, we have our own booth where we show experiments to people.’ This was a group of three sisters, the oldest was maybe 13, the second was around 10, the third around 8. I was blown away.

Taylor Martin: Their mom was there and they had shirts.  That was so cool.  These girls had taken so much interest in science and were willing to do something that I would have been terrified to do at that age, acting as an authority at this big giant festival. They were so confident and involved.

Reo Yoo: It’s nerve-wracking. It’s not just kids there. There are professors and doctors who are there to present.

Julia Hardy:  My favorite experience at the festival itself was a group of around 15 six-year olds that came to our booth. They were like ’Science!’ They were so excited about science.  One kid was crying that he couldn't touch our demo. He was so sad that he couldn't interact with the demo, since there were too many people in front of it. So we passed it around and he finally got to touch it. It was the little kids that get so excited. That’s what we need to nurture. Give kids the world and they'll do amazing things with it.

Clip from NanoXpo 2018: Rishi Kumar

How does water play a role in degrading a solar cell? Rishi Kumar is finding answers to that question through his research. His research in the lab of Professor David Fenning aims to understand how water causes solar cells to lose efficiency. Kumar is developing a method to measure exactly how much water is inside a solar cell without taking it apart.

Kumar describes his project in this video, taken at NanoXpo 2018 this past May:

Poster title: "Understanding & Overcoming Water-Induced Interfacial Degradation in Si Modules"

NanoXpo is an annual event held by the Graduate Society of Nanoengineers to showcase graduate research in the UC San Diego Department of NanoEngineering.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Adam Feist: Harnessing Evolution as a Tool

Adam Feist, a UC San Diego bioengineering alumnus (PhD) and current Project Scientist, has been awarded the Jay Bailey Young Investigator Award from the Society for Biological Engineering. The journal Metabolic Engineering sponsored the 2018 award, and they put together a nice story about Adam Feist and his work in the Systems Biology Research Group run by UC San Diego bioengineering professor Bernhard Palsson.  

One of the things Feist works on, and discusses in the article, is harnessing evolution as a tool.

Dr. Feist supervises and leads the design, development and implementation of over $1 million worth of equipment for adaptive laboratory evolution studies. ‘The evolution platforms we have are actually tangible things, machines working in the lab, doing different tasks,’ he said. ‘It’s fascinating, instead of modeling, where we predict what we want to engineer, we turn that on its head and ask the cells to figure it out themselves. It’s eye-opening that the cells can do this.’”

Feist is also Senior Researcher and Group Leader at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Clip from NanoXpo 2018: Hui Zheng

Hui Zheng's research aims to make airplanes safer in the future. Zheng is a nanoengineering Ph.D. student in Professor Shyue Ping Ong's Materials Virtual Lab at UC San Diego. Using DFT calculations, Zheng is finding ways to re-engineer materials -- such as those found in the fan blades of airplane engines -- to make them stronger and resistant to cracking.

Zheng describes her project in this video, taken at NanoXpo 2018:

Poster title: "Role of Zr in Strengthening MoSi2 Grain Boundaries from DFT Calculations"

NanoXpo is an annual event held by the Graduate Society of Nanoengineers to showcase graduate research in the UC San Diego Department of NanoEngineering.