John Tracy, chief technology officer and senior vice president of engineering, operations, and technology for the Boeing Company, is the 2014 recipient of the International von Kármán Wings Award. The honor—bestowed annually by the Aerospace Historical Society, which is part of the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories of the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT)—acknowledges outstanding contributions by international innovators, leaders, and pioneers in aerospace.
Caltech junior Edward Fouad spent 10 weeks this summer as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program working in the lab of Aaron Parness, a group leader at JPL, where researchers are designing, prototyping, and refining technology for a device called a microspine gripper. Looking something like a robotic circular foot with many toes extending radially outward, such a gripper has the ability to grab onto a rocky surface and cling to it even when hanging upside down.
Caltech oceanographer Andrew Thompson, who uses autonomous underwater instruments and numerical models to study ocean currents and eddies, has been awarded a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering.
Thanks to a $9 million grant from the National Science Foundation and matching funds from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) collaboration, a new camera is being built at Caltech's Palomar Observatory that will be able to survey the entire Northern Hemisphere sky in a single night, searching for supernovas, black holes, near-Earth asteroids, and other objects. The digital camera will be mounted on the Samuel Oschin Telescope, a wide-field Schmidt telescope that began its first all-sky survey in 1949. That survey, done on glass plates, took nearly a decade to complete.
This summer, several undergraduate students at Caltech had the opportunity to help optimize a promising technique that can make tissues and organs—even entire organisms—transparent for study. As part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, these students worked in the lab of Assistant Professor of Biology Viviana Gradinaru, where researchers are developing such so-called clearing techniques that make it possible to peer straight through normally opaque tissues rather than seeing them only as thinly sectioned slices that have been pieced back together.
Results from NASA's Kepler planet-hunting mission have indicated that the most common planets in the galaxy are super-Earths—those that are bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. We have no examples of these planets in our own solar system, so Heather Knutson, assistant professor of planetary science at Caltech, and her colleagues are using space telescopes to try to find out more about these worlds. They hope to shed some light on the processes of planet formation and evolution and to be able to say something about how common or rare our solar system is when compared to those found throughout the universe.
Thomas Anthony Tombrello, Caltech's Robert H. Goddard Professor of Physics, passed away on September 23, 2014, at age 78. His studies of nuclear reactions in the 1960s helped show how chemical elements are created.
Methane-breathing microbes that inhabit rocky mounds on the seafloor could be preventing large volumes of the potent greenhouse gas from entering the oceans and reaching the atmosphere, according to a new study by Caltech researchers.