Caltech Appoints Diana Jergovic to Newly Created Position of Vice President for Strategy Implementation

Caltech has named Diana Jergovic as its vice president for strategy implementation. In the newly created position, Jergovic will collaborate closely with the president and provost, and with the division chairs, faculty, and senior leadership on campus and at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to execute and integrate Caltech's strategic initiatives and projects and ensure that they complement and support the overall education and research missions of the campus and JPL. This appointment returns the number of vice presidents at the Institute to six.

"Supporting the faculty is Caltech's highest priority," says Edward Stolper, provost and interim president, "and as we pursue complex interdisciplinary and institutional initiatives, we do so with the expectation that they will evolve over a long time horizon. The VP for strategy implementation will help the Institute ensure long-term success for our most important new activities."

In her present role as associate provost for academic and budgetary initiatives at the University of Chicago, Jergovic serves as a liaison between the Office of the Provost and the other academic and administrative offices on campus, and advances campus-wide strategic initiatives. She engages in efforts spanning every university function, including development, major construction, and budgeting, as well as with faculty governance and stewardship matters. Jergovic also serves as chief of staff to University of Chicago provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Caltech's president-elect.

"In order to continue Caltech's leadership role and to define new areas of eminence, we will inevitably have to forge new partnerships and collaborations—some internal, some external, some both," Rosenbaum says. "The VP for strategy implementation is intended to provide support for the faculty and faculty leaders in realizing their goals for the most ambitious projects and collaborations, implementing ideas and helping create the structures that make them possible. I was looking for a person who had experience in delivering large-scale projects, understood deeply the culture of a top-tier research university, and could think creatively about a national treasure like JPL."

"My career has evolved in an environment where faculty governance is paramount," Jergovic says. "Over the years, I have cultivated a collaborative approach working alongside a very dedicated faculty leadership. My hope is to bring this experience to Caltech and to integrate it into the existing leadership team in a manner that simultaneously leverages my strengths and allows us together to ensure that the Institute continues to flourish, to retain its position as the world's leading research university, and to retain its recognition as such."

Prior to her position as associate provost, Jergovic was the University of Chicago's assistant vice president for research and education, responsible for the financial management and oversight of all administrative aspects of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Argonne National Laboratory. She engaged in research-related programmatic planning with a special emphasis on the interface between the university and Argonne National Laboratory. This ranged from the development of the university's Science and Technology Outreach and Mentoring Program (STOMP), a weekly outreach program administered by university faculty, staff, and students in low-income neighborhood schools on the South Side of Chicago, to extensive responsibilities with the university's successful bid to retain management of Argonne National Laboratory.

From 1994 to 2001, Jergovic was a research scientist with the university-affiliated National Opinion Research Center (NORC) and, in 2001, served as project director for NORC's Florida Ballot Project, an initiative that examined, classified, and created an archive of the markings on Florida's 175,000 uncertified ballots from its contested 2000 presidential election.

Jergovic earned a BS in psychology and an MA and PhD in developmental psychology, all from Loyola University Chicago, and an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.

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Resourceful Computing Advances Chemistry at Caltech

In the 21st century, it seems impossible to imagine a group of researchers sharing just one computer. However, several decades ago—when computers required big budgets and lots of space—this hypothetical scenario was just the day-to-day reality of research. In the early 1970s, Caltech researcher Aron Kuppermann—seeking an alternative to this often-crowded arrangement—found additional computer resources in an unlikely place: a local religious organization. In the same spirit of creativity, Caltech researchers today have also found ways to practice resourceful computing.

Kuppermann's work focused on understanding how chemical reactions are influenced by quantum effects—the physics that governs the behavior of matter at the atomic (and subatomic) scale. Such quantum effects can now be studied in parallel with the Newtonian physics of a reaction using so-called "multiscale models," the development of which earned Caltech alum Martin Karplus (PhD '54) a share of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. However, four decades ago, this "shortcut" wasn't available to Kuppermann, who passed away in 2011.

"In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the quantum effects of these reactions were unknown territory," says George Schatz (PhD, '76), professor of chemistry at Northwestern University and a former student of Kuppermann's. "And in order to do these studies, one needed to do large, computationally expensive calculations that would simulate the chemical reaction using quantum mechanics."

Although Caltech had a computer center at the time and Kuppermann's group also had access to the supercomputer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory via ARPANET, a precursor to the Internet, the shared equipment was in high demand, and individual research groups had limited time available for their calculations. "We were also limited as to how much we could accomplish because we were charged hundreds of dollars per hour to use a computer—and Kuppermann's research grant didn't have enough money to pay for what we needed," Schatz says.

Kuppermann and his colleagues knew that these computer resources would not be sufficient for their project, so they actively started looking for solutions. The answer was provided by a postdoctoral scholar who uncovered a wealth of unused computer time at a Pasadena religious organization called the Worldwide Church of God. The church and its associated religious school, Ambassador College, used an IBM 360 computer to record information about their donors —the same type of machine that Kuppermann's group was using at the Caltech's computer center. Such machines required that each line of computer code be physically "punched" out on a card, which would then be fed into and read by the computer.

The computer at Ambassador College was only used for church business during the week, so Kuppermann's lab group got permission to use the computer for research purposes on the weekends. "We would take these boxes of computer cards and either drive or ride our bicycles to Ambassador College," Schatz recalls. "When it started, we were doing this on Fridays—we'd prepare these cards, deliver them on Friday afternoon, and then go back on Monday to pick up the results. And since the computers were sitting idle over the weekend except for our work, we were actually able to accomplish a huge amount."

In fact, this unorthodox collaboration between a religious organization and a group of scientists enabled the Kuppermann group to resolve several important issues about the importance of quantum effects in chemical reactions. "These calculations allowed us to to solve the Schrödinger equation—in other words, to use quantum mechanics to describe the reaction of a hydrogen atom and a hydrogen molecule (H2)," he says. "And it was the first time that the Schrödinger equation was solved for this reaction," a highlight of Kuppermann's career, Schatz says.

Despite the importance of the computing time, the staff at Ambassador College "had no idea that their computer was basically the center of the universe for doing computations of reaction dynamics," says Schatz. "We acknowledged Ambassador College in our papers at the time, but they never charged us for anything; they just seemed to be interested in the fact that we could do fundamental science with computer resources that they just were never using.

Eventually, advances in technology and increased funding for research computer centers spelled the end for this unusual collaboration, and today computers can be found in every nook and cranny on campus. However, that doesn't mean Caltech scientists have stopped finding resourceful, creative solutions to their computing and research problems.

For example, last fall, Professor of Chemistry Thomas Miller used an event called a "hackathon"—an all-hands-on-deck marathon of continuous computer programming—to make the most of another resource: the human mind. Miller's research at Caltech, similar to Kuppermann's, focuses on developing new computational methods to better predict and understand chemical reactions. With the help of the two-day programming event, Miller and his research group were able to quickly make progress on the development of a new computational method for quantum chemistry that had previously only existed on paper.

"If I had asked only a single person in my group to program the new method, it would have taken a couple of weeks," says Miller. "But after two solid days and nights of programming as a group—and a lot of pizza and bagels—we had a working implementation of the new method, we had gained valuable insight into its advantages and limitations, and we had an improved understanding of how best to implement the new method in its final version."

Although nonstop programming sounds like a stressful way to spend 48 hours, Miller says that he was impressed with the success of the hackathon and how well his students and postdocs rose to the challenge. "Everyone in the group has a million things to get done for their own research projects and degree requirements, so a programming exercise that benefits the group more than any one individual could easily have been viewed as a burden," he says. "But everyone—myself included—seemed to enjoy the urgency of the tight deadline and the responsibility of delivering essential components for a larger mission."

The computers used by Miller's lab at Caltech today are much more powerful than those available at the Caltech computer center of Kuppermann's day, but the computations now performed by researchers have also rapidly increased in complexity. This means that sourcing computer time—in Miller's case, about 30 million computer hours per year—from a variety of different computational resources is still common practice. In addition to on-campus computing, Miller and many other researchers apply for large amounts of computer time from agencies like the National Science Foundation or the Department of Energy.

But while the availability of computer resources is an important piece of the puzzle, Miller says the real challenge is in obtaining the physical insight—and enough good ideas—to do the right calculation. "As any theorist will tell you, a big computer is no replacement for scientific insight and creativity," both of which are found in abundance at Caltech, he says.

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National Inventors Hall of Fame to Induct Frances Arnold

Frances H. Arnold, the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry, and director of the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center at Caltech, is one of five living innovators chosen to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) in 2014.

The NIHF, in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), announced the names of this year's inductees on March 4. A ceremony honoring the inductees will be held on the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 21, 2014.

According to the NIHF announcement, inductees are inventors who hold a United States patent and "who have made extraordinary contributions to their respective fields, and in many cases, changed the world forever." A selection committee made up of representatives from science, technology, and patent organizations makes recommendations on who should be inducted, and the NIHF board ratifies each year's class of inventors.

Arnold heads a research group at Caltech that has pioneered methods of "directed evolution" that are now widely used to create biological catalysts for use in industrial processes, including the production of fuels and chemicals from renewable resources. In a process akin to breeding by artificial selection, directed evolution uses mutation and screening to optimize the amino-acid sequence of a protein and give it new capabilities or improve its performance.

Arnold's research group develops evolutionary design strategies and uses them to generate novel and useful proteins for applications in medicine, neurobiology, chemical synthesis, and alternative energy. Arnold is a member of the Resnick Sustainability Institute's Faculty Board of Directors. She holds 39 registered U.S. patents.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame inducted its first honoree, Thomas Edison, in 1973.  Previous inductees with a Caltech connection (either faculty or alumni) include Arnold Beckman, Robert Bower (MS, '63), Robert Hall (BS, '42; PhD, '48), Lee Hood (BS, '60; PhD, '68), Carver Mead (BS, '56; MS, '57; Phd, '60), Gordon Moore (PhD, '54), Bernard Oliver, Harold Rosen (MS, '48; PhD, '51), William Shockley, and Theodore von Kármán.

"Recognition by the National Inventors Hall of Fame is a huge honor," says Arnold. "It is also a testament to Caltech's culture of interdisciplinary science and innovation which encourages us to invent new ways to explore the unknown."

Arnold is a recipient of the 2011 National Medal of Technology and Innovation and the 2011 Charles Stark Draper Prize, among other prizes. She holds the rare distinction of having been elected to all three branches of the National Academies—the National Academy of Engineering (2000), the Institute of Medicine (2004), and the National Academy of Sciences.

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Brian Bell
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Monday, March 31, 2014
Center for Student Services 360 (Workshop Space) – Center for Student Services

Unleashing Collaborative Learning through Technology: A Study of Tablet-Mediated Student Learning

Monday, April 7, 2014
Center for Student Services 360 (Workshop Space) – Center for Student Services

Planning Session for the Fall 2014 Teaching Conference

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Beckman Institute Auditorium – Beckman Institute

The Art of Scientific Presentations

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Beckman Institute Auditorium – Beckman Institute

Juggling Teaching at a Community College and Research at Caltech

A Changing View of Bone Marrow Cells

Caltech researchers show that the cells are actively involved in sensing infection

In the battle against infection, immune cells are the body's offense and defense—some cells go on the attack while others block invading pathogens. It has long been known that a population of blood stem cells that resides in the bone marrow generates all of these immune cells. But most scientists have believed that blood stem cells participate in battles against infection in a delayed way, replenishing immune cells on the front line only after they become depleted.

Now, using a novel microfluidic technique, researchers at Caltech have shown that these stem cells might be more actively involved, sensing danger signals directly and quickly producing new immune cells to join the fight.

"It has been most people's belief that the bone marrow has the function of making these cells but that the response to infection is something that happens locally, at the infection site," says David Baltimore, president emeritus and the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology at Caltech. "We've shown that these bone marrow cells themselves are sensitive to infection-related molecules and that they respond very rapidly. So the bone marrow is actually set up to respond to infection."

The study, led by Jimmy Zhao, a graduate student in the UCLA-Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program, will appear in the April 3 issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell.

In the work, the researchers show that blood stem cells have all the components needed to detect an invasion and to mount an inflammatory response. They show, as others have previously, that these cells have on their surface a type of receptor called a toll-like receptor. The researchers then identify an entire internal response pathway that can translate activation of those receptors by infection-related molecules, or danger signals, into the production of cytokines, signaling molecules that can crank up immune-cell production. Interestingly, they show for the first time that the transcription factor NF-κB, known to be the central organizer of the immune response to infection, is part of that response pathway.

To examine what happens to a blood stem cell once it is activated by a danger signal, the Baltimore lab teamed up with chemists from the lab of James Heath, the Elizabeth W. Gilloon Professor and professor of chemistry at Caltech. They devised a microfluidic chip—printed in flexible silicon on a glass slide, complete with input and output ports, control valves, and thousands of tiny wells—that would enable single-cell analysis. At the bottom of each well, they attached DNA molecules in strips and introduced a flow of antibodies—pathogen-targeting proteins of the immune system—that had complementary DNA. They then added the stem cells along with infection-related molecules and incubated the whole sample. Since the antibodies were selected based on their ability to bind to certain cytokines, they specifically captured any of those cytokines released by the cells after activation. When the researchers added a secondary antibody and a dye, the cytokines lit up. "They all light up the same color, but you can tell which is which because you've attached the DNA in an orderly fashion," explains Baltimore. "So you've got both visualization and localization that tells you which molecule was secreted." In this way, they were able to measure, for example, that the cytokine IL-6 was secreted most frequently—by 21.9 percent of the cells tested.

"The experimental challenges here were significant—we needed to isolate what are actually quite rare cells, and then measure the levels of a dozen secreted proteins from each of those cells," says Heath. "The end result was sort of like putting on a new pair of glasses—we were able to observe functional properties of these stem cells that were totally unexpected."

The team found that blood stem cells produce a surprising number and variety of cytokines very rapidly. In fact, the stem cells are even more potent generators of cytokines than other previously known cytokine producers of the immune system. Once the cytokines are released, it appears that they are able to bind to their own cytokine receptors or those on other nearby blood stem cells. This stimulates the bound cells to differentiate into the immune cells needed at the site of infection.

"This does now change the view of the potential of bone marrow cells to be involved in inflammatory reactions," says Baltimore.

Heath notes that the collaboration benefited greatly from Caltech's support of interdisciplinary work. "It is a unique and fertile environment," he says, "one that encourages scientists from different disciplines to harness their disparate areas of expertise to solve tough problems like this one."

Additional coauthors on the paper, "Conversion of danger signals into cytokine signals by hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells for regulation of stress-induced hematopoiesis," are Chao Ma, Ryan O'Connell, Arnav Mehta, and Race DiLoreto. The work was supported by grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institutes of Health, a National Research Service Award, the UCLA-Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program, a Rosen Fellowship, a Pathway to Independence Award, and an American Cancer Society Research Grant.

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Kimm Fesenmaier
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Friday, March 14, 2014
Avery Dining Hall – Avery House

Workshop: Comedy as a Teaching Tool

Caltech's "Secrets" to Success

Everyone who really knows Caltech understands that it is unique among universities around the world. But just what makes Caltech so special? We've asked that question before, and the numbers don't tell the full story. So, is it our focus? Our culture? Our people?

The UK's Times Higher Education magazine recently tackled the topic, asking more specifically, "How does a tiny institution create such an outsized impact?" Caltech faculty share their perspectives in the cover story of the magazine's latest issue.

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