Ditch Day? It’s Today, Frosh!

Today we celebrate Ditch Day, one of Caltech's oldest traditions. During this annual spring rite—the timing of which is kept secret until the last minute—seniors ditch their classes and vanish from campus. Before they go, however, they leave behind complex, carefully planned out puzzles and challenges—known as "stacks"—designed to occupy the underclass students and prevent them from wreaking havoc on the seniors' unoccupied rooms.

Follow the action on Caltech's Facebook and Twitter pages as the undergraduates tackle the puzzles left around campus for them to solve, and get in on the conversation by sharing your favorite Ditch Day memories. Be sure to use #CaltechDitchDay in your tweets and postings.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014
Location to be announced

2014 Caltech Teaching Conference

Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Avery Library

Semana Latina Keynote Speaker – Dr. Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton

Friday, May 16, 2014
Center for Student Services 360 (Workshop Space)

The Role of Writing in Building a Research Career

Friday, May 30, 2014
Annenberg 105

Caltech Teaching Assistant Training for 2014-2015 Year

The Life of a Caltech "Lifer"

Some people stay at Caltech for years, others only briefly touch down as students or visitors. And then there are the Caltech lifers: those who come and stay . . . and stay, and stay . . . and whose presence leaves a lasting imprint on the Institute. Carver Mead is among those Caltech lifers: BS '56; MS '57; PhD '60, and still going strong as the Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Emeritus.

A recipient of the 2002 National Medal of Technology, Mead is celebrating his 80th birthday on May 1, 2014. He remains as passionate today about science and engineering as he ever was. "There isn't really a time when you're too old to have new ideas," Mead says.

Mead is best known for his pioneering work on VLSI (very-large-scale integration) circuit technology in the 1970s and 1980s, which made it possible to greatly increase the number of transistors placed on a single semiconductor chip. It is no exaggeration to say that the computer era we live in would not have been possible without VLSI technology. Thank Carver Mead when you turn on your computer today, or flick the screen on your smart phone! But don't expect him to be there waiting for applause, because Mead long ago moved on to something new.

Different decades have found Mead wrestling with different problems, from solid-state physics to VLSI to electronic circuits and systems that attempt to mimic the architecture of the human nervous system—so-called neuromorphic engineering, a concept Mead developed. "Retirement" finds Mead living in Seattle and working on the fourth phase of his storied scientific career: issues in fundamental physics, such as those that inspired his "little green book"—Collective Electrodynamics: Quantum Foundations of Electromagnetism—which derives the results for standard electromagnetic problems directly from the quantum nature of matter rather than in the traditional manner, via Maxwell's equations.

Mead recently reflected on his life at Caltech.

 

How did your relationship with Caltech begin?

It's an interesting story, actually. I was from the backwoods. I went to high school in the little town of Fresno, California. My parents wanted me to go to Fresno State because it was cheap, but I couldn't find anything there that I liked, so I applied to Stanford and Caltech. We went to visit each school after I was admitted. At Stanford we asked if there were any tours, and they said no, and gave us a map. We walked around a little, and it was very nice, but we didn't get to see any labs or anything.

Our experience at Caltech was very different. We showed up at the admissions office—it was in Throop Hall at the time—and met a very nice lady there . . . one of the Caltech ladies who know how to do everything. She called the Caltech branch of the YMCA [now the Caltech Y] and they sent over a young man to give us a tour of the campus. We got our own private tour, my parents and I. As we walked by the astronomy building, I asked our tour guide if we could get a look at the 20-inch telescope. This was the 1/10th scale model for the 200-inch telescope on Palomar Mountain. It was up on top of the Robinson building [now Linde + Robinson].

Our tour guide went into Robinson and he asked the lady at the front desk, "Is there any chance I could let these people see the 20-inch telescope?" She said, "Oh sure, here are the keys." We went up, and of course this telescope was the most fantastic thing in the world. I was going around explaining what everything was, because I had studied up on it.

When we went to return the keys, I got my courage up and asked if there was any chance that we could go down to Palomar and see the real thing.  And this very nice lady told me, "Well, they don't give tours there. But if you were to go down toward the end of the day, but when it's still light, and bang on the door of the dome, there might be somebody in there getting ready for observing that night. If they're not too busy they might just let you look at the telescope."

My parents were intrigued too, so we thanked our guide and got in our car and drove down to Palomar. I very bravely walked up to the dome and banged at the door, but no one answered. We waited an hour and knocked again, and just as we were about to leave, a big tall guy with blue eyes opened the door and looked at me. I told him I had just been admitted as a freshman at Caltech and wanted to see the telescope. You could tell he was trying to decide whether to be annoyed or compassionate. Finally he looked at me and said, "Sure, come in." That was Alan Sandage. He was Edwin Hubble's graduate student and became famous for doing the Hubble survey plots for many, many years. Once I got to Caltech, first as a student and then as a faculty member, I attended all his seminars. Unfortunately, we don't have Alan with us anymore, but he was a wonderful man, and the real reason I got to Caltech.

If Sandage is what got you to Caltech, what made you stay?

The most important thing to me about Caltech is that if you're working very hard to understand something, when somebody asks you why you're doing it, you can say, "I really want to get to the bottom of this," and that's enough reason to be doing it. I don't know that there's any other place in the world where that's sufficient reason to take on something new.

When you started at Caltech did you know that you wanted to do engineering?

I knew I wanted to do technical things and I was very interested in electronics. Even then it was clear to me that there was a lot of technology in astronomy. That is even more true today than any of us imagined back then. But I ended up doing electronics and related things and maintaining an interest in astronomy.

Was teaching an acquired taste, or did you like it from the beginning?

Oh, I loved it from the beginning! I started as a teaching assistant when I was an undergraduate: I made up an exercise on electromechanical transducers for a lab course. I taught all the way through graduate school, and I have always made sure that my grad students teach at least one year. I push them pretty hard to teach more than that, because I've learned so much from teaching. It's just so neat when you see people light up when they finally get it. That's the fun part for me.

But I could only teach the stuff I was interested in. If I wasn't interested, I just couldn't teach it anymore. So it was great being at a place like Caltech where I could teach the stuff that I was good at. When you're excited about something and you get all charged about it, then the students pick up on that.

Have there been any major changes in the Caltech culture from the time you arrived as an 18-year-old in 1952 until now?

I think the basic Caltech ethic is still there. I think the biggest single thing that has made life at Caltech more reasonable was the admission of women. I was always a big proponent of having students of both genders. I was the advisor for the first female EE [electrical engineering] student, Louise Kirkbride. She's now on Caltech's Board of Trustees. And I've always had women in my research group. It makes a big difference, just in the whole tenor of things. It's wonderful that we've been able to find so many outstanding women and that they've been doing so well here.

You've explored several fields in depth. Do you have a favorite? Is there any work that you would describe as your greatest source of pride?

Oh, I don't know. They were all great fun at the time. You know though, when you're working on something, you are stuck most of the time because you're trying to figure it out. I've spent my entire career being stuck. People don't find that very interesting, and they don't give you the time of day about it. But then 20 years later when it starts to look like a good idea, they start calling you. By that time, I'm working on something else.

For example, I've gotten three or four calls in the last month asking me to give big talks at big conferences on neuromorphic circuits. But I haven't done it for 15 years, or maybe 20! I tell them to talk to my students, because they are current in the field and doing leading-edge work right now. My students are really what I'm most proud of.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 18-year-old self when he first stepped onto the Caltech campus and asked to see the 20-inch scale-model telescope?

I'd tell him that when you're in groups of people, whether they're groups of undergraduates or people at conferences, there will always be somebody who makes sure you know that they know a lot more than you do. I always felt very inferior to those people.

Gradually I learned that those aren't the people who really know interesting things. The people who really know things are people like Kip Thorne. You have a hard time getting it out of him sometimes, but there's a lot of knowledge stored in his head. Gordon Moore is like that; John Bardeen was too. The people I've gotten to know who are really on top of what they're doing aren't the ones who are out bragging and beating their chests. They're the ones who are thoughtful and just doing their work.

It took me too long to learn this. Even as a faculty member, you find this attitude everywhere, especially if you're doing things a little differently from other people. So I would advise people, don't let the know-it-alls put you down. Just follow what you believe is right, and you'll get there.

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Carver Mead Looks Back on His Caltech Life
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Caltech Faculty Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has elected three Caltech faculty members as academy fellows. They are John F. Brady, Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering and executive officer for chemical engineering; Kenneth A. Farley, W. M. Keck Foundation Professor of Geochemistry and chair of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences; and Fiona A. Harrison, Benjamin M. Rosen Professor of Physics.

"It is a privilege to honor these men and women for their extraordinary individual accomplishments," said Don Randel, chair of the academy's board of directors, of the 204 newly elected fellows and 16 foreign honorary members. "The knowledge and expertise of our members gives the academy a unique capacity—and responsibility—to provide practical policy solutions to the pressing challenges of the day. We look forward to engaging our new members in this work."

Brady works in the area of complex fluids and active matter that includes microstructural elements such as suspensions, colloidal dispersions, and self-propelling particles. Understanding these materials led Brady to develop a novel computational method called Stokesian dynamics. He won the 2012 Fluid Dynamics Prize from the American Physical Society and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1999.

Most of Farley's research has focused on terrestrial geochemistry, but he is now increasingly interested in planetary science and especially exploration of the geochemistry, geology, and geomorphology of Mars. In his laboratory on the Caltech campus, Farley and his group measure noble gases such as helium and neon in rock and mineral samples. One major objective of this work is determining the ages and surface exposure history of Earth's geological features. Farley was recently involved in the first-ever experiments of this type carried out on the surface of Mars, via an instrument on board the Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity rover. He has received the Day Medal of the Geological Society of America and the Macelwane Award of the American Geophysical Union, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2013.

Harrison specializes in observational and experimental high-energy astrophysics. She is the principal investigator for NASA's NuSTAR Explorer Mission and uses this satellite, along with other satellites and ground-based telescopes, to understand black holes, neutron stars, and supernova remnants. In her labs at Caltech, Harrison's group develops high-energy X-ray detectors and instrumentation for future space missions. She was elected to the American Physical Society in 2012 and won a NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Medal in 2013.

Also named to the academy this year is Katherine T. Faber, the Walter P. Murphy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University, who will be joining the Caltech faculty on July 1 as the Simon Ramo Professor of Materials Science. Faber's research focuses on understanding fracture and toughening of brittle materials such as those used for high-temperature coatings for power generation applications. She also works on the fabrication of ceramic materials with controlled porosity. She is cofounder and codirector of the Northwestern University-Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS), which employs advanced materials science techniques for conservation science. Faber is a Distinguished Life Member of the American Ceramic Society (2013), and became a National Science Foundation American Competitiveness and Innovation Fellow in 2010.

The total number of Caltech faculty named to the academy is now 97.

The academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots "to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people." The academy has elected as fellows and foreign honorary members the finest minds and most influential leaders from each generation, including George Washington and Ben Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

A full list of new members is available on the academy website at https://www.amacad.org/content/members/members.aspx.

The academy will welcome this year's new fellows and foreign honorary members at its annual induction ceremony at the academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 11, 2014.

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On the Front Lines of Sustainability

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On the Front Lines of Sustainability
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The chemical processes used to make products ranging from pharmaceuticals to perfumes can have a harmful impact on the environment. However, Caltech chemist and Nobel laureate Robert Grubbs has spent several decades developing catalysts—compounds that speed up a chemical reaction—that can make the synthesis of these products more efficient and ecologically friendly, ultimately reducing their environmental footprint. Similarly, chemist Brian Stoltz is developing new strategies for the synthesis of compounds needed in the chemical, polymer, and pharmaceutical industries. His new processes rely upon oxygen and organometallic catalysts—greener alternatives to the toxic metals that are normally used to drive such reactions.

Switching from paper files to cloud-based data storage might seem like an obvious choice for sustainability, but can we further reduce the environmental impact of storing data? The theoretical work of engineer and computer scientist Adam Wierman suggests that with the right algorithms, we can. Today, data centers—the physical storage facilities Wierman calls the "SUVs of the Internet"—account for more than 1.5 percent of U.S. electricity usage. And as more data goes online, that number is expected to grow. Wierman's work helps engineers design algorithms that will reroute data, with preference to centers that use renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

Energy from the sun—although free and abundant—cannot easily be stored for use on dreary days or transported to cloudy regions. Caltech engineer and materials scientist Sossina Haile hopes to remove that barrier with a specific type of solar reactor she has developed. The reactor is lined with ceramic cerium oxide; when this lining is heated with concentrated sunlight it releases oxygen, priming it to remove oxygen from water molecules or carbon dioxide on cooling, thus creating hydrogen fuel or "syngas"—a precursor to liquid hydrocarbon fuels. This conversion of the sun's light into storable fuel could allow solar-derived power to be available day and night.

Caltech student participants in the Department of Energy's biennial Solar Decathlon competition set out to prove that keeping a house lit up, cooled down, and comfortable for living is possible—even while off the grid. The Techers teamed up with students at the Southern California Institute of Architecture to create CHIP and DALE, their entries in the 2011 and 2013 competitions, respectively. These functional and stylish homes, powered solely by the sun, were engineered with innovative components including a rainwater collection system and moving room modules that optimize heating and cooling efficiency. 

Although many of us take the nearest bathroom for granted, working toilets require resources and infrastructure that may not be available in many parts of the world. Inspired by the "Reinventing the Toilet Challenge" issued by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, environmental scientist and engineer Michael Hoffmann and his team applied his research in hydrogen evolution and water treatment to reengineer the toilet. The Caltech team's design—which won the challenge in 2012—can serve hundreds of people each day, treat its own wastewater, and generate electricity, providing a sustainable and low-cost solution to sanitation and hygiene challenges in the developing world. Prototypes are being tested in India and China for use in urban and remote environments in the developing world.  

Geophysicist Mark Simons studies the mechanics of the Earth—furthering our understanding of what causes our planet to deform over time. His research often involves using satellite data to observe the movement associated with seismic and volcanic activity, but Simons is also interested in changes going on in the icy parts of Earth's surface, especially the dynamics of glaciers. By flying high above Iceland's ice caps, Simons and his colleagues can track the glaciers' melt-and-freeze response in relation to seasonal and long-term variations in temperature—and their potential response to climate change.

The production of industrial nitrogen fertilizer results in 130 million tons of ammonia annually—while also requiring high heat, high pressure, and lots of energy. However, in a process called nitrogen fixation, soil microorganisms that live near the roots of certain plants can produce a similar amount of ammonia each year. The bugs use catalysts called nitrogenases to convert nitrogen from the air into ammonia at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. By mimicking the behavior of these microorganisms, Jonas Peters and his colleagues synthesized an iron-based catalyst that allows for nitrogen fixation under much milder conditions. The catalyst could one day lead to more environmentally friendly methods of ammonia production.

Traditionally, the photovoltaic cells in solar panels have been expensive and have had limited efficiency—making them a hard sell in the consumer market. Engineer and applied physicist Harry Atwater's work suggests that there is a thinner and more efficient alternative. Atwater, who is also the director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute, uses thin layers of semiconductors to create photovoltaics that absorb sunlight as efficiently as thick solar cells but can be produced with higher efficiency than conventional cells.

The generation of chemical fuels from sunlight could completely change the way we power the planet. Researchers in the laboratory of Caltech chemist Nate Lewis are working to develop different components of a fuel-producing device that could do just that called a photoelectrochemical cell. The cell would consist of an upper layer that could absorb sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water vapor, a middle layer consisting of light absorbers and catalysts that can produce fuels, which are then released through the device's bottom layer. When such a device is created, the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, of which Lewis is the scientific director, aims to ease the transfer of these technologies to the private sector. 

Clean energy from the wind is a promising alternative to fossil fuels, but giant pinwheel-like wind turbines that are common on many wind farms can create dangerous obstacles for birds as well as being an unpleasant addition to a landscape's aesthetic. To combat this problem, Caltech engineer and fluid-mechanics expert John Dabiri is testing a new design for wind turbines, which looks a bit like a spinning eggbeater emerging from the ground. By placing these columnar vertical wind turbines in a careful arrangement—an arrangement inspired by the vortex of water created behind a swimming fish—his smaller vertical turbines create just as much energy as the "pinwheels" and on a much smaller land footprint.

In the early 1990s, Caltech bioengineer Frances Arnold pioneered "directed evolution"—a new method of engineering custom-built enzymes, or activity-boosting proteins. The technique allows mutations to develop in the enzyme's genetic code; these mutations can give the enzyme properties that don't occur in nature but are beneficial for human applications. The selectively enhanced enzymes help microbes turn plant waste and fast-growing grasses into fuels like isobutanol, which could sustainably replace more than half of U.S. oil imports, Arnold says. She's also exploring ways the technique could help factories to make pharmaceuticals and other products in much cleaner and safer ways.

The combined research efforts of Richard Flagan, John Seinfeld, Mitchio Okumura, and Paul Wennberg aim to improve our understanding of various aspects of climate change. Chemical engineer Flagan is pioneering ways to measure the number and sizes of particles in the air down to that of large molecules. Seinfeld studies where particles in the air come from, how they are produced by airborne chemical reactions, and the effect they have on the world's climate. Chemical physicist Okumura studies the chemical reactions that occur when sunlight encounters air pollution and results in smog. Wennberg, an atmospheric chemist, studies the natural and human processes that affect smog formation, the health of the ozone layer, as well as the lifetime of greenhouse gases. Wennberg and his colleagues join a legacy of Caltech researchers who have improved air quality through key discoveries about pollution.

In the past, researchers have discovered materials that can act as reaction catalysts, driving sunlight to split water into hydrogen fuel and an oxygen byproduct. However, these wonder materials are often expensive and in short supply. The research of chemist Harry Gray, who leads the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Chemical Innovation in Solar Fuels program, tests combinations of Earth-abundant metals to search for an inexpensive catalyst that boosts the water-splitting reaction with the sun. Gray also coleads an outreach project in which students in the classroom can participate in the race for solar fuels by testing thousands of materials and reporting their results to Caltech researchers.

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Although Earth Week has officially come to a close, Caltech's commitment to sustainability continues. In this feature, you will meet some of the researchers at Caltech whose work is contributing to a greener planet and to the long-term improvement of our global environment.

Research for a Greener Future

Today's Earth Week feature highlights three cross-disciplinary research centers where Caltech scientists and engineers collaborate on projects that will have a positive impact on energy, the environment, and Earth's sustainable future.

The Ronald and Maxine Linde Center for Global Environmental Science

The Ronald and Maxine Linde Center for Global Environmental Science brings together researchers from chemistry, engineering, geology, environmental science, and other disciplines, with the goal of understanding the global environment and developing solutions to complex environmental problems. Linde Center scientists investigate how Earth's climate and its atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere have varied in the past and how they may change in the future. They are working on solutions to vexing challenges in climate change prognosis and mitigation, and to improve air and water quality.

The Linde Center was established thanks to support from Caltech alumnus and trustee Ronald Linde and his wife, Maxine. Led by acting director Paul Wennberg, Caltech's R. Stanton Avery Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Science and Engineering, the center is housed in the Linde + Robinson Laboratory, which was constructed in 1932 as an astronomy lab. The building recently underwent extensive renovations, to become one of the nation's most energy-efficient laboratories and the first existing historic building to earn the LEED Platinum rating. In 2012, Linde + Robinson was honored with a 2012 Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Award for the "exceptionally creative and sensitive approach" of the renovation. The project, the conservancy noted, "not only preserved the building's unique historic features, it found brilliant new uses for them—particularly the solar telescope, built as the centerpiece of the original building but functionally obsolete. Now it tracks the sun and uses the light it captures for both illumination and exploration."

Resnick Sustainability Institute

Caltech's Resnick Sustainability Institute was created to fund and foster innovative Caltech-based sustainability and energy-science research collaborations with the potential to develop renewable-energy technologies that may one day help solve our global energy and climate challenges. The mission of the institute, which was founded with a generous gift from Stewart and Lynda Resnick, spans research, education, and communications. Current projects include research into energy generation, such as advanced photovoltaics, photoelectrochemical solar fuels, cellulosic biofuels, and wind-energy system design; energy conversion work on batteries and fuel cells; and research into technologies for energy efficiency and management, such as fuel-efficient vehicles, green chemical synthesis, and thermoelectric materials, as well as advanced research on electrical grid control and distribution.

This year the Resnick Sustainability Institute debuted two new initiatives: the Resonate Awards, which honor breakthrough achievements in energy science and sustainability, and a prize postdoctoral fellowship program. The Resonate Award winners will be announced at the Fortune Brainstorm GREEN conference in May 2014, and the inaugural class of postdoctoral fellows will be announced this fall.

Led by Harry Atwater, Caltech's Howard Hughes Professor and professor of applied physics and materials science, the institute is collocated with the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) in the recently renovated Jorgensen Laboratory, which has been awarded LEED Platinum certification. In the renovation, Caltech and its partners were able to reuse or recycle over 90 percent of the materials removed from the original facility, a computer science building. Jorgensen has high-efficiency lighting and HVAC systems, a "living roof" composed of evergreen and drought-tolerant grasses, and water-saving plumbing and landscaping, among other green features.

The Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP)

JCAP, established in 2010 as a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Innovation Hub, is the nation's largest research effort focused on artificial photosynthesis. Led by researchers from Caltech (JCAP South, housed at the Jorgensen Laboratory) and partner Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (JCAP North), the center aims to create a low-cost artificial generator that uses sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to make fuel from the sun 10 times more efficiently than current living crops. Once a prototype generator is developed, it will be handed off to private-sector companies to launch a new solar-fuels industry. Such a transformative breakthrough would reduce our country's dependence on oil and enhance energy security.

JCAP researchers include Scientific Director Nathan S. Lewis, Caltech's George L. Argyros Professor and professor of chemistry; Jonas Peters, the Bren Professor of Chemistry; William A. Goddard, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics; and Harry Atwater.

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Allen E. Puckett

1919–2014

Allen E. Puckett (PhD '49), the engineer who helped father the delta-winged airplane, the guided missile, and the communications satellite, and who turned Hughes Aircraft into the nation's top provider of radar systems and other defense-related electronics, passed away at his home in Pacific Palisades, California, on March 31, 2014, at age 94.

Puckett was born on July 25, 1919, in Springfield, Ohio. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering at Harvard (in 1939 and 1941, respectively) before coming to Caltech to pursue his doctorate in aeronautics under Theodore von Kármán, the leading aerodynamicist of the era. Puckett's PhD thesis, "Supersonic Wave Drag on Thin Airfoils," laid the foundation for designing the triangular-shaped delta wings found on such diverse aircraft as supersonic fighter jets, the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, and the Space Shuttle orbiter.

Puckett launched his Caltech career in 1942 by helping build the first supersonic wind tunnel in the United States that could operate continuously at Mach 4, or four times the speed of sound. He used this expertise the following year to design a similar but much larger tunnel for testing supersonic artillery shells at the Army Ordnance Corps' Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. This wind tunnel, built at the height of World War II, remained in use well into the Cold War. While a graduate student, Puckett also served as the wind tunnel section chief at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, then an Army research facility, and as the chair of the Subcommittee on High-Speed Aerodynamics for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, the forerunner of NASA).

Upon graduating in 1949, Puckett joined Hughes Aircraft as the head of the aerodynamics department of the Guided Missile Laboratory, and cowrote the seminal Introduction to Aerodynamics of a Compressible Fluid with Caltech aeronautics professor Hans W. Liepmann. (A decade later, Puckett and Simon Ramo [PhD '36] would coedit the equally seminal Guided Missile Engineering.) Puckett remained at Hughes for his entire professional career, becoming chairman and CEO in 1978 and retiring in 1987.

Puckett served on the boards of directors of corporations including General Dynamics, the Fluor Corporation, and the Delco Electronics Corporation as well as numerous government, private, and charitable organizations. He was a fellow and past president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Academy of Aeronautics, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Sciences.

Among other honors, Puckett won the Lawrence Sperry Award of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences (now the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) in 1948. He was named a Caltech Distinguished Alumnus in 1970, the California Manufacturer of the Year in 1980, a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor in 1984, and was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Reagan in 1985.

"Dr. Puckett's research and innovations contributed greatly to the security of our nation," says Guruswami Ravichandran, the John E. Goode, Jr., Professor of Aerospace and Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the director of the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories at Caltech. "He was a visionary in the field of space engineering, and the impact of his work will be felt long into the future."

At Caltech, Puckett endowed a chair in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. Robert McEliece, who developed new systems for storing and transmitting large volumes of information (such as images from far-flung spacecraft), is the Allen E. Puckett Professor and Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus; Pietro Perona, who works on building machines that can see the way humans can, is the Allen E. Puckett Professor of Electrical Engineering. Even in his 90s, Puckett retained "his vivacious intellect and curiosity," says Perona.

Caltech's Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory, the building where Puckett spent his time on campus as a grad student, was extensively renovated in 2008. The west end of the third floor now houses the Allen Puckett Laboratory of Computational Fluid Mechanics, which includes a seminar room, a computer lab, and open-plan workspaces for graduate students.

Puckett is survived by Marilyn Puckett, his wife of 50 years, five children, six grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.

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