The Next Big Thing

To get a glimpse into the future, what better place is there to look than the minds of those about to become Caltech's newest alumni? After all, our 2016 graduates have been at the forefront of research in vastly different fields for the past few years. Their unique perspectives have informed their ideas of the future, and their work will reach far beyond the confines of a lab.

With that in mind, in the Summer 2016 issue of E&S magazine, we talked to a handful of undergraduate and graduate students prior to commencement to find out what they think will be the next big thing in science and engineering and how their plans after graduation reflect those ideas.

 

I believe that the future of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) will place a greater emphasis on implementation and impact of research. While rapid economic growth and globalization have introduced numerous difficult challenges, society has acquired powerful new tools and technology to develop and implement solutions for these issues.

I will be working as a management consultant after graduating to expose myself to business and strategy. That way, I can perhaps one day help new discoveries and ideas produce a tangible impact on people's lives."

Aditya Bhagavathi
BS in Computer Science

 

I believe the future of planetary and space exploration will follow two paths—one, the search for life beyond Earth within the solar system, and two, the characterization of exoplanets.

For the solar system, the initial survey of its major worlds was just completed with the New Horizons flyby of Pluto, and therefore a new focus will likely emerge. That initial survey has revealed several worlds to be potentially habitable, including Mars, Europa, and Enceladus, with the former two already targets for future missions. These new missions will not only reveal more about these worlds but also force us to reevaluate what life is, how it arises, and how it endures.

For exoplanets, the diversity of worlds is immense. From giant planets that orbit their host stars in less than a day to habitable planets with permanent daysides and nightsides, exoplanets offer a tremendous opportunity to understand the planets in our own solar system. With the rapid development of technologies, instruments, and observing techniques, the flood of data regarding exoplanets will only continue. I plan to be among the scientists who will analyze this data and combine their results with theoretical models to investigate what these distant worlds are like. By doing this, we will be exploring our place in the universe and whether we are alone within it."

Peter Gao
PhD in Planetary Science

 

When asked what he would do with his degree in philosophy during a routine dentist appointment, David Silbersweig, MD at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Academic Dean at Harvard Medical School, responded with a single word that spoke volumes: 'Think.' Simply put, I too want to think.

I want to learn how to think at a complex level such that my ability to think and subsequently solve problems allows me to change lives. The history and philosophy of science degree at Caltech has given me exactly this. According to Silbersweig, 'If you can get through a one-sentence paragraph of Kant, holding all of its ideas and clauses in juxtaposition in your mind, you can think through most anything.' In my first History and Philosophy of Science class, I read Kant. I also find immense happiness in working with and helping other individuals, a sense of euphoria matched by little else in life. I learned this lesson through tutoring students and coaching younger athletes. And finally, as a collegiate athlete myself, I have undergone multiple orthopedic surgeries that ignited an interest in the musculoskeletal system and its ability to suffer injury yet recover remarkably. Together, these three aspects of life are central to my vision of the future. Becoming an orthopedic surgeon is the perfect combination—the career that will give me these components and a lot more.

One of the major developments in medicine will be 3-D printing, primarily in order to provide individuals with replacement bones and organs. Combining new progress in computer science will facilitate immense progress in 3-D printing, which also aligns well with the use of robotics in surgery. As an athlete who has torn my ACL and had bone spurs in the past year, I'm excited to be a part of this field in the future and hopefully help other athletes succeed in pursuing their passions."

Harinee Maiyuran
BS in History and Philosophy of Science

 

My personal hunch, and perhaps a somewhat common one, is that all disciplines—and not just STEM ones—are moving toward being increasingly data driven, a phenomenon rooted in freer dissemination and greater influx of research data. Correspondingly, computers and programming drive data processing in all disciplines; a common joke is that every scientist is automatically a software engineer. Statistical and machine learning techniques that are designed to tackle vast quantities of data are increasingly common in academic papers and will probably continue to climb in popularity.

I am planning to go into computational astrophysics research because I believe that the recent influx of data from new detectors will drive a huge surge of research questions to be investigated. And as a physics/computerscience double major, I'm uniquely equipped to analyze big data and extract scientific meaning from it."

Yubo Su
BS in Physics and Computer Science

 

Many aspects about future climate are unclear, such as how cloudiness, precipitation, and extreme events will change under global warming. But recent progress in observational and computational technology has provided great potential for clarifying these uncertainties. I plan to continue my research and utilize new data and models to develop theoretical understanding of these problems. I hope that such new insight will be helpful for assessing climate change impacts and designing effective adaptation and mitigation strategies."

Zhihong Tan
PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering

 

The future of science and engineering depends on closing the huge gap between the general public and scientists and engineers. I think this stems from a good deal of ignorance about what it is we do and hope to achieve, which leads to misconceptions about our work and community, and the separation between 'us' and 'them.' But if we're trying to understand and solve problems that affect everyone, shouldn't everyone be more involved?

When I graduate, I'm going to take a year off to try and bridge this gap in my own life. I don't know what I'll do yet, but it will be decidedly nonacademic. I want to travel, work odd jobs, and pursue hobbies I've set aside to finish my education. If I want to help people understand why I do what I do, I need to be certain that I understand first. After only four years surrounded almost exclusively by scientists and engineers, I want to get away a little. That way, when I inevitably return, I'll have a bit more perspective."

Valerie Pietrasz
BS in Mechanical Engineering and Planetary Science

 

Driven by the goal of reducing fossil fuel use and pollution, clean energy research plays and will play a pivotal role in America's energy future. Clean energy research spans disciplines such as biological and environmental sciences, advanced materials, nuclear sciences, and chemistry. Therefore, multidisciplinary efforts are not only necessary but also crucial to develop and deploy real-world solutions for energy security and protecting the environment.

As a graduate student, I have focused on understanding nanoscale energy transport in novel energy-efficient materials. In the future, I plan to further advance and apply my expertise to solve real-world problems in an integrated and multidisciplinary approach. I hope this effort will eventually lead to developing advanced clean energy technologies that could not only ease today's energy crisis but also improve our quality of life."

Chengyun Hua
PhD in Mechanical Engineering

 

I believe that in the next decade, the behavioral and computational subfields of neuroscience will work together seamlessly. I think this change will be primarily fueled by the development of new tools that allow us to measure the activity of large populations of neurons more precisely.

A prominent behavioral method of research, in mice at least, is to activate large structures in the brain and observe the aggregate behavioral effect. However, it is unlikely that all of these neurons are responsible for the same signal, so this approach may be too crude. I think new measurement techniques will enable behavioralists to collect large-scale population activity that computationalists can use in order to find subtle differences of function within these structures. Hopefully this collaboration will lead to generating and validating fundamental theories underlying how the brain works.

Currently, I am in the process of developing a method to measure the activity from over 10,000 neurons simultaneously. I hope to validate this technique before I graduate and then apply it to studying large-scale population activity during various behaviors. My future aim is to work closely with computationalists with the hope of discovering fundamental theories of brain function."

Gregory Stevens
BS in Biology

 

I think the future of planetary science is to discover and characterize more and more extra-solar planets, including their orbital configurations, atmospheres, and habitability. This is a challenging task because it requires a solid understanding of how chemistry and physics work on a planetary scale. Learning more about the planets closest to us paves a way toward the understanding of exoplanets that are far beyond our reach, since we can send missions to them. So after graduation, I will join the team for Juno—the spacecraft that will arrive at Jupiter in summer 2016—at JPL. New discoveries about Jupiter will also tell us more about what other planets beyond our solar system could look like."

Cheng Li
PhD in Planetary Science

 

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The Next Big Thing
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We hear from a handful of graduating students to learn what they think will be the next big thing in science and engineering and how their plans reflect those ideas.

Shou Receives Fellowship for Graduate Studies in Germany

Laura Shou, a senior in mathematics, has received a Graduate Study Scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to pursue a master's degree in Germany. She will spend one year at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and the Technische Universität München, studying in the theoretical and mathematical physics (TMP) program.

The DAAD is the German national agency for the support of international academic cooperation. The organization aims to promote international academic relations and cooperation by offering mobility programs for students, faculty, and administrators and others in the higher education realm. The Graduate Study Scholarship supports highly qualified American and Canadian students with an opportunity to conduct independent research or complete a full master's degree in Germany. Master's scholarships are granted for 12 months and are eligible for up to a one-year extension in the case of two-year master's programs. Recipients receive a living stipend, health insurance, educational costs, and travel.

"As a math major, I was especially interested in the TMP course because of its focus on the interplay between theoretical physics and mathematics," Shou says. "I would like to use mathematical rigor and analysis to work on problems motivated by physics. The TMP course at the LMU/TUM is one of the few programs focused specifically on mathematical physics. There are many people doing research in mathematical physics there, and the program also regularly offers mathematically rigorous physics classes."

At Caltech, Shou has participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program three times, conducting research with Professor of Mathematics Yi Ni on knot theory and topology, with former postdoctoral fellow Chris Marx (PhD '12) on mathematical physics, and with Professor of Mathematics Nets Katz on analysis. She was the president of the Dance Dance Revolution Club and a member of the Caltech NERF Club and the Caltech Math Club.

Following her year in Germany, Shou will begin the mathematics PhD program at Princeton.

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Shou Receives Fellowship for Studies in Germany
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Shou Receives Fellowship for Graduate Studies in Germany
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Senior Laura Shou has received a Graduate Study Scholarship to pursue a master's degree in Germany.

2016 Distinguished Alumnus: Eric Betzig (BS '83)

The 2016 Distinguished Alumni Awards were presented on Saturday, May 21, during the 79th annual Seminar Day. Each week, the Caltech Alumni Association will share a story about a recipient.

In the fall of 1994, Eric Betzig contemplated what he thought might be the end of his scientific career. He had an intriguing idea of how to capture images at incredibly small scales that were beyond the limits of what was then possible—but, having left a successful research position at Bell Labs to focus on raising his newborn child, he lacked the resources to pursue it.

"I decided to publish the idea, just put it out into the scientific world," Betzig said. "And I thought that would pretty much be the end of it. I thought I was done with science."

Hardly. Twenty years later, Betzig's paper, along with a number of significant achievements afterward, was cited in his being awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Read the full story on the Caltech Alumni Association website

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Distinguished Alumnus: Eric Betzig (BS '83)
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Betzig pioneered a method known as single-molecule microscopy, or “nanoscopy,” for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2014.

LIGO Founders Receive Prestigious Kavli Prize in Astrophysics

The 2016 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics has been awarded to the three founders of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO): Caltech's Ronald W. P. Drever, professor of physics, emeritus, and Kip S. Thorne (BS '62), the Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus; and MIT's Rainer Weiss, professor of physics, emeritus.

The $1 million prize, presented once every two years, honors the three for their instrumental role in establishing LIGO, an effort that led to the direct detection of gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of space and time predicted a century earlier by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity. On February 11, 2016, the international LIGO team announced the first observation of gravitational waves arriving at Earth.

The waves were generated 1.3 billion years ago when two black holes spiraled around each other and ultimately merged to form a single, more massive black hole. The twin LIGO instruments—one in Hanford, Washington, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana—detected the waves by measuring changes to the lengths of their 4-kilometer-long arms as small as one one-thousandth the width of a proton.

"The detection of tiny ripples in space and time, set up when two black holes merged more than a billion years ago, is one of the most amazing feats of the century," says Fiona Harrison, the Benjamin M. Rosen Professor of Physics and the Kent and Joyce Kresa Leadership Chair of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy. "The LIGO project is a marvel of precision measurement, engineering, and technical ingenuity. Its founders, Kip, Rai, and Ron, and the entire LIGO team, deserve credit for this amazing discovery."

The existence of gravitational waves was predicted by Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity, but it was not until the 1960s that technological and theoretical advances made detection even possible to consider. In the 1970s, Thorne founded a research group at Caltech to study the theory of gravitational waves. Weiss had developed a design for a gravitational wave detector; he and Thorne recruited Drever, one of the leading creators of gravitational-wave interferometer prototypes, to lead what would become LIGO.

On September 14, 2015, during the first observations with the newly upgraded Advanced LIGO interferometers, LIGO detected the first signal of gravitational waves.

"The lion's share of the credit for LIGO's gravitational wave discovery belongs to the superb 1000-member LIGO team, who pulled it off," said Thorne. "They have made Weiss, Drever and me look good.  And my deep thanks go out, also, to the succession of outstanding LIGO directors who provided the leadership required for success—Robbie Vogt, Stan Whitcomb, Jay Marx, David Reitze, and especially Barry Barish. Barry designed and led the transformation of LIGO from the small R&D project that Weiss, Drever and I created into the wonderfully successful big-science project that it is today."

According to the Kavli award citation, "the direct measurement of the tiny space-time ripples required the sustained vision and experimental ingenuity of Drever, Thorne and Weiss, spanning most of the last 50 years, as individual scientists and later as intellectual leaders of a team of hundreds of scientists and engineers."

The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and MIT. The LIGO discovery team consists of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the European Virgo Collaboration. The NSF leads in financial support for Advanced LIGO. Funding organizations in Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council, STFC) and Australia (Australian Research Council) also have made significant commitments to the project.

The Kavli Prizes, established in 2008 and awarded every two years, recognize scientists for their seminal advances in three research areas: astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience. Each prize consists of a scroll, a medal, and a cash award. The Kavli Prizes are presented in cooperation and partnership with the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.

Past Caltech winners of the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics include Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and Professor of Planetary Astronomy, who received the Kavli Prize in 2012 for work that led to a major advance in the understanding of the history of our planetary system, and Maarten Schmidt, the Frances L. Moseley Professor of Astronomy, Emeritus, who was awarded the prize in 2008 for his seminal contributions to our understanding of the nature of quasars. Other Kavli Prize recipients include alumni David C. Jewitt (MS '80, PhD '83), cowinner of the 2012 Kavli Prize for Astrophysics; James Roger Angel (MS '66), cowinner of the 2010 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics; and Caltech trustee Richard H. Scheller (PhD '80), cowinner of the 2010 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience.  

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Kavli Prize Goes to LIGO Founders
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2016 Shaw Prize Awarded to LIGO Founders

This year's Shaw Prize in Astronomy, worth $1.2 million, has been awarded to the trio of researchers who founded LIGO: Caltech's Ronald W. P. Drever, professor of physics, emeritus, and Kip S. Thorne (BS '62), the Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus; and MIT's Rainer Weiss, professor of physics, emeritus.

According to the prize announcement, the LIGO founders are being honored "for conceiving and designing the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), whose recent direct detection of gravitational waves opens a new window in astronomy, with the first remarkable discovery being the merger of a pair of stellar mass black holes."

The existence of gravitational waves was predicted by Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity, but it was not until the 1960s that technological and theoretical advances made detection even possible to consider. In the 1970s, Thorne founded a research group at Caltech to study the theory of gravitational waves. Weiss had developed a design for a gravitational wave detector; he and Thorne recruited Drever, one of the leading creators of gravitational-wave interferometer prototypes, to lead what would become LIGO. On September 14, 2015, during the first observations with the newly upgraded Advanced LIGO interferometers, LIGO detected the first signal of gravitational waves—the result of the collision of two black holes to form a single, more massive black hole. The detection was announced on February 11, 2016.

Drever, Thorne and Weiss have also jointly received the 2016 Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize and the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for their contributions to LIGO.

The Shaw Prize, established in 2004, is awarded annually in three categories: Astronomy, Life Science and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences. It "honors individuals, regardless of race, nationality, gender and religious belief, who have achieved significant breakthroughs in academic and scientific research or applications and whose work has resulted in a positive and profound impact on mankind," according to the Prize website.

The Shaw Prize is an international award managed and administered by The Shaw Prize Foundation based in Hong Kong. Mr. Shaw has also founded The Sir Run Run Shaw Charitable Trust and The Shaw Foundation Hong Kong, both dedicated to the promotion of education, scientific and technological research, medical and welfare services, and culture and the arts.

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LIGO Founders Win Shaw Prize
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Gilmartin Named Dean of Undergraduate Students

On July 1, 2016, Kevin Gilmartin, professor of English, will begin serving as Caltech's dean of undergraduate students.

In announcing Gilmartin's appointment, Joseph E. Shepherd, vice president for student affairs and the C. L. Kelly Johnson Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, described him as "an accomplished scholar and author who brings to this position twenty-five years of experience in teaching and mentoring our students, and who has shown a keen interest in the welfare of our undergraduate students in and outside of the classroom."

In his new role as dean of undergraduate students, Gilmartin will work on fostering academic and personal growth through counseling and support for student activities as well as acting as a liaison between students and faculty, says Shepherd.

A recipient the Feynman Prize, Caltech's highest teaching award, Gilmartin says he was attracted to the job of dean because "I have always found our students to be so interesting, and engaging. They are extraordinarily optimistic. They seem to have a positive attitude toward the world—they're curious, and they're open to new things. What more could you ask for?"

He says he sees his role as helping undergraduates develop and thrive. "I'm excited to work with students to help foster their intellectual and academic growth and their development as individuals," he says. "Our students are remarkably diverse and they have diverse interests. The Caltech curriculum is demanding, and focused, no doubt. But within it, and through it, our students do find so many opportunities."

He adds, "The dean's office provides essential support. But we can also encourage our students to do more than they are inclined to do, to challenge themselves, to try new things."

Gilmartin received his undergraduate degree in English from Oberlin College in 1985. He received both his MS ('86) and PhD ('91) in English from the University of Chicago, joining the faculty of Caltech in 1991.

Barbara Green, who has served as the interim dean over the past year will return to her regular position as associate dean in July. In his announcement, Shepherd thanked Green "for her work with our students and service to the Institute [and for] being so willing and committed to the success of our undergraduate student body."

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Gilmartin Named Dean of Undergraduates
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On July 1, 2016, Kevin Gilmartin, professor of English, will begin serving as Caltech's dean of undergraduate students.

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 underclassmen and prevent them from wreaking havoc on the seniors' unoccupied rooms.

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

          

 

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The Power of Entanglement: A Conversation with Fernando Brandão

Computers are a ubiquitous part of modern technology, utilized in smartphones, cars, kitchen appliances, and more. But there are limits to their power. New faculty member Fernando Brandão, the Bren Professor of Theoretical Physics, studies how quantum computers may someday revolutionize computing and change the world's cryptographic systems.

What do you do?

My research is in quantum information science, a field which seeks to merge two of the biggest discoveries of the last century: quantum mechanics and computer science. Particularly, I am interested in studying quantum entanglement. Entanglement is a special kind of correlations only found in quantum mechanics. We are all familiar with the concept of correlations. For example, the weather in Southern California is pretty well-correlated from one day to the next—if it is sunny today, it will likely be sunny tomorrow. Quantum systems can be correlated in an even stronger way. Entanglement was first seen as a weird feature of quantum mechanics—Einstein famously referred to it as a "spooky action at a distance." But with the advancement of quantum information science, entanglement is now seen as a physical resource that can be used in information processing, such as in quantum cryptography and quantum computing. One part of my research is to develop methods to characterize and quantify entanglement. Another is to find new applications of entanglement, both in quantum information science and in other areas of physics.  

What is a quantum computer?

At the most basic level, computers are made up of millions of simple switches called transistors. Transistors have two states—on or off—which can be represented as the zeroes or ones that make up binary code. With a quantum computer, its basic building blocks (called qubits) can be either a one or a zero, or they can simultaneously exist as a one and a zero. This property is called the superposition principle and, together with entanglement and quantum interference, it is what allows quantum computers to, theoretically, solve certain problems much faster than normal, or "classical," computers could. It will take a long time until we actually have quantum computers, but we are already trying to figure out what they can do.

What is an example of a problem only solvable by a quantum computer?

It is a mathematical fact that any integer number can be factored into the product of prime numbers. For example, 21 can be written as 3 x 7, which are both prime numbers. Factoring a number is pretty straightforward when it is a small number, but factoring a number with a thousand digits would actually take a classical computer billions and billions of years—more time than the age of the universe! However, in 1994 Peter Shor showed that quantum computers would be so powerful that they would be able to factor numbers very quickly. This is important because many current cryptographic systems—the algorithms that protect your credit card information when you make a purchase online, for example—are based on factoring large numbers with the assumption that some codes cannot be cracked for billions of years. Quantum computing would change the way we do cryptography.

What got you interested in quantum information?

During my undergraduate education, I was looking online for interesting things to read, and found some lecture notes about quantum computation which turned out to be by Caltech's John Preskill [Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics]. They are a beautiful set of lecture notes and they were really my first contact with quantum information and, in fact, with quantum mechanics. I have been working in quantum information science ever since. And now that I'm on the Caltech faculty, I have an office right down the hall from Preskill!

What is your background?

I am originally from Brazil. I did my bachelors and masters degrees there in physics, and my PhD at Imperial College London. After that, I moved among London, Brazil, and Switzerland for various postdocs. Then I became faculty at University College London. Last year I was working with the research group at Microsoft, and now I am here at Caltech. The types of problems I have worked on have varied with time, but they are all within quantum information theory. It is stimulating to see how the field has progressed in the past 10 years since I started working on it.  

What are you particularly excited about now that you are at Caltech?

I can't think of a better place than Caltech to do quantum information. There are many people working on it from different angles, for example, in the intersection of quantum information and condensed-matter physics, or high-energy physics. I am very excited that I get to collaborate with them.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I used to go traveling a lot, but six months ago my wife and I had a baby, so he is keeping us busy. Along with work and exercise, that basically takes up all my time.

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The Power of Entanglement
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The Power of Entanglement: A Conversation with Fernando Brandão
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New Caltech faculty member Fernando Brandão explains quantum information and its power to revolutionize computing.

LIGO Founders and Team Receive Cosmology Prize

Ronald Drever, professor of physics, emeritus; Kip Thorne, Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus; Rai Weiss, MIT professor of physics, emeritus; and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) discovery team have been selected to receive the 2016 Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize for their observation of gravitational waves, distortions in the fabric of spacetime. The Cosmology Prize honors a leading cosmologist, astronomer, astrophysicist, or scientific philosopher for theoretical, analytical, conceptual, or observational discoveries leading to fundamental advances in our understanding of the universe.

In a press release, the Gruber Foundation called the detection of gravitational waves a "technologically herculean and scientifically transcendent achievement."

The existence of gravitational waves was predicted by Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity, but it was not until the 1960s that technological and theoretical advances made detection even possible to consider. In the 1970s, Thorne founded a research group at Caltech to study the theory of gravitational waves. Weiss had developed a design for a gravitational wave detector; he and Thorne recruited Drever, one of the leading creators of gravitational-wave interferometer prototypes, to lead what would become LIGO. On September 14, 2015, during the first observations with the newly upgraded Advanced LIGO interferometers, LIGO detected the first signal of gravitational waves—the result of the collision of two black holes to produce a single, more massive black hole. The detection was announced on February 11, 2016.

The Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize includes a $500,000 award, to be divided equally among Drever, Thorne, and Weiss. Each will also receive a gold medal.

Past recipients of the prize include Caltech's Charles Steidel, the Lee A. DuBridge Professor of Astronomy, who received the Gruber Prize in 2010 for his studies of the distant universe.

The award ceremony will take place on July 12 at the 21st International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation, held at Columbia University in the City of New York.

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LIGO Team Receives Cosmology Prize
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LIGO Founders and Team Receive Cosmology Prize
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Caltech's Drever and Thorne receive the Gruber Cosmology Prize for their role in discovering gravitational waves.

Ooguri Receives Chunichi Award

Hirosi Ooguri, the Fred Kavli Professor of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics and founding director of the Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics, will be the 2016 recipient of the Chunichi Cultural Award. Founded in 1947 by Japanese newspaper Chunichi Shimbun to commemorate the enacting of the Japanese constitution, the award celebrates individuals or organizations who have made significant contributions to the arts, humanities, and natural or social sciences. Other awardees this year include physicist and 2015 Nobel Laureate Takaaki Kajita, poet Toru Kitagawa, and biologist Ikue Mori, each of whom will receive the 2 million yen ($20,000) prize. Previous recipients include six other Nobel laureates and one Fields medalist.

The prize honors Ooguri for the "development of innovative methods of modern mathematics in high energy theory," according to the prize citation. His research focuses on creating new theoretical tools in quantum field theory and superstring theory, which may ultimately lead to a unified theory of the forces and matter in nature. He is particularly renowned for his work on topological string theory, which has had broad applications ranging from black hole physics to algebraic geometry and knot theory in mathematics.

This April, Ooguri was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also the recipient of the Leonard Eisenbud Prize for Mathematics and Physics from the American Mathematical Society, the Nishina Memorial Prize, the Humboldt Research Award, the Simons Investigator Award, and is a fellow of the American Mathematical Society. He also received Japan's Kodansha Prize for Science Books for his popular Introduction to Superstring Theory in 2014.

Ooguri will receive the Chunichi Award at a ceremony to be held in Japan on June 3.

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Ooguri Receives Chunichi Award
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