Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bioengineering Professor Has Asteroid Named After Him

Bioengineering emeritus professor Y.C. Fung, widely recognized as the father of biomechanics, can add an usual honor to the long list of accolades he has received: an asteroid has been named after him.

210434 Fungyuancheng orbits about 2.425 astronomical units from the Earth, in the vast asteroid belt that separates the inner solar system, and the smaller planets, including Earth, from Jupiter and the other gas giants. The asteroid was discovered on Dec. 20, 2008. The International Astronomical Union approved its new name earlier this month.  

Fung joined UCSD in 1966 to initiate a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. program in bioengineering. He is the recipient of the President's National Medal of Science, the Founder's Award from the National Academy of Engineering and numerous other prestigious honors and prizes. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, National Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences. He has written many authoritative books on biomechanics that are used as textbooks around the world, in addition to books on solid mechanics and continuum mechanics. Prior to joining UC San Diego, Fung was a faculty member in the Department of Aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology, where he received his Ph.D. in 1948. 

Fung’s accomplishments and insights have directly contributed to designs, inventions, and applications that save lives, mitigate the severity of soft tissue injury, enhance the recovery and functionality of injured soft tissue, and improve the effectiveness and longevity of prosthetic orthopedic devices. His research contributed to the development of artificial skin, which has accelerated healing for millions of people with burns and other tissue trauma. Fung’s research also is the basis for the entire field of automotive safety design – all automobile crash tests today rely on his fundamental studies about tissue response.

Fung's theories on the mechanical properties and functions of blood cells and capillary blood vessels have led our understanding of microcirculation, endothelial biology, and atherosclerosis.   His "sheet-flow" theory provided a quantitative description of pulmonary circulation, hypertension, edema and respiratory distress syndrome.  Problems related to severe thorax impact injuries have been solved by Fung's "stress wave propagation" theory. More recently, Fung directly contributed to tissue engineering through the development of engineered products for treating burns and severe tissue injuries and the development of engineered blood vessels. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

UC San Diego's Smart Grid Highlighted by California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission puts UC San Diego's smart grid in the spotlight in this video. The video explores the benefits of UC San Diego's microgrid system and how it is helping energy researchers at the U.S. Navy to deploy smart grid technologies at military bases. The microgrid was developed partly thanks to research by scientists at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Biz leaders, researchers, SBA advocate look for solutions to keep entrepreneurism alive and well

Winslow Sargeant, chief counsel for advocacy at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, was on campus this week for a roundtable discussion with entrepreneurs and researchers about the regulatory and bureaucratic barriers, and funding limitations that can keep good inventions stuck in the laboratory. The discussion was hosted by the von Liebig Center forEntrepreneurism and Technology Advancement and CONNECT

“Research is the transformation of money into knowledge. Innovation is the transformation of knowledge into money in the form of companies, products and services,” said Sargeant. “We want you to make it to the other side,” he added, referencing the dreaded valley of death, where many an innovative idea has died due to lack of resources and funding. 

Several challenges were raised during the discussion, including dwindling federal and state funding for research and commercialization via the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program (combined with increased competition for those dollars), mismatched priorities between the kind of research that federal agencies fund and the needs of the medical community, and the funding process by which proposals are reviewed, which several in attendance described as “broken.” 

The uncertainty about funding for research is creating a discouraging environment for undergraduate and graduate students considering whether to pursue a doctorate degree, which several attendees agreed could be “devastating” at the junior faculty level over the long-term. Sargeant said this trend is especially problematic. “If we’re encouraging young people to go into STEM fields, there has to be a pathway. There can’t be a valley of death for the entrepreneur and scientist,” he said.

Solutions were also proposed. Among them: shortening the review cycle for Small Business Innovation Research grants from nine months or more to three to five months; providing more education and training to individuals who review the SBIR funding proposals; a mentoring program to help less experienced entrepreneurs compete for this type of funding; and a pre-proposal process to weed out and provide feedback to researchers whose ideas need more work.  Attendees also recommended changing an SBIR rule that requires the principal investigator on any grant to be primarily employed (more than 50 percent of the time) by the company.  The requirement often means faculty members or researchers need to leave the university – and the health care and other benefits it provides – to pursue a highly risky venture. 

Sargeant is currently traveling around the country visiting with business leaders, inventors and entrepreneurs about the challenges that may be impeding the growth of small businesses. As chief counsel for advocacy at the SBA, Sargeant advocates for policies that support the growth and development of small businesses. The von Liebig Center at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering provides proof of concept funding and advisory services to accelerate the commercialization of university research throughout Southern California.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Computer Scientists with Ties to Jacobs School Win Prestigious Prize

Christos Papadimitriou and Elias Koutsoupias have won the 2012 Gödel Prize. Papadimitriou is a former computer science faculty member and was Koutsoupias' adviser when he received his Ph.D. in 1994. The Gödel Prize is jointly awarded by the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science and the ACM Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory in recognition of outstanding papers in theoretical computer science.  Koutsoupias and Papadimtriou's "Worst-case Equilibria" paper introduced the "price of anarchy" concept, a measure of the extent to which competition approximates cooperation.