Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

News & Events


Michael Elowitz, Long Cai, and Chiraj Dalal Find Cells Coordinate Gene Activity with FM Bursts


How a cell achieves the coordinated control of a number of genes at the same time, a process that's necessary for it to regulate its own behavior and development, has long puzzled scientists. Michael Elowitz, assistant professor of biology and applied physics, along with postdoctoral research scholar Long Cai, and graduate student Chiraj Dalal, have discovered a surprising answer. Just as human engineers control devices ranging from dimmer switches to retrorockets using pulsed--or frequency modulated (FM)--signals, cells tune the expression of groups of genes using discrete bursts of activation. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights health Michael Elowitz

Michael Elowitz Named HHMI Investigator


Michael Elowitz, Assistant Professor of Biology and Applied Physics and a Bren Scholar, has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. Elowitz is fundamentally interested in how cells' own genetic circuits dictate what type of cells they become. In work that overturned the steadfastnotion that genes and networks of genes operate in a predictable and fixed fashion, he and his colleagues showed that key properties of the cell, like how actively it turns out different proteins, are intrinsically random. To show that randomness is used to more accurately control the shapes and patterns that make organisms work, Elowitz is turning to larger and more complex animal cells. "I'm grateful to HHMI for the amazing opportunity this appointment presents to focus as much as possible on research. The funds will enable us to explore new directions, especially allowing us to expand approaches we've previously developed primarily in bacteria to mammalian cells." [Caltech Press Release]

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Roukes and Rothemund Display Work at MoMA


"If you make structures that are impeccably designed, they also often tend to work really well," says Michael Roukes, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering. He along with senior research associate in computation and neural systems and computer science Paul Rothemund are scientists who can now add artist to their resumes. Rothemund's DNA origami and a colorized electron micrograph of Roukes's nanoscience work were displayed in Design and the Elastic Mind at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Roukes's micrograph was even selected for the museum's permanent collection. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights health Michael Roukes Paul Rothemund

Harry Atwater discusses Plasmonics with the AT&T Tech Channel


The AT&T Tech Channel discusses Plasmonics with Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science. New research in Plasmonics promises breakthroughs with implications ranging from the creation of faster than light computing, possible new weapons against cancer, and maybe even achieving invisibility. [Video]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights health Harry Atwater