News & Events



James J. Morgan Symposium


On Friday September 23rd, 2016 the Environmental Science and Engineering Department hosted a day-long tribute to James J. Morgan, Marvin L. Goldberger Professor of Environmental Engineering Science, Emeritus. The symposium featured a series of presentations by his former students and leaders in the field of aquatic chemistry. Professor Morgan’s teaching and research centered on aquatic chemistry; major themes comprised rates of abiotic manganese oxidation on particle surfaces and flocculation of natural water particles, and chemical speciation proved the key. He came to Caltech as Associate Professor of Environmental Health Engineering in 1965 and became the Goldberger Professor of Environmental Engineering Science in 1987. He has served Caltech in a variety of capacities including Academic Officer for Environmental Engineering Science, Dean of Students, Executive Officer for Environmental Engineering Science, Acting Dean of Graduate Studies, and Vice President for Student Affairs. [A Conversation with James J. Morgan] [Symposium program]

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Professors Newman and Orphan Named MacArthur Fellows


Environmental Science and Engineering Professors Dianne Newman and Victoria Orphan have been selected as 2016 MacArthur Fellows. Professor Newman's research focuses on microbial stress responses, with an emphasis on mechanisms of energy generation and survival when oxygen is scarce. Professor Orphan studies the molecular microbial ecology of anaerobic communities with a particular focus on microorganisms that live in deep-ocean sediment beds and consume large quantities of methane released from seeps in the ocean floor. [Caltech story]

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122nd Commencement Ceremony


Caltech’s 122nd commencement ceremony was held on Friday June 10, 2016. The commencement speaker was surgeon, writer, and public health researcher Atul Gawande, MD, MPH. He reminded the graduates that, “today, you become part of the scientific community, arguably the most powerful collective enterprise in human history. In doing so, you also inherit a role in explaining it and helping it reclaim territory of trust at a time when that territory has been shrinking.” He also cautioned them and explained, “the mistake … is to believe that the educational credentials you get today give you any special authority on truth. What you have gained is far more important: an understanding of what real truth-seeking looks like. It is the effort not of a single person but of a group of people—the bigger the better—pursuing ideas with curiosity, inquisitiveness, openness, and discipline.” [The Mistrust of Science]

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Aliso Canyon, Methane, and Global Climate


The Aliso Canyon underground storage facility for natural gas in the San Fernando Valley—the fourth largest of its kind in the United States—had one of its wells blow out on October 23, 2015, leading to a large release of methane. In a recent conversation, Professor Paul Wennberg discusses enormous methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and their troubling implications for global climate. “If we could really knock the methane emissions back to what they were before people started emitting methane, it would be a large change. It would be a half a watt per meter squared. The total global warming would drop by around 25 percent,” Professor Wennberg explains. [Caltech story]

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ENGenious Wins Gold!


The 2015 issue of ENGenious has won a gold award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VII in the Awards of Excellence category of Annual Magazines. The award is given by the CASE District VII Board of Directors and the Awards of Excellence Committee to "superior magazines published once a year." First published in 2001, ENGenious is a publication for alumni and friends of the Caltech Division of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS). The goal of the publication is to highlight the contributions of the EAS faculty, students, and alumni in research, education, and industry. [ENGenious]

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Solar Powered, Electrochemical, Wastewater Treatment System


Cody Finke, Environmental Science and Engineering graduate student, and Justin Jasper, Resnick Sustainability Institute Prize Postdoctoral Scholar, are the runner ups for the Dow Resnick Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) at Caltech. They have been working Professor Michael Hoffmann to enhance a modular, solar powered, electrochemical, on-site wastewater treatment system created by their group for toilets in the developing and developed world. With an operating cost of less than 5 US cents per day, this wastewater treatment technology meets benchmarks for affordability in the developing world. It also has the potential to protect human health and ecosystem well-being in communities most at risk to disease and resource-loss through environmental pollution. [Resnick Institute story]

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Extending a Battery's Lifetime with Heat


The research of alumnus Asghar Aryanfar (’15 PhD, ME) along with Professors Goddard and Hoffmann has shown that heat can break down the damaging branch-like structures that grow inside batteries, which may possibly be used to extend battery lifetimes. [Learn more] [Read the paper]

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Highly Cited Researchers


The Thomson Reuters compilation of the most highly cited researchers— those in the top 1%—include EAS professors Harry Atwater, William Goddard, Babak Hassibi, Joel Tropp, Kerry Vahala, and Paul Wennberg. This compilation aims to identify researchers with exceptional impact on their respective fields. [Detailed information on the methodology]

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121st Commencement Ceremony


Caltech’s 121st commencement ceremony was held on Friday June 12, 2015. The commencement speaker was cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell, an expert on the intersection of culture and technology. She reminded the graduates that it is the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law which she referred to as a bold statement of engineering and a promise about the state of the future. She asked the graduates to not only bring their technical skills to the table, but also their humanity and obligation to make the work a better place. [View Dr. Bell’s commencement address]

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A Winning Sanitation Solution


The inventors of the solar-powered toilet, a unit developed by a team led by Professor Michael Hoffmann, have a new award winning project. Project Seva, which means "service" in Hindi. It was named the first place winner of the Vodafone's Wireless Innovation program. The Seva team realized that because the solar toilet and other sanitation systems like it are relatively simple, inexpensive sensors could be used to monitor the status of those systems' parts. Combining that insight with the knowledge that more than three-quarters of the world's people have access to a mobile phone, the team decided to design a self-diagnosing maintenance system for sanitation solutions that could alert designated local operators of a malfunction via cell phone message. [Caltech story]

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Environmental Science and Engineering