News & Events


Scientists Discover Unexpected Side Effect to Cleaning Up Urban Air


For decades, efforts to reduce air pollution have led to cleaner air in U.S cities like Los Angeles, with subsequent improvements in public health. Those efforts have targeted both nitric oxides and hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are emitted from many sources including gasoline-powered cars, trucks, solvents, cleaners used both at home and in industrial settings, and even trees.  Professor Paul O. Wennberg and colleagues have found that there is another chemical pathway for forming organic hydroperoxides—one that occurs at nitric oxide levels substantially higher than can be found in the atmosphere over unpopulated regions. "This is chemistry that does not exist in any of the models of how nitric oxide and hydrocarbons interact," says Professor Wennberg. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights ESE Paul Wennberg

Professor Hoffmann Elected to Chinese Academy of Engineering


Michael R. Hoffmann, Theodore Y. Wu Professor of Environmental Science, has been elected to the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE). Professor Hoffman was one of 18 foreign experts, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who were inducted into the CAE which is the foremost engineering academy in China. [CAE announcement]

Tags: honors ESE Michael Hoffmann

Capturing Clouds


Professor Tapio Schneider has helped bring artist Karen LaMonte's cloudy vision to life. "I thought it was a great idea," says Schneider, whose work focuses on reducing uncertainties in climate change projections—in part through modeling cloud formation to better understand clouds' impact on the environment. Collaborating with LaMonte, he reasoned, could help raise awareness of these issues. "Clouds are hugely important for the climate," says Schneider. "How much warmer it will get depends on what happens to cumulus clouds like those Karen was interested in. " [SoCaltech story]

Tags: research highlights ESE Tapio Schneider Karen LaMonte

123rd Commencement Ceremony


Caltech’s 123rd commencement ceremony was held on Friday June 16, 2017. The commencement speaker was Mae Jemison, an engineer, physician, and NASA astronaut. Looking up, she said, allows us to remember that there is more that connects us than divides us. "Connection to the greater universe is something I hope for you throughout your lives. Never forget to look up and keep the bigger picture in mind. Look up at the sky, the moon, the stars when you need to recharge. Let the gravity of Earth give you a warm hug when you're feeling low. Look up to remember what inspires you. Keep the sparkle in your eyes, keep it long past graduation." [Caltech story]

Tags: Commencement Mae Jemison

Professor Wennberg Elected to the National Academy of Sciences


Paul O. Wennberg, R. Stanton Avery Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Science and Engineering, as been elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. His work applies traditional physical chemistry techniques to study the mechanisms of chemical transformation in the earth's atmosphere and in the carbon cycle. This research has helped create the Total Carbon Column Observing Network, which measures the distribution of greenhouse gases across the globe. [Caltech release]

Tags: honors research highlights ESE Paul Wennberg NAS

Tools and Techniques to Track and Study Methane


Methane is less prevalent in the atmosphere than fellow greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2), but it presents more difficult challenges for researchers attempting to study it. Professor Wennberg, is working with colleagues from across Caltech to study methane and its effects on the globe and to pioneer tools and techniques needed to identify, track, and characterize the gas and its sources. One such colleague is Professor Vahala who has paved the way for the miniaturization of high-resolution spectrometers. His new soliton-based system is the basis for a new collaboration with Professor Frankenberg to apply dual-comb spectrometer to methane tracking and analysis. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights ESE Paul Wennberg Kerry Vahala Christian Frankenberg

GPS Innovator Charles Trimble Receives von Kármán Wings Award


Caltech senior trustee Charles Trimble (BS '63, MS '64), founder and former chief executive officer of Trimble Navigation, Ltd., is the 2016 recipient of the International von Kármán Wings Award. He was recognized for his visionary leadership contributions to the aerospace industry, and distinguished service to the nation's defense and aerospace programs. "In addition to his pioneering contributions to GPS commercialization, Charlie has had a big impact on Caltech and JPL," Professor Gharib stated. "As an alumnus and trustee, he deeply understands the needs of Caltech and serves the community with dedication and insight." [Caltech story]

Tags: honors GALCIT CMS ESE Morteza Gharib Charles Trimble

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]

Tags: research highlights EAS history ESE James Morgan

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]

Tags: honors research highlights ESE Dianne Newman Victoria Orphan

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]

Tags: Commencement Atul Gawande