News & Events



Warm Water Causes Extra-cold Winters


Tapio Schneider, Frank J. Gilloon Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, and Dr. Yohai Kaspi have found a mechanism that helps explain why average winter temperatures in northern Europe are at least 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than similar latitudes on the northeastern coast of the United States. Using computer simulations of the atmosphere, they have found that the warm water off an eastern coast will heat the air above it and lead to the formation of atmospheric waves, drawing cold air from the northern polar region. The cold air forms a plume just to the west of the warm water. In the case of the Atlantic Ocean, this means the frigid air ends up right over the northeastern United States. [Caltech Press Release]

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Professors Rosakis and Hoffmann Elected to the National Academy of Engineering


Ares J. Rosakis, Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Michael R. Hoffmann, James Irvine Professor of Environmental Science have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Professor Rosakis was elected for discovery of intersonic rupture, contributions to understanding dynamic failure, and methods to determine stresses in thin-film structures. Professor Hoffmann was elected for oxidative treatment technologies for the removal of organic and inorganic contaminants from water.

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Caltech's Approach to Graduate Education Validated


All of the 24 ranked graduate programs at Caltech have placed exceptionally high in the National Research Council (NRC) study of more than 5000 graduate research programs, validating the Caltech approach to graduate education. With respect to the EAS Division: Aeronautics, Bioengineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Science and Engineering, and Materials Science were ranked in the top five nationally irrespective of size. [Caltech NAS Rankings]



Caltech Receives $10 Million in Gifts to Help Launch New Terrestrial Hazard Center


The Terrestrial Hazard Observation and Reporting Center (THOR) has been launched in an effort to find ways to minimize the damage caused by natural hazards. THOR will span two academic divisions at Caltech, Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) and Geological and Planetary Sciences. "The interdisciplinary and interactive nature of engineering at Caltech allows us to translate scientific knowledge and discovery into applications with direct societal impact," says Ares Rosakis, Theodore von Karman Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Mechanical Engineering; EAS Chair. "One of the areas of pioneering research and innovation made possible by THOR is seismo-engineering. The boundaries of seismo-engineering are fuzzy ones and lie exactly in the interface between seismology and earthquake engineering. We are delighted to have the opportunity to explore these boundaries." [Caltech Press Release]

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Congratulations to Professor Simona Bordoni


Congratulations to Simona Bordoni, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, for being selected to join The New York Academy of Sciences 2010 Science and Technology in Society (SPS) forum in Kyoto, Japan entitled "The Lights and Shadows of Science and Technology."

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Professor Wennberg is the Principal Investigator on the MATMOS Instrument


Paul O. Wennberg, R. Stanton Avery Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Engineering; and Director of the Linde Center for Global Environmental Science is the principle investigator on the Mars Atmospheric Trace Molecule Occultation Spectrometer (MATMOS) instrument to be flown aboard the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. This instrument is being built through a partnership between Caltech and the Canadian Space Agency. [Caltech Press Release]

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Anthony Leonard and Richard Flagan Elected Members of the 2010 Class of the NAE


Anthony Leonard, Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics, Emeritus, and Richard C. Flagan, Irma and Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemical Engineering and Professor of Environmental Science & Engineering; Executive Officer of Chemical Engineering, have been elected members of the 2010 class of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). NAE membership honors those who have made important contributions to engineering theory and practice, and those who have demonstrated unusual accomplishments in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology. Election to the NAE is one the highest professional distinctions an engineer can receive. Professor Flagan was elected to the NAE "for leadership in invention, measurement, production, and technology of aerosols" and Professor Leonard was elected "for contributions to simulation of turbulence, new vortex methods of flow simulation, and understanding of flow-induced vibration." [Caltech Today Article]

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Tapio Schneider and Colleagues Discover Storms in the Tropics of Titan


Tapio Schneider, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, and his colleagues have discover storms on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, which is generally "a very bland place, weatherwise," says Mike Brown, Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and Professor of Planetary Astronomy. "The first cloud was seen near the tropics and was caused by a still-mysterious process, but it behaved almost like an explosion in the atmosphere, setting off waves that traveled around the planet, triggering their own clouds. Within days a huge cloud system had covered the south pole, and sporadic clouds were seen all the way up to the equator." Schneider, an expert on atmospheric circulations, was instrumental in helping to sort out the complicated chain of events that followed the initial outburst of cloud activity. [Caltech Press Release]

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Paul Wennberg and John Seinfeld Show How Organic Carbon Compounds Emitted by Trees Affect Air Quality


Paul Wennberg, the R. Stanton Avery Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Science and Engineering and director of the Ronald and Maxine Linde Center for Global Environmental Science, and John Seinfeld, the Louis E. Nohl Professor and professor of chemical engineering, have shown that biogenic emissions—organic carbon compounds given off by plants and trees— affect air quality. Wennberg states that, "if you mix emissions from the city with emissions from plants, they interact to alter the chemistry of the atmosphere." Seinfeld adds, "particles in the atmosphere have been shown to impact human health, as they are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs of people. Also, aerosols impact Earth's climate through the scattering and absorption of solar radiation and through serving as the nuclei on which clouds form. So it is important to know where particles come from." [Caltech Press Release]

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EAS Faculty Cited in Discover Magazine's 50 Best Brains in Science Issue


Discover magazine recently published its annual 50 Best Brains in Science issue, and the "20 Under 40" list which highlights "a new generation of innovators changing the way we think about everything from theoretical mathematics to cancer therapy." Four researchers from Caltech (three from EAS) were cited: Michael Elowitz (Assistant Professor of Biology and Applied Physics; Bren Scholar; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute), Sarkis Mazmanian (Assistant Professor of Biology), Tapio Schneider (Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering), and Changhuei Yang (Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering).

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Environmental Science and Engineering