Issue 7: November 2018

Means to a Beginning

Breakthroughs ensue when creative, talented researchers are given means and freedom in a culture of curiosity-driven exploration. At Caltech, breakthroughs aren’t just the be-all and end-all; they are also the begin-all.

Video + Story

The Big Picture

Thanks to Caltech graduate students in Pietro Perona’s computer vision lab, the next wildlife photo you snap might set you on a path to helping map life on Earth.

Steps to Success

Mission IMPossible

Integral membrane proteins (IMPs): They’re unquestionably important and notoriously elusive.

Caltech biochemistry professor Bil Clemons is on a mission to take some of the guesswork out of how we study them.


A Piece of the Puzzles

At the interface of behavioral economics, neuroscience, psychology, and psychiatry, Caltech postdoc Caroline Charpentier is elucidating how we interpret the actions of others, arrive at decisions, and resolve uncertainties.

Video + Story

Science Is for Sharing

Heads nodding, hands going up, and eyes widening in wonder: For Caltech graduate student Arian Jadbabaie, these are indications that “science just may be blowing their minds.”


More Eyes on the Prize

We asked members of the Caltech community to give examples of what can be achieved when you put more people on the task.

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Six Planets in 48 Hours


“Through a citizen science project called Exoplanet Explorers, we asked for help sifting through data: thousands of potential signals from planets orbiting other stars captured by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. In April 2017, the project was featured on the television show Stargazing Live, and within 48 hours volunteers had identified a star hosting at least six planets between the size of Earth and Neptune. This was a fascinating discovery because we have no planets in our solar system like them!”

Jessie Christiansen, Scientific Research Associate, Infrared Processing and Analysis Center

Ask for Directions

“No matter who you are or where you are in your career, make connections with other people. Look up, down, all around you—and network. Having been involved in academic research, industry startups, and science policy, I have seen that there are many avenues to success. A community of professionals beyond your immediate circle can help you glimpse what is possible. And if you are a Caltech student or alumnus, join the Caltech Alumni Advisors Network (CAAN), an online mentoring platform where you can meet remarkable people who are accomplishing countless amazing things.”

Christie Canaria (PhD ’08), Member, Caltech Alumni Association Board of Directors


Positive Associations

“My mom has always told me that I have what it takes to do anything, and when I got to Caltech, all of a sudden I became part of a community that tells me the same thing. The scholarship I received—which was established not by one individual, but by many members of the Caltech Associates—is an extension of the encouragement I receive from those around me. The financial support means a lot, and so does knowing that there are people out there who believe in me. They believe that my education is a good investment, and through my hard work I will prove them right.”

Hana Keller (Class of 2019), Mechanical Engineering

Which Is a Glitch?


“Thousands of volunteers are helping to advance the work of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which is led by Caltech. Through LIGO’s citizen science project Gravity Spy, funded by the National Science Foundation and headed by Scott Coughlin and a team at Northwestern University, citizen scientists are helping us improve LIGO’s astrophysical reach as it detects ripples in spacetime. Thus far, 13,000 participants have helped classify more than 600,000 ‘glitches,’ caused by a variety of sources, including ground vibrations, wind, and the electronics that are used to measure the signal itself. This work is helping us identify the telltale traces of gravitational waves.”

Jess McIver, Senior Postdoctoral Scholar in Physics, Caltech LIGO Laboratory

STEM on Stems

“Students from Pasadena and Los Angeles public schools lent a hand—actually, 150 hands—to help with a computer program I developed for Elliot Meyerowitz and his team to delineate plant stem cells from microscope images. As part of a larger lesson in plant biology, we taught the students how to manually guide the program with a mouse to create more accurate cell outlines. The students’ delineations enabled us to test the code we developed to segment images. Now, in Caltech’s general spirit of goodwill, other labs can benefit from our work. We are also using the students’ delineations to train computer programs to generate outlines better and faster.”

Alexandre Cunha, Director, Center for Advanced Methods in Biological Image Analysis, and Computational Scientist, Center for Data-Driven Discovery