Sebastion, the Human-Powered Submarine

Stop by the S&E Library and see Sebastion, a non-propeller, one-person submarine that competed in the Ninth International Submarine Races in June of 2007. The sub was built by UCSD’s Human Powered Submarine Team, part of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers student organization. For the competition, the sub is driven by a pilot lying on his stomach, with his head face-down at the front of the sub. The pilot wears a 3mm wetsuit for mobility, and shoes that clip into the drive train pedals in the rear.

UCSD’s Human Powered Submarine team has participated eleven times in the biennial International Submarine Races, held in Bethesda, Maryland. The team’s entry, Odin’s Rage, finished second in the 2009 competition, and their entries in both 2004 and 2000 broke standing world records for speed in their categories.

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Switchblade and IceCube

Switchblade (left) and IceCube (right)

Two new robots have joined the S&E Library’s expanding display of student-built engineering projects. Switchblade and IceCube were designed and built at Dr. Tom Bewley’s UCSD Coordinated Robotics Lab. Patents are pending on both robots, which are capable of propelling themselves over rough or dangerous terrain and can be equipped with sensors or other payloads. A robot similar to Switchblade was featured in the Oscar-winning war film, Hurt Locker, but other non-combat applications include search & rescue, surveillance, chemical/radiation/biological sensing, planetary exploration.

For more information on these small wonders, watch a YouTube demonstration of Switchblade in action, read a Union-Tribune piece about a test of its ability to detect particles in smoke plumes, and see the description of IceCube’s technology transfer licensing offer.

See photos of Tom Bewley and designers Andrew Cavender (IceCube) and Nick Morozovsky (Switchblade) here.

The robots will be on display in S&E indefinitely.

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Engineering Research Expo Winners

Congratulations to this year’s winners of the Literature Review prize at the Jacobs School of Engineering Research Expo.  Aaron and Roy will each receive a $125 giftcard for the UCSD Bookstore, and their posters (along with others from the Expo) will be on display in the S&E Library.

Aaron John Sathrum, Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering & Graduate Program in Materials Science & Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Clifford P. Kubiak (Dept of Chemistry & Biochemistry)

Capturing energy from the sun to facilitate the renewable conversion of CO2 into useful chemical commodities creates a carbon neutral cycle. This cycle is currently out of balance on a global scale and new approaches to reducing CO2 levels are needed. CO2 conversion is not a foreign reaction; plants successfully accomplish this on a global scale of more than 100 billion tons per year via photosynthesis. Homogeneous electrocatalysis presents a unique opportunity to convert and store electrical energy in CO2 derived products at low input energy. A device built at UCSD using sunlight, commercial solar cells, an electrolysis cell, and an electrocatalyst for converting CO2 to CO is demonstrated. The integration, power matching, and optimization of the components is essential for maximum fuel generation. The goal is an overall conversion efficiency of at least 3%. The importance of this work will be to demonstrate that reduction of a greenhouse gas and the production of a chemical fuel can be accomplished using a renewable energy source using electrocatalysis.

Aaron’s strategy for searching the literature:   (The UCSD Libraries license and pay for most of the journal articles that our faculty, students and staff locate via Google Scholar)

I like to start with Google Scholar because it is quick and easy. Next I usually use Web of Science or SciFinder to get more specific resources. If I have a field/topic and it is new to me, I usually look for a good review paper and follow the references therein.

Aaron Roy
Aaron Sathrum Roy Lefkowitz

Roy Brian Lefkowitz, Department of NanoEngineering (and the department’s best poster winner)
Faculty Advisors: Michael Heller (Depts of NanoEngineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Bioengineering) and Geert Schmid-Schönbein (Dept of Bioengineering)

Proteases are potential biomarkers for physiological shock, various types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and for many other diseases. The measurement of their activity in blood is important for the development of point-of-care diagnostics and for biomedical research. It is particularly important for possible early diagnosis of physiological shock, which has a 52% hospital mortality rate and which can be fatal within hours. Unfortunately, current protease assays require sample preparation, making them time-consuming, costly, and less accurate. Furthermore, sample preparation makes these assays more complex, resulting in the requirement that they be performed in federally approved (CLIA) laboratories. This requirement precludes these assays from point-of-care applications. We have recently overcome this major limitation of protease detection by developing a technique that eliminates the need for sample preparation and that allows the measurement of clinically relevant levels of protease activity directly in whole blood [Electrophoresis 2010, 31(2), 403-410; Patent: PCT/US2009/033584].

Specifically, we developed charge-changing fluorescent peptide substrates that produce positively charged fluorescent cleavage fragments upon cleavage by the target enzyme. Thus far, we have developed specific substrates for α-chymotrypsin, trypsin, elastase, and MMP-2/9. These fragments are separated from the negatively charged components of whole blood by electrophoresis into an “extraction” gel. Upon further electrophoresis, the fluorescent cleavage product is transported from the extraction gel to a higher density, polyanion-doped “focusing” gel, which greatly concentrates the fluorescent signal and improves the detection sensitivity. As an example illustrating the overall process, we cast a 3 mm-long 12% polyacrylamide extraction gel on top of a 5 mm-long 25% polyacrylamide focusing gel doped with 0.5% 21,500 MW poly-L-glutamic acid (both 1 mm-thick). After a 1 hour reaction of substrate with various concentrations of spiked trypsin followed by 10 minutes of electrophoresis, we achieved a detection limit of 2 pg protease in 6 μL (0.3 ng/ml) in human whole blood, which is 50- to 200-fold better than estimated reference levels (15-60 ng/ml).

To further support the clinical relevancy of this detection, subsequent experiments demonstrated the measurement of baseline trypsin-like activity directly from healthy human whole blood. Efforts are now underway to test for protease activity in plasma and in whole blood samples for type II diabetes, pancreatic cancer, and physiological shock. This straightforward technique now enables the rapid measurement of clinically relevant levels of protease activity in microliter volumes of unprocessed whole blood, opening the door for the development of a point-of-care early shock diagnostic.

Ray’s strategy for searching the literature:   (The UCSD Libraries license and pay for most of the journal articles that our faculty, students and staff locate via Google Scholar)

My main strategy for researching the literature is to first search relevant key words in Google Scholar. I then, in this order, skim through the abstract, then skim through the article, and then slowly read, with greater attention to details, the full article. I do this to save time and to systematically and efficiently track down articles that will support my research. For references that are books or older journal articles, and not available online, I will search UCSD’s Roger and Melvyl to track down a hard copy.

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Hybrid Electric Car on Display at S&E Library

L to R: Ryan Revilla, Ritwik Ghosh, Leonardo Costello.

The Science & Engineering Library is proud to display another student-designed and –built engineering project: the third-place finisher in the 2009 formula Hybrid International Competition. The car, named TR-9E (for Triton Racing ’09 electric), was built by a team of 16 students in the Society of Automotive Engineers at UCSD, to conform to a strict set of rules that promote drivetrain innovation and fuel efficiency. A Formula Hybrid vehicle must use at least 15% less energy than a comparable standard Formula SAE racecar operated under the same conditions.

During the 2008-2009 school year, the students designed and built all aspects of the car and raced it against more than 30 college and university teams in the 2009 Formula Hybrid International Competition in Loudon, New Hampshire, placing third in its class of electric cars.

To learn more about the Society of Automotive Engineers at UCSD, or to become involved, visit

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Black Scientists and Engineers

The Science & Engineering Library is celebrating Black History Month with a display based on the AAAS website, Spotlight On African American Scientists. Featured scientists include acoustician James E. West, industrial engineering doctoral candidate April Savoy, and eleven other practicing scientists/engineers. As the website notes, “…African Americans have made great strides as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and inventors.. .. However, there’s still much room for progress, because even today blacks are sorely underrepresented as science students, teachers, and professionals.” Stop by the S&E Library during the month of February to spend a few minutes learning about these impressive researchers and their accomplishments.

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New Robot on Display in S&E

(L to R): Brian Tulloh, James Kiang, Bryan Urquart (TA)

(L to R): Brian Tulloh, James Kiang, Bryan Urquhart (TA)

Stop by the S&E Library to see the new Cargo Transport System robot, which was built Fall Quarter by James Kiang, Brian Tulloh, Kelsey Jacquard, and Greg Mills for an MAE 156A competition. The robot was programmed to transfer cargo from one platform containing eight cargo bays to cargo bays in another platform, according to restrictions set to test the creativity of each team in the competition. The Cargo Transport System is equipped with photo-sensors and potentiometers to provide feedback on the positions and angles of the cargo for accurate placement. On display indefinitely.

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“If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”

Twenty-two UCSD women faculty in the physical sciences and engineering are profiled in an exhibit at the Science & Engineering Library celebrating Women’s History Month. From elementary particle theory to earthquake engineering, from cognitive science to cyberinfrastructure, the research interests of these women cover a wide and diverse range of endeavors. But a common thread running through many of their personal statements is a passion for what they do. Some were inspired to follow their dreams at a very young age – one CSE professor wrote her first computer game in 7th grade. Another followed in her father’s footsteps and became an engineer. Another one is passionate about positively impacting the world around her. One even wrote a chemistry fairy tale for kids. All have found fascination in science, math, or engineering. Drop by the exhibit in the S&E Library and spend some time with these inspirational women. Through mid-April. More information.

One of my favorite sayings is “If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life”. Despite the pressures and challenges of being an assistant professor at a top research university, I feel honored and fortunate to be able to do exactly what I want to do – cutting edge chemistry research and teaching. My advice to all young people: Follow your passions. (Judy Kim, Asst. Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry)


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Micromouse Robot on Display in S&E Library

The UCSD IEEE Student Branch Micromouse Robot is on display at the S&E Library through Spring Quarter. In the Micromouse project, a team of students builds a completely autonomous robot that has to find its way from a predetermined starting point to the center of the maze unaided. The team builds the mouse from scratch and writes the software to run it. Stop by and see the micromouse and the team’s accompanying poster, which was displayed at this year’s JSOE EUReKA Conference. Team photo, project description and poster can be seen here.

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Steel Bridge Display

The S&E Library is proud to display UCSD’s entry from the 2008 Pacific Southwest Regional Conference Steel Bridge competition. The 20 foot steel bridge was designed and built at UCSD by the Society of Civil Engineers.The team consisted of twelve undergraduate engineering students, and the bridge took second place among 17 competing schools.

The contest required the team to follow strict building requirements, and the final scoring was based on various measures of structural integrity (under a 2500 lb. load) and structural efficiency (how quickly it could be built by the fewest people). The contest tested the students’ creativity and analytical skills, while also teaching real-life machining and fabrication skills.

Stop on by and check it out near the S&E reference desk.

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Computer Game JumpSuit at Home in S&E

If you’ve been in the S&E Library since the new year, you’ve seen a new presence near the main entrance. Displayed in a 6-foot tall plexiglass case is the Chameleon JumpSuit from the “Journeyman Project: Legacy of Time” computer game. The game, along with several other notable early computer games, was developed by Presto Studios, founded in 1991 by several UCSD alumni. The futuristic jumpsuit was donated to the UCSD Library by Presto founders and has its new home in the Science & Engineering library. Stop by to see artists’ conceptual drawings of the game, a timeline of Presto Studios milestones, a promotional video clip of the game, and of course, the Chameleon himself. Through March. More information

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