83rd Annual Seminar Day

SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2020
9 AM – 3 PM PT


Saturday, May 18, 2024

7:30 – 9:00 am — Check-In & Continental Breakfast

9:00 – 9:10 am — Welcome Remarks

9:10 – 9:50 am — Session 1

Brian M. Stoltz, PhD  
Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry; Investigator, Heritage Medical Research Institute
Advancing Nature’s Pharmacy: From Lab Bench to Life-saving Medicine

For centuries, populations around the world have tapped organic ‘miracle” molecules to revolutionize medicine, enriching millions of lives. In modern times, combining components from nature with synthetic chemistry to create new structures has driven the invention and development of medicines. Stoltz’s research group continues Caltech’s pioneering synthetic chemistry research, harnessing the power of these compounds, driving breakthroughs in treatment and cure development. By meticulously crafting novel molecules and refining synthesis techniques, Stoltz’s team explores methods of combatting antibiotic resistance, cancer, and HIV with unparalleled precision. Collaborating with oncologists at UCLA, innovations discovered in Stoltz’s Caltech lab have birthed potent cancer inhibitors, now advancing through human trials, sponsored by 1200 Pharma, a start-up company that has licensed the technology. These transformative discoveries epitomize the fusion of basic science and real-world impact, offering hope and healing. Join Stoltz as he details the frontiers of medicine studied in his lab, and follow him on his research journey from nature’s blueprints to practical medical advancements, shaping the future of healthcare one molecule at a time.

9:50 – 10:00 am — Transition/Break

10:00 – 10:40 am — Session 2

Zhen Chen, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering
Unraveling Nature’s Ingenious Engineering: How does nature build a motile device in cells? 

Flagella are whip-like protrusions from cells, which play a crucial role in various biological activities by generating rhythmic beating motions. The flagella are composed of hundreds of thousands of protein molecules. Just like putting together a car or a rocket, these protein molecules need to be arranged in just the right order to make the flagella work properly. Remarkably, these molecules assemble without help from humans or robots, as if they know where to go! Research allows us to visualize protein molecules in flagella up close and recognize how they come together. This molecular insight can help us figure out what goes wrong in diseases related to flagella and come up with novel therapeutic strategies.  

10:40 – 11:00 am — Transition/Break

11:00 – 11:40 am — Session 3

Pietro Perona, PhD
Allen E. Puckett Professor of Electrical Engineering
Smart Solutions for Nature: AI-powered Conservation

How can we use artificial intelligence to be better stewards of the natural world? Perona will outline his work on applying AI and computer vision to collecting data on species distribution. That data helps ecologists and policymakers better understand where species live and to make better choices on environmental conservation. Perona also will discuss two smart device apps, iNaturalist and Merlin Bird ID, which he and his students created. The apps aggregate mass data collected by users like you to identify plants and animals from photographs and sounds.

11:40 am – 1:40 pm — Lunch and Campus Open House

11:45am - 12:45pm — Featured Lab Tours

Details Below

1:40 – 2:15 pm — Session 4

Caltech's 3MT Challenge: Elevating Science Communication in Three Minutes 

Hear remarkable Caltech graduate students take the three-minute challenge: to present their research clearly and concisely against a timer. They will also answer questions about their research. The 3MT Talk is part of a global competition designed to encourage young academics to explain their research so that it is accessible to a non-specialist audience. It is a great opportunity to see these talented students demonstrate their communication skills and explain their fascinating research.

2:15 – 2:20 pm — Transition/Break

2:20 – 3:00 pm — Session 5

Jennifer M. Jackson, PhD
William E. Leonhard Professor of Mineral Physics
Earth’s Evolution Unveiled: Learning from the Core-Mantle Boundary

The boundary layer separating Earth’s liquid metallic outer core from the overlying silicate-rich mantle is a region of great complexity. Extreme contrasts in material properties across this boundary promote the persistence of multi-scale structures that provide essential clues to Earth’s evolution. Jennifer will take us on a journey to this fascinating region, while exploring how the response of Earth materials to crushing pressures and blazing temperatures provide essential clues to the generation of Earth’s magnetic field and the deep history of our planet.

3:00 – 3:20 pm — Transition/Break

3:20 – 4:00 pm — Session 6

Kirby Nielsen, PhD
Professor of Economics; William H. Hurt Scholar
What is Rational Decision-Making?

A multidisciplinary approach is crucial for our understanding of human behavior and rational decision-making. Through the interplay between decision theory and empirical evidence from controlled experiments—and combining tools from economics, psychology, biology, and neuroscience — we gain insight into individuals' perceptions of uncertainty and the fundamental assumptions that underlie the way we model human decision-making. Research is helping us breakdown how humans make decisions, allowing us to better model how to understand rational decision-making. 

4:00 – 4:20 pm — Transition/Break

4:20 – 5:00 pm — Session 7

Vikram Ravi, PhD
Assistant Professor of Astronomy
MeasurinG thE StructurE of the Universe

Astronomers today seem to be able to observe every corner of the Universe: from forming planets, to the horizons of black holes, to galaxies that existed more than 13 billion years ago. The objects that we observe, however, are like the crests of waves on a sea of diffuse and dark matter. Of all the gravitating matter in the Universe, 84% is truly dark, forming a scaffold for the luminous "baryons" to form galaxies, stars, and the occasional Caltech student. Just 10% of the cosmic baryon content itself is locked within galaxies, with the remainder largely missing from current observations. Over the last decade, the Owens Valley Radio Observatory, operated by Caltech, has used a revolutionary new means of observing astronomical radio waves. Vikram will describe this fascinating data gathering process, and describe how that data is driving experiments that are beginning to address these central mysteries of the structure of the Universe: where the missing baryons are located, and what the constituents of dark matter are.

5:00 pm — Closing Remarks & Event Concludes

Lab Tours

11:45 am – 12:45 pm

Plan Your Perfect Lab Tour

·       Lab tours sign-ups are first-come first-served

·       Sign up at the Lab Tours tent located on Beckman Mall  

·       One tour per guest will allow everyone to participate  

·       Some tours have special requirements; requirements may not be waived for any reason

·       Meet at the Lab Tent for your confirmed tour; you will be escorted to the lab as a group

Kavli Nanoscience Institute Lab

Spanning 10,000 square feet across two facilities, the Kavli Nanoscience Lab includes a controlled-environment cleanroom where the majority of lithography, deposition, etching, microscopy, and supporting instrumentation is located. The lab is dedicated to exploring the limits of nanofabrication.

Tours Available: 2
Guests per tour
: 8
Full gowning, closed-toe shoes, long pants, and shirts covering their shoulders. Not appropriate for guests with physical limitations.

Dabiri Lab

The Dabiri Lab conducts research at the intersection of fluid mechanics, energy and environment, and biology. Caltech Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow, Roni Goldshmid, PhD, will lead the first tour through the Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies, which consists of a fan array used for development of autonomous aircraft. Graduate student, Nina Mohebbi (MS ’22), will lead the second tour, and share the brine shrimp migration in the vertical tank.

Tours Available: 2
Guests per Tour
: 10
No attire requirements. Guests must be able to walk up and down a flight of stairs.

Dickinson Lab

The Dickinson Lab studies the neural and biomechanical basis of behavior in the fruit fly, Drosophila. Lab researchers strive to build an integrated model of behavior that incorporates an understanding of morphology, neurobiology, muscle physiology, physics, and ecology. While research primarily focuses on flight control, researchers also are interested in how animals transform sensory information into a code that controls motor output and behavior.

Tours Available: 2
Guests per Tour
: 10
No specific requirements  

Biophotonics Lab

Biophotonics Laboratory research focuses on the development of novel tools that combine optics and microfluidics to tackle diagnostic and measurement problems in biology and medicine. The major techniques that are under development in the laboratory include Fourier Ptychographic microscopy, time-reversal optical focusing and parallel microscopy. Simon Mahler, PhD, and graduate students, Max (Yu Xi) Huang and Zhenyu Dong, will showcase two SVS technology projects: one for imaging eggs to determine viability and gender of chicks hatched, and one to image blood flow within the finger (as a proxy to the brain). 

Tours Available: 2
Guests per Tour
: 10
Must be 18 or older. Not recommended for guests with sensitivity to laser and lights.  

Demirer Lab

Currently 12 members across disciplines and with diverse backgrounds are part of the Demirer Lab. The team works on bioengineering of plants and rhizosphere for food security, sustainability, and climate-change resiliency using novel nanotechnology and synthetic biology approaches. Graduate student, Yunqing Wang, will lead a tour of all Demirer lab spaces, including the walk-in growth chamber where all the engineered plants are grown.

Tours Available: 2
Guests per Tour
: 10
Guests must wear closed-toe shoes, long pants, and provided goggles.  

Campus Admissions Tour

Join Caltech student ambassadors to tour campus and hear about what makes Caltech unique today, from innovative curriculum and student traditions to world-class faculty and pioneering research.

Tours Available: 2
Guests per Tour
: 25
No specific requirements, be prepared for walking across campus.

Connect 2024

Exclusive for invited donors and all members of the Half Century Club. Separate registration required.

5:00 – 7:00 pm

The Athenaeum

Celebrate our talented scholarship and fellowship recipients and the donors who support students like them. Join us for an evening with the philanthropists of today and the leaders of tomorrow at Connect 2024. The event features a dinner reception and brief, student-focused program. Direct invites will be sent in April.

Please contact advancementevents@caltech.edu with any questions.