Andy Yen (BS ’10) Launches Encryption Email Service

Cofounders, from left to right, Jason Stockman, Wei Sun, Andy Yen (BS ’10). Forbes.com

Cofounders, from left to right, Jason Stockman, Wei Sun, Andy Yen (BS ’10). Forbes.com

When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”

There was a massive response, and of the 40 or so active in the discussion, six started meeting at CERN’s Restaurant Number 1, pooling their deep knowledge of computing and physics to found ProtonMail, a gmail-like email system which uses end-to-end encryption, making it impossible for outside parties to monitor.

Encrypted emails have actually been around since the 1980s, but they are extremely difficult to use. When Edward Snowden asked a reporter to use an end-to-end encrypted email to share details of the NSA surveillance program the reporter couldn’t get the system to work, says Yen.

“We encrypt the data on the browser before it comes to the server,” he explains. “By the time the data comes to the server it’s already encrypted, so if someone comes to us and says we’d like to read the emails of this person, all we can say is we have the encrypted data but we’re sorry we don’t have the encryption key and we can’t give you the encryption key.”

“We’ve basically separated the message that’s encrypted apart from the key – all the encryption takes place on your computer instead of our servers, so there’s no way for us to see the original message.”

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Paul Chirik (PhD ’00) Named Editor of Organometallics

Transient

Paul Chirik (PhD ’00) was named the editor-in-chief of Organometallics,  a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Chemical Society focused on organometallic and organometalloid chemistry.

Chirik is currently the Edward S. Sanford Professor of Chemistry at Princeton University.

"My vision for the journal is to continue its position of excellence as the flagship publication in the field and also to capture the growth and new multidisciplinary chemistry moving forward," Chirik says.

Before earning his PhD at Caltech, Chirik studied at Virginia Tech. He went on to become a  postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2001, he joined the faculty at Cornell University, where he stayed for 10 years before joining Princeton.

The research group he now leads focuses on solving long-standing problems in chemical synthesis. For example, they are working on developing catalysts using earth-abundant elements, focusing on more environmentally benign syntheses.

"We are delighted to welcome Dr. Chirik in his new role as editor-in-chief of Organometallics," says Susan King, Ph.D., senior vice president of ACS Publications. "Dr. Chirik has been an active supporter of ACS Publications through his authorship, reviewing activities and Editorial Advisory Board capacity. Dr. Chirik's breadth of scientific interests, his strong leadership skills and his editorial experience will ensure Organometallics continues to innovate and expand into multidisciplinary areas."

Eddy Hartenstein (MS ’74) Steps Down From Tribune Media

from the LA Times

Eddy Hartenstein (MS ’74) has stepped down as publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Times to become nonexecutive chairman of the Tribune Publishing board. Hartenstein will serve on the board along with five outside directors.

Civic leader and former Wall Street investment banker Austin Beutner has become the the new publisher and chief executive of the Los Angeles Times.

Hartenstein said that he recommended Beutner for the position and that the board of Tribune Publishing Co., The Times’ new corporate parent, approved the appointment last week.

Hartenstein, 63, had led the Los Angeles Times since 2008, leading the newspaper, and later Tribune Co. (which will change its name to Tribune Media on Monday), during a four-year stay in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

“It’s been an interesting journey,” Hartenstein said. “It’s one that I can look back on here, not only on Monday but for years to come, that speaks to the power of the various Tribune brands in their marketplace. I salute the women and men of Tribune Co., wherever they are — markets big, medium and small — for staying with it.”

A satellite TV pioneer, Hartenstein graduated with a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering and math from California State Polytechnic University at Pomona in 1972 and added a master's degree in applied mechanics from Caltech. He started his career at California-based satellite company Hughes Electronics Corp., which was later acquired by General Motors.

In 1990, he was named to head a Hughes subsidiary developing direct-to-home satellite TV service, and four years later launched DirecTV, revolutionizing the subscription television landscape. He was named chairman and CEO in 2001, serving in that role until 2004, after GM sold its controlling stake in DirecTV to News Corp.

While publishing may not be rocket science, he was recruited by then-Tribune Co. Chairman Sam Zell to become publisher of the Los Angeles Times in August 2008 -- less than four months before the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Hartenstein stayed the course and played an instrumental role in its reorganization and emergence under new owners.

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Milan Mrksich (PhD ’94) Creates Tool to Test Drugs at High Speed

Transient

Pharmaceutical researchers trying to create medications begin by testing each variation for signs of effectiveness. Using automated machines, they can screen as many as 1,000 molecules a day. 

Milan Mrksich can do 100 times better than that. A biomedical engineer and chemical biologist at Northwestern University, he has developed a process that can assess up to 100,000 compounds a day. He calls his turbocharged tool Samdi, for self-assembled monolayers for desorption ionization. He also has a startup, Samdi Tech Inc., that will run these tests for a fee for academic  and commercial researchers. 

"Samdi is the first label-free assay that can be performed at high throughput," Mr. Mrksich says.

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Emre Toker (BS ’84) To Head Center for Entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis

Emre Toker (BS ’84) has been appointed managing director of the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Toker most recently served as entrepreneurship senior mentor-in-residence at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management.

An accomplished entrepreneur, Toker is the founder or co-founder of five Arizona- and California-based technology companies.

“We are ecstatic that Emre Toker has accepted our offer to lead the Skandalaris Center,” said the university's provost H. Holden Thorp (PhD ’89), also a graduate of Caltech. “With his passion for innovation and proven ability to develop, nurture and successfully launch startup enterprises, I am certain that he has the vision and ability to harness the creative energy of the university and the community to further our efforts to become a vibrant hub for entrepreneurship.”

Janet Nelson (PhD ’91) Named Associate Vice Chancellor at University of Tennessee

Janet Nelson was named the new associate vice chancellor for research for the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

As associate vice chancellor, Nelson will initially oversee three groups—the research development team, the faculty development team, and the research informatics group.

“I am extremely excited about the terrific opportunities that await me at UT, and I am looking forward to working closely with the Office of Research and Engagement team,” said Nelson. 

Nelson, who earned her doctorate in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1991, has broad research-related experience across academia, government, not-for-profit organizations, and industrial communities.

Nelson is a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and the Society for Biological Engineering.

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Cassini Flyover of Titan

From JPL

This colorized movie from NASA's Cassini mission shows the most complete view yet of Titan's northern land of lakes and seas. Saturn's moon Titan is the only world in our solar system other than Earth that has stable liquid on its surface. The liquid in Titan's lakes and seas is mostly methane and ethane.

The data were obtained by Cassini's radar instrument from 2004 to 2013. In this projection, the north pole is at the center. The view extends down to 50 degrees north latitude. In this color scheme, liquids appear blue and black depending on the way the radar bounced off the surface. Land areas appear yellow to white. A haze was added to simulate the Titan atmosphere.

Kraken Mare, Titan's largest sea, is the body in black and blue that sprawls from just below and to the right of the north pole down to the bottom right. Ligeia Mare, Titan's second largest sea, is a nearly heart-shaped body to the left and above the north pole. Punga Mare is just below the north pole.

The area above and to the left of the north pole is dotted with smaller lakes. Lakes in this area are about 30 miles (50 kilometers) across or less.

Unannotated versions of this video are available at this site.

Most of the bodies of liquid on Titan occur in the northern hemisphere. In fact nearly all the lakes and seas on Titan fall into a box covering about 600 by 1,100 miles (900 by 1,800 kilometers). Only 3 percent of the liquid at Titan falls outside of this area.

Scientists are trying to identify the geologic processes that are creating large depressions capable of holding major seas in this limited area. A prime suspect is regional extension of the crust, which on Earth leads to the formation of faults creating alternating basins and roughly parallel mountain ranges. This process has shaped the Basin and Range province of the western United States, and during the period of cooler climate 13,000 years ago much of the present state of Nevada was flooded with Lake Lahontan, which (though smaller) bears a strong resemblance to the region of closely packed seas on Titan.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, DC. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the United States and several European countries.

 

 

Henry Schwarcz (PhD ’60) Becomes AAAS Fellow

Henry Schwarcz (PhD ’60) has been made a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his pioneering development and application of stable isotope analysis for environmental Earth sciences, geoarchaeology and the reconstruction of human history. Schwarcz studies isotopes to better understand everything from temperature to diet during ancient times.

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