News

ECE’s Manjunath part of collaborative marine Biodiversity Observation Network (BON) centering on Santa Barbara Channel

October 30th, 2014

kelp on the ocean floor
“One Giant Step for Ocean Biodiversity” — the marine Biodiversity Observation Network in the Santa Barbara Channel has been established to addresses an information gap about marine habitats.

With 13 scientific investigators and 10 partner institutions, the marine biodiversity observation network (BON) centered on the Santa Barbara Channel is the epitome of collaboration. Funded with $5 million by NASA, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the UC Santa Barbara-led project officially kicked off Thursday, Oct. 23, at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute (MSI).

“We’ve got principal investigators here from two colleges, a professional school, over six different department on campus, as well our friends at NOAA,” said MSI Director Mark Brzezinski. “It’s an incredibly interdisciplinary team ranging from biology to engineering, and it’s no small feat to bring that kind of group together. Here at UCSB, we really pride ourselves on this kind of interdisciplinary work. It’s our normal mode of operation.”

Designed to fill a gap not addressed by NASA’s Group on Earth Observations (GEO) BON, which focuses on terrestrial biomes, this prototype marine BON seeks to eventually cover a huge range of biodiversity in the oceans. The effort begins in the Santa Barbara Channel where various groups have been gathering a breadth of scientific data ranging from intertidal monitoring to physical oceanographic measurements.

“There have been a huge number of observations taken over time in the channel,” said Robert Miller, a research biologist with MSI and a principal investigator of the marine BON. “The channel has also been a hotspot for remote sensing research, which gives us a wider picture of the area, which we can then match with in-situ observations.”

The marine BON has three goals: to integrate biodiversity data to enable inferences about regional biodiversity; to develop advanced methods in optical and acoustic imaging and to improve monitoring biodiversity in partnership with ongoing monitoring and research programs; and implement a tradeoff framework that optimizes allocation of sampling effort, given the cost of that effort and the information gained from it.

UCSB investigators involved in the project are B.S. Manjunath, director of UCSB’s Center for Bio-Image Informatics; Craig Carlson, chair of the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology (EEMB); Deborah Iglesias-Rodriguez, an EEMB professor; Phaedon Kyriakidis, a professor in the Department of Geography; Kevin Lafferty, a principal investigator with MSI and a marine ecologist with the United States Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center; Milton Love and Daniel Reed, research biologists with MSI; Douglas McCauley, an assistant professor in EEMB; Andrew Rassweiler, an assistant research biologist at MSI; and David Siegel, director of the Earth Research Institute. Additional investigators include Andrew Thompson of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

"The UCSB Current" (full article)

The Center for Bio-Image Informatics

B.S. Manjunath's Bio

“The Ocean’s Future” — ECE Professor and Center for Bio-Image Informatics Director, B.S. Manjunath part of newly formed Marine Biodiversity Observation Network

October 8th, 2014

bed of algae

UCSB scientists lead a team designing a network to track many species of marine organisms over time

Is life in the oceans changing over the years? Are humans causing long-term declines in ocean biodiversity with climate change, fishing and other impacts? At present, scientists are unable to answer these questions because little data exist for many marine organisms, and the small amount of existing data focuses on small, scattered areas of the ocean.

“Currently most of the information we have for marine species is on economically important species like fish and lobster,” said Robert Miller, a research biologist at UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute. “Little is known about the majority of species out there, even though they may be very important from an ecological point of view. A comprehensive observation network that looks at a broad suite of marine organisms would tell us how marine ecosystems as a whole are doing.”

A group of researchers from UCSB, the USGS, NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service and UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography are creating a new prototype system — the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network — to solve this problem. The five-year project led by Miller will center on the Santa Barbara Channel, but the long-term goal is to expand the network around the country and around the world to track over time the biodiversity of marine organisms, from microbes to whales. After a highly competitive proposal process, NASA, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and NOAA chose to fund UCSB’s approximately $5 million project.

The Marine Biodiversity Observation Network will integrate existing data over large spatial scales using geostatistical models and will utilize new technology to improve knowledge of marine organisms. Scientists will rely on genetics to accomplish three goals: begin learning about the many kinds of microbes in our coastal waters; identify plankton that would otherwise have to be counted under the microscope over many, many hours; and detect larger animals such as whales and fish by looking for fragments of DNA they have shed into the water. This is known as environmental DNA or eDNA.

The group will use imaging to survey organisms such as kelp forests and deep reefs in underwater habitats where dive-time constraints limit the ability for firsthand exploration. To further this effort, UCSB’s Center for Bio-Image Informatics will use advanced image analysis to automatically identify different species including fish.

"The UCSB Current" (full article)

The Center for Bio-Image Informatics

B.S. Manjunath's Bio

Entering ECE graduate student, Ehsan Omidi, featured in UCSB GradPost article — “Who’s New at UCSB?”

October 3rd, 2014

photo of ehsan omidi
Electrical and Computer Engineering is one of the most popular disciplines with 90 graduate students among the 758 new graduate students entering UCSB. These incoming students are diverse in many ways, such as their ages, countries of origin, and fields of study.

Ehsan Omidi comes to UCSB all the way from Tehran, Iran. He earned both a bachelor of science and a master of science in electrical engineering from Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran. He enters the Ph.D. program in electrical and computer engineering under guidance of Associate Professor Yasamin Mostofi with a concentration in control, communication, and signal processing.

Both of Omidi’s parents were schoolteachers, and he has always excelled in academics. Growing up, he had many of the same hobbies as his friends, including soccer, cartoons and video games.

“But,” he said, “my real hobby started when we had a computer in our home and I started programming with it. Since then, programming has been my main entertainment.”

When he realized that computer programming didn’t challenge him enough, he began to study electrical engineering in order to figure out what goes on inside a computer. He also worked on his university’s robotics team in creating a simple robot that could do funny tasks such as playing with a golf ball.

Omidi is very excited to be studying at UCSB, which is among the top 10 engineering schools in the world (Academic Ranking of World Universities). It also doesn’t hurt that Santa Barbara is, in Omidi’s words, “totally a perfect city.” He said, “Living in an always-sunny city with beautiful landscapes wherever you look and doing your desired research is what every grad student dreams.”

Omidi’s hobbies include soccer, violin and chess, and he hopes to add hiking and surfing in Santa Barbara to the list.

"Who's New at UCSB?" (full article)

ECE’s Mishra and Gossard among Thomson Reuters report on the most “Highly Cited Researchers”

September 15th, 2014

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Eight researchers from the UCSB College of Engineering included in the 2014 Thomson Reuters report on the the most “Highly Cited researchers” in the world

Highly Cited Researchers 2014 represents some of world’s leading scientific minds. Over three thousand researchers earned the distinction by writing the greatest numbers of reports officially designated by Essential Science Indicators as Highly Cited Papers – ranking among the top 1% most cited for their subject field and year of publication, earning them the mark of exceptional impact.

UCSB College of Engineering researchers include:

  • Professor Umesh Mishra (ECE)
  • Professor Art Gossard (ECE & Materials)
  • Professor Craig Hawker (Materials and Chemistry & Biochemistry)
  • Professor Alan Heeger (Physics and Materials)
  • Professor Guillermo Bazan (Chemistry & Biochemistry and Materials)
  • Professor Galen Stucky (Chemistry & Biochemistry and Materials)
  • Professor Chris Van De Walle (Materials)
  • Daniel Moses (CPOS)

UCSB and the College of Engineering rank high in U.S. News & World Report’s “2015 Best Colleges” guidebook

September 9th, 2014

u.s. news & world best colleges badge
U.S. News & World Report includes UC Santa Barbara in its annual listing of the “Top 30 Public National Universities” in the country, as well on its list of the “Best National Universities.” UCSB’s College of Engineering undergraduate program is also included in their list of “Best Programs at Engineering Schools Whose Highest Degree is a Doctorate.”

According to U.S. News & World Report, UCSB — which this year experienced the most competitive admissions process in campus history — has jumped to number 10 among the “Top 30 Public National Universities.” Among national universities, including both public and private institutions, UCSB moved up to number 40. The campus tied with Lehigh University.

In addition, the undergraduate program in UCSB’s College of Engineering is ranked number 36 on the U.S. News & World Report list of “Best Programs at Engineering Schools Whose Highest Degree is a Doctorate.” Among engineering schools at public universities, UCSB’s College of Engineering placed at number 20. UCSB is tied with the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Florida and the University of Notre Dame.

The UC Santa Barbara Current (full article)

U.S. News & World Report's "2015 Best Colleges" rankings

Researchers advance frontiers of biosensing with atomically-thin MoS2 semiconductors

September 4th, 2014

banerjee biosensing research illustration
UC Santa Barbara Professors Kaustav Banerjee (ECE) & Samir Mitragotri (ChemE) and graduate student researcher Deblina Sarkar demonstrate atomically thin, ultrasensitive and scalable molybdenum disulfide field-effect transistor based biosensors and establish their potential for single-molecule detection

Move over, graphene. An atomically thin, two-dimensional, ultrasensitive semiconductor material for biosensing developed by researchers at UC Santa Barbara promises to push the boundaries of biosensing technology in many fields, from health care to environmental protection to forensic industries.

Based on molybdenum disulfide or molybdenite (MoS2), the biosensor material — used commonly as a dry lubricant — surpasses graphene’s already high sensitivity, offers better scalability and lends itself to high-volume manufacturing. Results of the researchers’ study have been published in ACS Nano.

“This invention has established the foundation for a new generation of ultrasensitive and low-cost biosensors that can eventually allow single-molecule detection — the holy grail of diagnostics and bioengineering research,” said Samir Mitragotri, co-author and professor of chemical engineering and director of the Center for Bioengineering at UCSB. “Detection and diagnostics are a key area of bioengineering research at UCSB and this study represents an excellent example of UCSB’s multifaceted competencies in this exciting field.”

The key, according to UCSB professor of electrical and computer engineering Kaustav Banerjee, who led this research, is MoS2’s band gap, the characteristic of a material that determines its electrical conductivity.

UCSB The Current (full article)

"MoS2 Field-Effect Transistor for Next-Generation Label-Free Biosensors" (ACS Nano)

Banerjee's Nano Research Lab (NRL)

UCSB Among the Best According to Washington Monthly’s “National Universities Rankings”

August 27th, 2014

washington monthly cover
UC Santa Barbara jumps seven spots to No. 15 in Washington Monthly magazine’s Sept/Oct issue list of the best national universities

  • UCSB is also ranked number 13 in Washington Monthly’s “Best Bang for the Buck” rankings
  • Among public universities, UCSB is #11 among National Universities and #12 in the Best Bang for the Buck rankings

The University of California dominated Washington Monthly’s 2014 list, with UC San Diego taking the top spot, and UC Riverside and UC Berkeley ranking second and third, respectively. UCLA is ranked #5, UCSB #15 and UC Davis #16. “All eight of the UC campuses that were ranked in the top 100 institutions deserve heartfelt congratulations from the entire UC community,” said UC President Janet Napolitano.

While U.S. News & World Report usually awards its highest ratings to private universities, the editors of Washington Monthly prefer to give public universities more credit, and higher rankings. Fifteen of the top 20 universities in the Washington Monthly rankings are taxpayer-funded.

The UCSB Current (full article)

Washington Monthly "2014 National Universities Rankings" (full list)

Washington Monthly magazine (website)

ARWU ranks UCSB Engineering at #7 in the World

August 20th, 2014

rank methodology chart
The 2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) places UC Santa Barbara Engineering/Technology and Computer Science as #7 in the world

UCSB also received a perfect score of 100 for engineering in the criteria category of percentage of papers published in the top 20% of journals in engineering fields. According to ARWU’s report on methodology, the top 20% journals are defined as “their impact factors in the top 20% of each ISI category according to Journal Citation Report, 2012” and that the score is calculated as “the number of papers in the top 20% journals of a particular broad subject field to that in all journals of the field.”

ARWU uses six objective indicators to rank world universities, including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, number of highly cited researchers selected by Thomson Reuters, number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index – Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and per capita performance of a university.

CoE News (full article)

Academic Ranking of World Universities (website)

2014 ARWU Rankings Report (pdf)

ECE Professor Yasamin Mostofi’s “X-Ray Vision for Robots with Only WiFi” research highlighted in UCSB’s The Current

August 6th, 2014

youtube video
ECE Professor Yasamin Mostofi and graduate student researchers, Saandeep Depatla and Lucas Buckland, enable robots to see through solid walls with Wi-Fi

Imagine unmanned vehicles arriving behind thick concrete walls. They have no prior knowledge of the area behind these walls. But they are able to see every square inch of the invisible area through the walls, fully discovering what is on the other side with high accuracy. Now, imagine robots doing all these with only WiFi signals and no other sensors.

Read UCSB’s The Current article “Now You Can See the Invisible” to learn more about Mostofi’s x-ray vision and wi-fi research.

X-Ray Vision for Robots (YouTube video)

Mostofi Lab (project website)

NRL Researchers Demystify the Nature of Metal-contacts to 2D Materials

July 21st, 2014

2d materials illustration
In a recent study, ECE researchers from the Nanoelectronics Research Lab (NRL), investigated the nature of the physical contacts between 2D TMD semiconductors and a number of metals using a novel ab-initio technique specifically designed for such 2D layered materials.

Atomically-thin, two-dimensional (2D) transition metal dichalcogenides (TMD) have emerged as promising materials for future unprecedented electronic, optoelectronic and sensor applications. TMDs offer a wide range of material types, from semiconductors to half-metals and from metals to superconductors, with variable but uniform band gaps.

Besides, these ultra-thin TMDs have inherent flexibility and transparency, rendering them attractive to display electronics. These materials additionally have pristine surfaces that can boost device performance, especially in nanoscale transistors. However, such pristine surfaces also imply that interface bonding to these materials is predominantly van der Waals (vdW) type that are inherently weak (as compared to strong covalent bonds). The vdW bonding essentially implies that there actually exists a ‘vdW gap’ at such interfaces leading to some unusual electronic behavior that had remained inexplicable till date. Moreover, the vdW type interface bonding also leads to poor contact resistances between metals and 2D TMDs.

Ensuring low-resistance metal-contacts to such semiconductors is the primary hindrance to using this technology. In a recent study, ECE researchers from the Nanoelectronics Research Lab (NRL), led by Professor Kaustav Banerjee have investigated the nature of the physical contacts between 2D TMD semiconductors (such as monolayer molybdenum disulfide) and a number of metals using a novel ab-initio technique specifically designed for such 2D layered materials. The detailed study not only provides a pathway to identify the best contact metals for these semiconductors but also reveals some new physics of the interfaces that, in turn, determine the carrier transport across such interfaces. The formalism and the results in this work provide guidelines for novel 2D semiconductor device design and fabrication, a field that is on the rise because of limitations in scaling silicon semiconductor technology.

These results have been recently published in the prestigious journal, Physical Review X, by ECE PhD student Jiahao Kang, et al. The formalism has already yielded some of the highest performance 2D TMD-transistors.

Physical Review X (APS open access journal)

Highest Performance TMD Transisitors (CoE News release)

Nanoelectronics Research Lab (NRL)