Milestones

Motorocracy November 20, 2014
The Motorocracy team of Columbia Engineering/Barnard undergraduates—Joshua Hughes, Ankita Gore, Leon An, David Verdi, Amanda Groziak (Barnard), and David Miller (Solomon Schechter high school)—won the prestigious MOLBOT award at the BIOMOD (Biomolecular Design) Competition held at Harvard in early November. Competing against 30 teams from around the world, Motorocracy also placed second for best presentation and received a gold medal for their project. BIOMOD is a biomolecular design competition in which undergraduate teams compete to “build the coolest stuff using the molecules of life,” creating autonomous robots, molecular computers, and prototypes for nanoscale therapeutics by using DNA, RNA, and proteins as building blocks.

Mentored by Biomedical Engineering (BME) graduate student Amy Lam with the help of BME Professor Henry Hess, Motorocracy engineered a microscale power generator, transforming chemical energy in the form of ATP to electricity. By loading ferromagnetic beads onto self-assembled microtubule spools, they created a periodic time-varying magnetic field capable of inducing current. They hope that this system can be used as a source of mechanical and electrical energy for systems such as biological micro-electromechanical systems (bio-MEMS) and microscale factories, among other applications. Their work, they say, “creates an appealing gateway for the creation of efficient microscale generators or motors.”

Sean Ballinger November 17, 2014
Sean Ballinger, a junior majoring in applied physics, recently brought home the Outstanding Undergraduate Poster Award from the American Physical Society’s Division of Plasma Physics. He was recognized for his display, “Optimizing Plasma Boundary Control in Superconducting Tokamaks,” at the Division’s 56th annual meeting, held in New Orleans in October. Ballinger’s poster—which presented cutting-edge scholarship on understanding shape control, quantifying controllability, and offline optimization of strongly coupled shapes—was based on his collaborative summer research at General Atomics’ DIII-D tokamak in San Diego. DIII-D is among the largest facilities in the world for exploring the possibilities of clean, magnetically confined fusion energy production. Ballinger, an Egleston Scholar, joins a rich tradition of Columbians doing acclaimed work with the global DIII-D research program, including Applied Physics Professors Michael Mauel, Gerald Navratil, and Francesco Volpe.
Changxi Zheng and Jonny Cohen October 28, 2014
Two Columbia engineers recently featured in Forbes’ prestigious 30 Under 30 lists were guest speakers at the Oct. 21 Forbes Under 30 Summit, held in Philadelphia. Alongside other top young inventors and innovators, Changxi Zheng, assistant professor of computer science, and Jonny Cohen, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering, participated in a panel, “Show and Tell: America’s Best Under 30 Inventors Face-Off,” moderated by Michael Noer, executive editor of Forbes magazine. Zheng, who made the 2012 list for Science and Healthcare, talked about his groundbreaking work crafting fast, practical algorithms to generate immersive virtual realities with a broad spectrum of synchronized visual and audible data. Cohen, who made both the 2012 and 2013 lists for Energy, talked about his aerodynamic devices he invented that can significantly increase the gas mileage of school buses by reducing drag. Cohen is founder and CEO at Greenshields Project, which is preparing to make the fiberglass and epoxy resin shields commercially available to schools and businesses. Forbes’ 30 Under 30 lists profile transformative innovators who are “impatient to change the world,” and the summit brought them together with business leaders, venture capitalists, and mentors.
Ioannis Kougioumtzoglou September 18, 2014
Ioannis Kougioumtzoglou, assistant professor of civil engineering and engineering mechanics, has been awarded the 2014 Junior Research Prize by the European Association of Structural Dynamics (EASD). Kougioumtzoglou, who recently joined the Columbia Engineering faculty, was recognized for his “innovative influence on the field of nonlinear stochastic dynamics.” His research focuses on stochastic mechanics with applications in civil engineering and mechanical engineering.
Steve Bellovin September 10, 2014
Computer Science Professor Steve Bellovin, one of the foremost experts on Internet security and privacy, has been elected to the National Cyber Security Hall of Fame. Bellovin joins a crop of top industry leaders as the 2014 class of inductees, to be honored at a banquet on October 30th. Bellovin coauthored one of the first books on firewalls, Firewalls and Internet Security: Repelling the Wily Hacker, and holds a number of patents on cryptographic and network protocols. A graduate of Columbia College, he joined the Columbia Engineering faculty in 2005 following a distinguished career at Bell Labs and AT&T Research Labs, where he was an AT&T Fellow. Bellovin was elected a fellow of the National Academy of Engineering and for many years has served as a member of specialized technology advisory committees, including for the Department of Homeland Security, Election Assistance Commission, and the National Academies. From 2012 to 2013, he held the post of chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission.

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