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IN THE SPOTLIGHT:
September 26, 2016 - UCLA scientists help create device that makes monitoring disease biomarkers more cost-effective

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September 15, 2016 - Using contemporary art to inspire civic discourse on water-related issues in Los Angeles

Imagine strolling through your local park, when you find wooden QR code scanners surrounding huge sculptures consisting of water jars. You might be wondering what is going on.

The Westside Neighborhood Park in Los Angeles recently became more than just a place for walking and enjoying the scenery. On July 24th and August 7th, members from the UCLA Art|Sci Center, a collaboration through UCLA’s Department of Arts & Architecture Design|Media Arts program and the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), presented “Water Canning” an interactive water conservation workshop for the general public.

“Place a handful of soil in the water. Watch it separate out. Observe the different layers of sand with different sizes and weight. After you are done observing, add more soil and potting soil, and plant a cutting from a succulent in your jar. Did you notice anything about the particle sizes? What about the particles you cannot see, such as nanoparticles, where do you think they are if they bond easily with water?” This was one of the many activities that audience members performed with glass jars of water. Participants could upload their photos and thoughts to waterbodies.org using the special QR code scanners located within the park. Using this web platform is eyed towards developing a new social network focusing on water consciousness.

In addition, Olivia Osborne, a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (UC CEIN), presented about how silver nanoparticles from consumer products could end up in rivers, streams, and the ocean to the detriment of aquatic ecosystems.

Water Canning was hosted by CURRENT:LA Public Art Biennial, a program focusing on inspiring civic discourse and use of contemporary art to deepen connections between people with this year’s interactive exhibitions teaching audiences to respect local water sources by demonstrating water-related issues affecting Los Angeles. This event provided the opportunity to emphasize the preciousness of water, especially in a drought stricken city and the importance of public engagement.

“The audience engaged with our research and was eager in learning about our center. They were enthralled at the innovation and prospects of nanotechnology and were keen in knowing how we can manage it in a sustainable and safe way,” said Osborne.

When asked how participants reacted after performing the interactive activities, Osborne said, “It made them realize how water is a part of our daily lives and how it influences/affects us in more ways than one. Having an interactive installation meant that they could write their thoughts down as well as see other peoples.”

CURRENT:LA is presented by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA). The first presentation of the CURRENT:LA Public Art Biennial in 2016 is funded by DCA and Bloomberg Philanthropies through its Public Art Challenge Initiative.

July 28, 2016 -

Platform developed at UCLA uses computational microscopy to analyze uric acid crystals

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June 10, 2016 -

Will researchers and scientists be able to image DNA molecules or detect waterborne pathogens in the field without having to carry heavy and costly machinery? This is becoming possible through the use of devices such as smartphones and lens-free computational microscopy tools.

Creating cost-effective, portable, mobile measurement devices formed a key theme among the projects that 40 UCLA undergraduate researchers presented in the second annual Presentation & Demo Day of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Undergraduate Research, Training and Innovation Program for Translational Biophotonics and Telemedicine Technologies.

The event, organized by the Ozcan Research Group of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences as well as the California NanoSystems Institute, featured a vast array of translational biomedical and engineering research performed by the undergraduates. Students in the program conduct hands-on experimental work throughout the entire year, co-author publications, and present and demo their results in scientific meetings and conferences. Those from last year’s cohort co-authored 9 journal articles, 2 patent applications, and more than 30 conference publications. This year, these numbers are expected to increase.

“The most fun part is when I see students own their projects in front of the audience and present their results,” said HHMI Professor Aydogan Ozcan during his opening remarks. “This ownership and peer-to-peer learning and mentorship are very exciting to see from these young researchers.”

Ozcan, who leads the HHMI Program, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering and the Associate Director of CNSI. Also in attendance were Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences Jayathi Murthy, CNSI Director Jeff Miller, graduate student mentors, program affiliated faculty, and researchers from industry.

The event featured 10 oral presentations, 20 posters and 6 demos in the poster and demo viewing session, followed by an awards ceremony and banquet. The students were judged by a faculty panel as well as researchers from industry and attendees voted for recipients of awards in various categories.

During her oral and poster session, Yun Zhang described her project, “Wide-field lens-free polarized imaging of birefringent synovial fluid crystals for gout diagnosis.” This research focuses on a more efficient and accurate platform to see synovial fluid crystals without the use of a lens and to increase the field of view for health-care technicians and ease the diagnosis of gout disease. When asked what the most challenging part of her project was, Zhang said, “I think it was the starting part- the design. We want to adapt a lens-free on-chip microscope and that is really hard. We spent a lot time performing simulations to make sure this would work.”

The Best Poster Presentation award went to first year undergrad students Michelle Luong and Alex Guziak for their project “Yeast viability analysis using on-chip imaging and machine learning.” A publication is soon to be in the works which will be Luong’s first article. When asked about the benefits about being in the program, Luong said, “The time in the lab- I was able to use the microscope; I handled the dyes and yeasts. There was a lot more opportunity to be in the lab than some of my other friends performing research who are not in the program.”

Patrick Wolf and Kyrollos Yanny received the Best Oral Presentation for their project, “Real-time algae and waterborne pathogen monitoring using on-chip holographic flow cytometry.” “The traditional way of sampling involves on-site manual sampling where somebody has to go to every water source and get a sample to send back to the laboratory for further identification. This will require a lot of manpower that we might not always have access to,” Yanny said, further explaining that programs have to rely on volunteers to collect and return samples which may impede the integrity of the sample. “There is a need for an on-site, real-time monitoring system that can minimize the delay between the sampling and monitoring.”

The Best Demo Award went to Ashutosh Shiledar, Jeffrey Wong, Shuowen Shen, and Xuan Chen for “Rapid air quality measurement based on lens-free microscopy.” Their instrument consists of a micropump that drives air through an air-sampler where aerosols within the airflow are collected in a sticky coverslip. Three fiber-coupled light-emitting-diodes are then turned on, recording the scattering holograms of the collected aerosols on an image sensor chip. The captured images are transmitted to a remote server where they are reconstructed and analyzed in less than 30 seconds.

Seungkyeum Kim of the Chemical Engineering Department received the Best Project Award for his project “Single-molecule imaging on a mobile phone.” This award was determined by popular vote from both the judges and the attendees.

This highly interdisciplinary program will continue annually, giving students from 10 different departments on campus, such as Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Physics, and Biology, opportunities to conduct cutting-edge research with applications in mobile health, telemedicine and environmental monitoring.

This program was created by Ozcan and is funded by the HHMI Professors Program.

Photo credits: Tunde Akinloye, CNSI and Derek Tseng, Ozcan Research Lab

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