In May of 1985, UCLA joins an international team to solve the technological challenges for creating nuclear fusion, seen as the power source for the next century. Using UCLA’s Plasma Interaction Surfaces Components Experimental Simulator, the UCLA team, led by professor Robert W. Conn, tests different materials for use inside the superhot fusion reactor of the future.


In October of 1985, a group of five professors has been awarded a three-year contract as part of a Strategic Defense Initiative project looking toward the design of large, innovative nuclear power reactors for use in space. The UCLA team pursues the project in conjunction with two other universities and four private companies. Their unclassified research seeks to design reactors applicable to missile defense in space, as well as to manned space stations and deep space exploration.


Microtremors Mapped

In February of 1986, a team of student and visiting Japanese engineers assist professor Ajit K. Mal in mapping microtremors in the San Fernando Valley. The Valley is divided into 50 observation sites two miles apart, each at which the team uses portable instruments to take microtremor readings. Using the readings, the team hopes to determine the potential for earthquake damage by examining the resonance of various soil types.


In April of 1986, 14-year-old Revital Elitzur has enrolled as an engineering student under the University’s gifted student program. The girl is one of a number of superachievers admitted to UCLA’s program from the past seven years. As a high school student she tutored college students in calculus to help earn the money to enroll at UCLA.


In May of 1986, a new fusion generator called a “tokamak” built at UCLA begins operation. It is the world’s first continuous current tokamak (from Russian TOroid KAmera MAgnit Katuchka), and will be used in the development of nuclear fusion, a limitless and “clean” source of energy, by imitating and harnessing on earth the same processes that make the sun shine. The 16 1/2 foot doughnut-shaped device stands eight feet high and has viewing portals that also allow a person’s entrance into the inner chamber of the device for repairs and maintenance. The project is led by professor Robert J. Taylor under a grant from the Department of Energy.

Artificial Intelligence

In June of 1986, Hewlett-Packard donates $2.5 million worth of computer workstations to the computer science department to advance teaching in artificial intelligence. Each workstation has a computer using the Motorola 68020 processor with seven megabytes of RAM and 110 megabytes of hard disc storage.

Mexico Quake Survey

In June of 1986, under a grant from the National Science Foundation, assistant professor Guy Felio performs field tests in Mexico City to probe the causes of building collapse during the 8.1 Richter scale earthquake that struck the city Sept. 19, 1985. Many of the structures rested on heavy piles driven deep into the ground, and it is this aspect of structural failures that Felio is investigating.

Better Semiconductor

In June of 1986, professors Rointan F. Bunshah and Oscar M. Stafsudd report development of a major advancement in semiconductors. The semiconductor is made of thin layers of beta silicon carbide and promises a “significant breakthrough in the size, power, speed, operating temperature and radiation resistance of solid state semiconductor devices and integrated circuits,” the researchers say.

Enzymes Eat Pollution

In September of 1986, professor Vincent L. Vilker has overturned commonly held beliefs on the removable of solvents contaminating groundwater. It was thought that no natural mechanism could destroy the solvents, but Vilker creates a biological recipe for a class of enzymes that “chew right through” the polluting toxins, called low molecular halocarbons (LMH). Vilker was pointed to the discovery by realizing that ether is an LMH, and that patients anesthetized with ether obviously recovered so must metabolize the gas in some manner. Vilker’s clue was discovered in the enzymes of the liver, which he replicated and modified in the laboratory to digest solvents.


Tiger Toothache

In February of 1987, veterinarians at the Wildlife Waystation in Little Tujunga Canyon are preparing to perform dental surgery on a 500-pound Siberian tiger named Reesha. The tooth repair is enabled by a heated, multi-position surgery table built by faculty, students and staff at the School of Engineering. Professor Alexander Samson, and staff members Joe Becker and Helen Hill manage the project from start to finish in building the unique operating table, which can support animals up to 1,600 pounds.

Hazardous Substances

On March 23, 1987, establishment of an $18 million center at the School of Engineering and Applied Science for research on toxic and other hazardous wastes and byproducts is announced by the National Science Foundation. The center, named the Engineering Research Center for Hazardous Substances Control, is the first of its kind at any American university. Professor Sheldon K. Friedlander is appointed director and principal investigator for the center. Friedlander notes that the cost of managing hazardous waste is approaching $10 billion annually for industry.


Campus Network

In October of 1988, UCLA and IBM announce a $5 million study to connect separate IBM and other network computer systems at UCLA into one large network. The task will be to get users of networks based on IBM Systems Network Architecture (SNA) to “talk” easily with those based on the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and vice versa.


Lion Toothache

In April of 1989, volunteers from the School of Engineering are preparing to use a device they constructed to transport a 14-year-old African lion to a nearby operating room for tooth surgery. Professor Alexander Samson, staff members Helen Hill and Joseph Becker, and a team of seven students built the motorized gurney, which successfully moves the anesthetized lion from its quarters at the Wildlife Waystation across the grounds to the nearby operating room. The Half Track Limp Animal Transporter, the only one of its kind, enables two people to move a large animal such as a cougar or bear, where before 12 to 14 people grunted and sweated to do the job.

Global Warming

In May of 1989, professor John Dracup testifies before a U.S. Senate Committee on the likely impact of climatic changes on water resources for agricultural, industrial and residential use. If the current trend toward global warming continues, Dracup says, it may threaten seasonal water balance in the American West, raise the cost of water to consumers and require additional construction of large dams and aqueducts. If snow lines and freezing elevations on mountains climb higher, winter precipitation will fall as rain rather than snow, consequently changing runoff patterns and triggering heavy winter floods and a corresponding decrease in streamflow during late spring and summer.