Historical Research Highlights
Crump Institute For Medical Engineering
The Crump Institute for Medical Engineering was established at UCLA in October of 1980 as a research center based on sophisticated technology and medical applications. Projects were conducted through close collaboration among faculty and other researchers in the engineering, medical, biological, physical and behavioral sciences. The Institute’s two-fold goal was to bring the disciplines of medicine and engineering together, and to bridge the gap between the University and industry, with emphasis on the discovery of useful techniques and instruments to advance the quality of the nation’s health care.
The original impetus and support for the Institute stemmed from Ralph and Marjorie Crump of Shelton, Connecticut. A 1950 UCLA engineering alumnus and former San Fernando Valley engineer, Crump developed his cryogenic inventions into the successful Frigitronics, Inc. The Institute’s director, F. Eugene Yates, says “the real challenge is to discover something useful for health care, and then get it into use…that’s why we’re an engineering institute.”
Where engineering meets medicine, innovation often arises. Perhaps the first such recorded example involved the efforts of a young French physician who in 1816 was attempting to diagnose the heart problem for an obese female patient. He first considered placing his ear against her chest, but her weight and sensitivity dissuaded him, until he remembered a simple acoustic principle. Several sheets of paper were quickly rolled into a cylinder, and he placed one end on the woman’s chest and the other next to his ear. The woman’s heart sounds came through clearly – Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laennec had just invented the stethoscope.
A number of innovative projects were carried out at the Crump Institute in the early 1980s, including:
- Development of a sensitive monitoring system for an infant’s crib and a “breathing teddy bear” to help infants stabilize respiration and sleeping rhythms early in life. Many developmental disorders appear to be related to irregularities in these rhythms.
- Development of a method for remote monitoring (by telephone hookup) of a sleep disorder patient’s sleep cycles. Sensitive monitors beneath bedding register patterns that are transmitted to a computer for later analysis.
- A study to determine how the body’s many organs set their internal time clock.
- Understanding the body’s multiple “time clocks” may change the treatment of diseases and lead to major advances in preventive medicine.
- Depending on timely dosing of drugs can often be ineffective, so researchers examine a rate-controlled delivery system that involves binding a drug to an agent that gradually erodes in the body, releasing the drug at a pre-programmed rate.
- Research into the diagnosis and treatment of neuromuscular disorders and the replacement of lost or damaged body parts leads to work on the development of robotics technology to aid the movement of weakened limbs.
In addition, a wide range of theoretical studies are conducted by the Complex Systems Group, an interdisciplinary team of researchers, many from the computer science department, who are focusing on the study of complex systems, especially living systems.
Early Air Pollution Research
UCLA scientists at the College of Engineering were among the first to examine the contributory effect of sunlight on smog in the Air Pollution Test Facility, a simulated atmosphere encased in a huge plastic tube-shaped structure on the roof of the Engineering I building. Harry Buchberg designed the rooftop see-through chamber, in which various chemical compounds were injected into the simulated atmosphere to study the changes they underwent when exposed to sunlight. Analysis of the irradiated chemicals revealed the first hint of a process that leads to atmospheric ozone depletion. Albert Bush was among the first to identify smog particles and postulate their role in the photochemical process that underlies the creation of Los Angeles smog. Bush began in 1966 to build a database on worldwide smog, collecting air samples from 25 cities in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti. Walter Karplus and research chemist John Keansley early on compiled data on how ozone is formed from the constituents of car exhaust. Richard Kopa designed a fuel atomizing carburetor that led to cleaner running automobiles, and demonstrated recycling of exhaust gases through the engine to reduce pollutants. Ken Nobe designed, constructed, and tested a two-stage catalytic afterburner, which was designed around a concept for two-stage after burners first developed by Samuel Yuster in 1954.
Other notable contributions in air pollution research accomplished at the School of Engineering included:
- proved value of vegetation along freeways to diminish effect of automobile
- pollutants transiting into environment
- demonstrated air conditioning smog filters
- quick and economic method for lead detection in plants
- research on wood alcohol as alternative fuel
- researched effect of seasonal agricultural burning on atmosphere
- researched effect of smog on blood’s capacity to carry oxygen
- researched effect of adequate air supply on urban growth
- research on freeway intersections as greatest smog producer
Engineering Executive Program
The program emphasized both individual study and projects that developed leadership skills and the ability to work as a member of a team. The assignments stressed sensitivity and flexibility when dealing with ambiguity, uncertainty and individual differences. In addition, students worked on projects based on their work situation. Classes were held one afternoon and evening per week for two academic years. In addition, there were significant summer assignments prior to the beginning of each fall session.
It was the first engineering-management program to incorporate the computer, a Bendix G15, into the lecture and laboratory exercises. There was laboratory training in human relations, leadership, and organization theory. Professors from the Graduate School of Management, the Psychology department, and executives from industry and government augmented the engineering faculty.
A distinctive element of the program was the class project. Some particular need of modern industry, government or society was selected by the faculty as a general problem area for a class project. The class defined a specific project, established objectives and formulated and compared alternative solutions using the systems engineering approach.
Professor Joseph Manildi was given leave to consult with industrial leaders, especially in the local aerospace community, in preparing the program; therefore strong industrial support was maintained from the beginning. Faculty who made major contributions included Morris Asimow, John Lyman, William Van Vorst, Bonham Campbell, Alexander Boldyreff, Russell O’Neill, and Jacob Frankel.
Faculty Pioneer Development Of Advanced Artificial Limbs
In the early days of the artificial limbs activity, during the late 1940s, research activity took place in one of the temporary buildings. When Engineering I was completed in 1951, the project as well as other human-factors-in-design engineering projects moved into the building and became the UCLA Biotechnology Laboratory. The Northrop and UCLA advances along with results of a similar program at New York University (NYU) and the advice of the National Research Council Committee on Prosthetics Research and Development led officials at the VA to conclude that a totally new service delivery system for artificial limbs was required to assure the highest quality of functional gain for limb-wounded veterans. To implement this, special training programs were set up at NYU and UCLA to bring in limb-fitting personnel for an intensive 12-week training course that led to certification for applications of the new technologies to VA standards. On completion of the course a “limb fitter” became a Certified Prosthetist, a status subsequently required by the VA for reimbursement of services to veterans. The program was begun in 1952 and it continued for more than two years until the national need was met. The technical procedure and the documentation for the new technologies were transferred to various medical school prosthetics and orthotics training centers throughout the world.
As a special research project accompanying the prosthetics education project, some 200 case studies were generated whose subjects were arm amputees who presented challenges for fitting with the new technologies: such as amputees with very short stumps, scarring from burns and surgery, painful stumps, circulation problems, and bilateral amputations. These case studies, which included non-veterans as well as veterans, helped bring into sharper focus those areas where more intensive research and development was needed.
After the death of Craig Taylor in 1958, his colleague and associate John Lyman became head of the laboratory. As work continued, advances in electric and compressed gas actuators, electronics, control and materials technology presented exciting possibilities. UCLA became a world center for research and evaluation of advanced, body originated, signal processing methods for prosthetic devices. Prototypes and production models of powered arm prostheses were sent to UCLA by other laboratories and manufacturers for evaluation. During the approximately 30 years of its existence, dozens of undergraduate and graduate students were exposed to and participated in the Artificial Limbs Project and its extension into robotics and other human factors engineering.
First Demonstration Of Reverse Osmosis
At that time, Samuel Yuster and two of his students, Sidney Loeb and Srinivasa Sourirajan, produced a functional synthetic RO membrane from cellulose acetate polymer. The new membrane was capable of rejecting salt and passing fresh water at reasonable flow rates and realistic pressures. The membrane was also durable, and could be cast in a variety of geometric configurations. The impact of this discovery has been felt worldwide, ranging from applications in home demineralizers to “rivers of fresh water” in the Middle East and North Africa, where desalination facilities produce trillions of gallons of pure water every day. About 60 percent of the world’s desalination capacity is located on the Arabian peninsula.
In 1960, as head of the Saline Water Conversion Laboratory, Joseph W. McCutchan led a small pilot-plant group for development of reverse osmosis using the new UCLA membranes. The outgrowth of that project was the successful construction and operation of a reverse osmosis plant in the California town of Coalinga. This facility, the world’s first commercial RO plant, which began operation in 1965, garnered attention in laboratories and government offices around the world. Sidney Loeb spearheaded efforts at Coalinga, where refinement of the reverse osmosis process continued. Whereas the Coalinga plant produced pure water from brackish groundwater, at up to 6,000 gallons per day, a subsequent pilot plant built at La Jolla tackled the much tougher problem of extracting fresh water from the sea. The salt content of ocean water is roughly 10 times saltier than average brackish water. Subsequent to that, a pilot plant was constructed in the farming community of Firebaugh near Fresno for the reclamation of agricultural runoff water.
The UCLA discovery and development of a methodology for making practical semipermeable membranes for the demineralization of sea water has launched an entire industry that has grown dramatically. Similar membrane processes have been adopted in the food industry and in the field of molecular level separations involving reclamation of chemicals and disposal of wastes. During drought conditions in the Southwest, desalination through reverse osmosis has been reexamined, and as a result an RO plant is in operation providing up to 50 percent of the fresh water for residents of Catalina Island, and a large RO plant was constructed in Santa Barbara. Experts in the School of Engineering and Applied Science continue to research better membranes for desalination, as well as membranes for water reclamation and hazardous waste remediation systems.
Additional researchers and faculty from the School of Engineering and Applied Science involved in early membrane research included Edward Selover, Serop Majikian, James S. Johnson, F. Milstein, Gerald Hassler, Julius Glater, and Mary Justice.
Gadjah Mada Project Djogjakarta Indonesia
During the 1950 to 1970 time frame, the U.S. Department of State sponsored, through its Foreign Operations Administration and successor agencies, a program supporting the development of universities of developing countries through contracts primarily with the Land Grant Universities of the United States. Dean Rusk, then President of the Rockefeller Foundation (later to be Secretary of State) once called it one of the really good ideas, both in concept and execution, endorsed and supported by the Department. In 1955, UCLA was approached about undertaking such a project to assist in the development of the “Fakultas Teknik,” or college of engineering at the Universitas Gadjah Mada in Djogjakarta, Indonesia, which had been formed during the fight for Independence from the Dutch and which the Indonesians regarded as the real Indonesian University.
UCLA undertook a small exploratory project to evaluate the feasibility of accepting a long term commitment. Professor Thomas E. Hicks was sent to Indonesia for a period of one year to study conditions first-hand at Gadjah Mada, which is located in central Java, while professor William D. Van Vorst remained at UCLA as project coordinator; before coming to UCLA, Van Vorst had spent a year at the University of the Philippines under a similar project sponsored by Stanford University.
A shortage of engineers in Indonesia stemmed partly from the period of Dutch rule, during which only two Indonesians were graduated each year from the country’s only engineering school. In 1949, when Indonesia gained its independence, there were only about 60 Indonesian engineers in a nation of 82 million people. During the struggle for independence, Gadjah Mada president M. Sardjito, a physician, maintained a mobile medical facility with the Indonesian revolutionary forces, and in 1947 founded Gadjah Mada in the city of Djogjakarta.
After a year’s living experience in Indonesia, although sometimes under difficult conditions for his wife and him, professor Hicks returned and recommended undertaking a longer term relation with Gadjah Mada and the University did so. The objectives of the new program revolved around development of Gadjah Mada along the lines of U.S. universities. The UCLA College of Engineering’s response was to offer assistance in: the development of faculty through the careful selection of candidates for further education in the United States; modification of courses, programs and degree requirements for their departments of engineering and physical sciences; enhancement of their physical facilities, primarily laboratory equipment and library acquisitions; and encouragement of research of an applied nature, consistent with the needs and problems of developing nations.
More than a dozen faculty were sent to Gadjah Mada in the next eight years, developing a university that, at the completion of UCLA’s involvement in 1965, was producing more than 100 engineers each year. Many of the Indonesian participants remained with the University, or entered government service, while some became department chairs or deans, and even president of the university. One notable participant became the chair of the equivalent of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and has been honored by several nations, and another project participant serves in the Directorate for Higher Education in the Ministry of Education.
Some of the professors participating in the project included L.M.K. Boelter, Thomas E. Hicks, Jacob P. Frankel, William J. Knapp, Philip F. O’Brien, Wesley L. Orr, Russell L. Perry, and William D. Van Vorst.
UCLA Hydrogen Powered Car Wins 1972 Urban Vehicle Design Competition
While the desire to minimize the automobile’s contribution to air pollution had been largely responsible for driving the Hydrogen Car Project, the energy crisis induced by the oil embargo of 1973 may have sustained the continued interest in it, as serious attention was suddenly paid to alternative fuels. Professor William D. Van Vorst was asked by professor Bush to join the project – together they proposed a more research-oriented continuation of the activity, and obtained the support of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Efforts were devoted to the study of engine efficiency while operating with hydrogen as a fuel, solution of the backfire problem, fuel injection techniques and the difficult problem of on-board storage of a supply of hydrogen.
After the untimely passing of professor Bush, professor Al Ullman joined Van Vorst in a project to convert a postal service jeep to run on hydrogen. The emphasis of the project was not only to modify the jeep to run on hydrogen, but also to develop a liquid hydrogen fuel system. This effort was aided by the donation of a spherical cryogenic tank by the Minnesota Valley Engineering Company. Unfortunately, as the energy crisis eased, funding for the project ran out before the system could be completed, however, a significant contribution to the subject literature was made.
Human Heat Tolerance
Very little data was available on the response of humans to such high heat environments, so this type of research attracted the attention of U.S. Army Air Force Captain Craig L. Taylor while he was assigned duties at the environmental laboratory at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. He had started preliminary work on the problem before Dean Boelter recruited him to be a faculty member at UCLA’s new College of Engineering. Research concerning the relationship between engineered systems and their human users, a life-behavioral studies area, was a major goal of Boelter’s educational plan as part of his Unified Engineering Curriculum.
With research equipment constructed largely of war surplus materials, Taylor and his assistant W. Vincent Blockley prepare a range of tests in the late 1940s. The heat chamber or “hot box” is a five-feet long and wide steel cylinder shaped much like a beer keg; heated air is pumped into the chamber at 70 cubic feet per minute; it is sheathed inside with sheet metal, and insulated with rock wool; and it is entered by a heavy, circular door. The chamber was acquired through the War Assets Administration from Ryan Aircraft Company in San Diego, where it was used during the war to test instruments. A harness of nine thermocouples to measure skin and flight suit temperatures is worn by the subject.
The test subject is conditioned in a smaller hot box covered by a canvas hood before entering the pre-heated steel vessel. A series of experiments are undertaken in the range of temperatures between 160 and 235 degrees Fahrenheit. Measurements of skin and rectal temperatures, sweat loss and heart status (EKG) provide pioneering systematic data. Experimental subjects are volunteer students, faculty, and military reserve aircraft pilots. Variations in the temperature of air as it is breathed in and out are measured by thermocouples inserted in the nose and mouth using a plastic mouthpiece. As the experiments take place, the volunteer is observed closely through a glass window in the hot box vessel. The special thermometers reveal that the human body acts as a refrigerator, remaining more than 100 degrees cooler than the temperature in the hot box. When graduate student John Lyman joins the project he quickly devises a series of arithmetic tests using pencil and pad, to be administered in three minute cycles, to test the subjects’ thinking processes while exposed to high heat environments. Lyman goes on to head a project in which fully functional cockpit controls consisting of instrument panel, stick, rudder, pedals and throttle are installed in the heat chamber. “Flights” are made in repetitive four minute cycles as heat exposure increases, accompanied by the same physiological and temperature measurements as in the other tests.
Both experimental and theoretical human heat tolerance studies, covering environments ranging from wet suits to space suits, were continued in the biotechnology laboratory until 1973 when, with the available equipment near obsolescence and funding no longer available, the projects were terminated. Others involved in the hot box projects included engineer R.H. Holloway, and student assistants Philip Elliot, Sidney Friedlander and Lloyd Barnes.
Institute For Transportation And Traffic Engineering
The impetus behind the legislative act was that, in 1947 there was recognized a need to define and pursue research and training supporting renewal and improvement of transportation facilities, undernourished during the Thirties and overworked during World War II. In the Fifties and Sixties, transportation problems broadened from those of providing and maintaining facilities to problems of planning, intermodal integration, and the management of traffic in different kinds of systems.
At UCLA, special attention was given to human factors in transportation; to the analysis of physio-engineering systems inherent in motor vehicle collisions; and to driving simulation. Facilities included equipment for physiological and psychological measurements of vehicle operation; off-campus sites for full-scale automotive collision studies and traffic studies; a state-of-the-art driving simulator and visual-acuity laboratory; and an automotive components evaluation and reliability facility.
The majority of the research projects were concerned with improving highway safety. The automobile and school bus impact and crash injury studies focused on safety belts, which were not in widespread use at the time. The media and local and statewide officials were often spectators at the more than 100 car and bus crash tests staged at an abandoned air strip at the U.S. Naval Station in Long Beach. This collision and lab research generated much of the scientific data that Detroit manufacturers needed to design safer cars.
For example, researchers at ITTE were the first to measure the potential hazards of brain concussions and lacerations when windshields or side windows are shattered. Scientists applied backgrounds in engineering and psychology to the study of driver behavior and characteristics, including highway hypnosis, and examination of the “wrong way” freeway driver. And the institute was one of the first to propose bicycle pathways alongside some roadways.
ITTE Research Highlights
The variety and number of projects undertaken are so numerous that to name them all would take its own book, but here are a few examples:
- Study of on-ramp and off-ramp length
- Study of alcohol level and driving performance
- Automobile door latch research
- Automotive restraint analysis, tests of adult harness and child safety belts
- Tested automobile headrests as a protection against whiplash
- Development of full-scale wide-view driving simulator
- Analysis of the reliability of accident information obtained from off-scene Sources
- Study of interface between transportation and land use planning in urban areas
- Study of automatic computers for traffic control
- Examine distance judgment of colored objects
- Effectiveness of traffic safety films in driver education
- Prepare engineering analysis of cargo handling
- Pursue design of the electric automobile
- Examine ecology of air transport
- Analyze transportation planning for the development and management of National Forests
- Study of asphalt paving and the rate of driver fatigue
- Determine safe standard length and degree of slope for aircraft runways
The Thinking Machine
The first machine received, the General Electric mechanical differential analyzer, consists of an interconnected system of shafts, motors and gears, and electromechanical elements. The machine employs these mechanical elements, whirring, buzzing, and clicking away, to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and the electromechanical elements for more complex functions. One of the most important elements of the differential analyzer is a Polaroid photoelectric system of unique design which GE developed. Fourteen of the highly sensitive devices are installed on the machine, thus permitting the accurate, speedy solutions of differential equations requiring as many as fourteen simultaneous integrations.
In appearance, the GE analyzer resembles a long maze of shafts and gears with input and output tables extending to one side. When the machine is in use, the variables in the differential equations being solved are represented by the rotation of shafts in the machine. These are connected with mechanical pens, which, in turn plot an accurate curve in accordance with the quantities worked out by the continuous movement of the shafts. Interpreted correctly, this curve gives a graphic solution of the problem.
In December of 1977, the last working model of a mechanical differential analyzer in the world is donated by UCLA to the Smithsonian Institution for its pioneering computing display. The differential analyzer introduced much of Southern California industry to automatic computing, but became obsolete beginning in 1960 as it was replaced by computing machines with electronic circuits and vacuum tubes. From 1960 on, it was used mainly as a display piece, clanking away occasionally for student and public demonstrations.
Two UCLA mechanical and aerospace engineering students conducted a live interview today from Earth to space with aerospace engineering alumna and SpaceX Crew-2 mission pilot Megan McArthur
In an effort to increase equity and diversity in the fields of engineering and computer science, the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering has announced the launch of a three-part “Engineering in Action” series
A multidisciplinary team developing an immersive avatar system that enables remote human connection has advanced to the semifinals for the $10 million ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition.
UCLA bioengineers have created a computational model to fine-tune a potential drug for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases. A study detailing the finding was recently published in Cell Reports.
Suhas Diggavi, a professor of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UCLA, has been awarded a 2021 Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, among the most prestigious honors
M. Khalid Jawed, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, has received a National Science Foundation CAREER award,