UCLA Engineering, Easton Family Launch New Materials Research Labs
(L to R) Larry Carlson, Gene Block, Phyllis Easton and Jayathi Murthy at the Easton Labs’ ribbon-cutting ceremony
Located on the top floor of the school’s newest building, Engineering VI, the state-of-the-art, 2,000-square-foot labs were made possible thanks to a generous $5 million gift from UCLA Engineering alumnus James Easton ’59 and his wife Phyllis Easton.
Phyllis Easton attended the ceremony on behalf of the family and was joined by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean Jayathi Murthy and Easton Labs director Larry Carlson. Other participants included Dean Antonio Bernardo of the UCLA Anderson School of Management, program director Heather Felix of the Easton Technology Management Center, Dr. Christopher Giza of the Easton Clinic for Brain Health and the Easton Labs for Brain Health Research, UCLA softball head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez ’93, senior associate athletic director Christina River, as well as UCLA Samueli faculty and staff.
“I want to express my deep appreciation to Phyllis and the entire Easton family,” Block said at the ceremony. “The Easton Labs for Engineering Innovation will help us advance development of cutting-edge sporting goods and aerospace and lab equipment. I can’t wait to see the incredible new technologies and products that emerge from here.”
The labs feature many next-generation technological R&D projects. Chief among them is a ball cannon for industry-standard performance testing of new baseball and softball bats and gloves, including a batting glove for baseball and softball that could reduce hand injuries by employing a shock-reducing foam. The labs‘ researchers are also working on a football helmet that uses a tunable light-cured microlattice that can reduce impacts to the head.
Since the labs’ inception in 2009 to advance new technologies by working closely with industry partners and government agencies, the facility has grown significantly in its personnel, funding and research scope.
“Twelve years ago we embarked on an experiment to see if we could boost innovation at the school — to go beyond the theory we teach and what others have done,” Carlson said. Since then, the concept has translated into two patents, two startup companies and brought in $7.3 million in external funding for research projects.
One of the labs’ largest projects is a carbon nanotube composite design that exhibits some of the highest levels of strength, electrical conductance and damping seen in a composite material. Composites with such properties could have a wide range of applications in space, defense and consumer goods.
The Eastons are longtime supporters across the UCLA campus. Other prominent capital projects and programs they have supported include UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Easton Technology Management Center, the Easton Labs for Neurodegeneration, the Easton Brain Health Initiatives and Easton Stadium — home to UCLA’s softball team.
A top manufacturer of athletic equipment, James Easton has been a global leader in business and philanthropy for more than five decades. In honor of his tremendous contributions to the UCLA community, he was awarded in 2014 the campus’s highest honor — the UCLA Medal.
Natalie Weber contributed to this story.