Fall 2022

Geological Climate Change

Over Earth’s ~4.5 billion year history, the climate state has varied between an ice-free world (Waterworld), high-latitude glaciation (like today), and globally glaciated with ice extending to the equator (Snowball Earth). This course will provide background to understand the processes that control the planetary climate state on geological time scales, which are the input to climate models. We will then review the geological record to understand how we know the Earth has transited between different climate states and why. This will provide context for the modern human experiment of transforming the Earth from a climate with high-latitude glaciation to a Waterworld. We will end the course with a field trip to rock outcrops on the beachfront at UCSB to learn how geologist extract ancient climate records from rocks. 

Supported by: Do arc-continent collisions in the tropics set the Earth's climate state?  NSF #1926001

Taught by: Eliel Anttila and Bets Hobart, Ph.D. students in Earth Science


Optics, Lasers, and Quantum Physics

When people talk about optics, maybe you think about glasses and lenses, or maybe even about cameras and corneas! But did you know that physicists use a variety of optical techniques to explore critical scientific questions in quantum physics? In this course we will dive into the fundamentals of optics, lasers and their use in studying the quantum nature of our world. We will learn the fundamentals of how lasers work, conduct our own experiment using light from lasers to image microscopic objects, and explore beautiful and interesting properties of light as a scientific tool. This course will involve hands-on projects using laser imaging, lectures on fundamental physics topics, and lab tours in UCSB’s physics department.

Supported by: NSF Quantum Foundry through Q-AMASE-i program # DMR-1906325

Taught by: Madeleine Leibovitch and Sam Brantly, Ph.D. students in Physics, along with Simon Mitchell, a senior CCS student in Physics


The Quantum Around Us

You've probably heard all the buzzwords about quantum physics on the internet by now. The cat that is dead and isn't dead, spooky actions at a distance, quantum computers that solve problems fast by trying all solutions all at once (I promise this is not how it works!). While many of us have a vague idea about these phenomena, to truly appreciate the weirdness of the quantum world, we need to delve a little deeper. In this course, first, we will build up the concepts such as superposition, polarization, diffraction, and measurements through hands-on physical experiments, interactive demonstration, and web-based simulation. Next, using these concepts, we approach an actual quantum experiment and discuss the real mysteries and absurdities of the quantum world. (Keywords: Photonics, Materials, Physics, Electrical engineering)

Supported by: NSF Quantum Foundry through Q-AMASE-i program # DMR-1906325

Taught by: Josh Castro and Kamyar Parto, Ph.D. students in Electrical and Computer Engineering


Winter 2022 

Soft Robotics: Nature Informs the Next Generation of Robots

Soft robots? When most people think of a traditional robot, their mind jumps to human-like robots in movies like iRobot or Wall-E, news of robot “dogs” sold by the Boston Dynamics company, or maybe robotic arms on a factory floor used to make cars. Despite their different functions, all three of the previously mentioned robots are made of hard, stiff components like metal. Soft robots on the other hand, draw inspiration from animals, including humans, who are able to run, walk, jump, fly, and pounce—all using a simple but elegant combination of fluids (e.g., water), stiff structures (e.g., bones), and soft structures (e.g., tissues, muscle). In this class, we might create robot arms that swing and bend like elephant trunks or inch along like worms, all while exploring the question: what are the strengths of making things soft? (Keywords: Soft Robotics, Light-sensitive materials, Engineering)                                 

Supported by: EFRI C3 SoRo: Overcoming Challenges in Control of Continuum Soft Robots through Data-driven Dynamic Decomposition and Light-modulated Materials NSF #1935327 

Taught by: Luke F. Gockowski, Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering


Hands-on with Geology: Using Rocks to Learn about Earth History

Our knowledge of the motions of Earth's continents, the development of the first lifeforms, the ice ages, and so much more all follows from the rock record. Earth's surface at any given moment has a small chance of being preserved as sedimentary rock for us to study, giving us windows into times long past and worlds that no longer exist. Our challenge as sedimentary geologists is to tell the stories of these past worlds by investigating the rock record to understand past environments, climates, and planetary states. This course will provide a glimpse into doing science as a geologist by studying the rocks on our very beachfront at UCSB. We will make measurements of rock composition with a state-of-the-art instrument, and work together to interpret our observations and test hypotheses about campus 15 million years ago.

Supported by: Did the formation of the Great Unconformity trigger oxygenation and the Cambrian explosion?  NSF #1916698

Taught by: Adrian Tasistro-Hart, Ph.D. student in Earth Science


From Biomedical Devices to Your Trendy Boba Beverage: How Hydrogels Give Us Leverage

The advancement of tissue engineering, design of biomedical devices, and development of novel therapeutics require biocompatible materials that behave similarly to the human body: soft, flexible and containing high water content. One class of materials that fits these criteria are hydrogels, which are made out of hydrophilic polymers that readily swell with water. In this course students will learn about both synthetic and naturally derived hydrogels, their prevalence in our daily lives (from boba to contact lenses!) and their potential in next-generation biomaterials and therapeutics. The course will involve hands-on activities including making hydrogels from biopolymers, studying hydrogel properties such as swelling, stiffness and decomposition, and lab tours within UCSB’s BioPACIFIC Materials Innovation Platform facilities.               

Supported by: NSF Materials Innovation Platform through BioPacific # DMR-1933487

Taught by: Sophia Bailey and Ronnie Garcia, Ph.D. students in Chemistry, and Dr. Kevin Shen, Postdoctoral Researcher


The Quantum Around Us

You've probably heard all the buzzwords about quantum physics on the internet by now. The cat that is dead and isn't dead, spooky actions at a distance, quantum computers that solve problems fast by trying all solutions all at once (I promise this is not how it works!). While many of us have a vague idea about these phenomena, to truly appreciate the weirdness of the quantum world, we need to delve a little deeper. In this course, first, we will build up the concepts such as superposition, polarization, diffraction, and measurements through hands-on physical experiments, interactive demonstration, and web-based simulation. Next, using these concepts, we approach an actual quantum experiment and discuss the real mysteries and absurdities of the quantum world. (Keywords: Photonics, Materials, Physics, Electrical engineering)

Supported by: NSF Quantum Foundry through Q-AMASE-i program # DMR-1906325

Taught by: Dr. Shaimaa Azzam, Postdoctoral Researcher and Kamyar Parto, Ph.D. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering


Space Technology: Designing for the Final Frontier

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work for NASA? How exactly do they steer their satellites and why is it so difficult to launch a rocket? This class will give a cursory introduction to designing technology for space exploration. We will explore rocket propulsion, satellite communication, and extraterrestrial exploration systems. Topics will be grounded in the fundamental laws of physics with plenty of interactive examples to spark intuition. No prior experience required! (Keywords: Space, Space technology, Engineering, Physics, Technology design).                                                  

Support by: Professional Development Series for Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholars

Taught by: Jenny Smith, Ph.D. student in Physics

Winter 2021

The Art of Quantum Mechanics 

Technologies based on quantum mechanics are everywhere around us, from the computer chips and LEDs in your cell phones to lasers and GPS satellites we use for global communications and navigation. Quantum scientists are also now using the fascinating rules of quantum mechanics to observe, process, and communicate information in entirely new ways that will one day dramatically change how we interact with each other and our surroundings. In this course, we will explore the key concepts from quantum mechanics that are driving this quantum revolution through interactive demonstrations, web-based sound visualization experiences, hands-on design activities, and group online games. Students will learn what it means to be a Quantum Mechanic, building intuition about core principles including Schrödinger’s Cat, bits vs. qubits, entanglement, and wave-particle duality.  Resources created for the course: Art of Quantum Science  (Keywords: Materials, Physics, Electrical engineering, Art)               
Supported by: NSF Quantum Foundry through Q-AMASE-i program # DMR-1906325

Taught by: Trevor Steiner,  Ph.D. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Yin Yu, Ph.D. student in Media Arts and Technology Program

The Global Energy Transition: From Fossil Fuels to Renewable Energy

With the goal of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, societies across the entire world are shifting their energy usage away from traditional fossil fuels and increasing their usage of renewable energy resources. While this is a promising shift for the future of our planet, there are many obstacles to overcome during this transition. In this class, you will learn about the traditional methods for producing energy as well as the increasingly popular sustainable methods including solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal, and biomass. We will discuss how these renewable generation methods work, how they affect our societies, and what challenges stand in the way.  (Keywords: Green Energy, Renewable Energy) 
Supported by: CAREER: Learning and Control Algorithms for Electricity Demand Response with Humans-in-the-Loop NSF #1847096

Taught by: Nate Tucker, Ph.D. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering

Real Life Robotics: from Bioinspiration to Practical Application

The world is a beautifully complex place - replete with thousands of habitats, millions of species, and billions of interactions amongst them. This complexity has presented a significant challenge for the field of robotics, as we lack the computational sophistication to prepare for them all. Instead, we look to nature to build robots with embodied intelligence that allow us to manage that complexity through thoughtful design. This hands-on course will teach you to become an amateur soft roboticist! We will introduce you to how the field uses bioinspiration to develop new systems, and how mathematical modeling of these systems allows us to gain insights into the variables we as designers can control to achieve a desired outcome. (Keywords: Soft Robotics, Lightsensitive materials, Engineering)                                                          
Support by: EFRI C3 SoRo: Overcoming Challenges in Control of Continuum Soft Robots through Data-driven Dynamic Decomposition and Light-modulated Materials NSF #1935327 

Taught by: David Haggerty, Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering and Patrick Curtis, MS student in Mechanical Engineering


Fall 2020

Lighting up the world with color 

In more recent years, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have begun to permeate every aspect of modern life - from indicator lights on a car dashboard to TVs and computer monitors. While it would be difficult to imagine life today without LEDs, how do they actually work? This class will focus on understanding solid-state lighting technology as well as relating this to how we as humans see and perceive light and color. We will learn how scientists define these topics as well as how they apply to real-world applications such as theatre lighting and display technology.  (Keywords: Materials, Lighting, Electrical engineering)

Taught by: Caroline Reilly, Ph.D. student in Materials Engineering

A World of Crystals: How Nature Creates Order from Chaos

When we think of crystals, the thought of a glimmering jewelry display might pop into mind. But a staggering amount of our technology is built on crystals; processors, building materials, lighting, electricity generation... The list is endless. You are surrounded by crystals, in fact, you're probably using a whole array of them to read this. Atom by atom, we can manufacture crystals that nature only dreams of (and now you can too). In this class, we'll explore the physics and chemistry of crystals, learning concepts such as symmetry, diffraction, and diffusion. We will explore how researchers grow materials with applications stretching from medicine, quantum computing, magnetism, and more. We will have a combination of computer exercises, socially-distanced crystal growth (DIY!), and in-class puzzles to help explore the world of crystallography and crystal growth.  (Keywords: Chemistry, Materials Science, Quantum Foundry) UCSB NSF 
Quantum Foundry through Q-AMASE-i program award number DMR-1906325

Taught by: Dr. Brenden Ortiz, Postdoctoral Researcher and Elings Prize Fellow

Plasmas: The 4th State of Matter

Commonly introduced as the 4th state of matter, plasmas are not only ubiquitous in the universe, but comprise most of the visible matter. While perhaps being far removed from direct everyday experiences, they can still be found everywhere around us. Plasmas are responsible for many space phenomena such as auroras and solar winds - in fact, stars are just big balls of plasma! They are also a key avenue towards exciting future applications like nuclear fusion reactors. In this course, we will give a brief introduction to the fundamentals of plasma physics and explore the wonderful phenomena associated with them. (Keywords: Plasmas, Physics)
NSF AST-1911198

Taught by: Brent Tan and Tsun Hin Navin Tsung, Ph.D. students in Physics 


Winter 2020

Biosensor Technologies: Medical Sensing from the Lab Bench to the Point of Care

To diagnose and treat diseases, we often use sensors to tell us what’s happening within our bodies. This requires providing a body sample at a doctor’s office, or to an at-home medical device. How do we actually detect disease from these samples? How do the designers of biosensors use interdisciplinary science to quantify biomolecules, and what factors control the development of point-of-care devices? In this session, we will learn about the principles of chemistry, biology, optics, and materials science behind both existing biosensors and ones in development for the future. Discussion topics will include the sensors for real-time monitoring of biomolecules in the body, point-of-care sensing for a greater variety of biomarkers, and the real-world challenges behind commercialization of biosensing technologies. (Keywords: biosensing, bioengineering)

Taught by: Alex Downs, Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering

Computer Ethics: Reshaping Society Through Technology

Computers make our lives easier, and, as a result, we include them in every aspect of our lives. We use them to communicate with our friends and families, to seek out entertainment, to find jobs, and for many other reasons. Because we involve computers in every aspect of our lives, we also share a great deal of information with the companies that build technology. What we share and how this highly tailored personal information is used is a topic of continuous concern and debate. In this class we explore what these algorithms “know” about us and how they gather data. This class provides an overview of active areas of computer science including: Big Data, Machine Learning, Networking, Security, and Human Computer Interaction. Over 5 classes, we will look at how technology and society interact. The class will provide the skills for understanding how the technologies work as well as philosophical skills for critically engaging with these technologies.(Keywords: Ethics, Big Data, Internet Security)

Taught by: Sherri Conklin, Ph.D. student in Philosophy and Michael Nekrasov,  Ph.D. student in Computer Science

Engineering Materials: From Magnets to Chocolate

Engineered materials are everywhere around us, from the metals and concrete that support buildings to the electronics in our phones. Materials scientists and engineers use chemistry, physics, and biology to understand useful materials, from the atomic level to the properties we see, and everything in between. In this course, we will learn how materials scientists manipulate materials at every length scale to make better structural, biological, and electronic and magnetic materials. In particular, we will focus on research happening at UCSB, from bio-inspired materials design to quantum materials research at the new Quantum Foundry. At the end of this course, we will apply materials design concepts to real-world engineering problems. (Keywords: Materials Science, Quantum Foundry) UCSB NSF Quantum Foundry through Q-AMASE-i program award number DMR-1906325

Taught by: Marcela Areyano, Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering and Julia Zuo Ph.D. student in Materials

Hands-on Haptics: Exploring Science and Engineering for the Sense of Touch

The course will present concepts in neuroscience, mechanics, and engineering motivated by haptics, science and engineering related to our sense of touch.  The course will present basic knowledge and will integrate engaging hands-on activities and demonstrations illustrating how our sense of touch works, and how we can make objects and electronic devices for providing touch feedback. (Keywords: Mechanical Engineering, Neuroscience)

Taught by: Stejara Dinulescu and Anzu Kawazoe  Ph.D. students in Media Arts and Technology Program


Fall 2019 Courses

The Quantum Race: An exploration into quantum computing

Scientists around the world are racing to develop the world's best quantum computer. Unlike the computers you can find in your home or at school, quantum computers harness the amazing power of quantum mechanics to solve problems traditional computers couldn't solve in hundreds of years. In this course, we will explore the key concepts that make a quantum computer unique through hands-on activities and guest talks from researchers across the country. (Keywords: Physics, Computer Science, Engineering)

Taught by: Jasmine Marckwordt and Ali Muller, Ph.D. students in Science Education

Understanding the World Around You: A Molecular Viewpoint

A water molecule has a diameter that is one-million times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and yet, every cell depends on the behavior of your body’s water molecules. Though invisible to the naked eye, molecules make up and dictate the behavior of everything around you. In this course, we will address how atoms and molecules govern the world around you. We will use our understanding of the molecular world to study phenomena over a wide length scale, from protein folding (nanometers) to water purification (meters). Each session of the class will seek to inform through examples, demonstrations, and computer simulations. (Keywords: Physics, Computer Modeling, Engineering)

Taught by: Dennis Robinson Brown, Ph.D. student in Chemical Engineering

Morphology Synthesis: Exploring sensory wearable design computation 

As our generation encounters unprecedented ecological challenges, the need to respond to these circumstances from all disciplines is urgently demanded. Using cutting-edge tools, such as soft robotic fabrication and sensory technologies, researchers are able to find new methods to face these complex problems. A morphological approach is able to define new architectural typologies and orchestrate movement through music and sound sensor. In this course, we will explore the concept of morphology in architecture, and to study the evolution of forms within nature and building environments. You will learn novel concepts, such as pneumatic architecture, inflatable material, and deployable structure. Through hands-on experiments, you will understand how to fabricate a wearable device with soft materials and how to compute a biomimetic design with digital modeling tools. By the end of the course, you will design wearable technology for the human body, and integrate the multimedia devices with sensors. (Keywords:  multimedia design, biomimetic engineering, morphogenetic computation, pneumatic architecture, human-machine interaction)

Taught by: Yin Yu, Ph.D. student in Media Arts and Technology

Winter 2019 Courses

The Art of Marine Biology: From Coast to Canvas

Marine habitats are the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth and have been inspiring scientists and artists for hundreds of years, including Darwin himself! In this course we will explore the local marine wildlife of Santa Barbara County through animal dissections and class field trips to the beach to learn more about our local marine ecosystems and the seaweeds and animals that call these places home. We will also pair labs with various art projects students can opt to participate in, including algae and fish presses and animal sketching. Students will learn a number of skills used by biologists, such as microscopy, biodiversity measurements, and using field guides. (Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Science)

Taught by: Mallory Rice, Ph.D. student in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Science

Explorations in Modern Physics and Astronomy

What’s the difference between dark matter and dark energy? How do living things organize themselves into flocks and swarms? How does light diffract, and just what is a photon anyways? Join us as we explore topics at the forefront of modern physics research, including particle physics at the Large Hadron Collider, the history of the universe starting from the Big Bang, and everything in between! Each session will focus on a different field of physics and immerse students through discussion, demonstrations, and hands-on experimentation. No formal background in physics or math is required and all are encouraged to attend.

Taught by:  Remi Boros, Mirek Brandt, Sean McBride, Amara McCune, Matt McEwen, and Jennifer Smith, Ph.D. students in Physics

Experiencing Digital Architecture and Computer Music through Virtual Reality

Can architecture be rhythmic? Can music be seen? What is the relationship between music and architecture? In this course, we will challenge what you think architecture and music are by examining how the intersection of these topics evolved over time through the lens of human experience and the technology. Students will learn the basic concepts of architecture and music through lectures and workshop. Students will have a lab tour to experience sound and space in a virtual reality environment. By using sketching, physical/digital 3D modeling, and a sound workshop, students will develop a hands-on experience to learn the creative techniques in building a musical-architectural virtual reality experience. (Media, Arts and Design)

Taught by: Yin Yu, Ph.D. student in Media Arts and Technology

Fall 2018 Courses

Understanding our material world: From atoms to catastrophe

Have you ever wondered how engineering disasters occur? Why did the Titanic sink? What led to the failure of the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttles? Everything in our daily lives is made up of carefully engineered materials, but sometimes these materials can fail and lead to catastrophe. This course will introduce the field of Materials Science and Engineering (which unites chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering principles) to understand, improve, and design materials for everyday life. We will start our journey at the atomic scale and discuss how atoms can be arranged to form actual materials like metals, polymers, and ceramics. Using real-life examples, we will learn how to understand the properties of everyday materials based on their atomic arrangements, discuss how different materials can be made, and give plenty of examples of how they can fail and how we can avoid these failures!  (Materials Science)

Taught by: Mayela Aldaz-Cervantes and Collin Holgate, Ph.D. students in Materials

How Cells Use the Force

From individual cells dividing to the development of whole organisms, physical forces help shape and move life itself. By understanding how forces influence biology, we can start looking at the field from a different perspective. This course aims to teach fundamental concepts from biology and engineering to understand cutting-edge research being conducted here at UCSB. We will begin by learning the inner workings of the cell and continue by discussing how cells exert and interpret mechanical forces. By the end, we plan to integrate different concepts to demonstrate how they can be used to look at the forces produced by a tissue. This session is intended to demonstrate how different fields can come together and be used to answer questions in research.  (Molecular, Developmental, and Cellular Biology)

Taught by: Carlos Gomez and Dennis Joshy, Ph.D. students in Molecular, Developmental, and Cellular Biology

Networks: Hearts of Complex Systems

Networks are everywhere, from the internet, to social networks, and the genetic networks that determine our biological existence. Due to the recent exploding interest in network science, it is called the science of the 21st century. In this class we introduce network science, and learn about graph concepts, metrics, and properties of real networks. We will discuss applications of network science in epidemic propagation and opinion dynamics. The sessions will be consisting of lectures, applying the concepts on the sample codes, and interactive question and answer sessions. 

Taught by: Shadi Mohagheghi , Ph.D. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering


Winter 2018 Courses

Bacteria, viruses and parasites

Bacteria, viruses and parasites- some of us might find them terrifying, others fascinating; we can at least agree that they are intriguing. In this course we will use the inherent interest that many people have in health and disease to illustrate the tools and methodologies of both ecology and epidemiology. We will dissect hosts, use microscopes to observe live and preserved parasites, explore how diseases are transmitted, and discuss implications for human health.

Taught by: Ana Elisa Garcia and Jasmine Childress, Ph.D. students in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology

Hidden biodiversity of the marine world

Life in the ocean isn’t all dolphins, sharks, and fish - much of it is small in size, hidden in plain sight, and bewildering in appearance! From wetlands to the kelp forests, we bottom of the ocean, we will find an array of marine organisms you’ve never heard of and learn how they survive. In addition, students will learn a number of skills used by biologists, such as microscopy, biodiversity measurements, and statistics.

Taught by: Mallory Rice and Clark Marino, Ph.D. students in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology

Science and Society: Equity, Ethics and Public Values

Did you know that some people oppose wind turbines because they think they’re ugly? Do you wonder what the social and environmental impacts of your new cell phone are and how it might be affecting people you’ve never met? Or more simply, are you interested in what happens when science and society interact? Through five sessions, we’ll learn and talk about how technology and policy impact different communities based on socioeconomic status, gender, and lack of representation ‘at the table’, at local, national and global levels. We’ll explore how public perception shapes policy, ‘who is an expert?’, and how solutions can lead to unforeseen problems. We’ll use examples from renewable energy, driverless cars, vaccines, GMO foods, water management and a host of other cases to encourage you to think more deeply and critically about the complexity of taking science into the real world.

Taught by: Victoria Steffes, Ph.D. student in Materials Science and K Rahul Sharma, PhD Student in Bren School of Environmental Science and Management

Fall 2017 Courses

Modeling the physical world: gases, liquids, proteins, and everyday life

What really is a “model?”  And how do scientists and engineers create and use them?  While models and simulations are of fundamental importance to many fields, skills directly related to creating and assessing them are often overlooked.  We will work on developing these skills by studying examples taken from important chemical phenomena, such as vapor-liquid equilibrium, and protein folding.  Throughout, we will use computers to assess and visualize simulations implementing various models.  By the end of the course, we will develop our own models inspired by common, everyday experiences.

Taught by: Jacob Monroe, Ph.D. student in Chemical Engineering

Genome editing with CRISPR

Humans have had thousands of years to develop and optimize tools like scissors, microscopes, and lasers.  While these instruments are great for manipulating large and even microscopic objects, there are situations where we need even more precise and accurate control of the molecules that make us who we are.  Luckily nature has had a few hundreds of millions of years in order to optimize molecular tools and in recent years humans have begun to unravel this machinery and apply them to problems ranging from human disease to pest control.  In this class we will explore how the bacterial CRISPR-Cas9 tool works, discuss its wide range of applications and we will even get to see these molecular scissors in action!

Taught by: Dr. Jennifer Rauch, Postdoctoral Researcher and Elmer Guzman, Ph.D. student in the Molecular, Celluar, and Developmental Biology

Physics of lasers and light

You might not realize it, but you use light-based technologies, including lasers, everyday! In fact, lasers and optics are the backbone of the internet and all long distance communication links. Join this class to learn more about the importance of light in modern society, how lasers and solar panels work, and how compact optical devices are fabricated. We will explore together through demonstrations and hands-on activities. A few of the sessions will be split into two tracks to accommodate students' physics and mathematics experience levels. This is the same course that was offered in Fall 2016 and Winter 2017.

Taught by: Philip Chan, Shereen Hamdy, Takako Hirokawa, Warren Jin, Victoria Rosborough, Ph.D. students in Electrical & Computer Engineering

Winter 2017 Courses

Curveballs and peanut butter: Fluid physics in our daily lives

Fluids are everywhere around us, as water and air, as blood in our veins, and as a major constituent in everything we eat. In this course, we will learn the fundamental physics of fluid behavior, and use this to explore seemingly complex fluid-related phenomena. We will learn, among other things, about scientifically perfect curveballs; how some insects walk on water; how deep one may safely snorkel; and how to design the perfect shampoo, conditioner, or peanut butter. We will see how scientists and engineers use fluid dynamics in applications ranging from biotechnology to the weather, and in making life better on the international space station.

Taught by: Dr. Harishankar Manikantan, Postdoctoral Researcher in Chemical Engineering

Tools and technologies to explore the world

We use geographic information to make decisions about everything, from planning the route to take to school to deciding where to build a house. But, who mapped that information and how is it collected so that can be used to represent the real world accurately? In this class we will learn how different technologies are used to produce geographic data such as satellite imagery, aerial photographs and maps; also, how those data sources can be enriched by information reported by lay people from the ground. This course covers computer labs and fieldwork using GPS devices and a drone.

Taught by: Marcela Suárez, Ph.D. student in Geography

Our wormy world

Parasites??? Gross!!! Although they usually evoke feelings of revulsion and even fear, parasites also display incredible diversity, undergo fascinating changes throughout their life cycles, and play important roles in ecosystems. And they’re more common than you might think - scientists estimate that about half of the species on our planet are parasites! In this course, you will get to know this under-appreciated group of organisms up close and personal. We will explore the evolution of parasitism, dissect hosts, use microscopes to observe live and preserved specimens, and discuss implications for human health. Prerequisite: a strong stomach.

Taught by: Dr. Julia Buck, Postdoctoral Researcher in the Marine Sciences Institute

Physics of lasers and light

Lasers and light influence everyone’s daily life though most people wouldn’t think so. With scientific demonstrations and hands-on experiments, we will discover what light is made of and how new and old technology use light. What makes a laser different from other sources of light and why are lasers important in modern society? How do phones and the internet use light? Where does the energy on this earth come from? Why is the sky blue? How is modern laser technology used in medicine, astronomy, and self-driving cars? Why am I asking all of these seemingly unrelated questions? Join this course if you would like to find out!  This is the same course as was offered in Fall 2016.

Taught by: Philip Chan, Shereen Hamdy, Takako Hirokawa, Warren Jin, Victoria Rosborough, Ph.D. students in Electrical & Computer Engineering


Fall 2016 Courses

Brains: uncensored

Imagine a pink elephant. No such thing exists in the real world, yet how did your brain produce that image? The brain is the least understood of all human organs, yet it is the seed of our consciousness. This course is designed to help you uncover the mystery that is the brain through different exercises, one including looking at a real human brain! Topics will range from memory, brain mapping, neurological diseases, all the way up to addiction. 

Taught by: Christina Shin, Ph.D. student in Psychology & Brain Sciences

Physics of lasers and light

Lasers and light influence everyone’s daily life though most people wouldn’t think so. With scientific demonstrations and hands-on experiments, we will discover what light is made of and how new and old technology use light. What makes a laser different from other sources of light and why are lasers important in modern society? How do phones and the internet use light? Where does the energy on this earth come from? Why is the sky blue? How is modern laser technology used in medicine, astronomy, and self-driving cars? Why am I asking all of these seemingly unrelated questions? Join this course if you would like to find out!

Taught by: Eric Stanton, Ph.D. student in Electrical & Computer Engineering

Brain Hacks: thinking clearly with a deceitful brain

Can you trust what you see on the news? How reliable are your memories? How do scientists sift through the data to differentiate fact from fiction? Our brains trick us every day, presenting feelings as facts and making us think we know and remember things that we actually don't. In this course you'll learn how to be skeptical of your own mind, and the information that enters it. You'll learn the tools that scientists use to design experiments and make logical deductions, and that the "facts" we see all around us aren't always as reliable as they seem.

Taught by: Jamie Wilcox, Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering

Creative Programming for Data Visualization

Have you used social media like Instagram? Did you ever think of what else you can do besides posting photos? Imagine there is a huge dataset behind your App. What if you get the access to extract hundreds or thousands of raw data from it? In this course, you will be introduced to a brand new subject called data visualization, which combines art, computer science, and psychology. And you will get hands-on programming opportunities to visualize your or your friends' Instagram data. What comes up to your mind? A dynamic photo collage? an interactive comment word cloud? your popularity flow? Get ready for more creative ideas. No worries if you don’t have any programming experience.

Taught by: Jing YAN, Masters student in Media Art & Technology

Winter 2016 Courses

Amgen Biotechnology Experience

The Amgen Biotechnology Experience or ABE provides students the opportunity to work with recombinant DNA techniques to introduce new genes into an organism and have that organism produce new proteins. In this course, students will participate in a series of labs that are similar to the labs currently used by the biotechnological industry to develop therapeutic drugs such as Insulin.

Taught by: Walter Aminger, Ph.D. student in Science Education

Coastal California amid Climate Change

How are our oceans changing in terms of temperature, sea level, and acidity? How are species that depend on oceans—Homo sapiens included—adapting or struggling to adapt to these changes? Through hands-on experiments, climate data analysis, role-play decision-making processes, and fieldwork, we will explore climate change through the lenses of the global ocean and the California coast. By the end of the course, you will use the knowledge you’ve gained to advise government officials in what steps to take in order to prepare coastal communities for climate change.

Taught by: Tammy Elwell, Ph.D. student in Geography

Secrets of the Brain: Insights in Neuroscience

How does a 3 pound mass of gray tissue (the brain) control everything we see and do? This course will cover the fundamentals of neuroscience using exemplary neurological case studies that have helped researchers understand how the brain works. Topics covered will include brain mapping, neurodegenerative disease and addiction. Students will have the opportunity to see modern tools used for studying the brain as well as a real brain! If you’ve ever wondered how the brain works, this is the course for you!

Taught by: Dr. Philip Vieira, Postdoctoral Reseacher in Psychology and Brain Sciences

What’s going on in your cellphone?

Some of us might have heard of the term material science, but for many, it is an unfamiliar term. While we can easily tell apart metal, glass, and plastic, do we truly understand their unique properties and differences? Can metal shatter like glass? Can plastic conduct electricity? The interdisciplinary field of material science, however, is at the core of a very familiar object: the modern cell phone. Batteries, polymers, semiconductors and glasses are constantly improving in the laboratory and literally being placed in the palm of our hands. During each week of this exploratory course, we will explore some of the underlying materials that go into cell phones, participate in a few exercises to demonstrate the concepts learned, an take a look at some of the research facilities in which advances in materials science are happening.

Taught by: Micha Fireman, Ph.D. student in Materials

Fall 2015 Courses

Amgen Biotechnology Experience

The Amgen Biotechnology Experience or ABE provides students the opportunity to work with recombinant DNA techniques to introduce new genes into an organism and have that organism produce new proteins. In this course, students will participate in a series of labs that are similar to the labs currently used by the biotechnological industry to develop therapeutic drugs such as Insulin.

Taught by: Walter Aminger, Ph.D. student in Science Education

Behavioral Ecology – Animal Action and Reaction

We observe animal behavior every day: human cooperation (or non-cooperation), migrating monarch butterflies, and calling birds, just to name a few. But why do animals behavior in these ways? This course explores this question by integrating animal behavior observations & experiments, lecture material, and group discussions & activities. Topics include predator-prey interactions, communication, sexual selection, and conflict & cooperation. Students will learn how to observe animal behavior through a scientific lens and apply the scientific method to test behavioral theories.

Taught by: Emily Wilson, Ph.D. student in department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology

Convergence of technologies to understand life process

Can you think of problems which bring together different disciplines in order to be addressed effectively? Techniques and methods constantly applied in one discipline could have a significant impact in another discipline. Modern biology is at the receiving end of several tools/methods constantly used in Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Computer Science, etc. Each of these bring valuable pieces of quantifiable data which when taken together could assist in answering important biological questions. In this course, students will be introduced to some of the commonly employed physical/chemical/engineering tools used to dissect biological problems. Participants will be able to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of problems in biomedical sciences through demonstration of some of the methods, small group discussions, debates and project propositions.

Taught by: Dr. Prasanna Srinivasan, Otis Williams Postdoctoral Fellow in the Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering

The Waves That Move You

Waves are all around us – two of our five senses depend on waves; we live close to a seismic fault that generates waves both on land and water; we surf waves in the ocean; we listen to music; we communicate wirelessly with our smartphones. We will learn about what waves are, how waves work, how to detect them, and how to generate them. Some topics we will cover are reflection, refraction, interference, diffraction, detection of waves. The class will build on the students’ knowledge to develop an understanding of properties of waves through hands-on exercises. We will conclude with building a radio – a simple detector of the electromagnetic waves that are all around us. It's recommended that you have taken high-school Geometry and Algebra.

Taught by: Dr. Amitabh Ghoshal, researcher with the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies

Winter 2015 Courses

From atoms to iPhone: the chemistry, physics, and materials science of modern electronics (Back by Popular Demand!)

What do sand and computers have in common? Both are composed primarily of silicon, in the form of quartz (SiO2) for sand and single crystalline Si for computer chips. In this course, we will examine how the atomic scale properties of silicon and other semiconductors are used to build macro scale devices like personal computers and smartphones. After learning the theory of semiconductors, we will perform firsthand experiments with them in UCSB labs. Cutting edge technologies, where these materials are grown, one atomic layer at a time will also be toured. We will also learn how their electronic properties are measured, as well as how to image and manipulate single atoms using scanning tunneling microscopy, in turn, seeing engineering at its extreme. Lectures will be supplemented with exercises in the UCSB labs, where over the course of 5 weeks we will fabricate and characterize diodes, which are the basic building block for many logic devices.

Taught by: Mihir Pendharkar and Tobias Brown-Heft, Ph.D. students in Electrical & Computer Engineering

Introduction to Programming, Robotics, and Control Theory

Computers outnumber humans on planet Earth, and they impact almost every aspect of our lives. So it's increasingly valuable to know how they work and how to control them. In this class you will learn how to program computers in order to control robots. You'll work in teams to program a Roomba-like robot to perform exciting tasks based on the robot's locomotion and sensor capabilities. You'll write code to make the robot react to its environment, which forms the basis for the wild world of feedback control. Most importantly, you'll learn to translate high-level goals like "push this hockey puck into the goal" into a language the machine understands. These skills are fundamental to broad fields like Computer Science, Control Theory, and Mobile Robotics. This course provides a heavily hands-on and project-based learning environment, and no previous programming experience is required!

Taught by: David Copp and Justin Pearson, PhD Students in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical/Computer Engineering

Light and Matter Collide

What do solar panels, comet tails, redwood trees, and your eyes have in common? All of these rely on interactions between light and matter for their function. In this course we will explore the fundamental nature of light (photons) and matter (particles) and learn how interactions between photons and particles drive many of the phenomena we observe in the world around us. We will also explore how we can harness light-matter interactions to solve real-world problems, like developing new cancer treatments, creating clean energy sources, and reversing blindness. This class will incorporate demos, hands-on experiments, and class discussions as we explore this interdisciplinary topic.

Taught by: Stacy Copp, PhD Student in Physics

Reading the Earth: From Atoms to Earthquakes

How do geologists determine the cause of volcanic eruptions, discover the location of mineral resources, or decipher the history behind the beautiful landscapes in our backyard? The answers lie in the earth itself, from the microscopic crystals that form rocks to the shape and distribution of the continents. The purpose of this course is to introduce earth processes, as well as the techniques and tools we use to understand them. As geology is a multidisciplinary science, classes will draw on aspects of chemistry, physics, biology, math, and also the ability to think creatively, in order to work through hands-on exercises that expose students to a range of geologic materials and analytical techniques. You will learn how to ‘read’ the earth at a variety of spatial scales, such as examining rocks under an optical microscope, mapping and interpreting landforms and geologic structures at the beach, and identifying global scale plate tectonic interactions using satellite imagery.

Taught by: Sophie Briggs and Brenna Quigley, PhD Students in Earth Science

Fall 2014 Courses

An Introductory Course in Digital Imaging

Digital Imaging has become so commonplace that we tend to forget how complicated the process of generating, storing and displaying digital image is. This field has demonstrated its worth in a variety of fields from education to medicine and is one of most active research fields. In this course we will learn and understand how an image is captured, compressed, stored, edited, etc. We will also take a look at other sensing devices like Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect sensor, Light Field cameras (Lytro cameras), etc. This course will have in class demonstrations, hands-on experiments and in-class discussions.

Taught by: Abhishek Badki, PhD Student in Electrical and Computer Engineering

Your Brain In Action

Do you enjoy playing sports, dancing, or playing a musical instrument? When you move—from brushing your teeth or catching a ball—your brain needs to coordinate all your muscles in an orderly, efficient way. In this class, we will learn how the brain accomplishes this complex task. We will study the neuroscience of movement, including how the brain sends relevant commands to muscles, how the brains of professional athletes and other experts are organized, and how neuroscientists and engineers are using brain-machine interfaces to help paralyzed patients move again. We will do demonstrations and hands-on activities to help explain interesting phenomena in motor control, and discuss a few strategies for enhancing motor skills. You will also have the opportunity to see first-hand some of the state-of-the-art techniques neuroscientists are currently using to study the human brain.

Taught by: Deborah Barany, Ph.D. student in Dynamical Neuroscience.

Chemical Catalysis: Making Sustainable Chemistry Possible

Chemistry drives the world around us. Everything from food to electronics, medicine to textiles, requires complex chemical processes to function. The U.S. chemical industry is the largest in the world, and it consumes approximately 29% of total industrial energy consumption in the U.S., and contributes in similar proportions to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. As our carbon footprint grows, we are constantly looking for more efficient methods to carry out chemical reactions. Catalysts offer a sustainable solution to inefficient chemistry. In this class we will explore catalysis and discover the inner workings of this intriguingly efficient phenomenon. This class will provide you with hands-on lab experience and give you the freedom to openly explore some interesting reactions in an inquiry based setting.

Taught by: Chris Bernt, Megan Chui, Maxwell Fisch, Robert Lewis PhD Students in Chemistry and Materials

Plastic Fantastic

So called plastic electronics based on semiconducting polymers have recently emerged as a promising technology with many large scale and niche applications from displays for cell phones to flexible solar panels to clothing integrated devices. This course will present an overview of polymers and their many applications with a focus on flexible plastic electronic devices including LEDs, transistors and solar cells. Basic concepts about polymers and electronic devices will be conveyed through interactive lectures, demonstrations and labs. Students will explore the properties of different plastics while making their own polymers and optoelectronic devices.

Taught by: Michael Ford and Chris Proctor, PhD Students Materials

Winter 2014 Courses

From atoms to iPhone: the chemistry, physics, and materials science of modern electronics

What do sand and computers have in common? Both are composed primarily of silicon, in the form of quartz (SiO2) for sand and single crystalline Si for computer chips. In this course, we will examine how the atomic scale properties of silicon and other semiconductors are used to build macro scale devices like personal computers and smartphones. After learning the theory of semiconductors, we will perform firsthand experiments with them in UCSB labs. Cutting edge technologies, where these materials are grown, one atomic layer at a time will also be toured. We will also learn how their electronic properties are measured, as well as how to image and manipulate single atoms using scanning tunneling microscopy, in turn, seeing engineering at its extreme. Lectures will be supplemented with exercises in the UCSB labs, where over the course of 5 weeks we will fabricate and characterize diodes, which are the basic building block for many logic devices.

Taught by: Mihir Pendharkar and Jason Kawasaki, Ph.D. students in Electrical & Computer Engineering and Materials.

Forms and patterns in nature

Everything takes up space. From all the diverse and beautiful things we find in nature, it's easy to jump to the conclusion that everything takes up space in its own way. However, if you look closely, many things adopt forms or patterns that are similar, even if these things exist in very different places. Lightning bolts branch like the limbs of trees and the arteries of so many bodies. Galaxies spiral like draining water. Mud cracks into shapes resembling bunches of bubbles and plates on a turtle shell. Scientists, mathematicians, and other observant people have come to realize that simple rules of nature can fashion wondrous harmonies of designs. With a little observational and experimental work of our own, along with some algebra and geometry, we will explore the physical significance of common forms and patterns in nature and why things take up space the way they do.

Taught by: Levi Miller, PhD Student in Materials

It’s not easy being green: The secret life of plants and how they affect our everyday lives

How to plants interact with the world around them to acquire resources and sustain life? How do plants affect our daily lives? Human land-use and urbanization have put our California flora in peril. Climate change is also affecting native ecosystems, but there are things we can do to help. This course will give students with the knowledge and tools to tackle environmental issues by providing general knowledge of plants and ecosystems. Through hands-on learning in both indoor and outdoor settings, we will cover a range of topics including basic botany, anatomy, ecology, and climate change. The emphasis will be on acquiring botanical knowledge through active learning while also demonstrating the role of plants in the everyday lives of all of us. Students will walk away with an enhanced understanding of the natural world and an appreciation for their role in it.

Taught by: Heather Schneider, PhD – Postdoctoral researcher in Ecology, Evolution, & Marine Biology and Lynn Sweet, PhD – Postdoctoral researcher in Bren School of Environmental Science and Management

A Twist on Light: The Underlying Importance of Chirality

Chirality can be the difference for drugs to save your life or put it in danger, sugars to taste sweet or tasteless, and biomolecules to function or not. Chirality occurs when molecules have mirror images of themselves that are not superimposable; This seemingly simple aspect carries a lot of weight into their chemical and optical properties. A common example of chirality is your hands: one is a mirror image of the other, put them on top of each other and see how they do not align! This class will focus on what chirality is in regards to molecules, its relation to light, and how it plays an important role in our everyday lives. This will include demos and a chance at a hands on experiment.

Taught by: Steven Swasey, PhD Student in Chemistry and Biochemistry

Fall 2013 Courses

Experiencing nano-scale objects in everyday life

Just how small is a nanometer? Can nano-scale objects and interactions really impact our day-to-day experiences? Over the previous decade, the emerging paradigm of “nanotechnology” has received an increasing amount of attention from many popular news sources, with many experts claiming that tiny, nano-scale innovations are going to have a gigantic impact on our everyday lives. In this course, we will explore the ways that nano-scale objects and interactions – many of which naturally exist, independent of any technological applications – already impact many of our daily experiences, for example why ice floats on water. Further, this course will discuss how scientific insights into the nano-scale world are leveraged by scientists and engineers to develop various nanotechnologies. Throughout the course, students will have opportunities to participate in hands-on demonstrations that illuminate the connections between the nano- and macro-scale worlds. Students will also have a chance to see how an important nanotech research tool – an atomic force microscope – works.

Taught by: Matt Gebbie, PhD Students in Materials

Thinking Robotics: Teaching Robots to Make Decisions

Are robots science or science fiction? What do you think of when you think of a robot? Do you think of Transformers and the Terminator, or do you think of a vacuum cleaner like the Roomba? Robots are a thing of reality and they exist everywhere, many times in places you wouldn't expect. How DOES something like the Roomba see its surroundings and know how to react? It seems like magic, but in reality it's just a matter of utilizing some simple physics and logic. Controlling a robot is very challenging, especially in an imperfect world; figuring out how to do this is the essence of "control systems", and what we will focus on in this class. Students will gain hands on experience building hardware and programming robots to perform tasks of varying complexity. Their experiences will culminate in a group based competition to show off what they've learned.

Taught by: Rush Patel and Jeff Peters, PhD Students in Mechanical Engineering

Great Discoveries in Astronomy

This course will cover the scientific principles and tools that allow us to know our universe by recreating the "eureka" moments of such figures as Pythagoras, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Einstein, Hubble, and others. Astronomy is both the oldest and the newest science in that there is more uncharted territory than ever before! From measuring the motions of the planets to the moments of the big bang, from the origins of life to falling into a black hole we'll learn how we know what we know (and what we don't know) about the universe and our place in it.

Taught by: Elijah Quetin, PhD Students in Physics

Getting a Piggyback Ride: Modeling the Effects of Teams on Wages in Major League Baseball

Economics is not just a study of financial transactions; it is the study of human interaction. Unlike most fields that study human behavior, economics relies on math and statistics to model the way we interact with each other and our environment. Think of it as the “physics” of human interaction. Although this course focuses on the “physics” underpinning the relationships between Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, their players, and the resulting wages paid to those players, the techniques learned in this course are used to analyze every facet of human behavior. But in order to truly understand how to model human interaction, students will be taught a simple, yet powerful modeling tool called ordinary least squares. Students will get to use this tool and build their own economic models from actual MLB data. By the end of the course, students will have a basic understanding of economic modeling and its incredible power…and know a little bit more about baseball.

Taught by: Tom Zimmerfaust, PhD Students in Economics

Winter 2013 Courses

Greening Your Eggs and Ham

In the United States, approximately 30% of our food goes to waste. What kind of impacts does this have on our environment? How can we help lower that number? In this course, we will learn how to make smart choices about the food we eat, and we will learn about the consequences these choices have on the environment. Over the five weeks, you will work in small teams to design your very own restaurant concept, while learning how to make it as sustainable as possible. This course will feature hands-on activities, demonstrations, presentations, and group discussions so that we can all learn from one another. We will examine issues related to agriculture, seafood, waste, greenhouse gases, and more. By the end of the course, you will know how to make great choices about food every day.

Taught by: Jessica Mkitarian and Sarah Stark, Masters students in the Bren Environmental Science and Management Program

Thinking Robotics: Teaching Robots to Make Decisions

Are robots science or science fiction? What do you think of when you think of a robot? Do you think of Transformers and the Terminator, or do you think of a vacuum cleaner like the Roomba? Robots are a thing of reality and they exist everywhere, many times in places you wouldn't expect. How DOES something like the Roomba see its surroundings and know how to react? It seems like magic, but in reality it's just a matter of utilizing some simple physics and logic. Controlling a robot is very challenging, especially in an imperfect world. Figuring out how to do this is the essence of "control systems".

Taught by: Rush Patel and Jeff Peters, PhD Students in Mechanical Engineering

Robotics experience video created by student participant.

This is the Brain on Drugs: The Neuroscience of Addiction

In 2010, an estimated 22.1 million Americans aged 12 or older abused drugs – that’s 8.7% of the population! Why is it that so many individuals abuse drugs despite their negative consequences? A growing body of research suggests that drug addiction develops in part from the ability of drugs to alter brain activity. In this course we will explore the neurobiological and behavioral changes resulting from drug administration and the transition from casual drug use to addiction. We will discuss structural and functional neuroanatomy and explore the gross anatomy of real human brains. We will discover how neuroscientists study the brain and addiction in human and animal subjects. Finally, we will learn how various drugs of abuse are absorbed by the body, enter the brain, and produce their psychoactive effects.

Taught by: Jennifer Wenzel, PhD Student in Psychology and Brain Sciences

Biomimicry – Inspiration from Nature

Biomimicry is the imitation of a model organism, system or element from nature to solve human problems. One of the earliest examples was da Vinci’s “flying machine” which was inspired by his fascination on the anatomy and flight ability of birds. Today, we continue to be inspired by Nature’s design and usage of simple biological materials that rival the properties of man-made materials. In this course, our aim is to bring more attention to this topic from an interdisciplinary focus of biology, material science and engineering with demonstrations of basic techniques that are used today. Our main example throughout the course will be on the squid beak which its composition is based on 4 simple materials: chitin, proteins, water, and pigments. These simple materials can be structured and hardened into the beak capable of cutting through its prey like a knife without damaging the soft tissue of the squid.

Taught by: Daryl Taketa PhD Student in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and YerPeng Tan, PhD Student in Biomolecular Science and Engineering.

The Power of Being Different: Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine

Have you ever wondered why a salamander can regrow its tail and arms after they’ve been cut off, but we (humans) can’t regenerate our missing body parts? Have you heard about the hot topic of stem cells in the media, but you’re looking for a more scientific description? Are you interested in how scientists are unleashing the power of stem cells for radical medical treatments and therapeutics? Stem cells are unique because they can self renew and differentiate into other cell types. The Power of Being Different: Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, will introduce you to several types of stem cells, their basic biology, how they are currently being used to fight human diseases and the ethical responsibilities of stem cell researchers. We will use actual, published articles from the literature to see how the scientific method is applied to real world stem cell research. Then, students will form their own hypotheses while conducting an experiment with planarian flatworms.

Taught by: Britney Pennington, PhD Student in Biomolecular Science and Engineering.

Fall 2012 Courses

iTrust: A trustworthy approach to centralized, distributed,and mobile search mechanisms over the Internet

Everyone now uses Google, Yahoo, or Bing to search and retrieve information. But have you thought of how these centralized search engines store their data behind, how they retrieve, and how they rank the results to you? In addition, now our trust in the accessibility of information over the Internet and the Web depends on benign and unbiased administration of centralized search engines. But can we depend on these administrators to remain benign and unbiased in the future? In this course, you will understand what are the differences between centralized and distributed search engines, learning their trade-offs, then explore/experience with our iTrust gadgets (HTTP version on laptop/desktop, SMS version over cell phones, and Wi-Fi direct version over tablets), understand simple statistical equations behind iTrust, learn how iTrust detect/defend some possible attacks over the network, and finally learn how we retrieve and rank the information.

Taught by: Yung-Ting Chuang, PhD Student in Electrical and Computer Engineering

An Introduction to Plastic Materials and Polymer Synthesis

Taught by: Sameh Hemly, PhD Student in Chemistry and Biochemistry

This Is Your Mind on School

In school you've probably learned a lot of study strategies, but have you ever wondered which ones actually work? Cognitive psychology is the study of human memory, reasoning, perception, and problem solving. In this class we╒ll find out what cognitive psychologists have discovered about how people learn. First, we'll go over principles of learning and myths about education. Then we'll teach study skills and strategies based on these principles that will help you excel in high school and college-level classes. We'll do demonstrations about working memory, false memories, and memory tricks. Students will be encouraged to practice strategies, participate in group discussion, and to learn everything they want to know about how the human mind works.

Taught by: Logan Fiorella and Celeste Pilegard, PhD Students in Psychology and Brain Sciences

The Bones Don't Lie: An Introduction to Forensic Anthropology

Are you fascinated by forensics shows on television? Have you ever wondered how scientists can learn about a person's life through the study their bones? Human bones offer a permanent record of people's lives -- they aid in the identification of missing persons and help solve cold cases. In this class, you are going to participate in several hands-on activities, beginning with how to tell the difference between human and non-human bones. I will teach you how forensic anthropologists determine the sex, age, and height of a person. We will examine traumatic injuries on the human skull, and learn how to take measurements for different bones in the skeleton. You will also have an opportunity to use innovative 3D laser scanners that are used to make digital models of human bones used in forensic research.

Taught by: Susan Kuzminsky, PhD Student in Anthropology

Fossils and the History of Life

The main purpose of this course is to examine real fossils, learn how they form, and understand what they can tell us about the history of life and the evolutionary processes that have shaped this history. Along the way we'll examine the sometimes humorous and mythological ways ancient people interpreted fossils; learn how the scientific method leads us to examine new evidence and propose reasonable explanations; marvel at the immensity of time; and discover how and where fossils are still being collected all over the world. Special attention will be given to some of life's biggest moments: the earliest evidence for life, worldwide mass extinctions, and important transitions leading to key innovations (e.g., fish to early tetrapods, early amniotes to mammals, dinosaurs to birds). It should be emphasized that our goal is to make this as hands-on as possible - so that you can see for yourself evidence of life that is millions if not BILLIONS of years old.

Taught by: Daniel Luna, PhD Student in Earth Science

Winter 2012 Courses

Sustainable Energy: Fact and Fiction

Sustainable energy is one of today's most discussed, yet misunderstood concepts. From saving the world to sinking the economy, there's nothing it supposedly can't achieve. But what does it mean to be sustainable? What is the environmental impact of fossil fuels and when will their supply run out? How do solar and other alternative energy resources compare? In this class you'll not only learn the science behind these technologies and get hands-on experience, but you'll see how this knowledge is critical to evaluating their viability and making sensible energy policy decisions. Today’s choices determine tomorrow’s future. How would you decide to manage energy in our society?

Taught by: Phillip Barton and Raj Purkayastha, PhD Students in Materials

Life as a Robot

Imagine you want to escape from a hostile environment, how do you find your way out? In this course we will have the opportunity to put our robots in that same situation, program them to escape and then watch as the robots zoom out of harms way or not. That being said, we are going to have hands-on group projects using IRobot Creates. More specifically, we will touch on: military robotics, algorithm design, path planning, geometry and Java programming. NOTICE that this course is similar to Jason's ROSIE course, so if you have participated in that course you will be taking a lead role and helping me teach.

Taught by: Anahita Mirtabatabaei, PhD Student in Mechanical Engineering

Mind-Wandering & Mindfulness: The Science and Practice of Non-Distraction

Do you daydream during class or mind-wander while reading? Have you heard about meditators who can sit motionless for hours with laser-like focus? How people maintain focus (mindfulness) or get distracted (mind-wandering) is cutting-edge scientific research. In a world where schools and jobs require us to focus for far longer than the typical attention span, how well you focus impacts performance during class, sports, and even the SATs. Fortunately, attention can be trained to improve performance and even quality of life. This course will i) review our state-of-the-art scientific understanding of mindfulness and mind-wandering, ii) teach you how to think like a scientist investigating these topics, and iii) provide evidence-based training to improve your ability to focus. Almost everything we learn, we can immediately try to observe or test in our own experience. We will conduct experiments using computer-based laboratory methods to measure our own mind-wandering and observe whether it changes as we practice mindfulness. We will also meet a meditation master who spent more than a decade in full-time meditation retreat.

Taught by: Michael Mrazek, PhD Student in Psychology and Brain Sciences

Thermodynamics: The force of heat

Did you know that the same principles governing the operation of an engine are also responsible for how your DNA folds? They are! Thermodynamics is an integral part of all of our lives and can be used to describe nearly all things around us. Through a series of demonstrations, involving explosions, and hands-on experiments we will explore such thermodynamic principles as heat transfer and randomness.

Taught by: Danielle Schultz, PhD Student in Chemistry

If Rocks Could Talk...

Have you ever wondered how the bluffs above the beach formed, or whether an earthquake could happen in your backyard? The very rocks themselves can tell you the answers to these questions and more, if you just know how to ask them. In this course, you will learn to do just that by thinking like an earth scientist and reading the geologic record. We will explore how ancient earthquakes are recorded on the earth’s surface by using remote sensing and topography to identify faults and measure the amount of slip on them; take a trip to the beach to calculate the rate of surface uplift on campus; and determine the age of a rock by zapping minerals with a laser and then sending the vaporized material through a plasma roughly the temperature of the sun. We will also connect such hands-on activities and data analysis to major themes in earth science.

Taught by: Becky Streit, PhD Student in Earth Science

Fall 2011 Courses

High Speed Impact: Ballistics, Armor and Potato Cannons

What happens when materials collide at Mach 10? Is it even possible to observe such an event in any meaningful way? In this course we'll learn the answers to these questions and more through hands-on activities and demonstrations of the cutting edge research tools and facilities at UCSB. We will use the Ballistic Lab's high speed gas gun, capable of launching 1/2" ball bearings at speeds of up to 4000 m/s, along with a high speed camera to conduct and observe a ballistic impact event. Then we'll explore the material behavior during the impact through sophisticated computer simulation software. Finally, to demonstrate and review the topics from previous classes, students will fabricate and test their own "experimental apparatus": a potato cannon.

Taught by: Brett Compton, PhD Student in Materials

Biomimicry: Discovering Biological Solutions to Technological Problems


With the goal of devising new bio-inspired "smart" materials, we will investigate the relationship between structure and function in biology on the microscale and on the nanoscale. Some well-studied examples of functional biomaterials include the directional and reversible adhesion of gecko feet, the waterproof texturing of lotus leaves, and the superelastic springs of high-jumping fleas. Natural technologies are plentiful, and many of the design principles that have the potential to help people are still awaiting our discovery. In this course, we will first collect various samples from insects, animals, and plants, and image their microstructural features in a scanning electron microscope. We will then form hypotheses about the biological problems these features solve, and discuss how such solutions might benefit human technology. Finally, we will explore methods of micromechanical testing before delving into the nanoworld. To conclude the course we will actually stretch DNA using “magnetic tweezers,” a technology being developed in the Saleh lab at UCSB.

Taught by: Andrew Dittmore, PhD Student in Materials

Power and Green Energy: from Generation to Distribution

Think of how many times you turned a light switch on and off today, probably without even thinking about it. In the US we enjoy a robust electrical power system, unlike some nations. However, despite a growing interest in energy efficiency and green energy, the US is still highly reliant on fossil fuels for our electricity and to power our cars. In this course we will take a look at how the modern energy infrastructure works 24/7 to deliver our power, and the science behind the generation and distribution of our power. We will also take a look at green energy sources like wind and solar, and how energy can be consumed more efficiently. During the course students will build their own electrical generator, solar car (which they will turn into a hybrid!), and more.

Taught by: Matthew Guidry, PhD Student in Electrical and Computer Engineering

Studying the Symphony of Waves: the Physics of Music and the Music of Physics

What makes a trumpet and a violin sound completely different? How do speakers, microphones, noise canceling headphones, and speech recognition programs work? Waves are at the heart of nearly every physical phenomenon, from the music of concert halls to the twinkling of stars – even the peculiar world of quantum mechanics. We will investigate these profound origins and consequences through a series of interactive demos and experiments including building speakers from scratch and recording students playing various instruments to understand their underlying characteristics and unique musical thumbprints.

Taught by: Michael Johnson, PhD Student in Physics

Intergroup Relations: Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination from the Field of Social Psychology (watch video introduction)

Social groups often play a significant role in our lives. More specifically, race, gender, and sexual orientation inevitably become integrally connected to the way we see ourselves and others. In this course we will review and discuss topics pertaining to intergroup relations from a social psychological perspective. We will cover the latest social psychological research on stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination and discuss how this theoretical discipline might be used to improve human relations. Students will be encouraged to relate material covered in class to their own lives, to participate in class experiment demonstrations, and to engage in group discussions throughout the course.

Taught by: Nate Way, PhD Student in Psychology

Winter 2011 Courses

Change, Change, Change (watch video introduction)

How do animals and plants respond to changes in temperature or proximity of a predator or herbivore? How do these changes influence larger trends in community traits such as diversity, composition, and energy transfer? Answers to these types of questions not only form the basis for our understanding of natural communities, but they also offer insight on how climate change, ocean acidification, and other large-scale changes may impact ecological communities. Using the rocky intertidal as our lab site, we will explore the impacts of environmental variation on species, interactions, communities, and ecosystems and offer students a ground-up introduction to ecology and ecological research. Daily lab sessions will focus on hands-on experiments and data interpretation, and the class will also spend one session visiting a local field site. Course website:

Taught by: Stephen Gosnell, PhD Student in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology

ROSIE: Robotics Opportunities for Students In Engineering (watch video introduction)

Do you like robots? Would you like to learn more about how they work, and how to control them? If so, consider taking my SST course called ROSIE (Robotics Opportunities for Students In Engineering) in honor of Rosie, the first robotic vacuum cleaner from “The Jetsons”. You will learn about robot technologies and different aspects of robotics engineering. The format will include short lectures followed by hands-on group labs in which each group will write programs and run experiments using the iRobot Create. The course will culminate with a team based design contest on the final day. The specific topics to be covered include robotics history and robotics technologies such as sensors, actuators, algorithms, and programming.

Taught by: Jason Isaacs, PhD student in Electrical and Computer Engineering

Discovering the Brain: From Synapse to Behavior (watch video introduction)

How is it that you're capable of coordinating your body to play soccer, surf, play an instrument or video game? How do you recognize a friend when you run into them at the movies? How do you carry out a conversations throughout the day? These are just a few examples of behaviors that are coordinated by a big mass of tissue within your skull - the brain. In this course, we will discuss brain systems that allow people to complete a variety of behaviors, including activities involving movement, memory, and language. Cases of patients with brain damage will be covered. Students will also have the opportunity to see a real brain and will learn about techniques used to measure human brain activity.

Taught by: Arianne Johnson, PhD student in Psychology

Solving the Mysteries of Neuroscience with Genetically Engineered Mice (watch video introduction)

Did you know that some of your brain is showing? It’s true! The retina, tissue that lines the back of your eye, is actually a part of your central nervous system. The creation of this complex structure is tightly controlled by the turning “on” and “off” of numerous genes. In this course, students will use genetically engineered mice to determine the role of a particular gene in the development of the retina. Students will learn about basic neuroscience concepts and will apply their knowledge during hands-on laboratory sessions. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about your own brain and the tools scientists use to study it, then come join our class this winter.

Taught by Patrick Keeley and Irene Whitney, PhD students in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Random Walks in Physics, Biology and Finance (watch video introduction)

This course is an introduction to a subject that lies at the intersection of geometry and probability. Random walks describe processes that are ubiquitous in nature and are important in the understanding of many physical phenomenon and technological applications. They are also an indispensable tool in many areas of mathematical research and in computer algorithms. Combining a presentation of the basic mathematical and physical characteristics of random walks with their applications in several fields, this course aims to provide a broad introduction to the subject while highlighting several key properties. Through hands-on simulation and data analysis we will attempt to discover some of these properties in (and out) of the classroom. The application portion of the course includes discussion of topics such as polymer physics, heat diffusion, cell biology and mathematical finance.

Taught by: Daniel Malinow, PhD student in Physics

Fall 2010 Courses

Molecules in Motion: Using Simulation to Understand Reality (watch video introduction)

We are surrounded by molecules and made of them, too. In this class, rather than investigating these molecules by running chemistry experiments, we will use computer simulation to explore why molecules act the way they do. We will look at molecules that help us breathe and molecules that react to reduce car emissions. We will also tour one of the computer facilities that researchers use to explore our world. A good understanding of algebra and geometry is highly recommended, and any knowledge of calculus and programming will be useful, but certainly not required.

Taught by: Debbie Audus, PhD student in Chemical Engineering

What Are Radio Waves, Really? The Science, Engineering, and Business of Radio (watch video introduction)

What do you think of when you heard the word radio? Do you imagine an old, bulky, smelly box? Do you imagine your car stereo? Do you think of your laptop or cell phone? These are all radios! In this class we will explore the science and history of radio waves. We will learn the mathematics of waves, electricity and electronics, the history of radio, and actually build and use radio receivers and transmitters! We will use concepts of algebra and trigonometry to understand radios and electronics.

Taught by: Andy Carter, PhD student in Electrical and Computer Engineering

Nanotechnology: Using the Very Small to Solve the World's Big Problems (watch video introduction)

Nanotechnology or nanoscience deals with science and technology on the nanoscale (one billionth of a meter!). It is a field that is rapidly developing and will be at the forefront of scientific and technological innovation in the 21st century. The course will cover an introduction to nano, as well as it's past, present and future applications in green energy, electronics, materials science and medicine. Each section will have a lecture and discussion on the days topic along with a lab which demonstrates the material we cover that day.

Taught by: Michael Isaacman, PhD student in Chemistry and Biochemistry

Juggling Space and Time: Einstein’s Relativity (watch video introduction)

Relativity is a fascinating aspect of physics that gives us a new way of looking at the world. We'll trace through the same ideas that led Einstein to formulate his theory as well as talk about what makes good scientific evidence and how the process of science works. Einstein's ideas overturned long held views, and fused space and time together into a dynamic entity - spacetime. Travel through time and travel through space are interrelated. Things that are moving near the speed of light are spatially distorted and time appears to move more slowly for them! We'll go through lots of examples of how this works, and talk through many of the apparent 'paradoxes' that crop up when making the transition from Newtonian to Einsteinian ways of thinking. We'll talk about general relativity - Einstein's theory of gravity that gives us black holes, gravity waves, and much more! This class will be discussion and concept based, but we will use some math so familiarity with high school algebra (eg. equation solving & graphing) and geometry is a must. If you're ready to experience a new and challenging way of thinking about the universe, then you'll enjoy this class.

Taught by: Kevin Moore, PhD student in Physics

The Future of Medical Technology (watch video introduction)

Stem cells, gene therapy, tissue engineering. How do they work? In this course, you will learn about a bunch of exciting new medical technologies. We pick look through my genetic data, and find out what diseases may affect me. And then, we will hear some horror stories about gene therapy experiments gone wrong. You will learn how traditional drugs are discovered, and why they're not always the best means for treating diseases. And also, we will talk about new kinds of drugs, like antibodies and nanoparticles. We will discuss stem cells and tissue engineering, techniques for fixing body parts or building new ones. We will briefly discuss healthcare policy, and a concept called P4 medicine. You can argue with me about ethics, try to ask questions that I can't answer, and explore my laboratory. Taking this course should help you choose a college major, and it will give you a sense of how to have a career in medical research, if that's what you want to do.

Taught by: Aaron Rowe, PhD student in Chemistry and Biochemistry

Winter 2010 Courses

The Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) World: Past, Present, and Future (watch video introduction)

RNA is one of the most ancient and versatile molecules involved in the emergence and sustainment of life. The course is designed as an introduction to the biological molecule known as RNA. We will explore the RNA World hypothesis and RNA’s role in the chemical origin of life. The course will investigate the three dimensional structure of RNA and show how it contributes to the numerous roles RNA plays within the cell. Finally, the course will look at the future of RNA in medicine and nanotechnology.

Taught by: Wade Grabow, PhD student in Chemistry and Biochemistry

Surfing the Waves of Light and Matter: The Fundamentals of Quantum Mechanics (watch video introduction)

Step into a world where you can simultaneously be both dead and alive, where you can appear out of thin air, and where all it takes to walk through walls is a stroke of luck. While this seems absurd, this is the physical reality of subatomic particles as governed by the theory of quantum mechanics. We will take advantage of your experience catching waves as we explore the inner-workings of this intricate subatomic universe. A strong understanding of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry is necessary to follow the course. If you are not comfortable with these subjects but are still interested, expect to be challenged mathematically. Any additional understanding of physics and calculus will be useful. Be prepared to leave the familiar world behind!

Taught by: Ann Hermundstad, PhD Student in Physics

The Science of the Very Small: Exploring Nanotechnology (watch video introduction)

Nanotechnology is all around us: science fiction novels, computer chips, and even particles in sunscreen and makeup. Nanotechnology provides fabulous opportunities for innovation, but many people have concerns about its side effects and ramifications. In this class, we will learn what exactly nanotechnology is, how engineers are using it today, and what they hope it will accomplish in the future. We will tour the UCSB nanofabrication facility, which processes scientists and electrical engineers use to design, fabricate, and test objects a thousand times narrower than a human hair!

Taught by: Evan Lobisser, PhD Student in Electrical and Computer Engineering

Field Biology for the Future (watch video introduction)

This course will provide an overview of the skills that field biologists, behavioral ecologists, and ecological immunologists need to conduct research. This course will combine field and lab techniques with some lecture material and group discussions. Students will learn how to identify some of the local Santa Barbara birds, mammals, and reptiles both in the field and in the lab, and will conduct behavioral observations in the field. Students will also help trap wild birds and learn how to collect morphological data on them. Students will run an assay (test) to assess the strength of different birds’ immune systems and will learn how to develop and test predictions and hypotheses by designing and running an experimental study with live animals. Students should be prepared to hike over rough ground and go outside in any weather conditions.

Taught by: Loren Merrill, PhD student in Biology

Understanding a changing world – from molecules to ecosystems (watch video introduction)

Our lives are full of very complex biological-social systems that we often overlook, but that collectively play an enormous role in the earth's rapidly changing climate. Understanding and confronting the ecological challenges of the 21st century demands a citizenship that recognizes the inherently linked nature of our social and ecological systems. The purpose of this course is to develop fundamental concepts in human-ecological systems and how these systems relate to both global change and individual lifestyle. We will do this by scaling from molecular to ecosystem to global level energy fluxes in order to develop a meaningful scientific context to understand the complexities and considerations in calculating carbon costs. The course will include a challenge for students to calculate their own carbon budget over the 5 week period

Taught by: Seeta Sistla, PhD student in Biology

Fall 2009 Courses

Mutants, Spirals, and Riots: The Mathematical Nature of Life (watch video in QuickTime)

Have you ever wondered where the shapes and patterns of sea shells came from, why zebras have stripes, how fish are able to school, or how mutants and freaks of nature lead to evolution? This course aims to discuss a recent revolution in biology: a concerted effort to quantitatively explain the living world around us. Using techniques from physics, chemistry, and mathematics, we will discuss some of the most beautiful and puzzling mysteries of the natural world, and discover simple rules that govern them. Expect lots of participation and activities. A good handle on algebra, geometry, and trigonometry is required to follow the course, and any experience with calculus will be helpful.

Taught by: Dan Balick, PhD student in Physics

Industrial Espionage

In this course we will perform mechanical autopsies (also called "teardowns") of consumer products in order to analyze their design. All students will participate in taking these products apart and figuring out the role and function of each component in the system. We'll have a great time!

Taught by: Juliana Bernal-Ostos, PhD student in Materials Science and David Boy, PhD Student in Mechanical Engineering

Biology and Ecology of Infectious Diseases (watch video in QuickTime)

Do you find yourself glued to the T.V. when "House" or "Monsters inside of me" come on? Are you worried about how bad is the Swine Flu, how you get it, if a vaccine for it exists? If the answer is "YES" to any of these questions then there is a class for you: The biology and ecology of infectious diseases. This course is brief preview of the growing field of the ecology of infectious diseases. Each class session will introduce a “disease of the day,” by covering its biology, ecology, statistics,and history, followed by activities that further explore its intricacies.

Taught by: Alice Nguyen, PhD student in Biology

Rocket and Sock-It (watch video in QuickTime)

Students will learn and use engineering methods to model, design, build and test pressure-powered water rockets and structures for impact absorption (like vehicle crumple zones). Students will have to learn and make use of concepts such as impulse, momentum, drag, and buckling, among others, while they develop skills in team problem solving, modeling, measurement, and experiment design. Teams will compete in several categories for each challenge and will be judged on the extent by which they meet and exceed the design requirements. These concepts, skills, and challenges are applicable to research taking place at UCSB today, more specifically, research conerning threat protection for military vehicles and personnel.

Taught by: Chris Hammetter, PhD student in Mechanical Engineering

The Big Picture: The Science of Cosmology (watch video in QuickTime)

This course aims to give students a brief introduction to cosmology, the scientific study of the universe. We will learn about the immense size, age and grandeur of the universe as well as how it works. If you've ever looked up at the night sky and wondered, what's up there? Or asked yourself, where did it all come from? This course is for you!

Taught by: Curtis Asplund, PhD student in Physics