• Jane Arnault-Factor
    Jane Arnault-Factor

April Greetings from the Associates President

As many of you know, Caltech is in the midst of the most ambitious campaign in its history. The Break Through campaign will provide Caltech's remarkable scholars and inventors with resources to discover and innovate for generations to come. As Associates, we play a critical role in serving as ambassadors to share the Caltech story and its significance in our world today.

Break Through Campaign Update

Last month, Institute volunteers, including trustees, Advisory and Chairs' Council members, Associates Board members and emeritus board presidents, and members of Caltech's academic leadership, gathered for an annual meeting to hear from President Thomas Rosenbaum. He shared news that after the public launch, on April 29, 2016, the Caltech community has rallied in support: to date, $1.36 billion of the $2 billion goal has been raised. President Rosenbaum discussed key Campaign priorities to raise endowment for the Institute, provide an exceptional educational experience for undergraduates and graduate students, and enrich campus life. In alignment with the Associates' mission, the Campaign will also help seed and support high-impact research areas and those projects that are too early-stage and experimental to gain federal funding. Read more.    

The Campaign also launched a publication, called the Caltech Effect, which shares stories about the individuals who make Caltech unique. The latest issue explores relationships that inspire Caltech people to achieve the extraordinary: "Undergrads evolve from solo stars into team leaders. Postdocs help others at a time when personal achievement is paramount. A junior is encouraged to launch a hedge fund from his dorm room. Real users and industry experts help students invent wheelchair technologies." These stories shed light on the magic of Caltech and the students, faculty, researchers, alumni, and donors who make our community what it is today. Please explore the Caltech Effect.

Times Higher Education Rankings

Caltech was once again named the "Best Small University" by the Times Higher Education, and for the past seven years was placed in the top two spots. This excellence is quite remarkable for an institution with only 2,240 undergraduate and graduate students combined. Caltech's small size in both the academic teaching staff and student population enables unique and, at times, magical opportunities for impromptu discussions and for working across disciplines, helping to foster imaginative ideas. 

Associates like me who did not graduate from Caltech make up more than 90% of our local membership. Understanding the university culture and structure can be challenging. With that in mind, I intend to feature in this column of our newsletter some summaries and fun facts about Caltech's academic divisional structure and highlight aspects of student life, traditions, pranks, and the honor code. This will help explain the "Techer" experience. We will start with a closer look at the largest division. 

The Division of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS)

Caltech has six main academic divisions: Biology and Biological Engineering; Chemistry and Chemical Engineering; Engineering and Applied Science; Geological and Planetary Sciences; the Humanities and Social Sciences; and Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy.


Caltech started as Throop Polytechnic Institute, and in 1907, the trustees decided to discontinue the elementary school, the business school, the teacher-training program, and the high school, leaving only a college of science and technology that conferred bachelor of science degrees in electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering. Throop was the modest beginning of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS). Today, this is Caltech's largest division by number of faculty and students, and it includes seven departments: Aerospace; Applied Physics and Materials Science; Cherng Department of Medical Engineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences; Electrical Engineering; Environmental Science and Engineering; and Mechanical and Civil Engineering. This division is working at the leading edges of fundamental science to invent the technologies of the future. In the words of Theodore von Kármán, "Scientists discover the world that exists; engineers create the world that never was."

EAS NUMBERS (as of 2016)

• Close to 90 faculty full-time
• 450 undergraduate students
• 550 graduate students
• 98 postdoctoral scholars
• 6 recipients of the National Medal of Science
• 2 recipients of the National Medal of Technology
• 34 members of the National Academy of Engineering


• The incidental birth of today's JPL occurred in the 1930s when graduate students in the Aerospace department carried out their first rocket firing in the Arroyo Seco. Theodore Von Kármán (professor of aeronautics and the first director of the aerospace program at Caltech) provided them with space for a test facility at Caltech. When the group set off a couple of explosions on campus, including a detonation that launched a piece of a gauge straight into one of the building walls, people on campus started referring to them as the Suicide Squad. Soon enough the squad was asked to do their work elsewhere and landed back in the Arroyo, where they leased some land from the city of Pasadena. From these modest beginnings, JPL soon took form. More

• The newest department, the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Department of Medical Engineering, is the first of the Institute's departments to be named and endowed. The goal of the faculty, students, and researchers associated with this department is to design and fabricate devices and systems for translational medicine—including diagnostics, therapeutics, implants, and non-invasive imaging—that will lead to cheaper, more effective, and more accessible health care. More

• This division publishes an annual magazine, ENGenious, which features faculty and student stories. Read the latest issue online.

(These are just a few examples of the thousands of distinguished faculty and alumni who have worked and studied in EAS.)

Theodore von Kármán was a professor of aeronautics and the first director of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory (GALCIT) at Caltech. He and others affiliated with GALCIT founded JPL.

William (Bill) Pickering was a rocket scientist who headed Caltech's JPL from 1954 to 1976. He led the first successful spaceflight by the U.S. and pioneered the exploration of space. Pickering was also a founding member of the United States National Academy of Engineering.

Carver Mead (BS '56, MS '57, PhD '60)—the Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Emeritus—is the forefather of the information age and shaped modern microelectronics and technologies such as the device you're using to read this.

Amnon Yariv—the Martin and Eileen Summerfield Professor of Applied Physics and Professor of Electrical Engineering—pioneered lasers and optics, and more specifically the invention of the semiconductor Distributed Feedback Laser, which today powers the Internet's fiber-optic network.

Upcoming Associates Events Featuring EAS Faculty

To hear from faculty in this division, don't miss the Associates panel discussion "The Road Ahead: The Future of Driverless Vehicles" on April 19, featuring Mory Gharib (PhD '83), Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering and director of Caltech's new Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies; Richard Murray (BS '85), Thomas E. and Doris Everhart Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems and Bioengineering; Paul Lienert, Reuters automotive industry reporter; and Evangelos Simoudis (BS '83), entrepreneur and venture investor. View the invite and RSVP here.

—Jane Arnault-Factor, PhD, Caltech Associates Board President