UCSB’s Bowers & Theogarajan (ECE) and Goard (MCDB) part of an optical brain-imaging research team awarded $9 million from NSF

September 20th, 2017

brain activity illustration
The National Science Foundation awards the group of neuroscientists, electrical engineers, molecular biologists, neurologists, bioengineers and physicists and its NEMONIC (NExt generation MultiphOton NeuroImaging Consortium) project – to push the boundaries of brain imaging by developing and widely sharing state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques.

“The limit to understanding the brain is no longer the ability to store, process and analyze data,” said B.N. Queenan, associate director of the UCSB Brain Initiative. “The fundamental barrier is the ability to see the brain in action. As neuroscientists, we would love to watch brain cells going about their daily business. We want to record all the cells all the time, but that’s just not possible with the existing technologies. Fundamentally, we need to invent new ways of seeing what brains are up to.”

The NEMONIC group uses light to measure brain activity. The wavelengths of light that the human eye processes do not pass through brain tissue easily. Instead, they bounce off the surface of the brain, the skull or the skin and appear opaque, limiting the human ability to see internal brain activity. However, longer wavelengths of light can pass through brain tissue unobstructed. NEMONIC employs strategic combinations of these longer wavelengths to reach deeper into the brain and image the activity of cells that have been engineered to glow when stimulated.

“This is a team that can do anything in multiphoton neuroimaging,” said NEMONIC team leader Spencer L. Smith, associate professor of cell biology and physiology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “The NEMONIC team has exactly the expertise to engineer new, robust optical solutions to the problem of imaging the brain.”

To remove the technological bottlenecks to understanding the mind and the brain, the federal government launched the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative in 2013. As the name implies, the initiative is focused on developing new tools and strategies to image, map, diagnose, understand and repair the brain.

The NSF is one of the federal agencies leading the BRAIN Initiative. This year, the NSF gave 17 Next Generation Networks for Neuroscience (NeuroNex) awards to support the development of new experimental tools, theoretical frameworks and computational models that can be widely shared to advance neuroscience research. With this award, UCSB is now a designated NeuroNex Neurotechnology Hub, making it a critical part of the national neuroengineering network.

The three-part NEMONIC project first will develop new, streamlined multiphoton imaging approaches. Second, the team will widely share the newly engineered technologies and strategies to promote the free and productive acquisition and exchange of data across the international neuroscience community.

“Labs around the world are imaging the brains of a range of animal species, but multiphoton microscopy systems are expensive and require significant expertise to build and use,” said Goard, an assistant professor in UCSB’s Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and in its Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences. “We want to make the multiphoton imaging process easier, cheaper and more robust, so we can all combine and analyze our data more effectively.”

Lastly, the NEMONIC team will capitalize on UCSB’s expertise in photonics and super-resolution techniques to push the boundaries of what is possible with optical neuroimaging. “Current methods of peering into the brain use bulky expensive lasers to generate the narrow femtosecond pulses needed for multiphoton imaging,” said NEMONIC team member Theogarajan, a professor in the campus’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We are proposing a miniaturized multiphoton microscope based on cutting-edge photonic integrated circuits developed at UCSB, enabling live animal imaging and making multiphoton imaging cheaper.”

“Bringing light and electronics together is what UCSB is known for,” said Rod Alferness, dean of the UCSB College of Engineering. “UCSB is the West Coast headquarters of the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics), where we integrate light-based approaches with electronics to invent and manufacture new telecommunication technologies. We are thrilled that UCSB can now deploy its particular talents in integrated photonic technology toward the brain.”

The UCSB Current – "Shedding Light on Brain Activity"

UCSB Brain Initiative

U.S. News & World Report once again ranks UCSB number 8 among the country’s top public universities

September 19th, 2017

photo of storke tower and campus
In its 2018 listing of the “Top 30 Public National Universities” in the country, U.S. News & World Report has ranked UC Santa Barbara No. 8. Among the “Best National Universities” ranking, which includes both public and private institutions, UCSB placed No. 37.

UCSB’s College of Engineering ranked No. 20 among public universities on the U.S. News & World Report list of “Best Programs at Engineering Schools Whose Highest Degree is a Doctorate.”

In addition, UCSB placed No. 14 among public universities in the “Least Debt” section of the magazine’s ranking of student debt load at graduation. Also among public universities, UCSB placed No. 13 on the “Best Ethnic Diversity” ranking.

The magazine has just released its annual college rankings online at The “Best Colleges 2018” guidebook goes on sale today.

To rank colleges and universities for the Best Colleges 2018 guidebook, U.S. News & World Report assigned institutions to categories developed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. UCSB’s category of national universities includes only institutions that emphasize faculty research and offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s degrees and doctoral programs.

UCSB, which this year experienced the most competitive admissions process in campus history, continues to attract the best of the best. Among prospective freshmen and undergraduate transfer students, academic qualifications and the diversity remain exceptionally high. For the 2017-18 academic year, the average high school grade-point average of applicants admitted is 4.25, and the average total score achieved on the required SATR test is 1996 out of a possible 2400.

The unprecedented academic qualifications and diversity of applicants made fall 2017 admissions the most selective in campus history. With 11 national centers and institutes, and more than 100 research units, UCSB offers unparalleled learning opportunities for undergraduate students. The world-class faculty includes six Nobel laureates, two Academy and Emmy Award winners, and recipients of a Millennium Technology Prize, a National Medal of Technology and Innovation and a Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

The UCSB Current – "Top Ten Again" (full article)

ECE Ph.D. student Abhishek Badki and Prof. Pradeep Sen’s research with NVIDIA called “Computational Zoom” featured in The UCSB Current article “Picture Perfect”

August 1st, 2017

computational zoom original image

Badki, Sen and NVIDIA researchers develop a new technique that enables photographers to adjust image compositions after capture

When taking a picture, a photographer must typically commit to a composition that cannot be changed after the shutter is released. For example, when using a wide-angle lens to capture a subject in front of an appealing background, it is difficult to include the entire background and still have the subject be large enough in the frame.

Positioning the subject closer to the camera will make it larger, but unwanted distortion can occur. This distortion is reduced when shooting with a telephoto lens, since the photographer can move back while maintaining the foreground subject at a reasonable size. But this causes most of the background to be excluded. In each case, the photographer has to settle for a suboptimal composition that cannot be modified later.

ECE Ph.D. student Abhishek Badki and his advisor Pradeep Sen, along with NVIDIA researchers Orazio Gallo and Jan Kautz, have developed a new system that addresses this problem. Specifically, it allows photographers to compose an image post-capture by controlling the relative positions and sizes of objects in the image.

Computational Zoom, as the system is called, allows photographers the flexibility to generate novel image compositions — even some that cannot be captured by a physical camera — by controlling the sense of depth in the scene, the relative sizes of objects at different depths and the perspectives from which the objects are viewed.

For example, the system makes it possible to automatically combine wide-angle and telephoto perspectives into a single multi-perspective image, so that the subject is properly sized and the full background is visible. In a standard image, the light rays travel in straight lines into the camera at an angle specified by the focal length of the lens (the field of view angle). However, this new functionality allows photographers to produce physically impossible images in which the light rays “bend,” changing from a telephoto to a wide angle as they go through the scene.

Achieving the custom composition is a three-step process. First, the photographer must capture a “stack” of multiple images, moving the camera gradually closer to the scene between shots without changing the focal length of the lens. The system then uses the captured image stack, and a standard structure-from-motion algorithm, to automatically estimate the camera position and orientation for each image. Next, a novel multi-view 3D reconstruction method estimates “depth maps” for each image in the stack. Finally, all of this information is used to synthesize multi-perspective images which have novel compositions through a user interface.

“This new framework really empowers photographers by giving them much more flexibility later on to compose their desired shot,” said Pradeep Sen. “It allows them to tell the story they want to tell.”

The group’s research will be presented at SIGGRAPH 2017 (Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques), the premier conference for technical research in computer graphics, held on July 31-August 3 in Los Angeles.

The UCSB Current – "Picture Perfect" (full article)

Sen's COE Profile

Badki's ECE webpage

ECE Ph.D. student Steve Bako and Prof. Pradeep Sen’s research with Disney and Pixar featured in The UCSB Current article “Intelligent Animation”

July 26th, 2017

before and after denoise image
Bako and Sen work with researchers at Disney Research and Pixar Animation Studios to develop a new technology based on artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning to eliminate that noise and enable production-quality rendering at much higher speeds

Modern films and TV shows are filled with spectacular computer-generated sequences computed by rendering systems that simulate the flow of light in a three-dimensional scene and convert the information into a two-dimensional image. But computing the thousands of light rays (per frame) to achieve accurate color, shadows, reflectivity and other light-based characteristics is a labor-intensive, time-consuming and expensive undertaking. An alternative is to render the images using only a few light rays. That saves time and labor but results in inaccuracies that show up as objectionable “noise” in the final image.

Bako spent a year working at Pixar. The team tested the software by using millions of examples from the film “Finding Dory” to train a deep-learning model known as a convolutional neural network. Through this process, the system learned to transform noisy images into noise-free versions that resemble those computed with significantly more light rays. Once trained, the system successfully removed the noise on test images from entirely different films, such as Pixar’s latest release, “Cars 3,” and their upcoming feature “Coco,” even though they had completely disparate styles and color palettes.

“Noise is a really big problem for production rendering,” said Tony DeRose, head of research at Pixar. “This new technology allows us to automatically remove the noise while preserving the detail in our scenes.”

The work presents a significant step forward over previous state-of-the-art denoising methods, which often left artifacts or residual noise that required artists to either render more light rays or to tweak the denoising filter to improve the quality of a specific image. Disney and Pixar plan to incorporate the technology in their production pipelines to accelerate the movie-making process.

Bako will present the findings at SIGGRAPH 2017 (Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques), the premier conference for technical research in computer graphics, held on July 31-August 3 in Los Angeles.

The UCSB Current – "Intelligent Animation" (full article)

Sen's COE Profile

Bako's ECE webpage

UCSB Current article focuses on Prof. Yasamin Mostofi Lab’s research on 3D through-wall imaging

June 20th, 2017

youtube video of mostofi lab research

UCSB researchers propose a new method for 3D through-wall imaging that utilizes drones and WiFi

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara professor Yasamin Mostofi’s lab have given the first demonstration of three-dimensional imaging of objects through walls using ordinary wireless signal. The technique, which involves two drones working in tandem, could have a variety of applications, such as emergency search-and-rescue, archaeological discovery and structural monitoring.

“Our proposed approach has enabled unmanned aerial vehicles to image details through walls in 3D with only WiFi signals,” said Mostofi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCSB. “This approach utilizes only WiFi RSSI measurements, does not require any prior measurements in the area of interest and does not need objects to move to be imaged.”

The proposed methodology and experimental results appeared in the Association for Computing Machinery/Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks (IPSN).

In their experiment, two autonomous octocopters take off and fly outside an enclosed, four-sided brick house whose interior is unknown to the drones. While in flight, one copter continuously transmits a WiFi signal, the received power of which is measured by the other copter for the purpose of 3D imaging.

After traversing a few proposed routes, the copters utilize the imaging methodology developed by the researchers to reveal the area behind the walls and generate 3D high-resolution images of the objects inside. The 3D image closely matches the actual area.

“High-resolution 3D imaging through walls, such as brick walls or concrete walls, is very challenging, and the main motivation for the proposed approach,” said Chitra R. Karanam, the lead Ph.D. student on this project.

This development builds on previous work in the Mostofi Lab, which has pioneered sensing and imaging with everyday radio frequency signals such as WiFi. The lab published the first experimental demonstration of imaging with only WiFi in 2010, followed by several other works on this subject.

Their previous 2D method utilized ground-based robots working in tandem, the success of the 3D experiments is due to the copters’ ability to approach the area from several angles, as well as to the new proposed methodology developed by her lab.

The UCSB Current – "X-Ray Eyes in the Sky" (full article)

More info about Mostofi's 3D Through-Wall Imaging

Mostofi Lab

Vince Radzicki (EE) and Jenna Cryan (CE) receive “Outstanding Teaching Assistant” honors at the 2017 College of Engineering “Senior Send-Off”

June 20th, 2017

photos radzicki and cryan
College of Engineering (CoE) celebrates the undergraduate class of 2017 on June 16th at their annual “Senior Send-Off” event

The event program and reception included honoring seniors, teaching assistants and faculty members.

The following graduate students received “Outstanding Teaching Assistant (TA)” recognitions from the graduating seniors in their program:

Electrical Engineering (EE): Vince Radzicki
Computer Engineering (CE): Jenna Cryan

ECE Profs. Hua Lee (EE) and Luke Theogarajan & Forrest Brewer (CE) receive “Outstanding Faculty” honors at the 2017 College of Engineering “Senior Send-Off”

June 19th, 2017

photos lee, brewer and theogarajan
College of Engineering (CoE) celebrates the undergraduate class of 2017 on June 16th at their annual “Senior Send-Off” event

The event program and reception included honoring seniors, teaching assistants and faculty members.

The following ECE faculty received “Outstanding Faculty” recognitions from the graduating seniors in their program:

Electrical Engineering: Professor Hua Lee

Computer Engineering: Professors Forrest Brewer and Luke Theogarjan







ECE and CE Seniors honored at the College of Engineering’s 2017 “Senior Send-Off” event

June 19th, 2017

senior send-off and coe logos Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Engineering students recognized for Academic Honors and Scholarships Awarded in 2016-17 at the CoE “Senior Send-Off” event held on Friday, June 16th in the Bren Hall Courtyard


Alex Hunter (EE)


John and Sheila Lake Excellence Award – awarded by the COE to an undergraduate in recognition of outstanding service and academic scholarship

Ryan Calloway and Jaime Topete

College of Engineering Alumni Award – awarded to an alumnus of the COE in recognition of their outstanding achievement in engineering or technology fields, and whose accomplishments serve as a role model to future COE students

John E. Gerngross

College of Engineering – Academic Honor
Awarded to the student with the highest grade point average of the College of Engineering graduating class as of the winter quarter, who was enrolled as a full-time, matriculated UCSB student through the spring quarter, and is expected to complete all degree requirements as of the spring quarter

Brian Canty (EE)


Outstanding Seniors

Computer Engineering – Brian Sandler
Electrical Engineering – Brian Canty

College of Engineering Honors Program for Academic Excellence

Electrical Engineering

Brian Canty, Junqian Liu, Tyler Vuong

Computer Engineering

Kyle Carson, Albert Chen, Ryan Kaveh, Bo Luan, Nichol Moghaddas, Trevor Morris


Glen Culler Scholarship
Awarded to outstanding undergraduate students in honor of the late Dr. Glen Culler, former Professor of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics (1959-1969), one of the creators of the Internet, as well as a recipient of the National Medal of Technology.

Albert Chen (CE) and Kyle Carson (CE)

William R. Hearst Foundation Scholarship
Awarded to outstanding undergraduate students, based upon academic achievement and need

Shibo Zhong (EE), Junqian Liu (EE), Tyler Vuong (EE), Trevor Morris (CE), Nichol Moghaddas (CE)

Professor Joseph J. Sayovitz Scholarship
Awarded for outstanding academic achievement in Electrical Engineering, in honor of the late Joseph J. Sayovitz, Professor of Industrial Arts and lecturer in Electrical Engineering

Aditya Wadaskar (EE)and Alex Nguyen-Le (EE)

Northrop Grumman
Awarded to outstanding undergraduate students, based upon academic achievement and need

Ryan Kaveh (CE)

Student Affairs Scholarship
Awarded to outstanding undergraduate students, based upon academic achievement and need

Brian Canty (EE)

“Dreaming Big” – ECE Prof. John Bowers and other COE Professors take on global issues

June 14th, 2017

children reading with light
Four COE professors dream big and devote enormous time, research and resources to bring modern technology to those who otherwise might not reap its benefits

ECE Professor John Bowers and CS Professors Chandra Krintz, Rich Wolski and Elizabeth Belding have worked at odd hours and in diverse locations — African villages, California farms and Native American reservations — pursuing ambitious projects to aid people around the world.

With assistance from UCSB undergraduate and graduate students and working with research partners and nonprofit organizations, these engineers practice altruism in ways that have produced affordable lights, sustainable farming tools and broader Wi-Fi access in remote rural areas.

“Since it began 50 years ago, the College of Engineering has been focusing on providing solutions for society’s needs,” said Rod Alferness, dean of the College of Engineering. “We continue that altruistic tradition to this day. The example that John, Chandra, Rich and Elizabeth set for future engineers and educators by looking outside our own boundaries and helping those in need is both essential and heartwarming.”

Night Lights – Professor John Bowers (African villages)

For 15 minutes every night, a crude kerosene lamp provides dim light for a young girl trying to complete her homework at a rickety table in a tin shack in an African slum. The fumes are noxious and the smoke scratches her eyes. If knocked over, the lamp likely would burst into a ball of fire, burn down the hut and perhaps injure — or even kill — those inside.

While inconceivable to most of us, Ghanaian scholar Osei Darkwa once described this true account of daily life in regions of Ghana — where there is no electricity — to electrical and computer engineering professor John Bowers during a meeting at UCSB.

Caught off guard, Bowers, who holds the Fred Kavli Chair in Nanotechnology at UCSB and serves as director of the campus’ Institute for Energy Efficiency, recalled how he began listing the college’s renowned accomplishments with energy efficiency, LED lights and solar cells. “I’m feeling pretty good, you know,” Bowers said, laughing. “We’re changing the world, right?” Not so much, according to Darkwa. No one in his country can afford flashlights, let alone high-tech gadgets.

After that discussion, Bowers, with the Institute for Energy Efficiency and the organization Engineers Without Borders, created the Luke Light, a simple solar-powered LED device. A second-generation model developed later has a USB connection for recharging electronic gadgets like mobile phones.

Teaming with Santa Barbara attorney Claude Dorais, Bowers then co-founded the nonprofit organization Unite to Light. Over the eight years since his first meeting with Darkwa, approximately 75,000 lamps have been distributed — to school children and to midwifes, who use them to deliver babies — in Ghana, South Africa, Haiti, Peru and elsewhere.

“It’s just stupid to burn things for lighting,” Bowers said. “It’s expensive buying wood, buying candles, buying kerosene. It’s bad for your health and it’s bad for climate change. You can see the impacts in places like in India where there is a lot of kerosene burning. You can see it in the greenhouse gas distributions.”

Solar power is free, he added. The lamp pays for itself in three months when compared to routinely buying kerosene. And when fully charged, the lamp can provide four or more hours of light.

“The thing we found in customer feedback was there’s a real need for charging mobile phones,” Bowers added, referring to the charger-equipped model. “Lots of people can afford mobile phones but it often costs a $1 to charge them.”

Long term, Bowers would like to see the operation — overseen by Unite to Light — become self-sustaining with better distribution partners. “We need to set up a network in Africa where we are shipping these things by the crate and people are buying them,” he said.

Selling for $10 and $20, respectively, the Luke Light and Luke Light with Lumen Charger have a long life expectancy, which is limited by the battery. The rechargeable battery in the Luke Light can be replaced for about $1. Many philanthropic organizations, such as Rotary International and Direct Relief International, buy the lights to distribute where needed. The devices also are sold directly to individuals online at through a buy one/donate one program.

Unite to Light hopes to distribute about 25,000 lights per year, said Megan Birney, the organization’s president. “We’ll see how that goes,” she added. “I kind of reach high and see what happens. I’d rather reach high and fall short than have missed an opportunity. There are still 1.2 billion people without access to electricity, so there really is a need.”

See the full UCSB Current article to learn more about the other projects:

  • SmartFarm Tools – Chandra Krintz and Rich Wolski (California farms)
  • Wireless Link – Elizabeth Belding (Native American reservations)

The UCSB Current – "Dreaming Big" (full article)

Unite to Light

Bowers' COE Profile

ECE and ME undergraduate engineers showcase their 2017 Capstone projects

June 14th, 2017

two students with project
Students from UCSB’s Electrical & Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering departments impress hundreds of people — faculty, sponsors, fellow students, parents, and guests from beyond UCSB — who attended the 2017 UCSB Engineering Design Fair and Showcase, held Friday, June 9, at Corwin Pavilion

The annual event featured 118 senior undergraduate students, who presented posters and table demonstrations of 21 projects. Three of the projects were large-scale multidisciplinary efforts with 12 to 21 students. Judges walked the fair, talked with the students, and then awarded top honors to the following representatives from each department.

Electrical & Computer Engineering Projects

Mechanical Engineering Projects

Multidisciplinary Project

“The projects just keep getting better every year,” said UCSB lecturer Dr. Ilan Ben-Yaacov, the lead advisor for multiple projects in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“This year, one-hundred percent of our sponsors were happy,” added Dr. Tyler Susko, UCSB lecturer, who manages the Capstone program in Mechanical Engineering. “Our students are all smart and capable, but ambition and inner drive are what make a good project, and these students had it.”

UCSB College of Engineering – "Undergrad Engineers Showcase their Capstone Projects" (full article)

Explore the 2017 Capstone projects (COE Capstone website)

Learn more about the ECE Senior Capstone course (ECE webpage)