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UCLA Campus Report: A New Method to Determine Fingerprint Comparison Difficulty, More

A look at some of the non-sports stories making headlines around campus


An occasional report from around campus that recognizes that UCLA is a school with a world-class reputation for research and innovation and whose people make real impact on the real world:

This week’s news focuses on a new method to determine fingerprint comparison difficulty, new uses for 3-D printing and a study into the use of health services by the undocumented.

UCLA Headlines

UCLA professors develop method to determine fingerprint comparison difficulty

Using objective visual characteristics could help increase the accuracy of fingerprint identification

Fingerprint examination, though in use for more than 100 years, has until recently undergone surprisingly little scientific scrutiny. A paper recently published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE provides important new insight into what specific, visual aspects of fingerprint pairs make their analysis more or less difficult.

The paper, authored by UCLA psychology professor Philip Kellman, UCLA Law professor Jennifer Mnookin and several additional co-authors, investigates one particularly important question: What makes specific fingerprint comparisons easier or harder than others? While fingerprint analysts might have intuitions based on their experience about reasons for difficult comparisons, these experts lacked validated methods for objectively measuring difficulty or for determining scientifically what visual aspects of the fingerprints themselves contribute to that difficulty.

The model developed in the paper was able to account for 64 percent of the variation in print comparison accuracy on a novel set of fingerprint images. The presence of specific fingerprint features as well as image quality metrics like contrast and fingerprint ridge clarity turned out to be important predictors of classification accuracy.

“While some of the predictors we found likely comport with what fingerprint examiners would have intuited, being able to demonstrate their role scientifically, and measuring, rather than just assuming, their importance is a significant step forward,” Mnookin said.

The revolution will be printed in 3-D

UCLA faculty and students are using the new technology to create everything from bone splints to stunning fashion

Three-dimensional printing is an increasingly important tool for industry and research, and the terminology as well as the technology is creeping into the consumer market. But what is it? And how are UCLA faculty and students using it to create everything from bone splints to stunning fashion?

The digital revolution has given us 24/7 access to every conceivable piece of information we might need (and much that we don't). You say you want a new revolution? Some believe we may be on the verge of one that's analogous: the ability to print anything, any time — not on paper, but in three dimensions. Shoes. Toys. Jewelry. Prosthetics. Pizzas. Apartments.

That's right, apartments. Last fall, in the Munich-based 3M futureLAB run by Peter Ebner, visiting professor in UCLA Architecture and Urban Design (A.UD), a group that included UCLA architecture students produced what they billed as the world's first apartment using only 3-D technology — fully furnished and complete with bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living space, if a bit cramped at about 37 square feet. Ebner predicts that over the next two decades, 3-D printing will overtake construction in architecture as part of "the next industrial revolution."

Michel Zoeter

The Voltage Dress designed by Iris van Herpen in collaboration with UCLA architect Julia Koerner

You need something to wear for the revolution? Julia Koerner, an A.UD architect and lecturer, has broken new ground in a collaboration with Amsterdam-based fashion designer Iris Van Herpen and the Belgium-based 3-D printing company Materialise. Employing 3-D modeling to execute Van Herpen's two-dimensional designs — otherworldly creations by a woman whose pieces have been worn by Björk and Lady Gaga — Koerner has printed two dresses that have been modeled on the runways at the prestigious Paris Haute Couture show before going on display at major museums. "There are no limitations in terms of seams and cutting patterns, which gives you a lot more freedom to experiment," Koerner explains of the advantages brought by the 3-D technology, which she used to execute Van Herpen's design on a dress that gave the appearance of being created "of liquid honey," one critic observed.

State's undocumented immigrants use fewer health services than U.S.-born residents

Rate for undocumented adults' emergency department visits is significantly lower

Undocumented immigrants in California see the doctor and visit emergency rooms significantly less often than U.S. citizens and documented immigrants, according to a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research published in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs.

Undocumented immigrants also seek fewer preventive health services, the study found. The findings contradict the perception that undocumented immigrants will overburden U.S. emergency departments and health providers.

The UCLA researchers found startling differences in ER visits by adults: One in five U.S.-born adults visits the ER annually, compared with roughly one in 10 undocumented adults — approximately half the rate of U.S.-born residents.

"Most people who go to the emergency room have insurance and are not worried about providing documents. The undocumented who end up in the emergency room have often delayed getting any care until they are critically sick," said Nadereh Pourat, the study's lead author and director of research at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.