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UCLA Campus Report: New Modulator Leads to Advanced Imaging, More

This week’s post includes news of a new modulator that might lead to advanced medical and security imaging, one of the world’s most popular soccer teams to train on campus, recommendations for Californians looking to conserve more water, a high ranking for the UCLA Medical Center and a study that links recession-related suicides to alcohol.


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 post includes news of a new modulator that might lead to advanced medical and security imaging, one of the world’s most popular soccer teams to train on campus, recommendations for Californians looking to conserve more water, a high ranking for the UCLA Medical Center and a study that links recession-related suicides to alcohol.

New terahertz modulator could lead to more advanced medical and security imaging

A UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science research team has developed a breakthrough broadband modulator that could eventually lead to more advanced medical and security imaging systems.

Modulators manipulate the intensity of electromagnetic waves. For example, modulators in cell phones convert radio waves into digital signals that the devices can use and understand. In terahertz-based communication and imaging systems, they modify the intensity of terahertz waves.

Today's technologies take advantage of many parts of the electromagnetic spectrum — notably light waves and radio waves — but they rarely operate in the terahertz band, which lies between infrared and microwave on the spectrum.

Led by Mona Jarrahi, UCLA associate professor of electrical engineering, the group developed a terahertz modulator that performs across a wide range of the terahertz band with very high efficiency and signal clarity. Among the device’s advantages are that it could easily be incorporated into existing integrated circuit manufacturing processes, can operate at room temperature and does not require an external light source to operate.

The terahertz band has been the subject of extensive research, in large part because of its potential for medical imaging and chemical sensing technologies. For example, terahertz waves could be used to examine human tissue for signs for disease without damaging cells or the other health risks posed by X-rays. They also could be used in security screenings to penetrate fabric or plastics that conceal weapons.

Current optical modulators that use naturally existing materials, such as silicon or liquid crystals, to manipulate the intensity of light waves have proven to be very inefficient in terahertz frequencies. And modulators based on artificial materials, so-called metamaterials, thus far have a limited use because they only operate in a narrow band of the terahertz range.

The new modulator is based on an innovative artificial metasurface — a type of surface with unique properties that is defined by the geometry of its individual building blocks, and their arrangement. The metasurface developed by Jarrahi's team is composed of an array of micro-electromechanical units that can be opened and closed using electric voltage. Opening or closing the metasurface encodes the incoming terahertz wave into a corresponding series of zeroes or ones, which are then transformed into images.

"Our new metasurface broadens the realm of metamaterials to broadband operation for the first time, and it diminishes many of the fundamental physical constraints in routing and manipulating terahertz waves, especially in terahertz imaging and spectroscopy systems," Jarrahi said. "Our device geometry can switch from an array of microscale metallic islands to an array of interconnected metallic loops, altering its electromagnetic properties from a transparent surface to a reflecting surface, which manipulates the intensity of terahertz waves passing through over a broad range of frequencies."

Real Madrid to train at UCLA July 22-28

Real Madrid, one of the world’s most storied soccer teams, plans to train at UCLA in private practices from July 22 through July 28.

Practices are closed to the public.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Spanish squad will hold training sessions on UCLA’s North Athletic Field. The team will practice once or twice daily, at 10 a.m. and/or 5 p.m., excluding match days. Real Madrid will play against Inter Milan on July 26 at UC Berkeley’s California Memorial Stadium, against Roma on July 29 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, and against Manchester United on August 2 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, MI.

Before and after Real Madrid’s practices at UCLA, there will be limited opportunities for autographs on Wilson Plaza when the players travel between their on-campus locker room and the North Athletic Field. (Note: Practices are closed, but I can tell you from experience that fans do line-up on campus along the walkways to get pictures, handshakes, that sort of thing. If catching a glimpse of your futbol heroes is important to you, it’s definitely possible.)

For years now, UCLA's pristine fields and top-notch athletic facilities have been a destination for European soccer teams.

"We are delighted to welcome Real Madrid to UCLA for the fifth year in a row," said Richard Mylin, associate director of facility and event operations for UCLA Recreation. "The team’s summer practices at UCLA have become a tradition thanks to our unrivaled facilities and the fact that the field's privacy makes it ideal for this world-class team to prepare for its upcoming season."

UCLA experts say L.A. should change water pricing structure to improve conservation

Six months ago, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in response to California's drought, asking residents to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent.

According to recent surveys, Californians haven't exactly followed the governor's call: Water use has declined by just 5 percent. Experts at UCLA know that Los Angeles residents can do better.

Researchers at the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA today issued recommendations based on the findings of a four-year study of water consumption patterns in the city of Los Angeles and the factors that drive residential water consumption.

"Given that California is experiencing an extreme drought and it's likely that we will be experiencing a lot more drought over time, it's very important to understand how water is used in the city and to identify areas where water consumption can be dramatically reduced," said Stephanie Pincetl, director of the CCSC and the project's principal investigator. "We know there is going to be more stress on water resources and that reducing water consumption does not really affect quality of life."

Pincetl and her colleagues plan to offer several recommendations to the Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, including the adoption of household water meters that measure indoor and outdoor water use separately.

Other recommendations include:

  • Implementing a revised multi-tiered pricing structure for residential water use, aimed at increasing conservation while minimizing the cost burden on low-income consumers. One possibility would be a pricing structure with more than the current two tiers, in which the unit price for water rises as the volume of water consumption increases; another would be a combining an increasing block rate structure with seasonal rates, in which prices increase during the summer.

  • Establishing reasonable water budgets for households based on location and household characteristics. Homeowners who use more than their allotted amount would see increases in their bills.

  • Introducing educational programs and stronger financial incentives to promote the use of drought-resistant landscaping and improved irrigation.

UCLA Health System hospitals ranked among nation's best in U.S. News' annual survey

The UCLA Health System's hospitals in Westwood and Santa Monica have been named to U.S. News and World Report's Best Hospitals 2014–15 Honor Roll. UCLA was ranked No. 5 in the country and No. 1 in both California and the Los Angeles metropolitan area. 

The annual rankings, now in their 25th year, are the magazine's most exclusive rankings, recognizing hospitals that excel at treating patients who need an especially high level of care. This year's Honor Roll highlights just 17 hospitals out of nearly 5,000 nationwide for their expertise in treating the most challenging patients across a range of medical specialties.

"We are grateful and honored to again be recognized for the outstanding work of our physicians and staff on behalf of the patients who seek care at UCLA," said Dr. David Feinberg, president of the UCLA Health System and CEO of the UCLA Hospital System. "Our goal is to treat each patient who comes through our doors as if he or she were a member of our own family, with dignity and respect, in a compassionate and safe environment that delivers the highest-quality medical care available." 

To be included on the Best Hospitals Honor Roll, a medical center must place in the top tier in at least six of the 16 specialties in which U.S. News ranks hospitals. 

"The data tell the story — an Honor Roll hospital has much to be proud of," said Avery Comarow, the health rankings editor at U.S. News. "Just 144 hospitals, or about 3 percent of the nearly 5,000 we evaluated, earned national ranking in even one specialty, let alone put up top scores in six specialties."

UCLA-led study shows intoxication played bigger role in suicide deaths during economic downturn

People who committed suicide during the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 were more likely to have been legally intoxicated at the time than those who committed suicide during other recent years, according to research led by UCLA professor Mark Kaplan.

Although one-third of all people who commit suicide are intoxicated at the time of their deaths, extensive research has shown that individuals who are unemployed or at risk of unemployment in a down economy are at increased risk for suicide. At the same time, people overall tend to consume less alcohol during economic recessions.

The UCLA-led study found that, consistent with other findings, the number of suicide deaths did increase during the recession. However, despite noted declines in alcohol sales during tough economic times, the researchers found a positive relationship between economic downturn and alcohol use prior to suicide.

"This contradiction can be because while overall alcohol consumption goes down during recessions, there have been increases in detrimental drinking patterns and alcohol-related problems in certain individuals, particularly those affected by the recession," said Kaplan, a professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

For the study, which was published by the peer-reviewed journal Injury Prevention, Kaplan and his colleagues reviewed seven years of data from 16 of the states that participate in the National Violent Death Reporting System, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The NVDRS data showed that the number of suicides involving acute intoxication was 7 percent higher during the recession than it was from 2005 to 2007, before the recession began, a finding that suggests that acute alcohol use could be one of the missing links between economic hardship and suicide, according to Kaplan.