Beckman Archives: Approaching 30 Years of Innovation & Discovery

A woman performs biotechnology experiments using a pipette.
A woman performs biotechnology experiments using a pipette.

In 2019, the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology will celebrate its 30th anniversary. When the institute opened its doors in 1989, it was the first of its kind, a place created to facilitate interdisciplinary research.

Here are some of the innovations and achievements that have been made possible by researchers from different disciplines taking on a problem together.

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  • Klaus Schulten examining a computer chip 1989: The Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group, led by the late Klaus Schulten, developed NAMD software, the most popular molecular dynamics program for protein modeling.
  • William “Bill” Greenough with a microscope 1989: William “Bill” Greenough helped take the concept of brain plasticity from theory to accepted science, paving the way for entire research lines about how exercise, task performance, and other factors can affect the physiology of the brain throughout the lifespan.
  • Albert Feng with a device 1990s: Using an algorithm derived from research on how frogs separate sounds in a noisy environment, Albert Feng collaborated with researchers from speech and hearing science and electrical and computer engineering to create an intelligent hearing aid.
  • Mosiac browser window 1993: The Mosaic browser was created by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, which was housed at the Beckman Institute.
  • Joe Lyding and Karl Hess 1996: Joe Lyding and Karl Hess found that by substituting deuterium they could improve the lifetime of silicon chips by as much as 50 times. This discovery can now be found in millions of cellphones and other devices.
  • Stephen Boppart 1998, 2008, 2013: Stephen Boppart co-founded three start-up companies to commercialize and disseminate his innovative optical technologies for biomedical imaging: LightLabImaging (1998), Diagnostic Photonics (2008), and PhotoniCare (2013).
  • Moore Group sitting around a table 2001: Members of the Autonomous Materials Systems Group—including Philippe Geubelle, Scott White, Nancy Sottos, and Jeff Moore—completed groundbreaking work on self-healing properties of polymer composites, leading to Rust-Oleum META Prime, which utilizes this technology to extend coating life on surfaces.
  • Zhi-Pei Liang 2013: Zhi-Pei Liang did the first experimental demonstration of what is considered an important advance in ultrafast magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging (MRSI), known as SPICE.
  • Brad Sutton with MRI 2015: Beckman researchers, including Brad Sutton (pictured) and Neal Cohen, pioneered studying the brain through magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), including measuring the viscoelasticity in subcortical gray matter structures.
  • Aron Barbey and Art Kramer 2016: Researchers in Beckman’s Intelligence, Learning, and Plasticity Group—including Art Kramer and Aron Barbey—demonstrated a relationship between the relative viscosity of the hippocampus and relational memory performance, supporting the benefits of aerobic fitness and exercise training on memory performance.