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The ballerina is an avatar of certain qualities—among them the ambition, skill, and courage to take bold leaps. Offstage, ballet lover Rachel Theios has infused those same characteristics into her budding research career in astronomy. Pursuing her first publication as a Caltech graduate student, she has shown the vision and bravery to question some of the fundamentals of her field.
Caltech graduate student Manuel Razo Mejia wants to predict how evolution occurs in organisms ranging from microbes to humans. Until recently, evolution has been considered a random process, but Razo Mejia believes we might detect certain patterns by applying the principles of physics and mathematics. To unravel the mystery of how biological systems change over time, he observes gene regulation in single-celled bacteria, whose brief life cycles enable him to witness change at an accelerated rate.
When asked what makes his alma mater special, Roger Davisson (BS ’65, MS ’66) frames his thoughts with a literary allusion. “Walt Whitman wrote, ‘I contain multitudes,’” he says. “Well, Caltech contains multitudes. The Institute has some of the brightest and best minds, and they gather across disciplines in a way that I don’t think happens elsewhere. For a small school, the amount of stuff that’s going on is truly remarkable.”
Machine learning seems ubiquitous these days. The technique—which allows computers to automatically convert data into knowledge and action—is being used to train everything from internet search engines and self-driving cars to facial recognition systems and voice assistants such as Siri.