2012 - 2013 Fellows

Jose Carmena

Brain-Machine Interface

Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences/H. Wills Neuroscience Inst.

A Brain-Machine Interface for Stroke Motor Rehabilitation

Brain-Machine Interface (BMI) technology has tremendous potential to greatly improve the quality of life of millions of people suffering from spinal cord injury, stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and other severely disabling conditions. In the long-term, brain-controlled prostheses will be capable of reproducing the wide range of motor functions carried out by the human upper limb, so that patients can enact their voluntary motor intentions simply by thought. The field is currently unbalanced with a variety of robotic solutions to replace missing or paralyzed limbs that clearly exceed the ability of existing neural-interface technology to control them. Here we propose to transform recent advances from our laboratory in the neuroengineering science of BMI into clinically viable solutions. We will exploit neuroplasticity with closed-loop decoding techniques for achieving skillful brain-control of prosthetic devices comparable to natural movements. The Bakar fellowship will facilitate bringing these advances into the clinical and commercial realms.

Jose M. Carmena is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Neuroscience at UC Berkeley, and Co-Director of the Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. His research program in neural engineering and systems neuroscience is aimed at building the science and engineering base that will allow the creation of reliable neuroprosthetic systems for the severely disabled. Jose is co-inventor of Neural Dust, a new implantable technology that will enable robust and reliable brain-machine interfaces. Learn more...



Tanja Cuk

Energy Storage


Next Generation Supercapacitors: Managing Pseudocapacitance with Metal Ions

Supercapacitors store energy capacitively, as a surface charge; whereas batteries store energy chemically, via oxidation and reduction reactions.  Compared to batteries, they can deliver energy much more rapidly (higher power), show enhanced reliability, and longer charge/discharge cycle lifetimes.  The primary disadvantage of supercapacitors is their low energy density.  It is well known that the capacitance, and hence the energy stored, can be enhanced 10-100 times by exploiting pseudocapacitance—the capacitance that arises from equilibrium charge transfer between molecules in the electrolyte and the electrode.  The purpose of this Bakar fellowship proposal is to increase the number of materials that can be utilized for pseudo-capacitive behavior and explore the limits to energy density stored as a surface charge.  This fundamentally new approach involves placing multiple types of metal ions in solution with transition metal oxide electrodes. The consequences will be monitored with electrochemical measurements, x-ray absorption/photoemission, scanning transmission x-ray microscopy, and optical second harmonic generation.  The result will be a flexible materials system that can be optimized for performance.

Tanja Cuk graduated from Princeton University with a BSE in Electrical Engineering (2000) and Stanford University with a PhD in Applied Physics (2007).  She then went on to complete a Miller Postdoctoral Fellowship at UC Berkeley (2007-2010).  She joined the faculty of the Chemistry Department at UC Berkeley as an Assistant Professor in 2010.  Her research involves understanding catalytic processes at solid-liquid interfaces using ultrafast optical/infrared spectroscopy and in-situ x-ray spectroscopy. Learn more..



Amy Herr

Cancer Screening


Getting Personal:  Massively Multiplexed Microanalytical Tools for Linking Proteomics to the Drug Development Pipeline

Personalized medicine is imaginable, but not truly realized.  Historically, drug discovery efforts have sought the “blockbuster” drug.  Nevertheless, mounting evidence suggests that individual response to treatment is anything but ‘one-size-fits-all’. A personalized approach to medicine has benefitted from understanding the individual’s genetic make-up (e.g., breast cancer).  Genomics technology has played a key role in yielding a treasure trove of information unimaginable just five years ago.  That said, important individual information is carried at the protein level (i.e., Alzheimer’s disease, prostate cancer) and our protein measurement capabilities are severely lacking.  Slow, labor-intensive, qualitative readouts are the norm.  To bridge this gap, we propose to radically advance the content and fidelity of protein-level measurements by introducing uniquely-suited multiplexed proteomic technology built on a microsystems/nanomaterials framework. Our approach would yield proteomic data suitable for fusion with genetic information, underpinning truly individual medicine. Patient costs, insurer costs, and pharmaceutical costs would all potentially benefit.

Amy E. Herr received her B. S. degree from Caltech and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford in Mechanical Engineering. From 2002-2007, Dr. Herr was a Biosystems Research staff member at Sandia National Laboratories (Livermore). At UC Berkeley since 2007, Professor Herr’s research focuses on instrumentation innovation to advance quantitation in life sciences and clinical problems – impact spans from tools for fundamental research (cell signaling) to near-patient disease diagnostics. Two entrepreneurial ventures have spun out of her research group and have successfully secured seed round funding and are now pursuing product development in University of California incubator facilities.   Learn more...



Michel Maharbiz

Smart Prostesis

Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences   

Neural Dust: a Chronic, High Density Interface to the Mammalian Brain

Chronic, high-density neural interfaces will enable new therapies in the restoration of limb motor control, speech prostheses, communication devices for “lock-in” patients, and much more.  Maharbiz proposes a radical technology shift enabling  massive scaling in the number of neural recordings from the brain while providing a path towards truly chronic BMI. These goals are achieved via two fundamental technology innovations: 1)  10 - 100 micron scale, free-floating, ultrasonically-addressable sensor nodes, or neural dust, that detect and report local extracellular electrophysiological data, and 2) a sub-cranial interrogator that establishes power and communication links with the neural dust.  While the vision spans several years, specific technologies will be ready for commercialization and the road to clinical impact immediately. In the shorter term, Maharbiz has co-founded Cortera Neurotechnology to commercialize the related wireless microelectrocorticography (uECoG) technology developed in the Rabaey, Alon and Maharbiz groups.

Michel M. Maharbiz is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley.  He is the co-founder of Cortera Neurotech, Tweedle Technologies, Microreactor Inc. and has served as vice-president for product development at Quswami. Prof. Maharbiz was the recipient of a 2009 NSF Career Award for research into developing microfabricated interfaces for synthetic biology and MIT Tech Review's 2009 TR10 for the development of the world's first radio-controlled flying cyborg insects. Professor Maharbiz’s current research interests include building micro/nano interfaces to cells and organismsand exploring bio-derived fabrication methods. Learn more...



Michael Rape

Cancer Drugs

Molecular and Cell Biology

Developing First-in-Class Antagonists of Ubiquitin Conjugating Enzymes

Ubiquitylation is a posttranslational modification that is essential for cell division and survival, and its misregulation has been associated with many diseases, including cancer, chronic inflammation, or neurodegeneration. Small molecule inhibitors of ubiquitylation are attractive candidates for therapeutic approaches against these diseases, yet few strategies to target ubiquitylation enzymes have been established. We propose to develop a small molecule platform to target ubiquitin-conjugating E2 enzymes, which play key roles in cancer cell division and survival. Small molecule antagonists of E2 function will be extensively validated in biophysical approaches and tested for effects on cancer cell survival in various established model systems. Our technology will open up a new family of enzymes for drug discovery, allowing us to license it to existing Californian biotechnology companies or to use it as the foundation for starting a company aimed at interfering with disease-related ubiquitylation events.

Michael Rape is a Howard Hughes Investigator and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology. He founded the biotech company Nurix, a leader in discovering and developing therapies that modulate the ubiquitin proteasome system. Nurix is funded by leading life sciences investors, Third Rock Ventures and the Column Group. Michael’s research focuses on how proteins are modified with ubiquitin and how processes in the cell are regulated by ubiquitination as well as ways to alter ubiquitination to treat diseases. He studied Biochemistry in Bayreuth, Germany and received his Ph.D. at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany. Learn more...


Neil Tsutsui

Agricultural Pests

Environmental Science, Policy and Management

Manipulating Insect Pheromones to Control a Widespread and Damaging Insect

Insects cause tremendous damage to agricultural products and are costly to control in businesses and residential settings. Moreover, the use of conventional insecticides degrades water and soil, presents health concerns, and is ecologically damaging. In California, the invasive Argentine ant is the leading pest of households and businesses and causes substantial agricultural losses in vineyards and citrus orchards. Tsutsui is silencing genes for pheromone production as a targeted, environmentally friendly approach to controlling Argentine ants. This project builds on his lab’s extensive prior research on Argentine ant genetics, genomics, behavior, and chemical ecology. The Bakar Fellows Program is supporting field tests of these control techniques to accelerate their transition from the lab to the marketplace.

Neil Tsutsui is a Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. His research focuses on on ants and bees - how they communicate, why they behave in the ways they do, their ecology, and their evolution. He works in both the field and the lab, using a variety of different approaches. Professor Tsutsui received his B.S. in Biology, specializing in Marine Science from Boston University and his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UC San Diego. Learn more...