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Undergraduate Laboratory for Molecular Engineering
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The Undergraduate Laboratory for Molecular Engineering is typically used for three advanced lab classes for undergraduates in Chemical Engineering (ChE126, ChE128, ChE130) — one course each term. In 2007 students used the Lab during the Summer for the first time for Caltech's entry in the 2007 iGEM competition.

This Laboratory is made possible through the generous donations of Joyce and Ed McDowell (MS 60 ChE; PhD 64 ChE) and Greg Stone (BS, MS 74 ChE). Construction started during the summer of 2004 and the Laboratory was dedicated on January 27, 2005.

eXperiment Swap (ChE126 formerly ChE 126a)

Season Premiere: October 1, 2007

We provide students with a very short description of each project at the beginning of the five-week period. Based on this short description, the group chooses a specific objective. Test equipment is already set-up and operational with manuals and design documents available. Students have five weeks to research, design, interface, validate and test a system that accomplishes that specific objective while considering cost, time (30 hours of lab time), equipment availability, group dynamics, ethics, and, of course, the X-factor (Murphy's Law).

Students complete two projects during the ten-week Fall term. At the end of each five-week period, each team member submits a journal-quality written report and completes a 15-minute conference-style oral presentation.

A new season premieres every Fall term.

Recent eXperiments
Term Description
2007 Fall,
2006 Fall
By an E-Nose
2007 Fall.
2006 Fall,
2005 Fall,
2005 Winter
The Leaky Jacuzzi Problem
2005 Fall,
2005 Winter
On the QCM
2005 Winter Making the Bands

The Ultimate Research Challenge (ChE128 formerly ChE 126b)

Season Premiere: January 7, 2008

Each student is given a box of parts, access to instruments, a general research area and technical support. During the ten-week challenge each student must choose a specific set of objectives, build a microhollow cathode discharge plasma reactor, create a flow system, configure the analytical instrument, test and calibrate all subsystems, integrate the subsystems, validate and qualify the system, design experiments, and produce & analyze results.

Students investigate objectives that are of current interest in literature, providing an opportunity for the students to publish results. Students are educated about Statistical Design of Experiments and are encouraged to use these techniques during the evaluation process.

During the term, students provide weekly oral progress reports. Students write a mid-term report, which focuses on the Introduction, Background and Materials & Methods sections of the final report and includes an Experimental Plan and Validation Results. At the end of the term, each student submits a journal-quality written report and completes a 30-minute conference-style oral presentation.

A new season premieres every Winter term.

Recent Challenges
Term Description
2007 Winter In-Situ Propellant Production on Mars: A Feasibility Study
(+/-)click here to collapse/expand a more detailed description
2007 Winter,
2006 Winter
Methane Alkylation
2007 Winter,
2006 Winter,
2005 Spring
Destruction of Volatile Organic Compounds
(methylene chloride, p-xylene)
2006 Winter Iron Nanoparticle Synthesis
2006 Winter Conversion of Carbon Dioxide to Organic Compounds
2005 Spring Detection of NaCl Nanoparticles
2005 Spring Oxidative Conversion of Methane to Methanol

BioAdventure (ChE130)

Season Premiere: March 31, 2008

During the first three weeks, all students complete boot camp for biomolecular engineering. They learn the basic tools and methods for success through laboratory and classroom instruction.

After completing boot camp, students embark on different seven-week adventures. Each student must design a genetic circuit & hypothesize likely system performance, construct circuit components from a library of plasmids & validate each element, and characterize system performance.

During bio boot camp, students submit weekly written reports for each module. During the adventure, students provide weekly oral progress reports. Students write a mid-term report, which focuses on Design and Construction. At the end of the term, each student submits a journal-quality, written report and completes a 30-minute conference-style oral presentation.

A new season premieres every Spring term.

Recent Adventures
Term Description
Toggle Switch
AND/OR Circuit
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