Annual engineering conference at UC Berkeley March 13 & 14; highlights include Yucca Mountain, Channel Tunnel

by Robert Sanders

Berkeley -- The Colleges of Engineering and Chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley will host several hundred representatives from industry Wednesday, March 13, and Thursday, March 14, as the campus showcases its latest research at the annual Industrial Liaison Program Conference.

Each year the conference attracts participants from a broad range of U.S. and foreign industries to find out about UC Berkeley's newest developments in engineering technology, and to get updates on ongoing research.

Reporters are invited to attend the conference. Highlights include:


Keynote speech, Wednesday, March 13th: "The Channel Tunnel Project," by John Neerhout, project chief executive for the Chunnel Project from 1990-93 and now director and executive vice president of Bechtel Group, Inc. (8:45 a.m., Pauley Ballroom, MLK Jr. Student Union)

Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences luncheon talks:

  • Wednesday, March 13th "The WEB and its Impact on the Telecommunications Infrastructure," by Robert Lucky, vice president for applied research, Bell Communications Research. (noon, Pauley Ballroom, MLK Jr. Student Union)

  • Thursday, March 14th "The 20-year Quest for the First Computer-Generated Feature Film: Toy Story," by Alvy Ray Smith, graphics fellow, Microsoft Corp. (noon, Pauley Ballroom, MLK Jr. Student Union)


    The potential for an explosion at the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository:

    Wednesday, March 13th A multidisciplinary team of UC Berkeley faculty and students will lay out their analysis of the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada and the potential for a catastrophic nuclear explosion from stored bomb-grade plutonium and uranium. After a pair of Los Alamos scientists cautioned last year that such an explosion could conceivably occur if highly enriched uranium and plutonium were stored at the federal repository, nine faculty members from the departments of nuclear engineering and materials science and mineral engineering embarked on a thorough, six-month study of the scenario. The first systematic analysis of the situation, it provides important information the government needs if it plans to go ahead with the project. (10 a.m.-12 p.m., 225A Bechtel Engineering Center)

    A wireless umbrella for the Bay Area:

    Thursday, March 14th Randy Katz, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, will disuss the Bay Area Research Wireless Access Network (BARWAN), an experimental wireless network that he hopes eventually will cover the entire area and allow seamless radio connections for transfer of computer information, pictures, video etc. Perhaps the most urgent need is for communication between emergency crews and hospitals, and between different hospitals, for transmission of medical information ranging from X-rays to CAT scans. But the umbrella network would also allow computer access from a moving vehicle anywhere in the area, and much more. (presentation at 9 a.m., Soda Hall Auditorium; demonstration at 2-4 p.m., 440 Soda Hall)

    Making artificial joints last longer:

    Wednesday, March 13th As younger and younger people get total joint replacements, doctors have come to realize that the materials they use don't last as long as they thought. One problem has been the shock-absorbing plastic used in replacement joints-it breaks down in under ten years. The main reason is that the high-strength plastic used (ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene) is damaged by the gamma radiation mandated to sterilize it. Mechanical engineering professor Lisa Pruitt has investigated why, and has come up with an alternate sterilization procedure and an improved manufacturing method to make it tougher. (10:30 a.m., 6153 Etcheverry Hall)

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