This page was published on October 1, 2021 to accompany a news story about the end of Caltech's Break Through campaign.
Centers, Institutes, and Initiatives
Break Through's generous donors advanced Caltech’s field-defining research and discovery by helping to establish or enhance more than a dozen research centers, institutes, programs, and initiatives. These endeavors seed innovation, drive unexpected collaborations, and have powerful impacts.
The Amazon Web Services Center for Quantum Computing, scheduled to open later this fall, will bring together leading researchers and engineers from Amazon, Caltech, and other academic institutions to develop more powerful quantum computing hardware and software, and identify new applications for quantum technologies. Such technologies have the potential to drive transformative advances in areas such as data security, machine learning, medicine development, and sustainability.
The Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics was made possible by a $20 million grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation and named in honor of life member of the Caltech community Walter Burke. This institute has strengthened Caltech's leading role in the quest to discover fundamental laws of nature and to explain natural phenomena at all scales, from subatomic, atomic, and molecular scales to the scales of celestial objects and the universe itself.
The 10,000-square-foot Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST), an endowed center established with the support of philanthropists Foster and Coco Stanback, unites researchers from the Division of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS), the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, and JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA. CAST researchers collaborate to create the next generation of autonomous systems, advancing the fields of drone research, autonomous exploration, and bioinspired systems. Their research has led to the creations of a self-driven, flying ambulance and prosthetic legs that use machine learning to adjust automatically to the wearer's gait. CAST opened in October 2017
The Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience, founded in 2016 through a $115 million donation from philanthropists Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Luo, unites an interdisciplinary community of neuroscientists, biologists, chemists, physicists, engineers, computer scientists, and social scientists. These scholars seek to uncover and understand the fundamental principles that underlie brain function, with the goal of making transformational advances that will inform new scientific tools and medical treatments. The Chen Institute resides within Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Neuroscience Research Building, which opened in January 2021.
Three research centers were funded as part of the Chen gift:
The T&C Chen Brain–Machine Interface Center advances Caltech's work on a new generation of devices that can directly communicate with the brain. These neuroprosthetics enable people with paralysis to control robotic limbs and computer interfaces by thinking about moving. Such devices can stimulate the brain to restore the senses of touch and movement previously lost due to brain disease or injury.
The T&C Chen Center for Social and Decision Neuroscience studies how humans make decisions as individuals and in groups, where knowledge and actions of other people impact how the brain computes social influence. The approach is highly computational, using mathematical algorithms to approximate how people perceive the world, process information, and compute beliefs and valuations in order to make choices. The findings will improve how individuals make personal decisions, allow researchers to design devices and interventions to benefit society, and inform new treatments for neurologically based disorders such as anxiety and autism.
T&C Chen Center for Systems Neuroscience address the challenge of understanding how a large group of neurons firing in concert gives rise to cognition. Researchers working in this center explore the neural circuits and computations that underlie perception, thought, emotion, memory, decision-making, and behavior, and tackle problems ranging from fundamental design principles of the brain to the creation of new tools to study the brain.
The Andrew and Peggy Cherng Department of Medical Engineering enables Caltech's medical engineers to apply multidisciplinary engineering principles in the health sphere to design and fabricate devices and systems for translational medicine—including diagnostics, therapeutics, implants, and noninvasive imaging—that will lead to cheaper, more effective, and more accessible health care. The Cherng Department was endowed in 2017 through a gift from Caltech senior trustee Peggy Cherng, co-chair and co-CEO of Panda Restaurant Group, Inc., and her husband, Andrew Cherng.
The Heritage Research Institute for the Advancement of Medicine and Science, established in 2015 with a gift from physician and Caltech senior trustee Richard N. Merkin, MD, founder and chief executive officer of Heritage Provider Network, provides a cohort of nine Caltech scientists and engineers (known as Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigators) with salary support and unrestricted research funds that allow them to pursue high-risk/high-reward projects.
Merkin also endowed the Richard N. Merkin Institute for Translational Research in 2019. By supporting all steps in the translational process from basic discovery to clinical applications, the Merkin Institute helps Caltech scientists and engineers realize the full biomedical potential of their discoveries and inventions. In the spring of 2020, the Merkin Institute awarded grants to faculty interested in leveraging their relevant expertise to advance projects that could help fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its effects.
Following a 2012 renovation, the Earle M. Jorgensen Laboratory became the hub of clean-energy research at Caltech. The building, first constructed in 1971, was reconfigured into a modern home for researchers from the Department of Energy's Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) and its successor, the Liquid Sunlight Alliance (LiSA), which is dedicated to streamlining and improving the efficiency of the conversion of sunlight into fuels. The building houses a lab that fabricates and tests new materials faster than anywhere else in the world, a solar-fuel generator prototyping and test laboratory, and surface science and synthesis labs.
The Ronald and Maxine Linde Institute of Economic and Management Sciences was established in 2011 through a gift from Caltech senior trustee and vice chair Ronald Linde (MS '62, PhD '64) and his wife, Maxine Linde. This is Caltech's hub for interdisciplinary research and education in the social sciences, with concentrations in economics, finance, and entrepreneurship. Linde Institute researchers strive to gain deeper insight into the mathematical, social, psychological, and neurobiological principles behind business and economic interactions and behaviors. The Linde Institute includes the Center for Social Information Sciences and the Center for Theoretical and Experimental Social Sciences.
In 2016, the Lindes endowed the Linde Center for New Initiatives to provide Caltech's president and provost with discretionary funding to boost especially promising academic enterprises and equip faculty and students with the support they need to pursue transformative investigations.
The Resnick Sustainability Institute (RSI) brings together experts from diverse fields to address challenges and opportunities associated with climate change and the stewardship of natural resources. It also provides facilities with unparalleled instrumentation to advance new solutions to energy and sustainability challenges. RSI was founded more than a decade ago through a gift from philanthropists Lynda Resnick and Stewart Resnick, a Caltech senior trustee. In 2019, the Resnicks, owners of the Wonderful Company, pledged $750 million to Caltech to amplify RSI's work and research initiatives, fund new educational initiatives and graduate fellowships, and facilitate the campus construction of the 75,000-square-foot Resnick Sustainability Institute Research Building.
In 2016, a bequest intention by Caltech Board of Trustees chair, emeritus, Benjamin M. Rosen (BS '54), life member of the Caltech community, and his wife, Donna Rosen, doubled the endowment of the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center, which was established in 2008 with an $18 million gift from the Benjamin M. Rosen Family Foundation of New York. The Rosen Center is a hub for Caltech scientists' efforts to generate solutions to some of the biggest problems in science, medicine, and sustainability research.
The Rothenberg Innovation Initiative (RI2) was created by and named for the late James Rothenberg, a Caltech trustee, and his wife, Anne Rothenberg. It provides up to two years of support for Caltech research that could lead to marketable technologies. To date, RI2 grants have spurred 176 patents, 18 start-ups, and 40 disclosed inventions.
The Space Solar Power Project (SSPP) develops technology that generates solar power in space and beams it back to Earth. SSPP was founded in 2013 and was enhanced through a 2016 donation of more than $100 million from Donald Bren, chairman of Irvine Company and a life member of the Caltech community, and his wife, Caltech trustee Brigitte Bren. The gift, which also established the Bren Professorships program, was announced in August 2021.
Because of philanthropy bestowed during the Break Through campaign, the Institute additionally was able to enhance significantly the resources available to its students, faculty, and the community as a whole.
In 2018, the 211-bed Bechtel Residence, named for the late Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr., who was a life member of the Caltech community, became the first new undergraduate residence on campus in more than two decades. The 95,000-square-foot structure, situated at the north end of campus along Moore Walk, is composed of six distinct but interconnected buildings arranged around an interior courtyard, a setup that is designed to promote interaction among its residents. The residence allows Caltech to offer all of its undergraduates the opportunity to live on campus throughout the four years of their education.
The Charles C. Gates Jr.–Franklin Thomas Laboratory, home to Caltech's Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and the administrative offices of EAS division, opened in 2015 after philanthropy realized by the Break Through campaign enabled a renovation and modernization of the Franklin Thomas Laboratory of Engineering. The new Gates–Thomas building—named in honor of the late Charles C. Gates Jr., a businessman, philanthropist, and longtime Caltech trustee; and the late Franklin Thomas, who was the first chair of the division that became EAS, as well as a professor of civil engineering and a dean of students—contains laboratories and experimental and computational facilities to accelerate research on longer-lasting lithium batteries, flexible ceramics, and water-collecting membranes.
The new Hameetman Center, opened in 2019, offers a welcoming space for formal and informal gatherings of all members of the Caltech community. The center—named in honor of alumnus and senior trustee Fred Hameetman (BS '62), and his wife, Joyce Hameetman—was built on the grounds of the former Winnett Student Center and is designed to forge connections through musical collaborations, art exhibits, conversations over coffee, and group meetings.
The Ronald and Maxine Linde Hall of Mathematics and Physics opened in 2019 after a renovation of the former Sloan Laboratory was made possible through a donation from senior trustee Ronald Linde (MS '62, PhD '64) and his wife, Maxine Linde. Linde Hall, home to more than 125 mathematicians, includes spaces for teamwork and quiet contemplation, with adaptable classrooms, meeting areas, and upgraded offices for graduate students as well as postdoctoral and visiting scholars.