Research roundup: Andrew Viterbi earns National Medal of Science


UC San Diego professor emeritus Andrew Viterbi has received one of the nation’s highest honors - the National Medal of Science - for development of the algorithm used in virtually every cell phone today to decode digital transmission sequences.

As a wireless signal is transmitted, it picks up noise and interference that degrades sound quality by the time it reaches a cell phone. The Viterbi algorithm allows recovery of the original signal and dispenses with the noise. The same algorithm is also used in most digital satellite communication systems.

The National Medal of Science honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of science and engineering.

Combatting heart disease

Researchers are looking at the immune system as a means to combat heart disease, this nation’s No. 1 killer. It’s been a long-held belief that cholesterol buildup was the sole cause of the plaque formation leading to atherosclerosis, a blockage in the arteries. In the early 1980s, however, researchers found plaque also contained inflammation-causing cells of the immune system. In addition to contributing to plaque building, inflammation plays a key role in the rupture of artery walls leading to a heart attack.

The La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology has launched an Inflammation Biology Division focused on this line of research and has announced that Klaus Ley, M.D., an internationally recognized scientist who helped pioneer the scientific discipline of vascular immunology, will serve as director.

Solving AIDS puzzle

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative have established a new research center dedicated exclusively to solving the most pressing challenge facing AIDS vaccine researchers today. Located on the TSRI campus, and linked to a network of research institutions around the world, the center will focus on developing vaccines candidates that stimulate the body’s production of neutralizing antibodies against HIV as a means of preventing infection.

Melville returns

After logging more than 100,000 nautical miles, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography research vessel Melville has returned to La Jolla.

The two-and-a-half year expedition featured a broad range of scientific missions including close-up observations of a deep-sea volcanic eruption, studies of the Earth’s geomagnetic field, measurements of the physical properties of sound traveling through the ocean, and seafloor sampling between Fiji and Samoa to better understand seafloor spreading centers and volcanic seamounts.

Built in 1969, the 279-foot R/V Melville is the oldest active vessel in the academic research fleet, collectively known as the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System.