Mona Jarrahi recognized for her work advancing imaging technology

Mona Jarrahi, associate professor of electrical engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been named one of five inaugural Moore Inventor Fellows by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

The new fellowship program recognizes early-career innovators at U.S. universities who have a high potential to accelerate progress in scientific research, environmental conservation and patient care.

“I’m really honored to be part of this first class of Moore Inventor Fellows and thankful for their support of my research,” said Jarrahi, who invented an imaging tool that helps researchers understand how biological molecules, such as proteins and enzymes, inside cells behave in their natural environment.

Jarrahi’s work could help answer fundamental physical questions that are not possible through existing technologies. Specifically, she is working to bring technologies that use the terahertz part of the electromagnetic spectrum to fruition.

“Terahertz-based imaging technologies open a completely new way to see the world, but are still in their infancy,” Jarrahi said. “For example, they can reveal how the structure and bonding of a biomolecule are changed during a biological process. One could use this information to design more efficient anti-cancer drugs or manipulate basic cellular functionalities such as cell reproduction and metabolism. Still, there are many hurdles and my research group and I are working to overcome them.”

As a Moore fellow, she will receive a $825,000 over three years to further her research into terahertz-based imaging. This includes $50,000 per year from UCLA.

Jarrahi has received several notable awards for her work including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the country’s highest honor for researchers in the early part of their career.

Other members of the Moore Inventor Fellows include faculty members at UC Irvine, the University of Kansas, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Texas at Austin. The fellows will be recognized at an event today at the Tech Museum of Innovation, in San Jose, California.

For this inaugural year, the Moore Inventor Fellows competition drew from early-career researchers at Association of American Universities member institutions and 15 additional institutions from the top 50 National Institutes of Health-funded medical schools. Starting with this class of fellows, the foundation will invest nearly $34 million over the next 10 years to support 50 Moore Inventor Fellows.

In 1965, Gordon Moore, who would go on to co-found Intel, predicted the doubling of components on an integrated circuit every 18 months. From careful observation of an emerging trend, Moore extrapolated that computing would dramatically increase in power, and decrease in relative cost, at an exponential pace, which has become known as Moore’s Law.

By Matthew Chin
Image credit: Art Montes De Oca/UCLA Engineering