Our legacy is advancing knowledge, inventing cures and solutions
What will your legacy be?

replay

News

Robotic Bees: UCLA innovator gets creative with applied mathematics

While her grade school classmates were learning the alphabet and how to count to five, Andrea Bertozzi remembers studying negative numbers and modular arithmetic.

Math often gets a bad rap as an uncreative left brain-oriented activity, but Bertozzi recalls that, as a child, she was fascinated with it because of its creative potential.

"Teachers have trouble teaching it that way," said Bertozzi, a professor of mathematics and director of applied mathematics at UCLA, and the inaugural holder of UCLA's Betsy Wood Knapp Chair for Innovation and Creativity. "They're not looking at it the right way."

As the director of applied mathematics at UCLA and a member of the UCLA Institute for Digital Research and Education's Executive Committee, Bertozzi and her colleagues conceive of math as a creative medium that can be practically used to solve real-world problems. "Our department is not one that does routine applications," she said. "We develop new math on the boundary with other fields."

One of Bertozzi's most publicized projects is an ideal illustration of math in action. In a partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department, Bertozzi and UCLA anthropology professor Jeffrey Brantingham head a research team that developed a mathematical model to predict where and when crime will most likely happen, based on historical crime data in targeted areas so that police officers can preemptively patrol these districts.

The model they and their team developed based on an algorithm that "learns," evolves and adapts to new crime data is based on earthquake science. It takes a triggering event such as a property crime or a burglary and treats it similarly to aftershocks following an earthquake that can be tracked by scientists to figure out where and when the next one will occur.

Another of Bertozzi's projects, the deployment of robotic bees, is being done in collaboration with Spring Berman, a robotics expert and an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Arizona State University.

Since the late 1990s, the population of bees has plunged because of a combination of factors. Earlier this year, the rusty-patched bumblebee landed on the US Fish and Wildlife Service's list of endangered species. Without bees to pollinate, humanity runs the risk of losing a wide swath of the world's flora. One solution that scientists are looking into is the development of robotic bees.

That's where Bertozzi's creative mathematical abilities come in.

Bertozzi and Berman are studying algorithms that would send out a cloud of these robotic pollinators to certain plants. In the applied math lab at UCLA, undergraduates have created earthbound robotic bees to test path-planning algorithms for simple robots without GPS trackers. The group is planning to present the results of testbed simulation "flights" at a conference.

Bertozzi isn't exaggerating when she says she is working on a broad research agenda. Her interest in non-linear partial differential equations and applied mathematics has led to projects in everything from image-processing to cooperative robotics and high-dimensional data analysis.

"It turns out that a lot of my recent projects have social components," she said. "I have a lot of ideas; we work on those that I can pitch to the funding agencies." She and her students have used a powerful computer resource at UCLA, the Hoffman2 Cluster, provided by the Institute of Digital Research and Education, to do their complex calculations.

Although her research goals are all complex, Bertozzi has a concise philosophy on math.

"You can think of math as a language that describes the real world," said Bertozzi. "It's about always reinventing and adding different structures to things."

Contact Us

800-737-UCLA (8252) • giftplanning@support.ucla.edu

UCLA's gift planning professionals are happy to provide you and your legal and financial advisors with personalized illustrations of the benefits that a gift of real estate offers. Any information in this publication is not intended as legal, accounting, or financial advice. Please consult with your tax, legal, and financial advisors to ascertain whether this or other gift plans are in keeping with your own tax and financial needs. Conversations with the university's gift planning team are always confidential and never imply obligation.

scriptsknown

Read the latest news from campus: How campus units are collaborating to provide PPE for medical staff • UCLA researchers and global effort to test therapies • A summary of the "CARES Act" Congress signed into law and Gift Planning news. read more

New Tax Law Changes with the CARES Act

Congress recently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that includes several charitable tax provisions to encourage giving. These include:

  • A new deduction for donors who do not itemize when filing their tax returns. If you do not itemize but make a cash gift to charity, you will be allowed to take a special tax deduction, up to $300, to reduce your tax liability.
  • An increase in the deduction limit up to 100% of a donor's annual income for cash gifts (previously the deduction was capped at 60% of annual income). If you make a gift, you will be able to deduct more this year.

If you are interested in learning more about these opportunities, please contact UCLA's Gift Planning team at 800-737-8252 or at giftplanning@support.ucla.edu. Please also let us know how we can help you during this time.