Popular Mechanics honored three UCLA faculty members with its 2016 Breakthrough Awards, given to recognize "the research, innovators, scientists and students who've made the world a little better this year."

Reed Hutchinson/UCLA
Xia Yang and Fernando Gomez-Pinilla

Two faculty members in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology in the UCLA College, associate professor Xia Yang and professor Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, were recognized by the publication for their discovery that hundreds of genes in the human brain can be damaged by fructose in a way that could lead to a range of diseases, from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, and from Alzheimer’s disease to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The UCLA researchers also discovered that an omega-3 fatty acid, known as docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, seems to reverse the harmful changes produced by fructose.

Mona Jarrahi

In the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, Mona Jarrahi, associate professor in charge of the UCLA Terahertz Electronics Laboratory, was honored for her work in integrating semiconducting nanostructures into lasers to convert light into terahertz waves.

"The Department of Defense, President Obama, and the Nobel Prize Committee are all interested in Jarrahi's 'basic research,'" according to Popular Mechanics, "because essentially what she has done is increase the sensitivity of terahertz scanners — those body scanners you get to pose in every time you go to the airport — by five orders of magnitude.” Because terahertz scanners can see through clothes and inside organs and detect unique chemical signatures without damaging DNA, these waves are considered ideal for locating explosives as well as cancer tumors. Jarrahi has been able to build scanners as small as a deck of cards and hopes that one day they will enable doctors to detect breast cancer with an iPhone.