Division of Biological Sciences Professors Darwin Berg and Nick Spitzer, Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind, discuss the development of neuroscience research at UC San Diego, President Obama's BRAIN Initiative and the emerging field of “neurotechnology.”
More than 40 students studying biotechnology at Castle Park High School’s Science Innovation Academy in Chula Vista came to campus to experience how biologists do research—as well as to learn what it takes to actually become a scientist.
Their recent visit, arranged by emeritus professor of biology Maarten Chrispeels and Castle Park biology and biotechnology teachers Megan Grupe and Darci Kimball, was sponsored by Biological Sciences Dean Bill McGinnis and filmed by a television crew for CBS Channel 8, which will soon broadcast the segment as part of its Innovate 8 series on local STEM education programs.
Complex ideas in science need to be conveyed with precision. Yet most scientists also believe the public needs to understand the details, without personal opinions or emotion, so that people can draw their own conclusions based on facts.
Emmy Award-winning actor and director Alan Alda thinks that’s wrong. And he came to campus last week to convince senior administrators and young scientists to do it differently.
When a rapidly-growing cell divides into two smaller cells, what triggers the split? Is it the size the growing cell eventually reaches? Or is the real trigger the time period over which the cell keeps growing ever larger?
A novel study published online today in the journal Current Biology has finally provided an answer to this long unsolved conundrum. And it’s not what many biologists expected.
Four undergraduate teaching laboratories for biology and chemistry students have undergone a $6.5 million makeover as part of implementation of the UC San Diego Strategic Plan. The renovated labs in York Hall will eliminate a key barrier to students accessing impacted laboratory science courses—making it easier for them to graduate in four years.
Julian Schroeder, a distinguished professor of biology and co-director of UC San Diego Center for Food and Fuel for the 21st Century, has been elected named president of the American Society of Plant Biologists, a professional society of 5,000 members devoted to the advancement of the plant sciences. He began his one-year term of service on October 1.
Long assumed to be destructive to tissues and cells, “free radicals” generated by the cell’s mitochondria—the energy producing structures in the cell—are actually beneficial to healing wounds.
That’s the conclusion of biologists at UC San Diego who discovered that “reactive oxygen species”—chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen, such as peroxides, commonly referred to as free radicals—are necessary for the proper healing of skin wounds in the laboratory roundworm C. elegans.
UC San Diego bolsters reputation as top neuroscience research center with more than $10 million in new federal grants
President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, a federal research effort designed to help researchers answer fundamental questions about how the brain works, has in recent months awarded scientists at UC San Diego with more than $10 million in grants, cementing the campus’s reputation as one of the world’s top centers for neuroscience research.
The Division of Biological Sciences ranked number two in the nation, behind MIT, for the quality of its undergraduate education in the biological sciences, according to a survey of top colleges for general biology majors conducted by College Factual.
Biology Professors Andrew Huberman, David Kleinfeld, Massimo Scanziani and Yishi Jin are leading four teams of scientists at UC San Diego which were recently awarded research grants from the National Institutes of Health that will help lay the groundwork for visualizing the circuits of the brain and how they work.
The four biologists join four other research teams at the university that in August were awarded early concept grants for brain research from the National Science Foundation.
The evolution of worms, insects, vertebrates and other “bilateral” animals—those with distinct left and right sides—from less complex creatures like jellyfish and sea anemones with “radial” symmetry may have been facilitated by the emergence of a completely new "operating system" for controlling genetic instructions in the cell.
Brenda Bloodgood, an assistant professor in the Section of Neurobiology, and three other scientists at UC San Diego are among 36 recipients nationwide who have been awarded early concept grants for brain research from the National Science Foundation.
The awards were made to fund research projects that the federal science agency determined could produce “potentially transformative insights into understanding the brain.” The funding comes from the agency’s allocation for President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, a multi-agency research effort that seeks to accelerate the development of new neurotechnologies that promise to help researchers answer fundamental questions about how the brain works.
A group of 70 excited and inquisitive youngsters had an opportunity to explore laboratory environments recently at the University of California, San Diego as part of the campus’s outreach efforts to encourage K-12 students to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. The elementary and middle school students were from the Elementary Institute of Science (EIS), a San Diego-based science enrichment program that nurtures students’ intellectual curiosity by providing hands-on experiences.
Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered a fundamental mechanism by which the brain maintains its internal balance. The mechanism involves the brain's most basic inner wiring and the processes that control whether a neuron relays information to other neurons or suppresses the transmission of information.
Our immune system copes with a multitude of threats using a mix-and-match system to create millions of different antibodies.
The white blood cells that produce these antibodies assemble their specific versions by selecting three gene segments from among multiple variants.
Joseph Lucas, a graduate student working with Cornelis Murre, a professor of biology at UC San Diego, tagged individual gene segments in live cells to track their movement in three dimensions.
Neurons in the developing brains of mice are guided by a simple but elegant birth order rule that allows them to find and form their proper connections. That’s the conclusion of a study published in the July 31 advance online issue of Cell Reports by a team of biologists in UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences and School of Medicine.
A study of juvenile rat brain cells suggests that the effects of a commonly used anesthetic drug on the connections between brain cells are temporary.
The study, published in this week’s issue of the journal PLOS ONE, was conducted by biologists at the University of California, San Diego and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York in response to concerns, arising from multiple studies on humans over the past decade, that exposing children to general anesthetics may increase their susceptibility to long-term cognitive and behavioral deficits, such as learning disabilities.
Biologists at UC San Diego and USC have produced the first comprehensive library of genetic switches in plants.
This valuable resource, described in a paper published in the July 17 issue of the journal Cell Reports, will allow scientists worldwide to better understand how plants adapt to environmental changes and engineer more robust and fertile crops that can withstand droughts and other impacts from climate change.
Two assistant professors in the Section of Cell and Developmental Biology have won awards from the Hellman Fellowship Program for 2014-2015.
Eva-Maria S. Collins, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, and Eric Bennett are among 11 faculty members at UC San Diego who received Hellman awards, which provides financing to junior faculty members to support their research and scholarly work as they advance toward tenure.
Biologists at UC San Diego have solved a long-standing mystery concerning the way plants reduce the numbers of their breathing pores in response to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
In a paper published in this week’s early online edition of Nature, they report the discovery of a new genetic pathway in plants, made up of four genes from three different gene families that control the density of breathing pores–or “stomata”–in plant leaves in response to elevated CO2 levels.
Let’s say you’re a bee and you’ve spotted a new and particularly lucrative source of nectar and pollen. What’s the best way to communicate the location of this prize cache of food to the rest of your nestmates without revealing it to competitors, or “eavesdropping” spies, outside of the colony?
Biology Professor Susan Golden, who heads a research institute that brings together scientists from across the campus studying circadian rhythms, the internal “biological clock” that governs the daily activities in humans and other organisms, has been named by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute an HHMI professor. The prestigious honor carries with it a $1 million grant over the next five years.
Biologists at UC San Diego have found the “missing link” in the chemical system that enables animal cells to produce ribosomes–the thousands of protein “factories” contained within each cell that manufacture all of the proteins needed to build tissue and sustain life.
Their discovery, detailed in the June 23 issue of the journal Genes & Development, will not only force a revision of basic textbooks on molecular biology, but also provide scientists with a better understanding of how to limit uncontrolled cell growth, such as cancer, that might be regulated by controlling the output of ribosomes.
Joseph Lucas and Miao-Ping Chien, who received their doctorates from UC San Diego this year, have won the 2013-2014 Kamen Prize, established in 1978 by the friends and family of Martin Kamen, a former chemistry professor, to recognize the outstanding thesis in biochemistry defended each year at UC San Diego. A cash prize of $1,500 will be awarded to each recipient and each will separately present Martin D. Kamen Lectures in the fall quarter.
Biological Sciences doctoral candidate Alexa Clemmons was one of 12 campus scholars who were presented with 2014 Distinguished Teaching Awards by UC San Diego’s Academic Senate in a recent formal ceremony on the campus.
Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla and Academic Assembly Chair Kit Pogliano, a professor in the Division of Biological Sciences, were featured speakers for the event, held May 27 at the Ida and Cecil Green Faculty Club.
Two new Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, created by UC San Diego faculty and featuring lectures from some of the campus’ world-renowned scientists, social scientists and historians are being made available free to students and anyone else around the world with access to the Internet.
The MOOC phenomenon has galvanized learning—people love technology, access and ways to reach the masses. The campus is looking into a variety of ways to deliver courses, from MOOCs (massive open online courses) to partially online (blended/hybrid) instruction.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have erased and reactivated memories in rats, profoundly altering the animals’ reaction to past events.
The study, published in the June 1 advanced online issue of the journal Nature, is the first to show the ability to selectively remove a memory and predictably reactivate it by stimulating nerves in the brain at frequencies that are known to weaken and strengthen the connections between nerve cells, called synapses.
An astronomer long fascinated with contacting civilizations beyond our solar system becomes involved in a government-funded project to search the heavens for extraterrestrial radio signals. When the federal government ends funding for her project, she continues the effort with private support, eventually detects the radio signal she’s been hoping for and is chosen to make the first contact with an advanced civilization.
It’s the storyline from the 1997 science fiction film “Contact,” based on the novel with the same title, which was penned by the late Cornell University astronomer Carl Sagan. But the movie isn’t entirely fictional.
Larry Goldstein, ’76 Biology, is one of five members of the UC San Diego Triton family who will be recognized at the 2014 Alumni Celebration on Saturday, June 7. Goldstein, who will receive the award for Distinguished Leadership, is a distinguished professor of cellular and molecular medicine, director of the new Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center at UC San Diego and investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Goldstein’s research focuses on Lou Gehrig’s, Alzheimer’s and other debilitating diseases.
Takaki Komiyama, an assistant professor in the Neurobiology Section, is one of six scientists nationwide who have been honored this year with a McKnight Scholar Award, given “to young scientists who are in the early stages of establishing their own independent laboratories and research careers and who have demonstrated a commitment to neuroscience.”
Skilled motor movements of the sort tennis players employ while serving a tennis ball or pianists use in playing a concerto, require precise interactions between the motor cortex and the rest of the brain. Neuroscientists had long assumed that the motor cortex functioned something like a piano keyboard.
Biology majors Elizabeth Kim and Maarouf Saad are among the University of California, San Diego’s latest undergraduate students to be acknowledged with the national Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program Award for their research in the sciences.
Shannon Lauberth is one of 15 research scientists and medical doctors from across the United States who have won the prestigious 2014 Kimmel Scholar Award, which provides “gifted, young scientists involved in cancer research” with two-year research grants totaling $200,000 from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research.
Biologists at UC San Diego have succeeded in visualizing the movement within plants of a key hormone responsible for growth and resistance to drought. The achievement will allow researchers to conduct further studies to determine how the hormone helps plants respond to drought and other environmental stresses driven by the continuing increase in the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide, or CO2, concentration.
A paper describing their achievement appears in the April 15 issue of the scientific journal eLife and is accessible here.
Programming living cells offers the prospect of harnessing sophisticated biological machinery for transformative applications in energy, agriculture, water remediation and medicine. Inspired by engineering, researchers in the emerging field of synthetic biology have designed a tool box of small genetic components that act as intracellular switches, logic gates, counters and oscillators.
But scientists have found it difficult to wire the components together to form larger circuits that can function as “genetic programs.” One of the biggest obstacles? Dealing with a small number of available wires.
Biology professor Lin Chao was one of six UC San Diego faculty members honored at the 40th annual Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Excellence Awards for going above and beyond to make a positive impact in their teaching, research and service. The former chair of the Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution was given the award for excellence in undergraduate teaching.
James Hung has collected more than 17,000 wild bees from coastal, desert and mountain areas of San Diego County. But many of his specimens bear little resemblance to the honey bees we normally think of as bees.
A team of biologists and engineers at the University of California, San Diego has discovered that white blood cells, which repair damaged tissue as part of the body’s immune response, move to inflamed sites by walking in a stepwise manner. The cells periodically form and break adhesions mainly under two “feet,” and generate the traction forces that propel them forward by the coordinated action of contractile proteins. Their discovery, published March 17 in the Journal of Cell Biology, is an important advance toward developing new pharmacological strategies to treat chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, Type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
UC San Diego's biological sciences graduate program ranked 14th in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 Best Graduate Schools guidebook, while its neuroscience/neurobiology graduate program ranked second in the nation.
How do we “know” from the movements of speeding car in our field of view if it’s coming straight toward us or more likely to move to the right or left?
Scientists have long known that our perceptions of the outside world are processed in our cortex, the six-layered structure in the outer part of our brains. But how much of that processing actually happens in cortex? Do the eyes tell the brain a lot or a little about the content of the outside world and the objects moving within it?
If there’s a subject students and the public could learn more about, it’s evolutionary biology–because contrary to popular belief, evolution is not simply a “theory.” It’s a fact. And if we know where to look, we can witness the basic principles of how living things have changed over time.
Percy J. Russell, who joined the UC San Diego biological sciences faculty in 1969 and worked tirelessly in later decades at the School of Medicine to recruit and train new generations of scientists from communities not well represented in the sciences, died January 30, 2014 at his home in Del Mar. He was 87 years old.
Russell was an emeritus professor of biological sciences, an emeritus associate dean of the UC San Diego School of Medicine and former director the Research Methods Training Laboratory, which provided students with their basic training in biochemistry.
San Diego is one of the world’s “hotspots” for biodiversity, home to a diverse collection of creatures found nowhere else in the world. But like many ecological hotspots around the globe, most of the unique species in our region–particularly its insects, spiders and other small critters–have yet to be described and catalogued by scientists.
Sixteen biology undergraduates are among the 68 students at UC San Diego currently receiving awards from the Gates Millennium Scholars program, which annually provides “good through graduation” scholarships to 1,000 talented undergraduate and graduate students nationwide.
Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered an effective strategy that could prevent the human immune system from rejecting the grafts derived from human embryonic stem cells, a major problem now limiting the development of human stem cell therapies. Their discovery may also provide scientists with a better understanding of how tumors evade the human immune system when they spread throughout the body.
Using quantitative models of bacterial growth, a team of UC San Diego biophysicists has discovered the bizarre way by which antibiotic resistance allows bacteria to multiply in the presence of antibiotics, a growing health problem in hospitals and nursing homes across the United States.
Lauren Mejia, a first-year general biology student in the Division of Biological Sciences, has won a $10,000 HENAAC-NAVSEA/SPAWAR scholarship, funded by the U.S. Navy in partnership with the organization, Great Minds in STEM, to “an outstanding, incoming, first-year college student, attending a Hispanic Serving Institution and pursuing a major in STEM.”
Biology majors and students taking undergraduate biology courses will see some new changes to improve the undergraduate experience this year, according to Dean Bill McGinnis. As a long-time faculty member in the Division, the distinguished professor of cell and developmental biology and internationally renowned biologist had focused his attention primarily on his research and teaching activities since he arrived here in 1995 from Yale University. But as the new Dean, his belief in the importance of educating every undergraduate student about the principles of evolution, the need to make biology education more practical for majors and his passion to open the science pipeline to those in the community who may not have the opportunity to study science will bring about some important changes in the coming year.
Most of us think of honey bees as having a bucolic, pastoral existence–flying from flower to flower to collect the nectar they then turn into honey. But while they’re capable of defending themselves with their painful stings, honey bees live in a world filled with danger in which predators seize them from the sky and wait to ambush them on flowers.
Species living in rain forest fragments could be far more likely to disappear than previously assumed, according to an international team of scientists that included biologists at the University of California, San Diego.
In a study spanning two decades, published in this week’s issue of the journal Science, the researchers witnessed the near-complete extinction of native small mammals on forest islands created by a large hydroelectric dam in Thailand. No one expected the collapse of these protected forest communities to be so rapid.
Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have developed a revolutionary new method for identifying and characterizing antibiotics, an advance that could lead to the discovery of new antibiotics to treat antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have identified an underlying biochemical mechanism that helps make cholera toxin so deadly, often resulting in life-threating diarrhea that causes people to lose as much as half of their body fluids in a single day.
Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have identified a new component of the cellular mechanism by which humans and animals automatically check the quality of their nerve cells to assure they’re working properly during development.
In a paper published in this week’s issue of the journal Neuron, the scientists report the discovery in the laboratory roundworm C. elegans of a “quality check” system for neurons that uses two proteins to squelch the signals from defective neurons and marks them for either repair or destruction.
The life sciences at UC San Diego are seventh best among top research universities around the world, according to the 2013 Academic Ranking of World Universities. The latest rankings of research universities and their academic fields were recently released by the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, a public research university located in Shanghai, China.
One of the most basic and intensively studied processes in biology–one which has been detailed in biology textbooks for decades–has gained a new level of understanding, thanks to the application of simple math to a problem that scientists never before thought could benefit from mathematics.
A biology and physics professor at UC San Diego has received a $1.15 million grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a series of annual “boot camps” that will educate San Diego-area high school and college students about an emerging field at the intersection of physics and biology called “quantitative biology.”
Biologists at UC San Diego who recently discovered that the brain cells of adult rats can alter the neurotransmitters they secrete in response to changes in the amount of daylight have been awarded a $1-million research grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation. Their mission: to study this neurotransmitter switching mechanism in greater detail so neuroscientists might one day be able to develop new treatments for human brain disorders such as Parkinson’s.
William (Bill) McGinnis, a distinguished professor of cell and developmental biology at UC San Diego, has been named the Dean of its nationally renowned Division of Biological Sciences.
Emily Troemel, an associate professor of cell and developmental biology, has been named a 2013 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigator. Troemel is one of 10 scientists honored this year as Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease and is the first recipient ever to receive the award from UC San Diego.
Two early-career scientists at UC San Diego are among 22 of the nation’s most enterprising researchers named Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Professor Tracy Johnson has been named one of the Top 20 Women Professors in California. The list, compiled by StateStats.org, highlights "post-secondary educators who have been awarded recently for excellence in the classroom, on campus, and/or in the community."
Andrew Huberman, an assistant professor of neurobiology, is one of six young neuroscientists nationwide who have been named 2013 McKnight Scholars.
Sharon Torigoe, a doctoral student working in James Kadonaga's laboratory, is one of two winners of this year's Kamen Prize, given annually to an outstanding thesis in biochemistry defended at UC San Diego.
Li-Fan Lu, an assistant professor of molecular biology, and Jose Pruneda-Paz, an assistant professor of cell and developmental biology, are among 10 junior faculty members at UC San Diego who have been named 2013-14 Hellman Faculty Fellows.
Molecular biology major Chiara Ricci-Tam is one of two undergraduates at UC San Diego who this year has been named to receive a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious award bestowed upon students studying the sciences. Ricci-Tam and Neil Sapra, a computational physics and applied mathematics major, will each receive $7,500 each to support their pursuit of a career in sciences, engineering and mathematics.
Responding to President Barack Obama’s “grand challenge” to chart the function of the human brain in unprecedented detail, the University of California, San Diego has established the Center for Brain Activity Mapping (CBAM).
Nicholas C. Spitzer, Distinguished Professor of Biology, is one of three faculty members at UC San Diego elected this year to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors bestowed on U.S. scientists and engineers. The other two faculty members are Peter J. Novick, professor of cellular and molecular medicine, and Nancy Knowlton, adjunct professor of marine biology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
New discoveries of the way plants transport important substances across their biological membranes to resist toxic metals and pests, increase salt and drought tolerance, control water loss and store sugar can have profound implications for increasing the supply of food and energy for our rapidly growing global population.
Most of us are familiar with the “winter blues,” the depression-like symptoms known as “seasonal affective disorder,” or SAD, that occurs when the shorter days of winter limit our exposure to natural light and make us more lethargic, irritable and anxious. But for rats it’s just the opposite.
Biologists at UC San Diego have identified eight genes never before suspected to play a role in wound healing that are called into action near the areas where wounds occur.
Their discovery, detailed this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, was made in the laboratory fruit fly Drosophila. But the biologists say many of the same genes that regulate biological processes in the hard exoskeleton, or cuticle, of Drosophila also control processes in human skin.
Can scientists rid malaria from the Third World by simply feeding algae genetically engineered with a vaccine?
That’s the question biologists at UC San Diego sought to answer after they demonstrated last May that algae can be engineered to produce a vaccine that blocks malaria transmission. In a follow up study, published online today in the scientific journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, they got their answer: Not yet, although the same method may work as a vaccine against a wide variety of viral and bacterial infections.
Assistant Professor Emily Troemel has won the 2013 Merck Irving Sigal Memorial Award from the American Society of Microbiology. Given in honor of Irving Sigal, who was instrumental in the early discovery of therapies to treat HIV/AIDS, the award recognizes early career scientists who have had commendable basic research in medical microbiology and infectious diseases.
Professors Tracy Johnson and Nick Spitzer are among the faculty members this year honored with 2013 Chancellor's Associates Faculty Excellence Awards.
Johnson, an associate professor of molecular biology and UC San Diego undergraduate alumna '91, was given the award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and Spitzer, distinguished professor of neurobiology, was given the award for Excellence in Research in Science and Engineering.
What can green algae do for science if they weren’t, well, green?
That’s the question biologists at UC San Diego sought to answer when they engineered a green alga used commonly in laboratories, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, into a rainbow of different colors by producing six different colored fluorescent proteins in the algae cells.
One of the newest faculty members at UC San Diego–Suckjoon Jun, an assistant professor of physics and molecular biology–has won a $1.6 million award from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. This is the first award given to a UC San Diego recipient from the foundation, which was established by the co-founder of Microsoft to support high-risk, high-reward ideas in science. Jun's effort is one of five awards announced by the foundation last week to projects "that aim to unlock key questions in the areas of cellular decision making and modeling dynamic biological systems."
Eva-Maria Schoetz Collins, assistant professor of physics and biology, is one of four faculty members at UC San Diego who have been named 2013 Sloan Research Fellows by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Awarded annually since 1955, the fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars, the next generation of scientific leaders.
On the second Sunday in March, clocks across the U.S. will be moved forward an hour, shifting an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. It's a time when many of us feel fatigued and listless. And it's not just because of that lost hour of sleep.
A free online course is being developed at UC San Diego to educate students and anyone else around the world with a computer and an internet connection about the challenges and potential solutions for meeting the global demands of food and fuel in the 21st century.
Elina Zuniga is one of 12 researchers nationwide to be awarded a $300,000 grant from the Lupus Institute to pursue ground-breaking studies about lupus and other autoimmune diseases with the potential for transformative results.
Biologists at UC San Diego have succeeded in genetically engineering algae to produce a complex and expensive human therapeutic drug used to treat cancer. Their achievement, detailed in a paper in this week’s early online issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, opens the door for making these and other “designer” proteins in larger quantities and much more cheaply than can now be made from mammalian cells.
Biologists at UC San Diego have demonstrated for the first time that marine algae can be just as capable as fresh water algae in producing biofuels. The scientists genetically engineered marine algae to produce five different kinds of industrially important enzymes and say the same process they used could be employed to enhance the yield of petroleum-like compounds from these salt water algae.
For billions of people, mostly in poor, undeveloped regions, intestinal roundworms are a debilitating fact of life. These parasites, which include hookworms and whipworms, infect four million children, causing stunted growth, poor mental development and malnutrition. They also have a major impact on the health of pregnant women and other adults.
Gabriele Wienhausen, the Division's Associate Dean for Education, has been selected as one of 40 Vision and Change Leadership Fellows to lead an effort over the next year in catalyzing reform in undergraduate biology education.
Biologists at UC San Diego have unraveled the anti-viral mechanism of a human gene that may explain why some people infected with HIV have much higher amounts of virus in their bloodstreams than others.
Their findings, detailed in a paper in this week’s advance online issue of the journal Nature, could also shed light on the mystery of why some people with HIV never develop symptoms of AIDS. The biologists found that a gene called Human Schlafen 11 produces a protein that inhibits the replication of HIV in infected human cells by blocking the ability of the host cell to synthesize viral proteins.
Ananda Goldrath and David Traver, associate professors in the Division of Biological Sciences, were among six investigators from the University of California, San Diego Stem Cell Research program who received a total of more than $7 million in the latest round of funding from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
The Division of Biological Sciences is ranked ninth in the world, according to the 2012 Academic Ranking of World Universities conducted by the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered a chemical that offers a completely new and promising direction for the development of drugs to treat metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes–a major public health concern in the United States due to the current obesity epidemic.
Their discovery, detailed in a paper published July 13 in an advance online issue of the journal Science, initially came as a surprise because the chemical they isolated does not directly control glucose production in the liver, but instead affects the activity of a key protein that regulates the internal mechanisms of our daily night and day activities, which scientists call our circadian rhythm or biological clock.
Two biology majors, Selena Kuo and Elham Rahimy, this year received the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious award in the country conferred upon undergraduates studying the sciences.
Mira Chaurushiya, a graduate student in Matthew Weitzman's laboratory, has won the 2011-2012 Kamen Prize for her dissertation "Cellular defenses and viral counterattacks during Herpes Simplex virus infection."
This award is given annually to a student of outstanding scholarship in the Physical or Biological Sciences by the Silagi Family, in honor of Dr. Selma and Robert Silagi. This year’s winner, Hannah Wang, has taken a very rigorous course load at UC San Diego, all while conducting groundbreaking research in the Phage Genomics Research Initiative.
Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered that a small dose of a commonly used crop pesticide turns honey bees into “picky eaters” and affects their ability to recruit their nestmates to otherwise good sources of food.
Far more wild plant species may be responding to global warming than previous large-scale estimates have suggested. That’s the conclusion of a team of scientists, which included a UC San Diego biologist, that found that many plant species, which appear to not be affected by warmer spring temperatures, are in fact responding as much to warmer winters.
Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have succeeded in engineering algae to produce potential candidates for a vaccine that would prevent transmission of the parasite that causes malaria, an achievement that could pave the way for the development of an inexpensive way to protect billions of people from one of the world’s most prevalent and debilitating diseases.
Associate Dean for Education Gabriele Wienhausen has won the 2012 Athena Pinnacle Award in Education.
Some 300 leaders in plant and algae biology from around the country will gather here for a symposium this week to discuss ways of using genetics to develop renewable ways of improving the nation’s food, fuel, pharmaceutical and other bio-based industries.
Experiments may dramatically underestimate how plants will respond to climate change in the future.
The specific mechanisms by which humans and other animals are able to discriminate between disease-causing microbes and innocuous ones in order to rapidly respond to infections have long been a mystery to scientists. But a study conducted on roundworms by biologists at UC San Diego has uncovered some important clues to finally answering that question.
William Kristan, professor of neurobiology, and James Kadonaga, professor of molecular biology, will receive 2012 Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Excellence Awards at a ceremony on March 29. The annual event honors UC San Diego faculty as a whole, while highlighting the important contributions of the university’s most exemplary teachers and researchers.
Which of the following statements are true? We only use 10 percent of our brain. Listening to classical music can make us smarter. Brain damage is permanent. Alcohol kills brain cells. If you’ve said none, congratulations. If you said one or more, read on.
Three faculty members in the Division of Biological Sciences—Ananda Goldrath, David Traver and Elina Zuniga—have been named Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Fellows. They will each receive research awards of up to $110,000 per year from the society over the next five years.
Despite the sluggish economy, San Diego’s research efforts to produce new transportation fuels from algae continue to grow at a rapid pace, generating more than double the number of jobs for local workers in 2011 than were available in the region just two years ago.
In an example of life imitating art, biologists and bioengineers at UC San Diego have created a living neon sign composed of millions of bacterial cells that periodically fluoresce in unison like blinking light bulbs.
Their achievement, detailed in this week’s advance online issue of the journal Nature, involved attaching a fluorescent protein to the biological clocks of the bacteria, synchronizing the clocks of the thousands of bacteria within a colony, then synchronizing thousands of the blinking bacterial colonies to glow on and off in unison.
Professor Jim Posakony is one of nine faculty members at UC San Diego named 2011 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nation’s largest scientific organization. He and UC San Diego professors Alexandra Newton, Joseph O’Connor, Carol Padden, Dena Plemmons, Michael Sailor, Lu Jeu Sham, Lisa Tauxe and Paul Yu were among 539 individuals selected this year by colleagues in their disciplines to be honored by the association for “efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.”
The spread of fire ants from Argentina in the United States has been aided by their partnership with local insects, according to a paper published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Professor David Holway and colleagues from Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Illinois.
Associate Professor Ananda Goldrath has been named a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Scholar. She will receive a research award of $110,000 per year from the society for the next five years for her study on the Transcriptional Control of Lymphocyte Differentiation and Transformation. Goldrath received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School, where she was the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation-Irvington Fellow. She is also a Pew Scholar.
Stanley Eli Mills, a professor of biology at UC San Diego and one of its founding faculty members, died Friday, November 25 following a Thanksgiving evening automobile accident in San Diego. He was 89.
A research team in the Division of Biological Sciences headed by Stephen Mayfield will produce a mammary gland protein called MAA from algae to determine if has the potential to significantly reduce infectious diarrheal diseases, a major cause of infant mortality in the developing world.
The lowly and simple roundworm may be the ideal laboratory model to learn more about the complex processes involved in repairing wounds and could eventually allow scientists to improve the body’s response to healing skin wounds, a serious problem in diabetics and the elderly.
A novel study involving fruit flies and mice has allowed biologists to identify two critical genes responsible for congenital heart defects in individuals with Down syndrome, a major cause of infant mortality and death in people born with this genetic disorder.
In a paper published in the November 3 issue of the open access journal PLoS Genetics,researchers from UC San Diego, the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and the University of Utah report the identification of two genes that, when produced at elevated levels, work together to disrupt cardiac development and function.
When a bacterial cell divides into two daughter cells and those two cells divide into four more daughters, then 8, then 16 and so on, the result, biologists have long assumed, is an eternally youthful population of bacteria. Bacteria, in other words, don’t age–at least not in the same way all other organisms do.
Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have succeeded in unraveling, for the first time, the complete chain of biochemical reactions that controls the synthesis of auxin, the hormone that regulates nearly all aspects of plant growth and development.
Their discovery, detailed in a paper in this week’s online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, will allow agricultural scientists to develop new ways to enhance or manipulate auxin production to improve the growth and yield of crops and other plants.
Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have identified more than 70 genes that play a role in regenerating nerves after injury, providing biomedical researchers with a valuable set of genetic leads for use in developing therapies to repair spinal cord injuries and other common kinds of nerve damage such as stroke.
A team of researchers from Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, the UK and the USA has carried out a comprehensive assessment to estimate the impact of disturbance and land conversion on biodiversity in tropical forests. In a recent study published in Nature, they found that primary forests – those least disturbed old-growth forests – sustain the highest levels of biodiversity and are vital to many tropical species.
Rampant rates of logging and agricultural expansion have transformed the world's tropical forests, leaving little remaining primary forests unaltered by humans. The value of these rapidly expanding degraded and converted forest landscapes is hotly debated, and was the subject of the study.
The first 50 graduates of an innovative program funded by the State of California to retrain workers for the new green economy received their certification today to work as general science technicians in the rapidly expanding biofuels industry in the San Diego and Imperial County region. Thirteen of the graduates and other EDGE participants have already landed jobs or are headed to graduate school for further training.
“With this training, these students are prepared to support the region's growing biofuels companies and help San Diego continue to be a leader in the biofuels sector,” said Jason Anderson, vice president of CleanTECH San Diego, a non-profit organization that is helping to accelerate San Diego as a world leader in the clean technology economy.
Biologists have long known that organisms from bacteria to humans use the 24 hour cycle of light and darkness to set their biological clocks. But exactly how these clocks are synchronized at the molecular level to perform the interactions within a population of cells that depend on the precise timing of circadian rhythms is less well understood.
To better understand that process, biologists and bioengineers at UC San Diego created a model biological system consisting of glowing, blinking E. coli bacteria. This simple circadian system, the researchers report in the September 2 issue of Science, allowed them to study in detail how a population of cells synchronizes their biological clocks and enabled the researchers for the first time to describe this process mathematically.
Basic biology textbooks may need a bit of revising now that biologists at UC San Diego have discovered a never-before-noticed component of our basic genetic material.
According to the textbooks, chromatin, the natural state of DNA in the cell, is made up of nucleosomes. And nucleosomes are the basic repeating unit of chromatin.
Farmers and other astute observers of nature have long known that crops like corn and sorghum grow taller at night. But the biochemical mechanisms that control this nightly stem elongation, common to most plants, have been something of a mystery to biologists–until now.
In this week’s early online publication of the journal Nature, biologists at the University of California, San Diego report their discovery of a protein complex they call the “evening complex” that regulates the rhythmic growth of plants during the night. More importantly, the biologists show how this protein complex is intricately coordinated through the biological clock with the genes that promote stem elongation in a way that could enable plant breeders to engineer new varieties of crops that grow faster, produce greater yields of food or generate more biomass per acre of land for conversion into biofuels.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified a gene and a novel signaling pathway, both critical for making the first hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in developing vertebrate embryos. The discovery has implications for developing stem cell-based therapies for diseases like leukemia and congenital blood disorders.
Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered that an important class of stem cells known as “induced pluripotent stem cells,” or iPSCs, derived from an individual’s own cells, could face immune rejection problems if they are used in future stem cell therapies.
In today’s advance online issue of the journal Nature, the researchers report the first clear evidence of immune system rejection of cells derived from autologous iPSCs that can be differentiated into a wide variety of cell types.
The California Energy Commission has awarded $2 million to UC San Diego to accelerate research that will demonstrate the feasibility of using a variety of new kinds of biofuels to supplement or replace petroleum-based transportation fuels in the future.
The state agency selected the university for the award, which will be used to investigate a wide range of plant-based biofuels, because it is one of the nation’s leaders in developing technologies to turn algae into biofuels. Last year, a consortium of research institutions headed by UCSD received $9-million from the U.S. Department of Energy and another $3 million from biotechnology and energy companies for algal biofuels research. The university is also a partner in a $4-million grant awarded last year by the California Department of Labor to train workers in the San Diego and Imperial County region for jobs in the emerging biofuels industry.
Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered that electrical oscillations in the brain, long thought to play a role in organizing cognitive functions such as memory, are critically important for the brain to store the information that allows us to navigate through our physical environment.
The scientists report in the April 29 issue of the journal Science that neurons called "grid cells" that create maps of the external environment in one portion of our brain require precisely timed electrical oscillations in order to function properly from another part of the brain that serves as a kind of neural pacemaker.
Biologists at UC San Diego have identified the molecular mechanisms triggered by starvation in fruit flies that enhance the nervous system’s response to smell, allowing these insects and presumably vertebrates–including humans–to become more efficient and voracious foragers when hungry.
Their discovery of the neural changes that control odor-driven food searches in flies, which they detail in a paper in the April 1 issue of the journal Cell, could provide a new way to potentially regulate human appetite.
By developing drugs to enhance or minimize the activity of nerve-signaling chemicals called neuropeptides released during starvation to enhance the sense of smell, scientists may be able to decrease the propensity among obese individuals to overeat when encountering delectable food odors, if similar molecular mechanisms exist in humans. They could also increase the appetites among the infirm, elderly and others who may have problems eating enough. The method could even be used to improve the growth of farmed animals or to reduce feed waste.
We are pleased to share that three of our graduate students were selected as members of the Bouchet Graduate Honor Society members for 2011. We congratulate Tenai Eguen, Samuel Lasse, and Christine Shulse on this achievement.
The Bouchet Graduate Honor Society was founded in 2005 by Yale and Howard universities to recognize outstanding scholarly achievement and promote diversity and excellence in doctoral education and the professoriate. It is named after Edward A. Bouchet, the first African American to obtain a PhD from an American university. UC San Diego became a member chapter of the society in 2008. The students selected exemplify the characteristics of Bouchet – scholarship, leadership, character, service and advocacy.
A paper co-authored by Professor Julian Schroeder on the identification of genes that control toxic metal accumulation in plants that was published last November in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has won a 2010 Cozzarelli Prize. His post doctoral associated and PEW Latin America Fellow, David Mendoza Cozatl, played a key role in the research discovery.
Papers selected for the Cozzarelli Prize were chosen from more than 3,700 research articles published by PNAS in 2010 and represent the six broadly defined classes under which the National Academy of Sciences is organized.
Associate Dean for Education, Gabriele Wienhausen, and Assistant Professor Gentry Patrick have both been chosen by the campus for Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action and Diversity Awards. This awards program recognizes those individuals, departments and organizational units who have made outstanding contributions in support of UC San Diego's commitment to diversity. A review committee composed of representatives from each vice chancellor area evaluated the nominations and recommended them to the Chancellor for her approval. This award recognizes the hard work and innovation that Gabriele and Gentry, together with faculty and staff partners, have employed to improve the diversity climate of our Division. They received their awards at a special ceremony that took place on Tuesday, Feb 8 in the Price Center Ballroom West.
Neurobiologists at UC San Diego have discovered new ways by which nerves are guided to grow in highly directed ways to wire the brain during embryonic development.
Their finding, detailed in a paper in the February 15 issue of the journal Developmental Cell, provides a critical piece of understanding to the longstanding puzzle of how the human brain wires itself into the complex networks that underlie our behavior.
Biology Professor Terrence Sejnowski has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Sejnowski, who is Francis Crick professor and director of the computational neurobiology laboratory at Salk Institute for Biological Studies and a professor of neurobiology at UCSD, was cited by the academy “for contributions to artificial and real neural network algorithms and applying signal processing models to neuroscience.”
Sejnowski was one of 68 new members and nine foreign associates who were elected this year to the NAE, bringing the total U.S. membership of the academy to 2,290 and the number of foreign associates to 202.
An undergraduate biology major at the University of California, San Diego has won a prestigious Churchill Scholarship to study at Cambridge University in the UK next year, one of only 14 students nationwide this year to receive the coveted honor.
Recipients are chosen based on academic accomplishments and demonstrated commitment to a career in science, engineering or mathematics, including substantial accomplishments in original research. Eight of 480 former Churchill Scholars have gone on to win a Nobel Prize.
Biology professor Yishi Jin is one of seven UC San Diego faculty members named 2011 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society.
Jin, who is also an adjunct professor of in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, was cited for her contributions in studying neurodevelopment using the nematode C. elegans.
Using an automated screening technique developed by pharmaceutical companies to find new drugs, a team of researchers from UC San Diego and three other research institutions has discovered a molecule with the most potent effects ever seen on the biological clock.
Dubbed by the scientists “longdaysin,” for its ability to dramatically slow down the biological clock, the new compound and the application of their screening method to the discovery of other clock-shifting chemicals could pave the way for a host of new drugs to treat severe sleep disorders or quickly reset the biological clocks of jet-lagged travelers who regularly travel across multiple time zones.
Biologists at UC San Diego and four other institutions have identified a long-sought after family of genes that controls how yeast and plants accumulate toxic heavy metals and arsenic inside their cells. Their discovery, published in two separate scientific papers, is a significant advance with the potential to restore environmentally damaged waste sites and protect the food supply from toxic metal contamination.
Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have found another member in a new class of cellular motor proteins that rewind and seal together sections of the double-stranded DNA molecule that occasionally but perilously become unwound. Their discovery, which provides a promising new avenue for the development of drugs that kill cancer cells, is detailed in a paper published in this week’s early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Emily Troemel, an assistant professor of biology, has been named a recipient of a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering, one of 17 faculty members nationwide to have been selected for the honor this year. Each fellow will receive an unrestricted research grant of $875,000 over five years from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. Troemel was awarded the fellowship to study microsporidia pathogens–intracellular fungal pathogens that cause serious disease in agricultural and medical settings–and to provide molecular insights that will have significant impact on how to control them, as well as many other kinds of pathogenic microbes.
Most flowering plants are equipped with both male and female sex organs and many can fertilize themselves and procreate without the aid of a mate. But this may only present a short-term adaptive benefit, according to a study published in today’s issue of the journal Science. A team of biologists, which includes a biology professor at UC San Diego, report that long-term evolutionary survival of a species favors flowers that only use pollen from another plant.
"We found those species that avoid self-fertilization diversify faster, giving them a long-term advantage," former UCSD graduate student Emma Goldberg said.
Two groups of researchers at UC San Diego have found an explanation for a longstanding mystery of how two very different toxins from anthrax bacteria work together to disrupt essential cell functions during infection with this potential bioterrorism threat.
One group, looking at the effect of anthrax toxins in fruit flies, and the other, examining anthrax in mice and human cells, demonstrate that the two anthrax toxins act in a cooperative fashion to prevent the final step by which cells transport molecules to their surfaces in order to communicate and adhere to one another.
Biologists at Yale and UC San Diego have developed a tool to improve biodiversity conservation during rapid global change: a statistical model that helps predict the risk of extinction for almost 90 percent of the world’s bird species.
“Our global study confirms and extends existing knowledge about what makes some species more threatened than others,” said Walter Jetz, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale and co-author of the study. A former biology professor at UCSD, Jetz and Tien Ming Lee, a UCSD biology graduate student and the first author of the study, published their paper online this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
UC San Diego’s Biological Sciences programs are ranked number one in the nation, according to the National Research Council’s comprehensive assessment of the quality of more than 5,000 doctoral programs in 62 fields at 212 U.S. research institutions.
The NRC Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs, released today, is the most highly regarded “gold standard” rating of doctoral programs and faculty scholarship. Its determinations provide a more comprehensive assessment of doctoral programs and, thus, provide more weight within academe than many current popular rankings done by magazines and other publications.
Biologists have found that a key protein that regulates the biological clocks of mammals also regulates glucose production in the liver and that altering the levels of this protein can improve the health of diabetic mice.
Their discovery, detailed in this week’s advance online publication of the journal Nature Medicine, provides an entirely new biochemical approach for scientists to develop treatments for obesity and type 2 diabetes. It also raises the interesting possibility that some of the rise in diabetes in the U.S. and other major industrialized countries could be a consequence of disturbances in sleep-wake cycles from our increasingly around-the-clock lifestyles.
How do cells divide, muscles contract, and neurons make connections? The answer to each of these questions is the cytoskeleton — a set of proteins that can form filaments or tracks within the cell. The known filament forming proteins have roles in cancer and neurodegeneration, but it has been unclear whether these are the only tracks in the cell. Now a team of biologists at UC San Diego has discovered a novel set of intracellular tracks.
One of the most biodiverse regions of North America is the site for the Advanced Field Ecology course offered by Dr. Therese Markow. In southern Sonora, the state just below Arizona, the Sonoran Desert meets the Tropical Decidous Forest, affording students to study in two magnificent habitats in one week. Students will be lodged in the colonial town of Alamos, a former capitol of the entire Sinaloa-Sonora-Arizona-California region and the site of some of Mexico’s largest silver mines.
Students will be examining tree and cactus biodiversity, studying hummingbird behavior, and investigating the insects associated with various types of fruits and plants. Participating students will be conducting original research projects on local flora and fauna during their stay.
They will be treated to guest lectures by Drs. Patricia Gowaty and Stephen Hubbell of UCLA and the Smithsonian Tropical Researh Institite, Dr. Edward Pfeiler of Mexico’s Centro de Investigaciones en Alimenacion y Desarollo (CIAD), and Dr. Maxi Polihrohanakis of UCSD.