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2017 Biodesign Immersion Experience wraps up

Department of Bioengineering - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 22:00
The Biodesign Immersion Experience, an intensive summer of training in needs finding and the engineering design process, has wrapped up their work with a database of hundreds of unmet needs documented through 8 weeks of clinic and site visits. The BIE is funded by an NIH R25 grant. Read all about the experience at their summer blog.
Categories: Science News

College of Natural Resources Faculty Retirements

College of Natural Resources - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 13:12

The College of Natural Resources congratulates the following faculty members who retired from UC Berkeley this summer. The college thanks them for their dedication to students and to their fields, and we wish them the best as they continue to teach, publish, and conduct research in retirement.

Miguel Altieri

Photo by Julie Gipple

Miguel Altieri

Professor, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management 

Miguel Altieri is a leader in the field of agroecology—the application of ecological principles to provide solutions in agriculture. His work investigates ecological principles underlying traditional agriculture and applies these principles in modern agricultural systems to create more resilient and productive crops. His research on how to diversify cropping systems to enhance biological pest control has been implemented by many farmers worldwide. Altieri’s contributions to restoring the productive capacity of small farms with agroecology in Latin America helped to place agroecology on the radar of major scientific and international development institutions. From 2013-2017, he was president of the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology; he has also served as general coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme's Sustainable Agriculture Networking and Extension Programme and technical advisor to the Latin American Consortium on Agroecology and Development. He has served as a visiting scholar at a number of universities around the world, is the recipient of two Fulbright Scholarships, and has been awarded multiple honorary doctorates. Altieri is the author of more than 250 journal articles and of more than 15 books, including Agroecology: the Science of Sustainable Agriculture (Westview Press, 1995).


 Alain de Janvry Alain de Janvry

Professor, Agricultural  and Resource Economics

Alain de Janvry’s research focuses on international economic development, with expertise principally in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. His fields of work include poverty analysis, rural development, quantitative analysis of development policies, impact analysis of social programs, technological innovations in agriculture, and the management of common property resources. He has worked with international development agencies such as FAO, IFAD, the World Bank, UNDP, ILO, the CGIAR, and the Inter-American Development Bank as well as with foundations such as Ford, Rockefeller, Kellogg, and Gates, and he is the co-founder of the Center for Effective Global Action. His main objective in teaching, research, and work with development agencies is the promotion of human welfare, including understanding the determinants of poverty and analyzing successful approaches to improve well-being and promote sustainability in resource use.


Robert Fischer Robert Fischer

Professor, Plant and Microbial Biology

Robert Fischer has been a faculty member at UC Berkeley since 1983. He studies the mechanisms that regulate gene imprinting in plants, which cause alleles to be expressed based on their parent of origin, research that is essential in understanding seed viability and plant reproduction. His research on DNA demethylation at the genome-wide level found that small euchromatic transposons, when demethylated, regulate the expression of adjacent genes, and that chromatin remodeling proteins are often required to make transposon targets accessible to DEMETER demethylation. Fischer was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2009. In 2010 he received the Distinguished Teaching Award from the College of Natural Resources, and he served as chair of the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology from 2011-2014. He plans to continue to teach biology classes at UC Berkeley as an emeritus faculty member.


John Harte John Harte

Professor, Energy & Resources Group
Professor, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

John Harte’s research interests span ecological field research, the theory of complex systems, and energy and environmental policy. His current projects include applying insights from information science and statistical physics to the development of a dynamical theory of ecological change. Harte initiated and continues to maintain the longest running ecosystem warming experiment, which has yielded over 30 journal papers, 6 doctoral dissertations, and numerous insights into climate-ecosystem feedback. He has also pioneered in the application of maximum entropy methods from statistical physics to the development of a unified and widely applicable theory of biodiversity. Harte’s honors and awards include elected fellowship to the American Physical Society, the California Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received a Pew Scholars Prize in Conservation and the Environment, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Leo Szilard Lectureship Award from the American Physical Society, a Miller Professorship, and a George Polk award in investigative journalism. He has served on six National Academy of Sciences Committees and has authored over 220 scientific publications and eight books, on topics including biodiversity, climate change, biogeochemistry, and energy and water resources. He will continue his research and mentorship on campus as a Professor of the Graduate School.


Vernard Lewis

Photo by Julie Gipple

Vernard R. Lewis

Specialist in Cooperative Extension, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Vernard R. Lewis has provided exceptional influence, leadership, and mentorship in nearly every aspect of urban entomology, from academic investigations to the day-to-day activities of pest control operators. Throughout his career, he has built relationships with the public, industry, and other stakeholder groups, and has been recognized as an authority by academic institutions in the US and abroad, professional associations, certification agencies, private companies, state and federal pesticide regulatory agencies, K-12 schools and districts, and the United Nations. Lewis’s career accomplishments include constructing the Villa Termiti in 1993 to test pest detection and control methods, serving as co-principal investigator on the City Bugs project in 2000 for K-12 schools, and being featured in Memoirs of Black Entomologists, (Thomas Say Publications, Entomological Society of America, 2015). In 2016 he was inducted into the Pest Management Hall of Fame. As a professor emeritus, Lewis plans to continue leading efforts to promote diversity and equity for the College of Natural Resources.


Elisabeth Sadoulet Elisabeth Sadoulet

Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics

Elisabeth Sadoulet’s research interests span agricultural technologies, microcredit, conservation, conditional cash transfers, and property rights. Sadoulet has conducted field research in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, India, and China. She has also consulted for several international agencies and foreign governments, including the FAO, the Government of Mexico, and the World Bank, and is the co-founder of the Center for Effective Global Action, which integrates empirical economic analysis with expertise in agriculture, public health, education, engineering, and the environment.



Chris R. Somerville Chris Somerville

Philomathia Professor Emeritus of Alternative Energy, Plant and Microbial Biology

Chris Somerville moved from Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution for Science to UC Berkeley in July 2007 to lead the development of the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), which he subsequently directed until 2016. Somerville published more than 250 research papers in biochemistry and cell and molecular biology. His work was largely focused on elucidating the mechanisms by which the major storage and structural components of plants and bacteria were synthesized, and, in recent years, he also studied how such components could be depolymerized for use as feedstocks and synthons for production of fuels and chemicals. He was an early advocate for the use of Arabidopsis as a model organism and was an organizer of the international collaboration that sequenced the Arabidopsis genome. He and Elliot Meyerowitz (Caltech) shared the Balzan Prize for their role in establishing Arabidopsis as one of the most widely used model organisms. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London. Somerville was the recipient of many other awards and has been awarded six honorary doctorates. He now works in a philanthropy that supports basic and applied scientific research.  

    Richard Standiford

Photo by Julie Gipple

Richard B. Standiford

Cooperative Extension Forest Management Specialist, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Richard B. Standiford is responsible for sound management of California’s forests, rangelands, and other natural resources utilizing education, outreach, research, and a broad spectrum of working relationships. In his career, he provided leadership to county Cooperative Extension programs in development of forestry programs and conservation of oak woodlands. He served as Associate Dean for Forestry and Director of the Center for Forestry from 1998-2002 and Associate Dean for Forestry and Capital Projects from 2002-2004. In 2003 he led a team to restructure Berkeley’s forestry program, resulting in accreditation from the Society of American Foresters. He was elected fellow of Society of American Foresters in 2016, and he was awarded the Francis H. Raymond Award by the California State Board of Forestry in 2017. In his retirement, Standiford will continue to teach as an Emeritus Cooperative Extension Specialist.


Image:  campanile with yellow flowers Date:  Friday, July 21, 2017 - 13:15 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 13:15 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left

N. Louise Glass Named Fellow of Mycological Society of America

College of Natural Resources - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 12:20
N. Louise Glass

Congratulations to professor N. Louise Glass, who will be honored as one of two new fellows of the Mycological Society of America (MSA) at their annual meeting in Athens, GA. The fellowship recognizes mid-career members who have contributed significantly to the field of mycology. Glass is being recognized as an outstanding mycologist who has served MSA in several capacities, including membership of the Society's leadership body and the Editorial Board of Mycologia.

Glass is a leading researcher in molecular genetics of Neurospora, including genetics of mating, non-self recognition, mechanisms of cell-cell fusion, and lignocellulose decomposition. She is also the author of over 100 research articles and 27 review papers. 

Image:  N. Louise Glass Date:  Friday, July 21, 2017 - 12:15 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Friday, July 21, 2017 - 12:15 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Honors and Awards

Making CRISPR Safer

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 10:52

"With one eye on potential bioterrorism threats, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency today announced $65 million in funding to seven projects around the country – including one led by UC Berkeley – to improve the safety and accuracy of gene editing."

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Defense department pours $65 million into making CRISPR safer

UC Berkeley Science News - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 14:29
Berkeley scientists to develop safer and better CRISPR tools and apply them to medicine and mosquito gene drives
Categories: Science News

Cell mechanics lead to chicken feathers, hair

Department of Bioengineering - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 16:31
Professor Sanjay Kumar's lab collaborted to show how identical embryonic skin cells organize to produce follicles and feathers, based on resistance from the materials underlying the skin. This could lead to more practical use of stem cells to produce skin graft materials. The work was conducted with Amy Shyer, a Miller postdoctoral fellow, and visiting scholar Alan Rodrigues, of Professor Harlan's lab, and BioE PhD student Elena Kassianidou.
Categories: Science News

Stress worsens effects of toxic chemicals in pregnant women

College of Natural Resources - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 11:15
A closeup of the belly of a pregnant woman.

Data suggests that the harmful effects of smoking and air pollution are worse for pregnant women who also suffer from stress.

When a pregnant woman suffers from stress, she’s more likely to have a low-birth-weight baby than a non-stressed pregnant woman if both are exposed to the same toxic chemicals, according to the first study examining the combined impact of stress and environmental chemicals on fetal development.

Data suggests that the harmful effects of smoking and air pollution are worse for pregnant women who also suffer from stress.

The evidence is just emerging, but a team of researchers from UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco found that the impact of a pregnant woman’s exposure to several toxic chemicals commonly found in the environment was generally larger if the mom was stressed.

“It appears that stress may amplify the health effects of toxic chemical exposure, which means that for some people, toxic chemicals become more toxic,” said Tracey Woodruff, a professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF. Woodruff, the senior author of the study, also directs UCSF’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment and the Environmental Health Initiative.

Taken individually, the adverse effects of stress or environmental chemical exposures on fetal growth are well known, yet their combined effect has not been clear. When combined, researchers found the strongest connection between smoking and low birth weight: highly stressed pregnant women who smoked were about twice as likely to have a low-birth-weight baby as less stressed smokers. Stress was quantified by factors such as socioeconomic status or years of education. The researchers did not investigate a potential mechanism for how stress and chemicals might interact to create this effect.

The study also showed that the effects of air pollution on low birth weight were heightened when combined with stress. Exposure to ambient fine particulate matter, a type of air pollution, increased the risk of African American women having a low-birth-weight baby compared to those who were white.

The research was published July 12 in the journal PLOS ONE, and was based on a systematic review of 17 human studies and 22 animal studies examining the links between chemicals, stress and fetal development.

While the research team saw evidence of stronger adverse developmental effects of prenatal chemical exposures in higher-stressed versus lower-stressed pregnant women, the specific results of these studies varied, making it difficult to define the precise magnitude of the effect. Each chemical the researchers investigated has been tested only in a small number of animal studies, with variability in the quality of those studies.

“While the evidence on the combined effects of chemicals and stress is new and emerging, it is clearly suggestive of an important question of social justice,” said co-author Rachel Morello-Frosch, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management and the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley. “The bottom line is that poverty-related stress may make people more susceptible to the negative effects of environmental health hazards, and that needs to be a consideration for policymakers and regulators.”

Image:  A closeup of the belly of a pregnant woman. Date:  Monday, July 17, 2017 - 11:00 byline:  Brett Israel, UC Berkeley Media relations Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Monday, July 17, 2017 - 11:00 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Research News

New IGS chief: California will model a new approach for the nation

UC Berkeley Science News - Thu, 07/13/2017 - 17:00
Lisa Garcia Bedolla also sees UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies as a thought leader in a turbulent time
Categories: Science News

Talking to the Brain

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology - Thu, 07/13/2017 - 12:49

MCB Professor Ehud Isacoff and a team of scientists received funding to develp neural optical devices allowing 2-way communication in the brain utilizing light, a miniaturized microscope and 3D holograms. The research could eventually provide a way to compensate for visual or tactile deficits in humans.


A Crack in Creation

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 17:56

Professor Jennifer Doudna has written a popular science book about her personal and professional experiences in CRISPR research. The book is co-authored by her former graduate student, Sam Sternberg.

Read more... 


Murthy Lab receives grant for new treatments for drug resistant bacterial infections

Department of Bioengineering - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 11:49
Professor Niren Murthy, in partnership with School of Public Health Professor Lee Riley, has be awarded a three-year R33 grant from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The project, “Maltose targeted antibiotics”, focuses on developing new treatments for drug-resistant gram negative bacteria (GNB). Developing antibiotics against GNB has been challenging because of […]
Categories: Science News

Sense of Smell Impacts Weight Loss

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology - Thu, 07/06/2017 - 12:13

A paper published in Cell Metabolism by HHMI Investigator and MCB Professor Andrew Dillin's lab, his former postdoc Celine Riera, and co-authored by the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research and others suggests that smelling what you eat may play an important role in how the body deals with calories.


Can a simple blood draw yield clues to cancer?

Department of Bioengineering - Wed, 07/05/2017 - 10:55
Professor Amy Herr's microfluidic liquid biopsies are featured in the latest Promise of Berkeley magazine.
Categories: Science News

Dinosaurs’ loss was frogs’ gain

UC Berkeley Science News - Mon, 07/03/2017 - 12:00
Nearly 90 percent of living frogs originated from an evolutionary radiation beginning after the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs
Categories: Science News

Gemini telescope aids Juno mission’s exploration of Jupiter

UC Berkeley Science News - Fri, 06/30/2017 - 13:45
Astronomers capture hi-res images of Jupiter in the infrared, showing features that the orbiting June spacecraft can investigate
Categories: Science News

New study maps out dramatic costs of unmitigated climate change in U.S.

UC Berkeley Science News - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 13:23
A new study co-authored by UC Berkeley researchers lays out on a county-by-county level the very high economic costs of climate change in the United States if business continues as usual.
Categories: Science News

Dementia patients may die sooner if family caregivers are mentally stressed

UC Berkeley Science News - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 12:00
Family members' mental health linked to mortality of their loved ones with neurodegenerative diseases
Categories: Science News

Acorn woodpeckers enact their own ‘Game of Thrones’ among the oaks

UC Berkeley Science News - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 11:02
Lightweight tracking tags allow detailed study of bird's social interactions
Categories: Science News

MCB Postdoc Temprana Named Pew Latin American Fellow

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 10:08

Silvio Temprana, a postdoc in Assistant Professor Hillel Adesnik's lab, is one of 10 Pew Latin American Fellows in the Biomedical Sciences. He is studying information processing in the brain and whether an animal's perception can be altered. 


New gene editing technique could drive out mosquito-borne disease

UC Berkeley Science News - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 06:00
CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology can insert and spread genes designed to suppress wild insects, new study shows.
Categories: Science News