By Date

MCB Welcomes New Faculty Ian Swinburne

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology - Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:31

It's our pleasure to announce that Ian Swinburne will join MCB as an Assistant Professor in January 2021!


Professor emerita receives Scheiber Emeriti Faculty Research Grant

College of Natural Resources - Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:06
Photo of Zinmay Renee Sung.

Congratulations to plant and microbial biology faculty emeritus Zinmay Renee Sung on being awarded a 2019-20 Scheiber Emeriti Faculty Research Grant. Awarded by the Academic Senate Committee on Research (COR) and established this year, the first-time award goes to faculty emeriti from across campus to pursue projects honoring the 150th Anniversary of Women at UC Berkeley, which marks the decision to admit women to the university in 1872.

Sung’s research project centers on the history of Asian American women, from students to faculty and staff, in regards to their experiences and representation on campus. Through historical record searches and journalistic interviews, the project will assess the evolving social, cultural, and familial environments of such women throughout the history of the University. Sung hopes the project will uplift Asian American women across campus in achieving their goals and contributing positively to society.

During her time as a faculty member on campus, Sung’s research focused on flowering and seed development within plants at the chromatin level. Her research included an examination of the mechanisms behind plant embryo development and an analysis of the role of epigenetics in plant biology. 

The research fund honors Harry and Jane Scheiber. Harry Scheiber is a Chancellor’s Emeritus Professor of Law, served on Academic Senate committees for forty-five consecutive years, and was Chair of the Committee on Research in 1991-92 and Berkeley Division Chair in 1994-95. 

Learn more about the research grant in the Berkeley Emeriti Times

Image:  Photo of Zinmay Renee Sung. Date:  Thursday, May 14, 2020 - 11:00 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Thursday, May 14, 2020 - 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):  Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Honors and Awards Expose in main "News river"?:  yes

Multiple MBC Faculty Receive COVID Catalyst Funding

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology - Thu, 05/14/2020 - 09:57

MCB faculty Kunxin Luo, Russell Vance, Michael Rape, Sarah Stanley, and Michael Marletta have been selected to receive bridge funding for their high-risk, original, and crucial research on the SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 global pandemic. 


To climb like a gecko, robots need toes!

Department of Integrative Biology - Thu, 05/14/2020 - 09:47

Biologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics observed geckos running horizontally along walls to learn how they use their five toes to compensate for different types of surfaces without slowing down.

The research helped answer a fundamental question: Why have many toes?” said Robert Full, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology.

Categories: Science News

COVID-19: Tracking, data privacy and getting the numbers right

UC Berkeley Science News - Wed, 05/13/2020 - 23:30
UC Berkeley experts said they want data sources that provide the most accurate picture in the shortest time after exposure
Categories: Science News

Congratulations 2020 award winners!

Department of Bioengineering - Wed, 05/13/2020 - 13:52
Congratulations to our 2020 undergraduate award winners: Eric Hu, Departmental Citation, Connor Tou and Hasan Ahmad, Chair’s Award in Bioengineering, and Elizabeth Zhang, Bioengineering Service Award. Outstanding work by all! The Departmental Citation This is long-standing award is given to one bioengineering major for their exceptional academic performance, in addition to impressive achievements in other […]
Categories: Science News

Breakthroughs Spring 2020 Issue

College of Natural Resources - Wed, 05/13/2020 - 13:26
Image:  Gordon Rausser sitting in garden Date:  Wednesday, May 13, 2020 - 13:15 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Wednesday, May 13, 2020 - 13:15 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Student Stories Honors and Awards Research News Expose in main "News river"?:  yes

MCB Undergraduate Isaac Witte Named 2020 University Medal Finalist

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology - Wed, 05/13/2020 - 11:33

MCB undergraduate Isaac Witte is one of four finalists for this year's University Medal.




Campus lab takes COVID-19 testing to utility workers, underserved

UC Berkeley Science News - Wed, 05/13/2020 - 08:00
The COVID-19 diagnostics lab ramped up its capacity to where now it can test members of the local community, including asymptomatic first responders and homeless people exposed to the coronavirus
Categories: Science News

Five Rausser College students recognized with CACS awards

College of Natural Resources - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 11:32

The Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability (CACS) recognizes five Rausser College undergraduates this year for their work bringing about environmental change on Berkeley’s campus. For the past 17 years, CACS has honored students at its annual Earth Day summit, though the committee’s celebration for the fourth-year students is postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During their time at Berkeley, the students found unique ways to promote sustainability and to improve the environmental literacy of the Berkeley community. The soon-to-be graduates have spearheaded projects related to environmental communications, policy, and education, with positive sustainability outcomes on campus operations such as Cal Dining and Landscape Services. Honorees are recognized for efforts to help tackle the world’s most pressing environmental issues and bring the community closer to a more sustainable future. 

Sylvia Targ Conservation and Resource Studies

Targ began her advocacy work when she worked with the university to incorporate the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide, which offers guidelines for sustainable fish consumption, into all dining hall food purchases. Since then, she has worked as the sustainability education coordinator for Cal Dining and as an undergraduate student instructor for Oceans C82. During her senior year, Targ served as the elected environmental community senator for the Associated Students for the University of California. Targ plans to continue pushing for environmental change by organizing and consensus building after she graduates.

Teacher in a lecture hall.

Lenier teaching the Zero Waste DeCal. Photo by Irene Yi.

Sage Lenier Conservation and Resource Studies

Sage Lenier’s interdisciplinary research helped her develop the DeCal course titled “Zero Waste: Solutions for a Sustainable Future.” The course, growing from 25 to 300 students within two years, discusses global environmental problems and various ways that students can engage with solutions. Lenier’s DeCal won a best practice award at the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference, and its clear, urgent message was featured in The New York Times  last January. She plans to introduce the course to other campuses in the future.

Lenier will also be featured in the Spring 2020 issue of Breakthroughs.

Dante Gonzales Conservation and Resource Studies; Society and Environment

With a focus on community building and campus engagement, Dante Gonzales expanded his role as a Carbon Neutrality Initiative engagement fellow to encourage sustainability in various ways at Berkeley. Carbon Crew, the team formed and led by Gonzales within the Student Environmental Resource Center, has encouraged students to adopt sustainable behavior during the Cool Campus Challenge, implemented more vegetarian and vegan options on Cal Dining menus, and helped introduce environmental curricula to Bay Area schools. After graduating, Gonzales wants to continue working in climate resilience and organizing.

In a Student Spotlight, Gonzales shares how he became interested in carbon neutrality. 

Bridget Gustafson Molecular and Environmental Biology

After learning about how chemical treatments were used on the plants near Clark Kerr Campus’ volleyball courts, student athlete Bridget Gustafson founded Herbicide Free Cal. The campaign organized weeding days, where students would manually weed as opposed to spraying chemicals. As a result of Gustafson’s efforts, a herbicide ban has been adopted at various UC schools, as well as at university campuses in Iowa, Texas, and Hawaii.

Gustafson was featured on the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management’s website when she was recognized on the 17 Bay Area Environmentalists Making a Difference in 2019.

Ella Griffith at a food waste event on campus. Since her freshman year, Griffith has been involved with Housing and Dining Sustainability Advocates (HADSA), where she helped develop an internship program and created campaign materials to raise awareness about food waste, among other activities. Photo from the HADSA Archives.

Ella Griffith Conservation and Resource Studies

Ella Griffith’s environmental work focuses on food waste activism. During her time at Berkeley, Griffith pushed for waste reduction in campus dining services and created the Housing and DIning Sustainability Team’s first internship program. She has also worked to unite Greek life, student cooperative housing, and campus residence halls to educate students about how to sustainably dispose of their end-of-the-year waste. 

Griffith and her other environmental projects are featured in a recent Student Spotlight.

Image:  Date:  Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 11:30 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Thursday, May 7, 2020 - 11:30 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Student Stories Honors and Awards Expose in main "News river"?:  yes

MCB holds successful virtual 2020 All Faculty Meeting

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 11:10

On May 7, the department hosted it’s annual All Faculty Meeting virtually via Zoom. MCB faculty came together to celebrate their successes, thank colleagues for their service, welcome new faculty, and discuss issues affecting the department.


Rejection turned out great for Berkeley’s top graduating senior

UC Berkeley Science News - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 12:00
Public health warrior with a sense of purpose and humor wins the 2020 University Medal.
Categories: Science News

Hedgerows aid pollinators in avocado groves

College of Natural Resources - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 10:25
Image:  A bee in a red flower covered with pollen Date:  Monday, May 11, 2020 - 10:00 Byline:  Alli Fish Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Monday, May 11, 2020 - 10:00 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 Expose in main "News river"?:  yes

Researcher calls for social solidarity in British Medical Journal

College of Natural Resources - Fri, 05/08/2020 - 10:25

This blog originally appeared in the  BMJ Opinion on April 30th: 

Woman in a face mask.

Photo by Gustavo Fring via Pexels.

As more countries and US states move to lift lockdown orders and re-open businesses and other public spaces, many people around the world—including health professionals and other essential workers—are still being quarantined, hospitalized, and buried.

Public health experts have warned that lifting “shelter in place” and physical distancing measures too early could lead to a second, potentially greater, surge in infections and deaths in the summer or fall. However, some politicians have revealed how their immediate priorities rest on the health of the economy rather than human life. As a physician and social anthropologist, I think it is clear that while we must take “physical distancing” very seriously, we need the opposite of “social distancing” to survive this pandemic. We must develop social solidarity to survive the summer and beyond.

In the social sciences, we understand solidarity to be the feeling and practice of interdependence between individuals and groups, which can change the ways in which societies are structured, as well as how each individual views themself and acts in relation to other people. Solidarity can occur across categories of social difference in the form of coalition building, which recognizes the connections between different forms of inequity and highlights the need to stand together for the good of all. Yet, this collective aspect of wellbeing is difficult to achieve in societies where individualistic understandings of health and freedom prevail.  

As we approach another month of the covid-19 pandemic, we need social solidarity to protect our mental health. Some people are sheltering in place alone, and some people will be feeling depressed or isolated. Other people are avoiding their homes to protect loved ones at high risk. Some people are far from their families due to travel restrictions and border closures. Other people are continuing to carry out essential work despite their intense fears. In this time of isolation, we need the healing properties of social cohesion—from a distance. Perhaps that means engaging with social media—or avoiding it. Perhaps that includes sending letters, setting up virtual hangouts, or talking by phone. For many, this includes sharing a kind word or smile with neighbors, strangers, and essential workers—from a distance. 

During this pandemic, we also need social solidarity to avoid the harm of anti-social practices, such as stigmatization. At a time when politicians make free use of racist language, other people are committing hate crimes against anyone perceived to be related to the entire, diverse continent of Asia. President Trump and other politicians have stoked ethno-nationalism and xenophobia, violating UN conventions, global compacts, and the basic human rights of immigrants and asylum seekers. As we approach the summer, we must resist division, come together, and learn to see ourselves and our health in relation to one another. We must confront politicians and corporate executives attempting to benefit from the crisis.  

As we debate how we should live in the coming months, we need solidarity to build systems that benefit the health of all. What scares many frontline physicians and nurses in this pandemic is not so much the highly infectious virus itself, nor even the severe respiratory condition it causes, but rather the lack of essential equipment necessary to curb the pandemic and care for patients safely. There have also been reports of the US government previously disbanding roles that are critical to epidemic responsiveness. If we want to survive the summer, we must understand how critical our public systems are for all of our health. As global health expert Paul Farmer explains, an effective epidemic response requires “staff, stuff, space, and systems”—including protection for frontline key workers, accessible testing, and contact tracing. We must build robust health systems to avoid thousands more avoidable infections and deaths in this and future pandemics.  

While in the US, it’s been primarily white Americans with support from conservative groups who have been protesting shelter in place orders, systematically more people from black and minoritized ethnic populations have died. Well into the second month since the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization, we need social solidarity to protect the health of all—including the people most marginalized by society. Many hourly workers, including those who plant and harvest produce, have been left out of protections. While we are ordered to physically distance, others have been separated from their families and locked in overcrowded detention facilities and prisons that are ripe for viral spread. And while we are told to “stay home,” an unprecedented number of people lack any kind of safe housing, with nowhere to “shelter.” For all of us to survive the summer, we need to acknowledge and work to improve the social determinants of health for all in our societies.

While covid-19 is more dangerous for certain groups, for any of us to be healthy in a pandemic, we must make sure that all of us are healthy. If we learn anything right now, we must learn that we are all in this together. We must stay connected. To survive the summer and beyond, we must fund public health and social care systems. We must confront racism, xenophobia, and division. Instead of allowing politicians and corporations to benefit from this crisis, we must provide people with safe places to live and healthcare for those who need it most. Stop raiding, detaining, and deporting immigrant communities. Avoid causing chaos for those on whom our system relies—including those who provide us all with food. 

This pandemic reminds us that each of us is dependent on the health of everyone else. As we enter the summer, we must have what physician scholar Frantz Fanon referred to as a “solidarity of fact, a solidarity of action, a solidarity concrete in men, in equipment, in money.

Seth M Holmes is a physician and social anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley and University of California, San Francisco. He is also the author of  Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States.

Image:  Date:  Friday, May 8, 2020 - 10:15 Byline:  Seth Holmes Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Thursday, May 7, 2020 - 10:15 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 Expose in main "News river"?:  yes Keyword tag(s):  COVID-19

To climb like a gecko, robots need toes

UC Berkeley Science News - Fri, 05/08/2020 - 08:30
Experiments with geckos show that their flexible, adaptable toes are essential to their ability to run on variable surfaces with ease
Categories: Science News

Kumar Lab discovers new mechanism that tumors use to adhere and migrate through brain tissue

Department of Bioengineering - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 14:12
Sanjay Kumar’s lab has identified a mechanism used by tumor cells to adhere to and migrate through a nanoporous, three-dimensional extracellular matrix characteristic of brain tissue. In this mechanism, cells engage hyaluronic acid, a key component within the brain matrix, by assembling “microtentacles” that can extend tens of micrometers from the cell body and adhere […]
Categories: Science News

UC Berkeley team probes violent storms, lightning on Jupiter

UC Berkeley Science News - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 12:00
Ground-based telescopes and Juno spacecraft join forces to peer deep into Jupiter's atmosphere
Categories: Science News

Reducing wildfire risk includes building communities to coexist with fire

College of Natural Resources - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 11:36

On May 4, 2020, this article appeared in the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources' Green Blog.

The Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and other wildfires that have devastated communities in recent years have convinced wildfire experts that Californians need to take more than one approach to coexist with fire.

To better protect new houses against wildfire, California has building codes, but where residential communities are built on the landscape and how they are designed are also very important to limit wildfire-related losses, according to University of California Cooperative Extension specialists Max Moritz and Van Butsic

“Defensible space and vegetation management is important, but in the long term, where and how we build new developments will be equally important for keeping Californians safe,” said Butsic, who studies land use.

To develop their recommendations for reducing wildfire risk for future community development, Moritz, who specializes in wildfire, and Butsic reviewed fire studies and consulted firefighters and community planners.

Their new publication, “Building to Coexist with Fire: Risk Reduction Measures for New Development,” is designed for city planners, fire districts and communities to incorporate community-scale risk reduction measures when building or rebuilding in fire-prone areas.

“There is currently little codified guidance for where and how to build our communities in California, aside from building codes for individual structures and a few requirements for road access and water supplies,” said Moritz, who is based at UC Santa Barbara.

Wildfire consultant and architect David Shew, who retired as a CAL FIRE chief after 31 years, said, “I can state without hesitation that the land use planning principles and design recommendations identified in this study are necessary steps to help increase wildfire resiliency to existing and future communities.  Being a first-hand witness to the increasingly destructive nature of wildfires, I can attest to the value and necessity for these improvements to be integrated into our built environment.  This should become a much-used reference for every planning and fire official who face wildfire impacts.” 

Diagram showing neighborhood [image caption]

The diffuse spacing of homes shown requires larger "zones of defense" and more clearing of native vegetation. The development pattern also requires more firefighting resources and makes fire suppression more complex. Source: Fire Mitigation in the Wildland Urban Interface.

[image caption]

Clustering homes is safer because the agricultural land (shown as striped rows) provides a protective buffer. This pattern of development also is easier to defend from fire and requires fewer fire supression resources. Source: Fire Mitigation in the Wildland Urban Interface.

To reduce fire vulnerability of communities, Moritz and coauthor Butsic, who is based at UC Berkeley, recommend including fire professionals and biological resource experts early in the community planning process. They also recommend considering the placement of communities on the landscape, such as near bodies of water and agricultural land, and how they are laid out to minimize exposure to wildfire. Key considerations include defensibility, risk of ignition and ease of evacuating residents.

“This report provides both a robust justification for integrating resilience practices into land use planning and community design, and a toolbox for doing so,” Sarah G.Newkirk, director of disaster resilience with The Nature Conservancy in California. “The risk reduction measures described can be put to use immediately – ideally in combination with each other – both in ongoing wildfire recovery planning, and in local hazard mitigation planning. Furthermore, the report should be a wake-up call to FEMA to think broadly about how best to support wildfire mitigation in California.”

To more efficiently reduce fuel in new communities, Moritz and Butsic write, “The design, maintenance and use of defensible space for fire protection is easier when neighborhoods are developed more densely and are built to stringent fire-resistant building codes.”

Diagram showing neighborhood fire setup [image caption]

Development near slopes should be set back far enough from the slope's edge to provide safety from flames moving up the slope or lapping over the edge. The safety area depends on the height of buildings and potential flame lengths of burning vegetation on the slope.

In the 31-page publication, they present risk reduction measures for four design contexts:

  • landscape setting – engage in strategic planning much earlier, use hazard maps and use major landscape features
  • separation from wildfire source—use nonflammable amenities in design, employ safe setbacks on slopes and concentrate on inner side of roadways
  • density management – cluster with other homes
  • protective infrastructure – harden public facilities and refuges, locate power lines underground and augment water requirements.

They provide examples for each risk reduction measure, along with some discussion of challenges associated with each measure.

“Our hope is that this guidance will be helpful for agency personnel involved in evaluating and approving future development in California,” Moritz said. “Because there is a pressing need for additional housing in California, communities must be built with design principles that make them safer to inhabit and less vulnerable to inevitable wildfires.”

The publication “Building to Coexist with Fire: Risk Reduction Measures for New Development” can be downloaded for free at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources catalog.

Research News

Power plant carbon capture could strain water supplies

UC Berkeley Science News - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 09:12
Current carbon capture and sequestration technology requires water, which could stress resources in many areas of the world
Categories: Science News

Forget carbon tariffs: Existing trade policies give dirty industries a boost

College of Natural Resources - Mon, 05/04/2020 - 10:52
Image:  Ships in a harbor Date:  Monday, May 4, 2020 - 10:45 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Monday, May 4, 2020 - 10:45 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 Expose in main "News river"?:  yes