This semester MCB faculty, staff, and students have been working on an equity and inclusion grant we received from the PATH to Care Center on campus. Our goal is to raise awareness about positive social norms and promote an inclusive culture in biology.
KQED's 'Deep Look' web series recently featured leeches from the lab of MCB Professor David Weisblat. Learn more about how these creepy crawlers are being used in surgeries in the clip below!
BioE alumni on different continents win grant to to see molecular structure of membraneless organelles
MCB graduate students Ze Cheng and George Otto are co-lead authors on a new study published in Cell. Their research reports the widespread use of an unconventional mode of gene regulation that employs “transcript toggling” to drive up- and down-regulation of protein levels during meiotic differentiation.
A study published by Rachel Morello-Frosch and co-authors in the journal Environment International links eating out in restaurants with higher body levels of phthalates, a group of chemicals associated with a host of health issues, including cancer and diabetes.
The team of researchers, which included scientists from UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and George Washington University, analyzed urine sample data for more than 10,000 Americans taken between 2005 and 2014 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationwide health survey conducted biannually. Their study concluded that dining out may increase cumulative phthalates exposure and that certain types of foods prepared in restaurants and cafeterias, such as sandwiches, are associated with higher phthalate levels.
The the results of the study were widely covered in international news media including:
Read more about the study on George Washington University's website.Image: Date: Tuesday, April 3, 2018 - 11:15 Legacy: section header item: Date: Tuesday, April 3, 2018 - 11:15 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
In this month’s Student Spotlight, graduate student Rebeka Ramangamihanta tells us about an internship experience in Ghana, how Malagasy poets influenced her love of literature, and how she plans to use her Berkeley education to help kids in her hometown in Madagascar.
What led to your interest in the development field?
I started to become aware of poverty and development issues in Madagascar at a very young age. I grew up in rural Madagascar, in a town called Fenoarivobe, which is about 75 miles away from the capital Antananarivo. Due to a lack of infrastructure in the country, it takes about eight hours to travel from Antananarivo to Fenoarivobe during the dry season and nearly 24 hours during the rainy season. Many people in Madagascar live in poverty, and that is often exacerbated by food scarcity during the dry season. Growing up, I was in a class of 85 students with only one teacher. As I grew older, I promised myself that if I had the opportunity to help others I would, and so I eventually decided to apply to the Master of Development Practice (MDP) program.Rebeka (second from the left) with fellow graduate students at an event for the incoming class of 2019 MDP students.
What's been the most interesting class you've taken during your MDP studies?
In my first year of MDP, I took a course called Management of Technology Innovation, which focused on entrepreneurship and managing startup companies. We were mentored by a group of venture capitalists who work in Silicon Valley, which gave us a glimpse into the Bay Area startup world. This class allowed me stretch my skills and go out of comfort zone. It was also a chance for me to work on my elevator pitch and gain more storytelling skills.
Can you tell us more about your summer internship with the nonprofit Securing Water for Food in Ghana?
Securing Water for Food is an organization that is supported by USAID and the governments of Sweden, Norway, South Africa, with the goal of helping farmers increase their food production capacities while reducing water use. As an intern, I was assigned to one of Securing Water for Food’s grantee organizations, Ignitia, a Swedish company operating in West Africa. Ignitia sends weather updates via text message to Ghanaian farmers in an effort to optimize crop yields. Ghana’s tropical conditions include many microclimates, and weather information broadcasted through TV or radio isn’t always reliable or accurate. This is why location-specific text messages can offer a simple solution.
On a day-to-day basis, I interviewed farmers in order to learn more about their needs and how they could use mobile technology to improve crop production. My translator and I travelled to eight out of the ten regions in Ghana. After I collected the data, I analyzed the interviews and reported my findings. The report concluded that using texts and mobile technology increases earning potential, optimizes farmers’ time, and reduces the amount of fertilizer needed to maintain crops.During a recent trip to Ethiopia, Rebeka visited the Simien Mountains.
As an undergraduate student, you worked in your university’s library. Where did your love of reading come from?
My love of literature started in middle school when I began learning about the 20th century Malagasy poets who wrote about Madagascar’s colonization. These poets used literature to challenge the colonial government, bring Malagasy people together, and to launch social movements.
I didn’t read much growing up because the Malagasy culture is rooted in an oral tradition. I enjoyed listening to stories from adults about the ways of the ny ntaolo—the ancestors. In an effort to improve my English, I began reading more frequently as I worked on applications to American universities for my undergraduate degree. I couldn’t afford to pay for English lessons so I borrowed books from the U.S. embassy’s library to practice. Since then, I have grown to love reading, both for pleasure and as a student. A love of literature is important for development practitioners; in our ever-evolving field, it is important to keep up with new practices and theories.
You published a blog post calling for an investment in education in Madagascar. How do you hope your role as a development professional might help shape the country's education policies and practices?
I believe in the potential of Madagascar's broken public education system because I am a product of this system, even if I’m an outlier. I recently spoke with a former government official who oversaw an educational research reform group in Madagascar in the early 2000s. She shared her frustration about the difficulties of reform but similarly to me, she is hopeful for the future. Policy is one of the spaces that I would like to see myself in a few decades as I gain more experience and as Madagascar becomes more politically stable.
For now, I want to work where I believe I can see a more measurable impact. I am hoping that within five years, I can launch and manage a career development and scholarship program to support disadvantaged youth in Antananarivo. Before that, I am looking to gain more business and organizational experience, as well as more professional connections and management experience before returning to Madagascar.St. Aloysius Gonzaga Institute team members, participating in a case challenge consulting project as part of the MDP curriculum.
Looking ahead, how do you hope to use the skills and experiences you've gained at Berkeley in your career?
Berkeley has played an important role in my personal and professional growth. I have taken data analysis classes, and I’m learning to program in Python and SQL. I have been well supported and have the most amazing network of MDP students and alumni. I have also gained a lot of leadership skills through the Mastercard Scholars Program, and working and living at the International House. Being an MDP student has made me more confident in myself and my skills. At this point of my life I am interested in working for a nonprofit organization, or social enterprise, or for a corporation that is invested in being a socially responsible business. I am really interested in how businesses can create social good and promote sustainable development, and I want to bring those ideals back to Madagascar.Image: Date: Tuesday, April 3, 2018 - 08:00 Legacy: section header item: Date: Monday, April 2, 2018 - 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): Student Spotlights
It may be only a matter of time before urban dwellers can hail a self-driving taxi, so UC Berkeley researchers decided to analyze the cost, energy, and environmental implications of a fleet of self-driving electric vehicles operating in Manhattan.
Using models they built and data from more than 10 million taxi trips in New York City, they found that shared automated electric vehicles, or SAEVs, could get the job done at a lower cost—by an order of magnitude—than present-day taxis while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. What’s more, they found that “range anxiety” is moot because smaller cars with a smaller battery range were sufficient to complete the trips, although more charging stations would be needed.
Their study, “Cost, Energy, and Environmental Impact of Automated Electric Taxi Fleets in Manhattan,” was published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The study’s authors included Gordon Bauer, a graduate student in the Energy and Resources Group, and Jeffery Greenblatt and Brian Gerke of the Lawrence Berkeley Lab.
“The EV industry is focusing on the personal car market, trying to make the range as large as possible,” said Greenblatt. “The standard now is 200 miles. We suspected you wouldn’t need as much for taxis. We found plenty of times during the day when a portion of taxis could slip off to recharge, even if just for a few minutes. This greatly reduces the need to have a big battery and therefore drives down cost. It is dependent on having a fairly dense charging network.”
The researchers developed an agent-based model to simulate the movement of 7,000 taxis around Manhattan throughout the day. They also built models to analyze the cost of service and optimal placement of vehicle chargers. They found that costs would be lowest with a battery range of 50 to 90 miles, and with either 66 slower Level 2 chargers per square mile or 44 faster Level 2 chargers per square mile.
“Manhattan currently has about 500 chargers for public use, which include Tesla chargers,” Bauer said. “We found that we would need to at least triple that capacity.”
The study also estimated that a fleet of SAEV taxis drawing power from the current New York City power grid would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 73 percent and energy consumption by 58 percent compared to a fleet of automated conventional gas-powered vehicles.
Greenblatt points out that there are still many barriers to the wider penetration of personal EV ownership, including high cost and limited range. “By switching to a shared fleet that’s automated, you can provide electric service to people essentially now,” he said.
He notes that shared vehicles are best suited for dense, urban environments: “We’re not saying these shared vehicles will be the right thing for road trips, but for the vast majority of urban trips, people drive short distances,” Greenblatt said.
The researchers said they were motivated to study this topic because they think it will be “the next big thing” in transportation, Greenblatt said.
“For a long time, personal transportation seemed like the hardest problem to solve,” Gerke said. “Now suddenly it seems like there’s an obvious path to achieving it, which is the electrification of vehicles coupled with changing the way we get around from private vehicle ownership to shared approaches. Shared approaches are starting to work in urban areas.”
Gerke previously researched lighting efficiency, and was surprised by how quickly the market switched from incandescent to LED bulbs. “It was a better product and it was cheaper overall,” he said. “When you have those together, people adopt it really fast. I suspect there will be a similar transformation that will occur in the transportation sector in the next decade—it will occur faster than people think.”
Read the full story on the Lawrence Berkeley Lab website.Image: Date: Monday, April 2, 2018 - 15:00 byline: By Julie Chao Legacy: section header item: Date: Monday, April 2, 2018 - 15:00 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
The start of college is filled with firsts: moving away from home, managing coursework, and joining a collection of communities, big and small. Students who participate in Berkeley’s Global Edge program have the chance to encounter some unique first-time experiences as they begin their undergraduate studies—including the opportunity to live abroad and study at UC Berkeley’s London Center.[image caption]
Ashley, KC, and Julie are back on campus after their Global Edge experiences in London. Photo by Natalea Schager.
Global Edge begins each summer when students arrive on the Berkeley campus to take two courses and participate in pre-departure orientation and activities. These intensive summer courses, Reading and Composition and Individual Morality and Social Justice, fulfill University breadth requirements. At the beginning of the fall semester, students then travel abroad where they spend the term taking UC Berkeley courses in London. Course offerings for the semester abroad include composition, political science, and calculus, as well as classes that focus on London’s history, arts, and cultural life. When classes conclude in December, the cohort returns to the United States for the spring semester at Berkeley.
Last year, more than 40 first-year students participated in the program, including six students from the College of Natural Resources (CNR). The program is open to newly admitted first-year students in CNR and the College of Letters & Sciences. To gain a glimpse of the Global Edge experience, we spoke to three CNR students: society and environment major KC Harris and nutritional science - dietetics major Ashley McQuade, who returned from London in December 2017, and molecular environmental biology major Julie Lake, who participated in Global Edge in 2016.
What led to your decision to become a Global Edge participant?
Ashley: I decided to participate in Global Edge because it was an opportunity to study in a foreign country as well as a chance to challenge myself to take courses that students don’t have access to on the Berkeley campus, like a course all about the museums of London. I've always been interested in traveling, and I thought, "What better time to start than my first semester at Cal?"[image caption]
Ashley in Oslo, Norway, where she traveled on a break from classes in London.
Of the courses you took in London, which one was your favorite and why?
Ashley: My favorite class was called London: Theater Capital. Our professor’s enthusiasm for theater was contagious and it enhanced my understanding of theater and its cultural value. Every Thursday night our class visited a different theater to watch wonderful plays, including The Seagull, Hamlet, Road, and The Ferryman, to name a few. We also visited the Tate Modern Museum, the Royal Courts of Justice, and even Sigmund Freud’s house! This class focused on off-site visits and classroom discussion of the plays and other cultural sites that we visited, which was an incredible hands-on learning experience. This environment and course structure allowed for a mixture of academics and exposure to life in London.
What has been your favorite part of the Global Edge program?
KC: The closeness of our little Global Edge community has been an essential part of my first-year experience at CNR. I’m really grateful for the close friends I made within that community, and it’s exciting to see them around campus now that we’ve returned to Berkeley. Studying abroad is a great way to bond!"The closeness of our little Global Edge community has been an essential part of my first-year experience at the College of Natural Resources." KC Harris
What was the biggest challenge of living and studying abroad?
Ashley: The biggest challenge of studying abroad is living with people you don’t really know, all the while combating homesickness and acclimating to a foreign country. These experiences helped me grow as a person, and I’m glad I made the decision to participate in Global Edge. I encourage those with this opportunity to take it.
What’s been the biggest reward or surprise about your Global Edge experience?
Ashley: The biggest reward from my Global Edge experience is the independence I’ve acquired. I’ve learned to travel around London and Europe on my own, navigate unfamiliar environments, and meet many people from a variety of cultures. I have become more confident in my abilities and gained more independence from the experiences I gained through Global Edge.[image caption]
Julie (second from right) with fellow Global Edge students on their first day of class.
How does this experience set you apart from other first-year students on the Berkeley campus?
Julie: I think just having the experience of living somewhere very far away gave me a lot of perspective that other students might not have. Sometimes at Berkeley, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by work or clubs, but realizing that there’s a whole world to explore helped take me out of that mindset. It made me want to explore all the resources on campus, and also travel around the Bay Area, which I hadn’t done much before London even though I grew up here!
What advice do you have for students considering Global Edge?
Julie: My advice would be to take advantage of the opportunities that the program gives you and not worry too much about what you’re missing in Berkeley. Trust me, you’ll have plenty of time at Berkeley. And I feel that the theater and art history courses I took in London offered experiences that a typical Berkeley class could not. We were able to visit nearly a dozen museums in London, see a bunch of plays, and just experience a different way of living. Global Edge is a very different and exciting way to start college.[image caption]
KC visited England's Cliffs of Dover during his semester abroad.
Any other thoughts about Global Edge or advice for those considering the program?
KC: For me, being part of this program has been a highly transformative experience. Leaving right after you graduate from high school, studying over the summer, and then living a for semester in a country 6,000 miles away will definitely be unlike anything you’ve ever done before, and it will force you to grow along the way. I would not recommend this program if you do not want change in your life, or if you do not want to learn new life lessons and grow as a person. If you do want these things, Global Edge is a wonderful opportunity.
Global Edge is an opportunity available to newly admitted first-year students from CNR and the College of Letters & Sciences. Students can opt into this program when they accept their offer of admission. To learn more about Global Edge, visit the program’s website.Student Spotlights