Category Archives: Catalyst for Innovation

Sequencing Of Barley Genome Achieves New Milestone At UCR

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Iqbal Pittalwala and published in UCR Today on August 25, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Close Lab, UC Riverside
Photo Credit: Close Lab, UC Riverside

Barley, a widely grown cereal grain commonly used to make beer and other alcoholic beverages, possesses a large and highly repetitive genome that is difficult to fully sequence. Now a team led by scientists at the University of California, Riverside has reached a new milestone in its work, begun in 2000, on sequencing the barley genome. The researchers have sequenced large portions of the genome that together contain nearly two-thirds of all barley genes.

The new information, published in The Plant Journal, will not only expand geneticists’ knowledge of barley’s DNA but will also help in the understanding, at the genetic level, of wheat and other sources of food. It also has applications in plant breeding by increasing the precision of markers for traits such as malting quality or stem rust.

UCR is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s Catalyst for Innovation pillar. The people and educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support useful and beneficial ideas, research, and scholars.

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Geriatric Care In Underserved Riverside County To Benefit From Major Funding

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Kathy Barton and published in UCR Today on August 12, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Carlos Puma
Photo Credit: Carlos Puma

A new partnership between the UC Riverside School of Medicine, UCLA, Riverside County Regional Medical Center and the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services has just received a $2.5 million grant to enhance geriatric education, training and workforce development in Riverside County. The Health Resources and Services Administration gave the three-year grant to the UCLA division of geriatrics.`

Called the Program for Improving Care of Aging adults through Training and Education, or PICATE, the project is a collaboration among primary care clinics, community-based organizations and educational institutions throughout Riverside County.

In addition to UC Riverside School of Medicine, local education partners in this project include the schools of nursing at California Baptist University and Riverside City College.

PICATE will integrate geriatrics into three primary care teaching clinics at Riverside County Regional Medical Center, which serves as the primary teaching hospital of the UC Riverside School of Medicine. The project will track outcomes for patients and their caregivers, including fall frequency and severity and dementia-related behavioral problems in patients, and stress and depression in caregivers.

The program will encourage patient and family engagement through online education and partnerships with community organizations. Caregiver training will be provided through In Home Supportive Services, particularly for people caring for seniors with dementia. In the second and third years, part of the work will be extended to the county’s Indian Health Service.

Caring for the elderly is becoming a great concern as the baby boomers become of age. This grant will help the educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support useful and beneficial ideas and research in the field of geriatrics. This effort to provide better care to the elderly is a outstanding example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst of innovation pillar.

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UC Riverside To Help Establish An Urban Water Sustainability Research Network

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Iqbal Pittalwala and published in UCR Today on July 31, 2015.)

Recent droughts have had crippling effects in Folsom Lake and other water supply systems in California (Jan. 16, 2014) Photo Credit: California Department of Water Resources
Recent droughts have had crippling effects in Folsom Lake and other water supply systems in California (Jan. 16, 2014) Photo Credit: California Department of Water Resources

The University of California, Riverside is one of 14 academic institutions and key partners across the United States that are addressing the challenges threatening urban water systems in the United States and around the world. These institutions, led by Colorado State University, have just received $12 million from the National Science Foundation to establish the Urban Water Innovation Network (UWIN).  UWIN will create technological, institutional, and management solutions to help communities increase the resilience of their water systems and enhance preparedness for responding to water crises.

Darrel Jenerette is an assocaite professor of botany and plant sciences at UC Riverside. Photo Credit: UC Riverside
Darrel Jenerette is an assocaite professor of botany and plant sciences at UC Riverside. Photo Credit: UC Riverside

This project builds on Jenerette’s expertise with urban biodiversity, vegetation based regional cooling, and water requirements for urban vegetation. His lab focuses on the coupling between biodiversity, energy fluxes, and biogeochemical cycling embedded within ecological landscapes.“UWIN builds on long-standing programs at UC Riverside for research and training, and trusted leadership in all facets of water resources,” said Darrel Jenerette, an associate professor of botany and plant sciences at UCR, who serves as a senior personnel with UWIN. “These programs include urban water conservation, sustainable urban drainage systems and flood control, drought management, pollution control, water resources planning and management, ecological engineering, climate sciences, and urban biodiversity.”

The vision of UWIN is to create an enduring research network for integrated water systems and to cultivate champions of innovation for water-sensitive urban design and resilient cities. The integrated research, outreach, education and participatory approach of UWIN will produce a toolbox of sustainable solutions by simultaneously minimizing pressures, enhancing resilience to extreme events, and maximizing co-benefits. These benefits will reverberate across other systems, such as urban ecosystems, economies and arrangements for environmental justice and social equity.

UCR will receive about $350,000 of the $12 million award.

UCR is an outstanding example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst of innovation pillar. The people and educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support useful and beneficial ideas, research, and scholars.

To read the complete article, click here.

UCR Student To Launch Global Clean Air Campaign At United Nations

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon and published in UCR Today on August 10, 2015.)

Pedro Piqueras launches his global clean air campaign during the Millennium Campus Conference at the United Nations in New York City, Thursday, August 13, 2015. Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson
Pedro Piqueras launches his global clean air campaign during the Millennium Campus Conference at the United Nations in New York City, Thursday, August 13, 2015. Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

A University of California, Riverside engineering graduate student has been selected as one of five students out of hundreds who applied to launch a global campaign this month during a student conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

Pedro Piqueras, a chemical and environmental engineering Ph.D. student at the Bourns College of Engineering, won in the Millennium Health Prize category for his plan to launch a global campaign to make safe air a basic human right.

He will launch his campaign at the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference, a program of the Millennium Campus Network, from Aug. 11 to 15 at the United Nations headquarters. It will be attended by students and politicians from more than 50 nations.

Other winning students will launch campaigns in the categories of peace, oceans, equality and youth. Piqueras and the four other student delegates were selected from 400 submissions.

Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson
Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

At the conference, Piqueras will give a presentation about his campaign, called fAIR4all, and those in attendance will be able to sign on to join the campaign.

The basics of the campaign are to empower the conference attendees to take action, especially in developing countries, and mobilize global citizens to secure safe air all parts of the world.

The end goal of the campaign is to establish clean air as a basic human right and to implement it within the international pantheon of essential public health services akin to clean water, vaccinations, family planning and primary care.

UCR and Bourns College of Engineering are great examples of Seizing Our Destiny’s Catalyst for Innovation pillar. The people and educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support useful and beneficial ideas, research, and scholars.

To read the full article, click here.

UCR: Reshaping The Solar Spectrum To Turn Light To Electricity

(This article contains excerpts from the written by Iqbal Pittalwala and published in UCR Today on July 27, 2015.)

Photo Credit: David Monniaux
Photo Credit: David Monniaux

When it comes to installing solar cells, labor cost and the cost of the land to house them constitute the bulk of the expense.  The solar cells – made often of silicon or cadmium telluride – rarely cost more than 20 percent of the total cost.  Solar energy could be made cheaper if less land had to be purchased to accommodate solar panels, best achieved if each solar cell could be coaxed to generate more power.

A huge gain in this direction has now been made by a team of chemists at the University of California, Riverside that has found an ingenious way to make solar energy conversion more efficient.  The researchers report in Nano Letters that by combining inorganic semiconductor nanocrystals with organic molecules, they have succeeded in “upconverting” photons in the visible and near-infrared regions of the solar spectrum.

This research is an extraordinary example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar, and UC Riverside is at the forefront.  The people and educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support research and exploration in the scientific community.  Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, nation, and world to follow.

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UCR Professor Named One Of The Coolest Women In Science

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Mojgan Sherkat and published in UCR Today on July 20, 2015.)

Sonja Lyubomirsky“A large portion of our happiness is in our power to change by the way we think and act in our daily lives,” professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky said.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – She’s making the world a happier place. Well, she’s trying her hardest to. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside has devoted her research career to studying human happiness. And it’s earned her a spot in Business Insider’s list of “The 15 Most Amazing Women in Science Today.”

“I’m so honored and completely humbled to be in the company of such amazing women.  I couldn’t have accomplished this research without the fantastic contributions of my graduate students and collaborators,” said Lyubomirsky upon hearing about the recognition.

Exemplifying Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar, the educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support useful and beneficial ideas.

The list of 15 women was pulled from Business Insider’s list of top 50 scientists, both male and female. “In the science and technology industries, women are often massively underrepresented. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t making some of the most important and inspiring contributions out there. We’ve highlighted 15 female scientists who are doing amazing things, pulled from our recent list of groundbreaking scientists who are changing the way we see the world,” the article stated.

Lyubomirsky’s research addresses three critical questions:

  1. What makes people happy?
  2. Is happiness a good thing?
  3. How and why can people learn to lead happier and more flourishing lives?

In her book “The How of Happiness,” Lyubomirsky explained that people are in control of much of their own happiness. The other determinants of happiness are a mixture of genetics and their environment. To explore how individuals can be happier, Lyubomirsky has studied the well-being benefits of such positive activities as expressing gratitude, doing acts of kindness, and savoring the present moment. An intervention to increase happiness by “living this month like it’s your last month” was featured on the TODAY show earlier this month.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/coolest-women-in-science-2015-7?op=1#ixzz3gTJQqYZ1

Turning Dry Milk And Rice Husks Into Homes

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon and published in The Press Enterprise on July 10, 2015.) 

UC Riverside engineering students won awards at an international competition for creating a less costly, more environmentally friendly and termite resistant alternative to particleboard. The Husk-to-Home team, from left, includes Chris Yang, Lamees Alkhamis, Colin Eckerle, Jeniene Abugherir and Joel Sanchez. Photo Credit: UC Riverside
UC Riverside engineering students won awards at an international competition for creating a less costly, more environmentally friendly and termite resistant alternative to particleboard. The Husk-to-Home team, from left, includes Chris Yang, Lamees Alkhamis, Colin Eckerle, Jeniene Abugherir and Joel Sanchez. Photo Credit: UC Riverside

A team of students from the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering recently won two awards at an international design competition for a material composed of rice husks that they created as a less costly and more environmentally friendly alternative to particleboard.

In the students’ design, the rice husks, which contain termite-resistant silica, replace wood chips found in traditional particleboard. The students then use environmentally friendly binding materials instead of traditionally used glues that contain formaldehyde, known to emit harmful gases into the air.

Initial cost estimates compiled by the students show four-by-eight-foot rice husk boards would cost about $18. Currently, four-by-eight-foot particleboard sheets sell for about $25 in the United States. While the main focus of the project is to create a building material for relief structures in the Philippines, the students believe there could be a market in the United States to use the boards for furniture.

“What we are creating is a really a win-win situation,” said Joel Sanchez, a senior chemical engineering major and a member of the team. “It will last longer, be environmentally friendly and cost less.”

In addition to Sanchez, the team consists of Lamees Alkhamis, Colin Eckerle, Jeniene Abugherir and Chris Yang. All except Eckerle expect to graduate in June. They are advised by Kawai Tam, a lecturer at the Bourns College of Engineering; Michael Rust, a distinguished professor at the Department of Entomology; and David Kisailus, an associate professor at the Department of Chemical and Enviornmental Engineering.

The team, called Husk-to-Home, won two awards, including the Intel Environmental Innovation Award, the top award, and $5,000 at the WERC: A Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development competition in Las Cruces, N.M.

The idea for the project came from one of Tam’s former students, whose father-in-law’s brother runs a nonprofit, the International Deaf Education Association, in the Philippines that builds temporary housing after natural disasters.

One problem the nonprofit has is that its building materials, such as coconut wood, bamboo and plywood, are susceptible to termite damage.

Since the Philippines is one of the world’s largest producers of rice and previous research has shown that rice husks and rice straw are termite resistant the idea was to develop a particleboard-like material with the waste products of rice.

Photo Credit: UC Riverside
Photo Credit: UC Riverside

Initially, this was a makeshift project, in large part because the students didn’t have much money to put into it.

That wasn’t a problem with regard to the rice husks, which they purchased at a feed store. A 45-pound bag sells for $12. The rice husks are typically used as bedding for farm animals.

But the students needed $10,000 for a hot press that would allow them to assemble the risk husk boards in a uniform manner. They improvised, using a combination of nine-by-thirteen baking pans, spring form baking pans, ovens and blow torches.

They also built a makeshift humidity chamber to simulate conditions in the Philippines. The team built the chamber using a plastic container the size of a large shoebox, small fan, heating lamp, humidifier and humidity and temperature sensors. They drilled holes for air and the sensors.

The other challenge the students faced was acquiring termites. They said they were more expensive than expected – $1 to $1.50 per termite – if ordered through the mail and there was no guarantee they would arrive alive.

So the students worked with Rust to collect termites. But, they faced an additional problem: termites are dormant from roughly November to March.

Initially, the students used epoxy, a not-so-environmentally-friendly material, as the binding agent. Now, they are focused on using tannin, a compound naturally found in plants, and casein, a protein found in milk. For the casein experiments they use nonfat instant dry milk they buy at a grocery store.

By March, the students had raised $10,000 to buy the hot press. Once the press arrived, they immediately began experimenting with risk husk boards made with tannin and casein.

Initial results show that tannin boards are strong enough but not water resistant, while casein boards are water resistant but not strong enough.

The students are experimenting with adding coatings or other materials to the mixture. Options include adding shrimp shells, which are abundant in the Philippines. They also plan to add a water resistive coating to eliminate problems with the particleboard falling apart in the humid environment. In addition, they want to incorporate rice straw, which could increase strength and flexibility.

Creating a new way to make particle board is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. The people and educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support useful and beneficial idea, research, products, and scholars. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

UC Riverside Has Identified A Safe Repellent That Protects Fruit

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Iqbal Pittalwala and published in The Press Enterprise on June 22, 2015.)

Spotted wing Drosophila on ripe blueberries. Photo Credit: Ray Lab, UC Riverside
Spotted wing Drosophila on ripe blueberries. Photo Credit: Ray Lab, UC Riverside

Insects destroy a very large fraction of the global agricultural output – nearly 40 percent.  The spotted wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), for example, feeds on ripening fruits.  A nuisance especially in Northern California and Europe, it lays its eggs inside ripe berries, and, when its larvae emerge there, the fruit is destroyed.  As a result, each year D. suzukii causes hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of agricultural damage worldwide.

Scientists at the University of California, Riverside have now identified a safe repellent that protects fruits from D. suzukii:  Butyl anthranilate (BA), a pleasant-smelling chemical compound produced naturally in fruits in small amounts.  In their lab experiments, the scientists found BA warded off D. suzukii from blueberries coated with it.  The finding, when extrapolated to other agricultural pests, could provide a strategy for controlling them and increasing the productivity of crops and fruit.

Study results appear June 22 in Scientific Reports, an online and open-access Nature publication.

Christine Krause Pham (left) and Anandasankar Ray use ripe blueberries to test in the lab the effect of butyl anthranilate on the spotted wing Drosophila. Photo Credit: I. Pittalwala, UC Riverside
Christine Krause Pham (left) and Anandasankar Ray use ripe blueberries to test in the lab the effect of butyl anthranilate on the spotted wing Drosophila. Photo Credit: I. Pittalwala, UC Riverside

“Toxic insecticides are often risky to use directly on fruits – especially when they are close to being harvested,” said Anandasankar Ray, an associate professor of entomology and the director of the Center for Disease Vector Research at UC Riverside, whose lab performed the research project.  “A safe and affordable repellent such as BA could provide protection and reduce use of toxic chemicals.”

“The natural repellents discovered by Dr. Ray are particularly promising for supporting multiple possible applications,” said Michael Pazzani, the vice chancellor for research and economic development.  “The safe and inexpensive compounds are not only effective for the protection of fruit and agricultural produce from pests, but also from biting insects that transmit disease to us and livestock.”

This discovery is an outstanding representation of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. The students and staff at UCR cultivate and support ideas, research, and products that accelerate the common good for all. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

To read the full article, click here.

Mantis Shrimp Inspires New Body Armor Design At UCR And Purdue

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon and published in UCR Today on June 17, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Carlos Puma, UCR Today
Photo Credit: Carlos Puma, UCR Today

The mantis shrimp is able to repeatedly pummel the shells of prey using a hammer-like appendage that can withstand rapid-fire blows by neutralizing certain frequencies of “shear waves,” according to a new research paper by University of California, Riverside and Purdue University engineers.

The club is made of a composite material containing fibers of chitin, the same substance found in many marine crustacean shells and insect exoskeletons but arranged in a helicoidal structure that resembles a spiral staircase.

This spiral architecture, the new research shows, is naturally designed to survive the repeated high-velocity blows by filtering out certain frequencies of waves, called shear waves, which are particularly damaging.

The findings could allow researchers to use similar filtering principles for the development of new types of composite materials for applications including aerospace and automotive frames, body armor and athletic gear, including football helmets.

“This is a novel concept,” said David Kisailus, the Winston Chung Endowed Professor in Energy Innovation at UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering. “It implies that we can make composite materials able to filter certain stress waves that would otherwise damage the material.”

The “dactyl club” can reach an acceleration of 10,000 Gs, unleashing a barrage of impacts with the speed of a .22 caliber bullet.

“The smasher mantis shrimp will hit many times per day. It is amazing,” said Pablo Zavattieri, an associate professor in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering and a University Faculty Scholar at Purdue University.

The researchers modeled the structure with the same mathematical equations used to study materials in solid-state physics and photonics, showing the structure possesses “bandgaps” that filter out the damaging effects of shear waves traveling at the speed of sound.

Findings were detailed in a research paper published online in the journal Acta Biomaterialia. The paper will appear in a future print issue of the journal.

The paper’s lead author was Purdue doctoral student Nicolás Guarín-Zapata and it was co-authored by Juan Gomez, a researcher from the Civil Engineering Department, Universidad EAFIT, Medellín, Colombia; doctoral student Nick Yaraghi from UC Riverside; Kisailus; and Zavattieri.

The research, which is ongoing and also will include efforts to create synthetic materials with filtering properties, has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

This research is an outstanding representation of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. The students and staff at UCR cultivate and support ideas, research, and products that accelerate the common good for all. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

UC Riverside Receives $4.5 Million Nasa Grant

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Leila Meyer and published in CampusTechnology.com on May 4, 2015.)

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

The University of California, Riverside (UCR) has received a grant of nearly $4.5 million as part of NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). The grant will provide funding for a five-year research project called “Fellowships and Internships in Extremely Large Data Sets” (FIELDS), which aims to develop research and education opportunities in big data and visualization, according to information from the university.

FIELDS is a collaborative project between UCR, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the California State University system and the state’s two-year community colleges. The program will train underrepresented minority undergraduate and graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

NASA currently has nearly 100 active missions and collects about 2 gigabytes of data per minute. It expects that volume of data to increase by a factor of 1,000 in the near future, and is looking for better ways to visualize the data for analysis. The FIELDS project will support this goal through several research and education programs.

The FIELDS research and education initiatives include:

  • Undergraduate training and research for students in physical, biological, computer science and engineering disciplines at UCR and partner institutions;
  • A new master’s course in big data and visualization, with students attending courses at UCR and doing research at JPL;
  • Support for doctoral and postdoctoral research; and
  • Support for high school STEM teacher training at UCR to help encourage more high school students to develop an interest in STEM fields.

UCR faculty and JPL staff will supervise the education and research activities. Each fall, students and mentors participating in the program will attend a FIELDS workshop at either UCR or JPL.

Undergraduates will complete two 10-week summer internships at JPL and receive a stipend of $2,000 each year. During the school year, they will conduct research with UCR faculty and receive a stipend of $3,000 each year. Graduate students will work with UCR faculty and JPL staff and earn an annual stipend of $70,000 for two years.

“A major goal of the project is advancement by students to research universities, gaining research experience, acquiring advanced STEM degrees, and taking up careers in STEM, including NASA employment,” said Bahram Mobasher, professor of physics and astronomy at UCR and the grant’s principal investigator, in a prepared statement. “We expect that collaborative research by JPL and UCR scientists and their students will generate preliminary results for further grant proposals to outside agencies.”

Grants like this increase the great work done at UCR and equips their STEM students with the knowledge needed to succeed. UCR is known for catalyzing innovation in many fields of study and thus promotes the aspirations of Seizing Our Destiny.

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