Category Archives: Catalyst for Innovation

CBU Student Initiates Robotics Program

(This article contains excerpts from the article by Chanthou San and published in CBU Banner on March 6, 2015.)

Photo Credit: CBU Banner
Photo Credit: CBU Banner

After a car accident five years ago caused a traumatic brain injury and numerous broken bones, Rebecca Trupp, senior mechanical engineering major at California Baptist University, was forced to relearn basic life skills.

Trupp dreamed of designing and working for NASCAR and felt she had to re-evaluate her career when she was no longer able to process mathematical and engineering concepts.

In 2012, Trupp developed an outreach program using NAO robots with guidance from Dr. Anthony Donaldson, dean and professor of the College of Engineering, and Dr. Liya Grace Ni, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The NAO robots were first introduced when the College of Engineering received a W.M. Keck grant of $250,000. The money funds Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) hardware, as well as advanced computing and full-body robots and robotics equipment.

Trupp reached out to local schools to educate students on engineering along with other opportunities available with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree.

With a passion to serve her community, she accepted a challenge proposed by Donaldson to recruit K-12 students with programmed robots. It was then that the NAO Outreach program was implemented.

The NAO Outreach program serves as an example of the possibilities that come from engineering programs. Promoting engineering from CBU is only a portion of a nationwide campaign designed to educate and encourage more students to pursue an education in STEM. Programs like this are great examples of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. Encouraging students to pursue an education in STEM is no easy task, but for Rebecca Trupp robotics is her her vehicle to do so. 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.

Glass Coating Improves Battery Performance

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon in UCR Today on March 2, 2015.)

Photo Credit: UCR
Photo Credit: UCR

Lithium-sulfur batteries have been a hot topic in battery research because of their ability to produce up to 10 times more energy than conventional batteries, which means they hold great promise for applications in energy-demanding electric vehicles.

However, there have been fundamental road blocks to commercializing these sulfur batteries. One of the main problems is the tendency for lithium and sulfur reaction products, called lithium polysulfides, to dissolve in the battery’s electrolyte and travel to the opposite electrode permanently. This causes the battery’s capacity to decrease over its lifetime.

Researchers in the Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside have investigated a strategy to prevent this “polysulfide shuttling” phenomenon by creating nano-sized sulfur particles, and coating them in silica (SiO2), otherwise known as glass.

The work is outlined in a paper, “SiO2 – Coated Sulfur Particles as a Cathode Material for Lithium-Sulfur Batteries,” just published online in the journal Nanoscale. In addition, the researchers have been invited to submit their work for publication in the Graphene-based Energy Devices special themed issue in RSC Nanoscale.

Ph.D. students in Cengiz Ozkan’s and Mihri Ozkan’s research groups have been working on designing a cathode material in which silica cages “trap” polysulfides having a very thin shell of silica, and the particles’ polysulfide products now face a trapping barrier – a glass cage. The team used an organic precursor to construct the trapping barrier.

“Our biggest challenge was to optimize the process to deposit SiO2 – not too thick, not too thin, about the thickness of a virus”, Mihri Ozkan said.

A schematic illustration of the process to synthesize silica-coated sulfur particles. Photo Credit: UCR Today
A schematic illustration of the process to synthesize silica-coated sulfur particles. Photo Credit: UCR Today

Graduate students Brennan Campbell, Jeffrey Bell, Hamed Hosseini Bay, Zachary Favors, and Robert Ionescu found that silica-caged sulfur particles provided a substantially higher battery performance, but felt further improvement was necessary because of the challenge with the breakage of the SiO2 shell.

“We have decided to incorporate mildly reduced graphene oxide (mrGO), a close relative of graphene, as a conductive additive in cathode material design, to provide mechanical stability to the glass caged structures”, Cengiz Ozkan said.

The new generation cathode provided an even more dramatic improvement than the first design, since the team engineered both a polysulfide-trapping barrier and a flexible graphene oxide blanket that harnesses the sulfur and silica together during cycling.

“The design of the core-shell structure essentially builds in the functionality of polysulfide surface-adsorption from the silica shell, even if the shell breaks”, Brennan Campbell said. “Incorporation of mrGO serves the system well in holding the polysulfide traps in place. Sulfur is similar to oxygen in its reactivity and energy yet still comes with physical challenges, and our new cathode design allows sulfur to expand and contract, and be harnessed.”

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

The work was funded by the Winston Chung Global Energy Center at UC Riverside.

To read the full article, click here.

Novel Pretreatment Could Cut Biofuel Costs By 30 Percent Or More

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon and published in UCR Today on February 23, 2015.)

Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside. Photo Credit UCR Today
Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside. Photo Credit UCR Today

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut the cost of biofuels production by about 30 percent or more by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels.

As partners in the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), the team from the Bourns College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) have shown that this new operation called Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF) could eliminate about 90 percent of the enzymes needed for biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels compared to prior practice. This development could mean reducing enzyme costs from about $1 per gallon of ethanol to about 10 cents or less.

The BioEnergy Science Center is a U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center focused on enhancing science and technology to reduce the cost of biomass conversion through support by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Department of Energy Office of Science..

“As recent months have shown, petroleum prices are inherently unstable and will likely return to high prices soon as expensive sources are taken off line,” said Professor Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside. “We have created a transformative technology that has the potential to make biofuels an economic sustainable alternative to petroleum-based fuels.”

“These findings are very significant because they establish a new pretreatment process that can dramatically reduce enzyme loadings and costs, thereby improving the competitiveness for biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels,” said Wyman, who has focused on understanding and advancing biofuels technologies for more than 30 years. “Understanding the mechanisms responsible for achieving these intriguing results can also suggest even more powerful paths to improving the economics of converting non-edible biomass into sustainable fuels.”

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

For the full article, click here.

New Paper-like Material Could Boost Electric Vehicle Batteries

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

Mihri and Cengiz Ozkan, both professors in the Bourns College of Engineering. Photo Credit: UCR Today
Mihri and Cengiz Ozkan, both professors in the Bourns College of Engineering. Photo Credit: UCR Today

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have developed a novel paper-like material for lithium-ion batteries. It has the potential to boost by several times the specific energy, or amount of energy that can be delivered per unit weight of the battery.

This paper-like material is composed of sponge-like silicon nanofibers more than 100 times thinner than human hair. It could be used in batteries for electric vehicles and personal electronics.

The findings were just published in a paper, “Towards Scalable Binderless Electrodes: Carbon Coated Silicon Nanofiber Paper via Mg Reduction of Electrospun SiO2 Nanofibers,” in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. The authors were Mihri Ozkan, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, Cengiz S. Ozkan, a professor of mechanical engineering, and six of their graduate students: Zach Favors, Hamed Hosseini Bay, Zafer Mutlu, Kazi Ahmed, Robert Ionescu and Rachel Ye.

Scanning electron microscope images of (a) SiO2 nanofibers after drying, (b) SiO2 nanofibers under high magnification (c) silicon nanofibers after etching, and (d) silicon nanofibers under high magnification. Photo Credit: UCR Today
Scanning electron microscope images of (a) SiO2 nanofibers after drying, (b) SiO2 nanofibers under high magnification (c) silicon nanofibers after etching, and (d) silicon nanofibers under high magnification. Photo Credit: UCR Today

The nanofibers were produced using a technique known aselectrospinning, whereby 20,000 to 40,000 volts are applied between a rotating drum and a nozzle, which emits a solution composed mainly of tetraethyl orthosilicate (TEOS), a chemical compound frequently used in the semiconductor industry. The nanofibers are then exposed to magnesium vapor to produce the sponge-like silicon fiber structure.

Conventionally produced lithium-ion battery anodes are made using copper foil coated with a mixture of graphite, a conductive additive, and a polymer binder. But, because the performance of graphite has been nearly tapped out, researchers are experimenting with other materials, such as silicon, which has a specific capacity, or electrical charge per unit weight of the battery, nearly 10 times higher than graphite.

The problem with silicon is that is suffers from significant volume expansion, which can quickly degrade the battery. The silicon nanofiber structure created in the Ozkan’s labs circumvents this issue and allows the battery to be cycled hundreds of times without significant degradation.

“Eliminating the need for metal current collectors and inactive polymer binders while switching to an energy dense material such as silicon will significantly boost the range capabilities of electric vehicles,” Favors said.

(a) Schematic representation of the electrospinning process and subsequent reduction process. Digital photographs of (b) as-spun SiO2 nanofibers paper, (c) etched silicon nanofiber paper, and (d) carbon-coated silicon nanofiber paper as used in the lithium-ion half-cell configuration. Photo Credit: UCR Today
(a) Schematic representation of the electrospinning process and subsequent reduction process. Digital photographs of (b) as-spun SiO2 nanofibers paper, (c) etched silicon nanofiber paper, and (d) carbon-coated silicon nanofiber paper as used in the lithium-ion half-cell configuration. Photo Credit: UCR Today

This technology also solves a problem that has plagued free-standing, or binderless, electrodes for years: scalability. Free-standing materials grown using chemical vapor deposition, such as carbon nanotubes or silicon nanowires, can only be produced in very small quantities (micrograms). However, Favors was able to produce several grams of silicon nanofibers at a time even at the lab scale.

The researchers’ future work involves implementing the silicon nanofibers into a pouch cell format lithium-ion battery, which is a larger scale battery format that can be used in EVs and portable electronics.

The research is supported by Temiz Energy Technologies. The UC Riverside Office of Technology Commercialization has filed patents for inventions reported in the research paper.

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

For the complete article, click here.

La Sierra Lands Edison Grant To Advance STEM Studies

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Darla Martin Tucker and published in La Sierra University News/Events on February 17, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Natan Vigna
Photo Credit: Natan Vigna

On Jan. 8, Raymond Hicks, a regional manager with Southern California Edison, stopped by the office of Melanie Jobe, director of La Sierra’s Center for Student Academic Success (C-SAS), with a check for $10,000 from parent company Edison International. It was the fruition of a grant application process that began last summer for money to provide tutoring services and scholarships for students studying in the STEM subject areas.

The grant funds are divided evenly with $5,000 for “Edison Scholars” and $5,000 to fund tutor stipends in the student academic center’s Collaborative Learning Center for students needing assistance in the STEM areas.

The Edison Scholars will receive their scholarships this spring. Scholarship criteria include academic achievement and financial need. Students majoring in computer science, information systems, mathematics, chemistry, physics, or environmental science are eligible to apply.

The learning center’s goals include having the STEM professors vet the learning assistants to ensure that the learning assistants understand course objectives and content in order to maintain a high quality program for students.

“We want students engaged in the material, and we want to help them learn how to study and what to study,” said Melanie Jobe, C-SAS director.  “Having competent and trained learning assistants is vital to the success of this program.”

Photo Credit: Natan Vigna
Photo Credit: Natan Vigna

The Collaborative Learning Center provides academic support through peer tutoring in a non-traditional, innovative learning environment toward the development of academic knowledge and transferable skills. Currently 17 learning assistants, typically upper classmen with experience and knowledge of the STEM subjects, provide evening tutoring Monday – Thursday to students who are divided into groups of two or three.

“We call it Supplemental Learning Sessions. We have mixed the best of tutoring practices and supplemental instruction into one,” said Rakel Engles, learning center program coordinator. During the sessions, the learning assistants divide students into subject areas, take questions, then circulate throughout the room to answer further questions and encourage group study.

Engles encourages La Sierra students to take advantage of the opportunity to better their understanding of their subject areas and ultimately their academic performance. “Come to the supplemental learning sessions,” she says. “Come prepared with questions, homework, and whatever you need to get the work done.”

Grants like this increase the great work done at UC Riverside to equip our STEM students with the knowledge they need to succeed.  UC Riverside is known for catalyzing innovation in many fields of study and thus promotes the aspirations of Seizing Our Destiny.

For the complete article, click here.

RCC Student Selected For California Community Colleges Board of Governors

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in RCC Campus News on January 1, 2015.)

Photo Credit: RCC
Photo Credit: RCC

Riverside City College student Ravneet Kaur, 20, has been appointed to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors.

A 2012 graduate of Hemet High School, Kaur is well known for her volunteering. Currently she is a Region IX Governance and Internal Policy senator for the Student Senate for California Community Colleges and a member of the Associated Students of Riverside City College (RCC).

 The mission of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors and the Chancellor’s Office is to empower the community colleges through leadership, advocacy and support. As a member of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors, Kaur says she plans to bring the experience she has collected from being a student advocate and liaison, as well as what she has learned through shared governance.

“Going to community college has probably been one of the best decisions I’ve made; it’s pushed me to excel more in everything that I took part in,” said Kaur, who takes honors classes at RCC and volunteers extensively. “Getting involved with the Associated Students of Moreno Valley College and Riverside City College has really helped develop who I am. I’ve grown so much as a person, from my critical thinking to communication skills; I couldn’t imagine a different college experience.”

“Being involved at the local level has given me a sense of what students and faculty want, and being able to engage in committees on the state level has given me a balanced head in what changes can be made,” she said. “Throughout the years I have been a student, chair, and liaison. I know what being a student representative entails, and I have a close understanding what our local colleges and students want.”

Exemplifying Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar, the educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support useful and beneficial ideas that will aid Kaur in finding ways to better support the community colleges of our region.

 To read the full article, click here.

Battle Of The Bugs: Good News For California Citrus Growers

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Iqbal Pittalwala and published in UCR Today on Dec, 9 2014.)

The first release of a new wasp drew a crowd, mostly people who are personally involved in raising wasps. Photo Credit: Michael Lewis
The first release of a new wasp drew a crowd, mostly people who are personally involved in raising wasps. Photo Credit: Michael Lewis

Toward the end of 2011, Mark Hoddle, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside, first released into a citrus grove on campus a batch of Pakistani wasps that are natural enemies of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), the vector of a bacterium that causes Huanglongbing (HLB), a lethal citrus disease.

On Tuesday, Dec. 16, Hoddle, the director of UCR’s Center for Invasive Species Research, released the wasp Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis, a second species of ACP natural enemy, also from the Punjab region of Pakistan.  Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox and others involved in rearing insects on and off campus helped release the tiny wasps from vials.

Photo Credit: Mike Lewis, CISR, UC Riverside
Photo Credit: Mike Lewis, CISR, UC Riverside

Successful biocontrol of citrus pests in California sometimes requires more than one species of natural enemy because citrus is grown in a variety of different habitats – hot desert areas like Coachella, cooler coastal zones like Ventura, and intermediate areas like Riverside/Redlands and northern San Diego County.

Hoddle’s lab has developed a release plan for Diaphorencyrtus. Initial releases will focus on parts of Southern California with ACP infestations in urban areas but whereTamarixia has not been released.

“This is because we want to minimize competition between these two wasp species in the initial establishment phase,” Hoddle explained. “Further, we will work closely with the California Department of Food and Agriculture on identifying places to concentrate our release efforts.”

Hoddle’s plan is to gradually transition production of the new wasp over to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) then onto private insectaries interested in rearing this natural enemy. For the first 12-18 months, UCR and then later the CDFA will be leading the rearing and release program for this new ACP natural enemy.

Through commitment and dedication, UCR is always improving and making strides in becoming a green machine.  Exemplifying Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar, UCR values the cultivation and support of innovation within our community acting as a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

About ACP-HLB:

ACP-HLB is a serious threat to California’s annual $2 billion citrus industry. This insect-disease combination has cost Florida’s citrus industry $1.3 billion in losses, production costs have increased by 40 percent, and more than 6,000 jobs have been lost as citrus trees have died and the industry has contracted.

When ACP feeds on citrus leaves and stems, it damages the tree by injecting a toxin that causes leaves to twist and die. The more serious issue is that ACP spreads a bacterium that causes HLB. Trees with HLB have mottled leaves and small bitter fruit.  Trees die within about 8 years of infection. To date there is no known cure for HLB.

To read the complete article, click here.

Changing the Face of Medical Education in the U.S.

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by G. Richard Olds and published in Zocalo Public Square on December 17, 2014.)

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

The United States spends more money on health care than any other country in the world. So how does Costa Rica outperform the United States in every measure of health of its population?

Costa Rica is healthier because its government spends more money than ours does on prevention and wellness.

In our country, we have left vast segments of the population without affordable care and we do not focus on wellness or chronic disease management. We don’t consistently control the glucose levels in diabetics and, consequently, too many go blind or lose a limb. Too often, hypertension goes untreated until the patient has a stroke or kidney disease. Then, all too often, these individuals go on medical disability with far more societal expense than the cost of the original health management.

Sadly, it has become the American way to leave many chronic diseases untreated until they become emergency situations at exorbitant cost to the U.S. healthcare system. For many patients, this care is too late to prevent life-changing disabilities and an early death.

When people ask me why we started the UC Riverside School of Medicine last year – the first new public medical school on the West Coast in more than four decades – I talk about the need for well-trained doctors here in inland Southern California. But we also wanted to demonstrate that a health care system that rewards keeping people healthy is better than one which rewards not treating people until they become terribly ill.

As we build this school, we have a focus on wellness, prevention, chronic disease management, and finding ways to deliver health care in the most cost-effective setting, which is what American health care needs.

We also teach a team approach to medicine—another necessary direction for our health care system. If you have a relatively minor problem, your doctor might refer you to a nurse practitioner or physician assistant for follow-up. This kind of team care makes financial and clinical sense, particularly since we have such a national shortage of primary care doctors. The good news: Even among physicians, the team approach, or medical home model, is gaining ground, with the Affordable Care Act accelerating change.

For all the talk about the lack of health insurance in this country, we don’t often discuss the other side of the problem – the fact that many Americans get more care than they need. You may have heard advertisements that you should have your wife or mother get a total body scan for Mother’s Day, because it will find cancer or heart disease. There is no evidence that this screening is a good idea. But in the U.S., we often encourage people to do things that have no proven benefit, and our churches or community centers sponsor these activities.

For all these reasons, we must shift the focus of health care to prevention. Two of the most profitable prescription drugs in the U.S., according to some sources, are those that reduce blood cholesterol and prevent blood clots—both symptoms of coronary heart disease, a largely preventable condition. Shouldn’t we be spending at least as much on prevention as we do on prescriptions? Closely connected to prevention is wellness. So many of our health problems in the United States are self-inflicted, because we smoke, eat too much, and don’t exercise. Doctors need to “prescribe” effective smoking cessation programs, proper diets and exercise as an integral part of care.

One way to accomplish this shift is to teach it to future doctors. At UC Riverside, we are supplementing the traditional medical school curriculum with training in the delivery of preventive care and in outpatient settings. Our approach is three-pronged..

First, we work with local schools and students to increase access to medical school through programs that stimulate an interest in medicine and help disadvantaged students become competitive applicants for admission to medical school or other professional health education programs. These activities start with students at even younger than middle school age, because that is when students begin to formulate ideas about what they want to be when they grow up. We focus on students from Inland Southern California because students who live here now will be among those best equipped to provide medical care to our increasingly diverse patient population. Doctors who share their patients’ cultural and economic backgrounds are better at influencing their health behaviors.

Second, we recruit our medical students specifically with a focus on increasing the number of physicians in Inland Southern California in primary care and short-supply specialties. Our region has just 40 primary care physicians per 100,000 people—far below the 60 to 80 recommended—and a shortage in nearly every kind of medical specialty. Students who have been heavily involved in service such as the Peace Corps, or who are engaged in community-based causes, are more likely to go into primary care specialties and practice in their hometowns.

Then, we teach our medical students an innovative curriculum. For instance, the Longitudinal Ambulatory Care Experience, called LACE for short, replaces the traditional “shadowing” preceptorship, where students follow around different physicians. Instead, our students participate in an a three-year continuity-of-care primary care experience that includes a sustained mentor-mentee relationship with a single community-based primary care physician. In this experience, they “follow” a panel of patients and gain an in-depth understanding of the importance of primary care, prevention and wellness. Our approach also includes community-based research that grounds medical students in public health issues such as the social determinants of health, smoking cessation, early identification of pre-diabetic patients, weight loss management and the use of mammograms to detect breast cancer.

We try to remove the powerful financial incentive for medical students to choose the highest paying specialties in order to pay off educational loans. We do this with “mission” scholarships that cover tuition in all four years of our medical school. This type of scholarship provides an incentive for students to go into primary care and the shortest-supply specialties and to remain in Inland Southern California for at least five years following medical school education and residency training. If the recipients practice outside of the region or go into another field of practice before the end of those five years, the scholarships become repayable loans.

Third, we are creating new residency training opportunities in our region to capitalize on the strong propensity for physicians to practice in the geographic location where they finish their post-M.D. training. Responding to our region’s most critical shortages, we are concentrating the programs on primary care specialties like family medicine, general internal medicine, and general pediatrics, as well as the short-supply specialties of general surgery, psychiatry, and OB/GYN. We are also developing a loan-repayment program for residents linked to practice in our region.

Ultimately, we hope our ideas for how to change health care will succeed and be adopted by others. It might take 30 years, but we believe what we are doing at the UC Riverside School of Medicine will change the face of medical education in the U.S.

UC Riverside School of Medicine  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, products, and scholars. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, nation, and world to follow.

G. Richard Olds is vice chancellor of health affairs and the founding dean of the UC Riverside School of Medicine. He wrote this for Zocalo Public Square. Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

To read the full article, click here.

White House Applauds Inland Education Effort

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Dayna Straehley, published in The Press Enterprise on December 4, 2014.)

At Thursday's Summit on College Opportunity, President Barack Obama praises the Riverside County Education Collaborative. Photo Credit: Alex Wong, Getty Images
At Thursday’s Summit on College Opportunity, President Barack Obama praises the Riverside County Education Collaborative. Photo Credit: Alex Wong, Getty Images

Alvord Unified School District’s partnership with San Diego State University to develop more effective school counseling was one of efforts announced, as was Cal State San Bernardino’s action to increase the number of graduates from its College of Natural Sciences by 25 percent in five years.

The county Education Collaborative formed in July after a request from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Young to gather a team, come to Washington and talk about preparing more students to go to college and earn degrees, Young said.

Federal officials asked the county to make commitments in four areas to improve college-going rates, Young said.

Temecula and Murrieta valley unified school districts are working with Mt. San Jacinto College and Cal State San Marcos, which has a Temecula campus. Moreno Valley and Val Verde unified school districts are working with Moreno Valley College and UC Riverside.

Representatives of those schools and colleges have been meeting monthly, and others are joining from other parts of the county, Young said.

“Overall, we’ve been working on increasing our county’s college-going rate,” Young said. The Riverside County Office of Education and schools have worked on many steps and are now targeting four areas with four school districts, he said.

By gathering and sharing data, schools, colleges and communities can focus on their goals and rally community support, the president said. For instance, high school counselors can see how many students have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and focus on the students who have not, Young said.

Alvord Superintendent Sid Salazar said his work at the Day of Action focused on making school counselors more effective at getting low-income, Latino and black students ready for college and empowering them to do their jobs. That work starts before kindergarten, he said.

Identifying and implementing collaborative partnerships like this are evidence of catalyst of innovation in Riverside.  Our leaders are constantly developing inventive approaches to equip our students for college readiness.

To read the full article, click here.

Research points to MS relief

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Mark Muckenfuss and published in The Press Enterprise on December 2, 2014.) 

Seema Tiwari-Woodruff is an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the UC Riverside School of Medicine. Photo Credit: Pittalwala, UCR Today
Seema Tiwari-Woodruff is an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the UC Riverside School of Medicine. Photo Credit: Pittalwala, UCR Today

A UC Riverside researcher says she has tested a drug that may not only stop, but reverse the damage caused by multiple sclerosis.

Seema Tiwari-Woodruff is a biomedical science professor with UCR’s School of Medicine. She came to the campus in June from UCLA, where she had been researching multiple sclerosis therapies since 2007.

Tiwari-Woodruff said she and her team tested several ligands, chemicals that mimic estrogen. One particular ligand, Ind-Cl, was especially helpful for mice with multiple sclerotic symptoms.

The results were published Monday in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

Multiple sclerosis affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide. The disease attacks the central nervous system, damaging or destroying the myelin sheath that surrounds the axons on nerve cells. The axons carry electrical impulses from nerve cell receptors to their synapses. The myelin acts as an insulator. Without it, the nerve cell can’t effectively send signals.

Mice that received the drug saw as much as a 60 percent improvement in their condition. Not only did the drug diminish the inflammation that accompanies flare-ups of the disease, but the degeneration of the myelin sheath on nerve cell axons, Tiwari-Woodruff said, actually began to be repaired.

Testing showed that the cells with regrown myelin were capable of transmitting nerve signals once more. So far, the drug seems to have few, if any side effects.

This medical 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.