Researchers At UCR Find Key Component Of Autistic Behavior

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Mark Muckenfuss, published in the Press-Enterprise on July 26, 2014)

Through constant commitment and dedication, UC Riverside is consistently raising the bar with their research and technological advancements.  One recent advancement, in regards to autism research, is a model of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar.  Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

Iryna Ethell in her lab at UCR on Thursday, July 24, 2014. UCR researcher Iryna Ethell of Biomedical Sciences heads team that finds what may be a key to effective therapy for autism.  Photo credit: Kurt Miller

Iryna Ethell in her lab at UCR on Thursday, July 24, 2014. UCR researcher Iryna Ethell of Biomedical Sciences heads team that finds what may be a key to effective therapy for autism. Photo credit: Kurt Miller

A UC Riverside-led team of researchers says it has found conclusive evidence that a naturally produced enzyme in the body is responsible for autism and other neurological disorders in people with Fragile X syndrome.

Fragile X is a mutation of the X chromosome associated with obsessive-compulsive and repetitive behaviors as well as learning deficits. People affected by Fragile X have been shown to have structural differences in brain cells, such as underdeveloped neural receptors.

In 2007, Iryna Ethell, a UCR biochemist, found that overactivity of an enzyme called MMP-9 was connected with Fragile X. Her team recently identified MMP-9 as a major culprit in symptoms associated with Fragile X in mice.

Iryna Ethell holds a chart of her work in her office at UCR on Thursday, July 24, 2014. UCR researcher Iryna Ethell of Biomedical Sciences heads team that finds what may be a key to effective therapy for autism. Photo credit: Kurt Miller

Iryna Ethell holds a chart of her work in her office at UCR on Thursday, July 24, 2014. UCR researcher Iryna Ethell of Biomedical Sciences heads team that finds what may be a key to effective therapy for autism. Photo credit: Kurt Miller

By eliminating a gene that activates MMP-9, the researchers found that even with the presence of Fragile X syndrome, the mice showed no symptoms of autistic behavior. They measured sociability, anxiety and other behaviors, as well as examining individual brain cells.

Often, such discoveries are the first step in a long process. Just understanding a mechanism for a particular disease or disorder doesn’t  necessarily mean a treatment is imminent. Effective therapies or drugs can be many years away.

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UC Riverside Hosts ‘Boot Camp’ To Ease Native Americans’ Entry

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Krysta Fauria, published in the Press-Enterprise on July 23, 2014.)

Young college bound Native Americans are being encouraed to attend the “Boot Camp” opportunities at UC Riverside.  These exercises are an outstanding model of Riverside growing as a unified city.  Riversiders care for one another and ensure that everyone has access to a great education and the resources necessary to succeed.  We are a caring community that engages with one another for a better life for all. 

Native Americans take part in a drum circle before workshop sessions at UCR. Only 12 percent of Native Americans between 25 and 34 have four-year degrees, compared to 37 percent of whites, according to a 2012 report.  Photo credit: Chris Carlson

Native Americans take part in a drum circle before workshop sessions at UCR. Only 12 percent of Native Americans between 25 and 34 have four-year degrees, compared to 37 percent of whites, according to a 2012 report. Photo credit: Chris Carlson

Throughout their week at UCR, students got a taste of the college experience by attending classroom lectures, eating in the cafeteria and sleeping in the dorms. The 30 students also participated in cultural activities like prayer circles and beading workshops.  Upon completion of UCR’s program, students are given access to the university’s resources and staff to assist with the application process.

Elijah Watson knows he wants to go to college. He also knows it will be difficult to leave home on the Navajo reservation if he does.  The 17-year-old was reminded of the tough decision he’ll face next year when he participated in a week long celebration in March of his cousin’s Kinaalda, a hallowed Navajo ceremony marking a girl’s transition into womanhood.

Native Americans gather for a drum circle before workshop sessions at UC Riverside on Thursday, June 26.  Photo Credit: Chris Carlson

Native Americans gather for a drum circle before workshop sessions at UC Riverside on Thursday, June 26. Photo Credit: Chris Carlson

To reach students like Watson with higher education aspirations, a growing number of universities are offering programs to recruit and prepare Native American students for a transition to college life that can bring on a wrenching emotional conflict as they straddle two worlds.

Many young Native Americans find themselves divided by their desire for a higher education and the drive to stay close to home to hold onto a critical part of their identity. Sometimes, families discourage children from pursuing college, fearing once they leave the reservation, they won’t come back.

To read the full article, click here.

Arts Outreach Program Funded for 2014-2015

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Bettye Miller and published in UCR Today on July 14, 2014.)

The Gluck Fellows Program of the Arts, UC Riverside’s premier arts outreach program, has been awarded $555,000 by the Max H. Gluck Foundation to fund a 19th year of arts programs in Inland Empire schools, senior centers and other community venues.

Kate Alexander, center, leads a taiko drumming performance at the final show of the Gluck Summer Camp in June. Photos by Christine Leapman

Kate Alexander, center, leads a taiko drumming performance at the final show of the Gluck Summer Camp in June. Photos by Christine Leapman

“We are grateful to the Gluck Foundation for their continued support of this program,” said Christine Leapman, program coordinator at UCR. The Gluck Foundation is very interested in creating opportunities for women and disadvantaged minorities in the areas of health, education, creativity and culture. We’re very proud that we reflect those values in our workshops, and with our fellows and the constituencies they serve.”

The renewal of this grant will fund program costs for the 2014–15 year, including fellowships for more than 115 graduate and undergraduate students who conduct workshops in art, creative writing, dance, history of art, music, and theater.  This is exactly the kind of program that makes Riverside a Location of Choice.

In 2013–14, Gluck fellows conducted 711 workshops that were attended by more than 36,500 people in venues ranging from public schools and senior centers to the Riverside Art Museum and UCR, which hosts school visits and a popular summer arts camp. The Gluck Fellows Program began in 1996.

arts program 2

Fellows who travel to schools are writing workshop curricula that fulfill Common Core requirements, Leapman said, which educators find helpful as they look to the arts to engage students while also satisfying state curriculum mandates.

New in 2014–15 will be the launch of GluckTV, a series of 12 short films from Gluck events at UCR that will be available on YouTube. Proposed by Gluck director and media and cultural studies professor Erika Suderburg, the student-produced films will provide information about workshops that are available to schools and other groups.

The Los Angeles-based Max H. Gluck Foundation was developed to support education and the arts. It funds programs that address the educational, health, cultural, and creative needs of the underserved.

For the full article, click here.

Device Eliminates 93 Percent of Lawnmower Pollutant

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Sean Nealon, published in UCRToday on July 7, 2014.)

Students create device that cuts harmful emissions from lawnmowers, which emit 11 times the air pollution of a new car for each hour of operation

A team of University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering students have won an EPA student design contest for a device they created that curbs harmful pollutant emitted from lawnmowers by 93 percent.

From left, Wartini Ng, Timothy Chow, Kawai Tam, Jonathan Matson and Brian Cruz. Photo Credit: UCR Today

From left, Wartini Ng, Timothy Chow, Kawai Tam, Jonathan Matson and Brian Cruz. Photo Credit: UCR Today

The students developed the device – an “L” shaped piece of stainless steel that attaches to the lawnmower where its muffler was – because small engine devices produce significant harmful emissions. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a gasoline powered lawn mower emits 11 times the air pollution of a new car for each hour of operation.

The students’ device also fits in with UC President Janet Napolitano’s recent announcement to make the University of California system carbon neutral by 2025. With that in mind, employees responsible for maintaining the lawns at UC Riverside have agreed to pilot the students’ device. That will likely start in the coming months.

The device can be thought of as a three stage system. First, a filter captures the harmful pollutants. Then an ultra-fine spray of urea solution is dispersed into the exhaust stream. The urea spray primes the dirty air for the final stage, when a catalyst converts the harmful nitrogen oxide and ammonia into harmless nitrogen gas and water and releases them into the air.

The device created by the student team being attached to a lawnmower. Photo credit: UCR Today

The device created by the student team being attached to a lawnmower. Photo credit: UCR Today

The University of California, Riverside is clearly dedicated to making a positive impact on the environment, and exemplifies Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. The students and professors collaborate to address issues, which lead to more inventive and multi-disciplinary approaches. The people and educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support useful and beneficial ideas and research. Riverside is setting the bar as a Catalyst for Innovation in many ways.

The incoming team will work to further improve the device. Possible areas for refinement including scaling it up so that it could be used with rider lawnmowers and develop a way to insulate it.

To read the full article, click here.

UCR Is Nurturing Undergraduates By Leading Them To Research

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Lilledeshan Bose, published in UCR Today on June 17, 2014.)

In the summer of 2010, My Hua, then a 19-year-old sophomore at UC Riverside, plunged into the sweltering heat and unrelenting humidity of Chennai, India.  She was there with Unite for Sight, a nonprofit that delivers eye care to impoverished villages around the world. Her experience led to a thirst to do more to address issues of human health.  

The Spring 2014 issue of UCR Magazine, photo credit: ucrtoday.ucr.edu

The Spring 2014 issue of UCR Magazine, photo credit: ucrtoday.ucr.edu

The answer? “It was research, unexpectedly,” she said.  Four years later she has published her work on the potential harm from e-cigarettes in peer-reviewed journals. Hua is one of the Chancellor’s Research Fellows profiled in the cover story of this Spring 2014 UCR magazine about undergraduate research.  Aided by campus-sponsored programs and valuable faculty mentorship, about 20 percent of all Highlanders are able to participate in research before they even receive a bachelor’s degree.

The research and writings generated by the Highlander students along the journey to their bachelor’s degrees exemplify seizing our destiny’s intelligent growth pillar.  UCR is nurturing undergraduates by leading them to research, via campus-sponsored programs and valuable faculty mentorship.  Riverside is always developing new paths and opportunities to promote an outstanding quality of life for all through intelligent growth.  

To read more, click here

 

These Roofs Can Clean The Air

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Michael Franco, published on cnet.com on June 4, 2014.)

Students at UC Riverside have created a cheap coating that can go on ordinary clay roofing tiles to bust smog.

Roofing tiles protect homes from the environment, reflecting heat from the sun and keeping rainwater rolling away into gutters. Thanks to work done by students at the University of California at Riverside, however, roof shingles may soon be protecting the environment itself.

Photo credit: UC Riverside

Photo credit: UC Riverside

A team there coated off-the-shelf clay roofing tiles with titanium dioxide, a compound found in “everything from paint to food to cosmetics,” according to the researchers. They then placed the coated tiles into a mini atmosphere chamber they built out of wood, Teflon, and PVC pipes. The chamber was filled with nitrogen oxide and beamed with ultraviolet light to mimic the sun. Nitrogen oxides are compounds in the air that are responsible for causing smog.

What they found was that the coating on the tiles removed between 88 percent and 97 percent of the nitrogen oxides. This led them to calculate that an average-size residential roof coated with their titanium dioxide mixture could break down the same amount of smog-producing nitrogen oxides per year put out by a car driven 11,000 miles. They further calculated that 21 tons of nitric oxide could be eliminated every day if tiles on 1 million roofs got the coating.

And the price for the simple yet powerful smog-busting coating? Just about $5 to cover an average-sized roof.  The students on the team that executed the research and developed the titanium dioxide coating are graduating in the fall, but are hopeful that new students will take over their work and test other factors.

The team at UCR that developed this smog buster is a model of seizing our destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. Being that this project is so inexpensive and attainable, it has great potential for everyone to do their part and start to clean the skies.  Riverside is setting the bar as a Catalyst for Innovation in many ways.

To read more, click here.

Retention Of Students In STEM Fields Receives Major Financial Boost

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Iqbal Pittalwala, published in UCR Today on May 29, 2014.)

UC Riverside receives $2.4 million Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant for STEM education; underrepresented minority students to especially benefit.

UCR Distinguished Professor of Genetics Susan Wessler works with students in the Neil A. Campbell Science Learning Laboratory. Photo credit: Lonnie Duka

UCR Distinguished Professor of Genetics Susan Wessler works with students in the Neil A. Campbell Science Learning Laboratory.
Photo credit: Lonnie Duka

Sixty percent of students in the United States who begin college intending to major in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fail to earn a STEM degree. Even more concerning is that only 20 percent of students from underrepresented ethnic groups persist in STEM studies.

To help address this higher education crisis, the University of California, Riverside has received a five-year grant totaling $2.4 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to fund a project aimed at addressing the challenges to STEM success faced by some students — particularly, students from underrepresented minority groups at UC Riverside.

Freshmen perform experiments in the Neil A. Campbell Science Learning Laboratory.  Photo credit: James Burnette lll

Freshmen perform experiments in the Neil A. Campbell Science Learning Laboratory. Photo credit: James Burnette III

Specifically, the grant will allow the project, titled “Sustaining Academic Leadership for STEM Achievement” (HHMI-SALSA), to provide lower division science students with early research immersion as well as career exploration and mentoring, using an already successful first-year “learning community” program at UCR as the feeder pipeline. Those students successfully retained through the lower division will be handed off into upper division research, internship and career opportunities.

The HHMI-SALSA grant is an outstanding opportunity for UCR to focus on STEM education, and develop potential career paths.  Certainly a model of seizing our destiny’s intelligent growth pillar, UCR is working everyday to embrace intelligent growth within all facets of higher education.

Susan Wessler (left) is seen here with Rochelle Campbell, whose generous gifts helped finance the expansion of the Neil A. Campbell Science Learning Laboratory. Photo credit: Carrie Rosema

Susan Wessler (left) is seen here with Rochelle Campbell, whose generous gifts helped finance the expansion of the Neil A. Campbell Science Learning Laboratory. Photo credit: Carrie Rosema

According to Wessler, the holder of a University of California President’s Chair, the timing of the grant is ideal because a National Science Foundation STEP grant UCR received last year has increased the capacity of the learning communities, which help generate the Dynamic Genome course students.  In combination with this NSF grant, the HHMI-SALSA grant will give UCR greater capacity for critical programmatic enhancements to help retain undergraduate students in STEM majors.

To read the full article, click here.

Foster Care Inspires Playwright

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Chrystal Allegria, published in the Press-Enterprise on May 7, 2014.)

Regina Louise wanted to do something big with her life, even if that meant baring her soul.  From birth until age 18, Louise bounced around the foster care system in Texas, Georgia and California. Now, 50, Louise is a playwright, motivational speaker and a graduate student at the University of California, Riverside.  The original play, “Bearing Our Soles,” is founded on Louise’s lonely childhood, but also tells the “shoe stories” of other authors that speak of life and love.

Playwright Regina Louise will present her play, Bearing Our Soles, in Riverside this weekend. Louise grew up in foster care.  Photo Credit: UCR

Playwright Regina Louise will present her play, Bearing Our Soles, in Riverside this weekend. Louise grew up in foster care. Photo Credit: UCR

“Life, love, story. It’s all relational,” said Louise, who is working on a master’s degree in creative writing and writing for the performing arts. “The sole holds us up. The soul of man is what holds us up to withstand the impact that we have every day.”

Growing up in group homes and institutions made Louise long for a parental figure, a feeling she discussed in her 2003 memoirs, “Somebody’s Someone: A Memoir.” The book inspired her to write a one-woman monologue of the same name, which she wrote and performed at the Sacramento Theatre Company in 2007.

Instead of revisiting the monologue, Louise’s professor encouraged her to seek stories from others. “So I sent out a call for stories about shoes,” she said.  The response was tremendous. Louise received shoe stories from individuals who also bared their souls.  “’Bearing Our Soles’ is this idea to bare, expose the story… it’s the idea that our stories aren’t so different and that the idea that they bear resemblance,” Louise said. “We are more alike than we are different.”

“The work I do is in service to something much larger. In order to do something possible, it must be fueled by hope. That hope is a fuel injection, if you will, to my being possible,” she said.

“Bearing Our Soles” is a part of the MaryLu Clayton Rosenthal New Play Festival and will be performed at 8 p.m. on May 23 and 31 at the UCR Studio Theater at 900 University Ave. in Riverside.

The work of Regina Louise is an example of why Riverside is a location of choice.  Our community provides an abundance of opportunities to be amazed, inspired and entertained, including arts and cultural offerings.  Her story is an inspiration and it catalyzes hope.

To read the full article click here.

New Revolutionary Sensor Links Pressure To Color Change

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Iqbal Pittalwala, published in UCR Today on April 30, 2014.)

Technology developed at UC Riverside has wide applications, from designing better c
ars and smartphones to high-tech baseball gloves

Imagine an automobile crash test that uses test dummies painted all over with a substance that can change color according to the levels of stress that various parts of the dummies’ bodies will endure.  Such a “color map” could provide vital information to engineers designing safer automobiles.  Or imagine baseball gloves that when worn show the batters if they are using the appropriate amount of pressure to grip their bats, resulting in better performance.

Yadong Yin is an associate professor of chemistry at UC Riverside. Photo credit: L. Duka

Yadong Yin is an associate professor of chemistry at UC Riverside. Photo credit: L. Duka.

New technology developed at the University of California, Riverside may now make the above and similar ideas a reality.  Indeed, the technology could be applied to improve everyday devices, such as smartphones, that for operation rely on the right amount of pressure applied to them.  “We have developed a high-resolution pressure sensor that indicates pressure by varying its color — a sensor that all of us can use with just our eyes,” said Yadong Yin, an associate professor of chemistry, whose lab led the research.  The new technology produces a mosaic of easy-to-distinguish colors and has the benefit of higher contrast and resolution.  It can potentially be used in many safety devices for revealing pressure distribution over even very complex surfaces.

One of the research interests of his lab is the design of materials with new properties via the self-assembly process.  The lab first makes nanoparticles and then organizes them together to produce new properties arising from particle-particle interactions.

“In the case of our sensor, we initially found a way to organize gold nanoparticles together to form strings,” Yin said.  “That process is accompanied by a sharp color-change from red to blue. We speculated that the reverse — disassembly — process might have the reverse color change: from blue to red.  We found to our surprise that mechanical force could achieve this disassembly.  Considerable effort has been made by researchers to study nanoparticle self-assembly.  Indeed, gold nanoparticles have conventionally been used as sensors based on the self-assembly process.  What is novel about our work is that it shows that the disassembly process can also find great applications if the assembly is designed to be reversible.”

Digital images (top) and schematic illustration (bottom) showing the color change of the sensor film after experiencing different amounts of pressure. Photo credit: Yin Lab, UC Riverside.

Digital images (top) and schematic illustration (bottom) showing the color change of the sensor film after experiencing different amounts of pressure. Photo credit: Yin Lab, UC Riverside.

This breakthrough technology is an outstanding representation 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, scholars, businesspeople, artists and entrepreneurs. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.  This advanced technology will not only be utilized as a tool to improve consumer products, it has the potential to reduce injuries and save lives.

To read the full article, click here.

UCR Student Films Premiere May 15th

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Bettye Miller, published in UCR Today on May 2, 2014)

Actor Danny Glover will discuss social justice issues and film May 18 as part of Media and Cultural Studies Student Film Festival

Films produced by students in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies will screen May 15.

Films produced by students in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies will screen May 15.

Student films that probe life, love and thorny social issues will premiere in UC Riverside’s 2nd Annual Media and Cultural Studies Student Film Festival that begins May 15 and concludes with an appearance by award-winning actor and humanitarian Danny Glover on May 18.

The event features the screening of 18 student films on Thursday, May 15, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the University Village 10 Theaters. Glover will discuss social justice issues and film on Sunday, May 18, at 12:30 p.m. at the Riverside Convention Center, Ballroom A and B. Doors open for the film screenings at 6:30 p.m. The first 25 people to walk through the doors at the UV 10 Theaters will receive a free 46-ounce popcorn.

Glover will be in Riverside thanks to the efforts of Arizona State University professors C.A. Griffith and H.L.T. Quan. The Arizona scholars will interview him from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Griffith and Quan are co-directors of the award-winning film “Mountains that Take Wing.”

Both events are free and open to the public. An awards banquet for student filmmakers, faculty and staff will be held Friday, May 16.

The film students involved in the Media and Cultural Studies Student Film Festival exemplify the seizing our destiny pillar, location of choice.  Riverside is a location of choice and attracts creative, entrepreneurial, dynamic and diverse people as residents, workers, business owners and visitors.  Our community provides an abundance of opportunities to be amazed, inspired and entertained, including: arts and cultural offerings.  Riverside has increasingly become the ‘location of choice’ for people and organizations from all over the world.