Tag Archives: UCR

UC Riverside Student Selected As A Gates Cambridge Scholar

(This article contains excerpts from the  article written by Mojgan Sherkat and published in the UCR Today on February 8, 2016.)

Connor Richards
Connor Richards

Connor Richards, a fourth-year physics major at the University of California, Riverside, has been awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, one of the most prestigious international scholarships in the world.

“This is the most prestigious award for graduate study that any UCR undergraduate has ever won, and it is a great tribute to Connor that he has earned this distinction,” said Steven Brint, vice provost of undergraduate education.

Richards is one of about 40 American students who received the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, and he is the first UC Riverside student to be granted the award. He will read for a Master of Advanced Study in Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. He said receiving the scholarship is a humbling honor, and represents a tremendous opportunity in terms of professional and personal growth.

“This award is really recognition of the work that UCR has put into preparing me over the last four years,” Richards explained. “I received support whenever and wherever it was required. I cannot begin to properly thank all of the departments and programs, and the people who have worked tirelessly to make this happen. But, I would be remiss if I did not specifically acknowledge Professor Owen Long, who has served as my research advisor since my freshman year, and Gladis Herrera-Berkowitz, with whom I have been working to prepare to apply for these awards since my freshman year.”

Representing Seizing Our Destiny’s location of choice pillar, UCR provides a great education at an affordable price.

Richards has already received admission to top Ph.D. programs, including fellowship offers at Caltech and Cornell. He will attend Cambridge during the 2016-17 academic year, and hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in experimental high-energy physics at Princeton in fall 2017.

Since coming to UCR, Richards has won the Strauss scholarship, a public service scholarship given to university students in California, and the Goldwater scholarship, which encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering and to foster excellence in those fields.  He was named a finalist for the Marshall Scholarship, and spearheaded a project to mentor and encourage high school students interested in pursuing STEM careers. He is also active in the University Honors program and currently serves as president of the CNAS Science Ambassador program.

His latest accomplishment adds to the outstanding year of achievement for UCR undergraduates at the highest level, according to Brint. UCR undergraduates have won two Goldwater scholarships, three Strauss scholarships, three Coro fellowships, and three Howard Hughes Medical Institute Extraordinary Research Opportunities Scholarships. Several Fulbright finalists are still waiting to hear about their awards.

“Based on what I know, our record in the area of prestigious scholarships and awards is stronger than that of any UC campus. Connor and these other outstanding students make us all proud,” Brint explained.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program was established in October 2000, after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $210 million to the University of Cambridge – the largest single donation to a United Kingdom university. Scholarships are awarded to outstanding applicants from all over the world who want to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree at the University of Cambridge. Applicants are selected on the basis of showing intellectual ability, leadership potential, and a commitment to improving the lives of others.

To read the full article, click here.

Breakthrough In Generating Embryonic Cells That Are Critical For Human Health

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Iqbal Pittalwala on published in UCR Today on February 3, 2016.)

IMAGE CREDIT: GARCÍA-CASTRO LAB, UC RIVERSIDE.
IMAGE CREDIT: GARCÍA-CASTRO LAB, UC RIVERSIDE.

Neural crest cells arise early in the development of vertebrates, migrate extensively through the embryo, and differentiate to give rise to a wide array of diverse derivatives. Their contributions include a large proportion of our peripheral nerves, the melanocytes that provide skin color and protection from damaging UV light, as well as many different cell types in our face, including muscle, bone, cartilage and tooth-forming cells.

The proper functioning of these cells is critical for human development and health. When neural crest biology fails, various birth defects and illnesses – cleft lip/palateHirschsprung and Waardenburg syndromes, melanoma and neuroblastoma – result.  A better study of these cells is crucial, therefore, to aid in clinical efforts to diagnose and treat such conditions.

But access to these embryonic cells in humans is very difficult. As an alternative, scientists turned to models based in embryonic stem cells.

While protocols to generate human neural crest cells from human embryonic stem cells have progressed since the first report 11 years ago, they still have considerable limitations for their use in basic and clinical research. This is because these protocols commonly use ingredients or components not well defined, such as blood serum which contains many unknown components of varying concentrations.  Some protocols result in large clusters of cells, impairing the identification of specific molecules and their roles during neural crest cell formation.  Furthermore, the fastest of these protocols takes 12 days (of very costly culture conditions) to convert human embryonic stem cells to neural crest cells.  Oftentimes the protocols provide low yields, making the isolation of the desired neural crest cells a time-consuming and technically challenging process.

Work done by a research team led by an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside now addresses these problems by providing a robust, fast, simple and trackable method to generate neural crest cells.  The proposed method can facilitate research in basic sciences and clinical applications alike.

“Our study provides a superb model to generate neural crest cells in just five days starting from human embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent cells, using a simple and well-defined media with all ingredients known and accounted for,” said Martín I. García-Castro, whose lab led the study published in the Feb. 1 issue of the journalDevelopment. “Our cost-effective, efficient and fast protocol allows a better analysis of the relevant signals and molecules involved in the formation of these cells.  Our results suggest that human neural crest cells can arise independently from – and prior to – the formation of mesoderm and neural ectoderm derivatives, both of which had been thought to be critical for neural crest formation.”

The mesoderm is the middle layer of the embryo in early development.  It lies between the endoderm and the ectoderm, the latter being the outermost layer.  García-Castro’s previous work on birds already challenged the dogma suggesting that neural crest cells form without mesodermal or neural contribution.  Unpublished results from his lab have also confirmed the same using rabbit embryos as a mammalian model.

With regard to identifying specific molecules and their roles during neural crest cell formation, García-Castro’s new work demonstrates the critical role played by a molecule known as WNT and highlights contributions from protein families called FGFs and BMPs.

Briefly, WNT proteins are signaling molecules that regulate cell-to-cell interactions during development and adult tissue homeostasis. The FGF protein family controls a wide range of biological functions.  BMPs induce the formation of bone and cartilage and form tissues throughout the body.

“Our work provides strong evidence of the critical and initiating role of WNT signals in neural crest cell formation, with later contributions by FGF and BMP pathways,” he said.

García-Castro emphasized that the proper function of neural crest cells is essential for human development and health.

“The study of these cells is essential to improve clinical efforts to diagnose, manage, and perhaps prevent diseases and conditions linked to them, and our lab has already launched efforts towards facial clefts – lip and or palate – and melanoma, and we hope to make substantial progress in both areas thanks to this novel protocol,” he said.

The study was supported by funding from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health as well as Connecticut Innovations, a funding source for companies in Connecticut.

García-Castro came to UC Riverside in November 2014. His coauthors on the research paper are Alan W. Leung (first author of the research paper, currently at Yale University, Conn.) and Barbara Murdoch (currently at Eastern Connecticut State University), both of whom are former members in his lab; and Ahmed F. Salem, Maneeshi S. Prasad, and Gustavo A. Gomez at UC Riverside.

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.

To read the full article, click here.

Five UCR Professors Among Most Influential Scientists In Their Fields

(This article contains excerpts written by Jeanette Marantos and published in UCR Today on January 29, 2016.)

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

Five UCR professors are among the 165 UC faculty named as the most influential scientists in their fields in 2015, a number unmatched by any other university in the world, according to an analysis by Thomson Reuters.

The UC system led the 2015 Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers list, which named more than 3,000 scientists from around the globe whose work was in the top 1 percent of most referenced research in academic journals from 2003 to 2013.

The purpose of the Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers List is to identify contemporary authors whose research has significantly influenced others in their field.

“Undeniably, Highly Cited Researchers have demonstrated that their work is central to current, ongoing research across the range of scholarly and scientific advancement and that they are the ones to watch,” Thomson Reuters said in its story about the rankings. 

Once again UCR is demonstrating what makes it a location of choice for students from all around the globe.

The UCR professors named in the UC’s Highly Cited Researchers list are:

  • Julia Bailey-Serres, professor of genetics and geneticist
  • Alexander Balandin, UC Presidential Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, founding chair of the Materials Science and Engineering Program in BCOE and director of the Nano-Device Laboratory
  • Wei Ren, professor of electrical and computer engineering
  • Charles E. Wyman, distinguished professor of chemical and environmental engineering and the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering
  • Yadong Yin, professor of chemistry and principal investigator of the Yin Group, whose research is focused on properties and formation of nanostructures

Read more about the UC’s ranking here.  The entire Thomson Reuters article and rankings can be found here.

To read full article, click here.

UCR Research Advances Oil Production in Yeast

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sarah Nightingale and published in UCR Today on January 26, 2016.)

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

A team led by a researcher at the University of California, Riverside has adapted the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system for use in a yeast strain that can produce useful lipids and polymers. The development will lead to new precursors for biofuels, specialty polymers, adhesives and fragrances.

Published recently in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology, the research involves the oleaginous (oil-producing) yeast Yarrowia lipolytica, which is known for converting sugars to lipids and hydrocarbons that are difficult to make synthetically. Until now, Y. lipolytica has been hard to manipulate at the genetic level, but the application of CRISPR-Cas9 will change that, allowing scientists to tap into its bio-manufacturing potential.

Described in 2012, CRISPR-Cas9 is a groundbreaking technique that enables scientists to make precise targeted changes in living cells. Unlike traditional gene-editing methods, it is cheap, easy to use and effective in almost any organism.

“Traditionally, researchers have focused on model organisms that are relatively easy to manipulate at the genetic level, and those working on less tractable species have had to go through long and tedious processes to create new strains. Our work with Y. lipolytica is a good example of how the CRISPR-Cas9 system is facilitating research in organisms that are biologically interesting but historically difficult to work with,” said Ian Wheeldon, an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering at UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering and the study’s principal investigator.

In the paper, the team adapted CRISPR-Cas9 for Y. lipolytica, showing that the system could be used to knock genes out and introduce new genes, both useful tools in bio-manufacturing.

Wheeldon said the current work was the first step in a National Science Foundation-funded project to create long chain hydrocarbons—used to make specialty polymers, adhesives, coatings and fragrances—from yeast rather than synthetically.

“Currently, these molecules are produced from non-renewable raw materials derived from petroleum in processes that are inefficient and pose safety risks, so being able to produce them from cheap raw materials in a bio-manufacturing process is very appealing,” Wheeldon said.

Other researchers may use the system to create precursors for biofuels, reducing the current reliance on edible plant oils, Wheeldon said.

The work was done by Wheeldon, Cory Schwartz, a graduate student in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at UCR, and Murtaza Shabbir Hussain and Mark Blenner from Clemson University in South Carolina. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

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.

To read the full article, click here.

UC Riverside Sees Record Number of Applicants for Fall 2016

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Mojgan Sherkat and published in UCR Today on January 11, 2016.)

Photo Credit: Carlos Puma
Photo Credit: Carlos Puma

The University of California, Riverside received more than 50,000 student applications for admission into the university for the Fall 2016 term. That is just over a 10 percent increase compared to the previous application cycle.

The pool of 52,467 applicants was made up of a total of 41,559 freshmen, and 10,908 transfer students.  UCR exceeded the 50,000 mark in total applications for the first time in the school’s history.

“Hitting this milestone is significant for the Riverside campus because it demonstrates in real numbers UCR’s popularity across the state,” said Emily Engelschall, the director of undergraduate admissions. “The numbers show that UC Riverside continues to grow as a campus of choice.”

There was also a significant increase in transfer applications.

“UCR is dedicated to increasing the number of transfer students on our campus,” Engelschall said. “To this end we have put forth much effort in our transfer specific outreach efforts. The increase in applications the UCR campus received for the Fall 2016 filing period is an early sign those outreach efforts are working.”

UC Riverside is always expanding and improving in a remarkable fashion.  Representing Seizing Our Destiny’s location of choice pillar, UCR attracts students and professionals from across the country due to the great reputation and overall integrity that the campus stands by.

To read the full article, click here.

Hundreds Gathered AT UCR To Honor Victims Of The San Bernardino Shooting

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Kris Lovekin and published in UCR Today on December 9, 2015.)

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

About 400 people attended a candlelight vigil near the Highlander Union Building Dec. 4  to honor the victims of the mass shooting in San Bernardino Dec 2, that killed 14 and injured 21, including four UCR alumni.

Among the dead were Sierra Clayborn, 27, who graduated from UCR  in 2010 in biochemistry, and 58-year-old Damian Meins, who graduated in Economics in 1978. Meins spent his career in environmental safety. His two daughters are also UCR graduates.

Jennifer Stevens, 22, who graduated this past June in environmental science, was hospitalized, as was Denise Peraza, 27, who earned her master’s degree in Environmental Science at UCR in 2013.

Wilcox reminded the crowd that “we are becoming more closely connected as human beings, more tightly knit. When we talk about changing the world, when we talk about making the world a better place, we are empowered in ways that humans have never been to do that, through our connectedness.” Coming together in these times of sorrow is a true demonstration of what makes us a unified city.  We are a caring community that has compassion for all people and we stand with San Bernardino in their time of need.

A lone bagpipe played by Mike Terry, head of UCR’s Pipe Band, closed the somber event as the attendees quietly held their electric candles.

To read the full article, click here.

California Researchers Re-Create Forest Blazes

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Rory Carroll and published in theguardian.com on November 8, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Noah Smith for the Guardian
Photo Credit: Noah Smith for the Guardian

The US Forest Service fire laboratory in Riverside, a quiet university city two hours east of Los Angeles, is tasked with studying – and helping to stop – the conflagrations.

Billboards along the highway to Riverside advertise Spectre, the new James Bond film. The lab has no Q-type boffin with Hollywood-esque fire-quenching gadgets, but it does have a team of engineers, physicists, meteorologists, ecologists and computer geeks who devise models and tools for colleagues in the field. They work from a collection of offices, workshops and prefab metal buildings scorched by pyrotechnic experiments. There is another, similar facility in Montana.

“We’re still trying to understand why live fuel burns,” said David Weise, the lead research forester in Riverside. “It’s not just about heat. When fuel breaks down, it produces gas. It’s a pretty chaotic environment.”

Heat transfers through convection, conduction, radiation and mass transfer, such as embers. Wind and gas affect fluid dynamics. Multiple variables such as a leaf’s resin, or type of moisture, can determine whether a fire sputters or turns into an inferno.

Researchers produced elaborate models of fire behavior 40 years ago, but Weise said firefighters have noticed a problem: such models don’t work. Some big fires are burning in unpredictable ways, consuming faith in the science along with the trees.

“Observation and experience is what they’re relying on,” he said.

Forest service technicians and students from UC Riverside have conducted about 120 experiments in the wind tunnel to build up data for a new model, a painstaking, incremental slog involving weeds, twigs, blowtorches and differential equations.

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.

To read the full article, click here.

Students Face Off In Fast-Paced Robotics Contest

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sarah Nightingale and published in UCR Today on November 17, 2015.)

Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise

More than 300 middle and high school students from across Riverside and San Bernardino counties competed to build the best terrestrial drones at the MESA Robotics Invitational competition, on Saturday, Nov. 21 at the University of California, Riverside.

This year’s theme, “Attack of the Drones: The Revenge,” challenged students to design drones that out-perform the competition in agility tests and combat simulations. Middle and high school students competed at different levels, with the middle school teams using Lego robotics kits and the high school teams using the Vex robotics platform.

ny6xj9-09perrobotics1123tlpo
Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise

The event was hosted by the Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement (MESA) Schools Program at the UCR Bourns College of Engineering. MESA provides academic enrichment services and opportunities to teachers and students in engineering and science, while focusing on serving disadvantaged and underserved student populations. Now in its 8th year, the event will draw 33 teams from 12 schools in Moreno Valley, Colton, Rialto, Corona, Ontario and Victorville.

Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise

“The MESA Robotics competition is one of our most popular events among students and teachers alike,” said Carlos Gonzalez, director of UCR’s MESA program. “While the students are having fun designing, building and programming their robots, they’re also learning important concepts about engineering, computer science, and, of course, teamwork.”

The top three teams in each competition received awards, with additional distinctions going to teams that demonstrate the best sportsmanship and the most creative design.

Competitions like this are great examples of Seizing Our Destiny’s intelligent growth pillar. UCR is dedicated to educating the next generation of students and helping them succeed. These competitions play a vital role in strengthening our community’s workforce and job growth.

To read the full article, click here.

UC Riverside Cited For Success With Pell Grant Students

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Kris Lovekin and published in UCR Today on October 29, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Carrie Rosema
Photo Credit: Carrie Rosema

A new report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy includes UC Riverside among universities doing the most  to accept and graduate low-income college students.

The report, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is called “Serving Their Share: Some Colleges Could Be Doing a Much Better Job Enrolling and Graduating Low-Income Students.” It was issued Oct. 29.

Those schools identified as “access improvers” include the UC campuses in Riverside, Irvine, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, as well as Indiana Wesleyan; Stetson University in Florida; Grand Valley State in Michigan; the University of Tennessee in Knoxville; Florida State and the University of Florida.

“Almost all of the institutions on our Access Improvers list offer summer bridge academic programs, use early warning systems to identify and intervene with struggling students, provide academic maps to help students take the right courses and hit key milestones on time, and run learning communities geared toward helping students succeed,” according to the report, authored by Colleen Campbell and Mamie Voight.

Nearly 2/3rds of incoming freshmen participate in specialized first year learning communities. Today it is clear that support programs are paying off. UCR has nearly equal graduation rates across all racial and ethnic groups — a rarity among colleges and  universities. For UC Riverside, that shift happened about 10 years ago, after the student population became more diverse and almost doubled, from abut 9,000 students in the mid-1990s to about 17,000 students in the mid-2000s. UCR is now at nearly 22,000 students.

UCR’s consecutive achievements help make the college and Riverside a location of choice for students seeking a great education at an affordable price.

To read the full article, click here.

Students Create Green Storm Drain Filter

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

The Sustain-A-Drain team recently won a $15,000 grant from the EPA for their reusable storm drain filter. Photo Credit: UCR Today
The Sustain-A-Drain team recently won a $15,000 grant from the EPA for their reusable storm drain filter. Photo Credit: UCR Today

A team of students from the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering was recently awarded a $15,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for a reusable storm drain filter that is less costly and more environmentally friendly than currently available models.

The key innovation is the calibrated indicator and filter system. The filter is made of 100 percent recycled textiles. The indicator is a 3-D printed device made with the same material as the filter and a translucent biodegradable plastic that includes a polymer that changes from a powder to a gel when it is saturated with oil and/or heavy metals and needs to be replaced.

The team received the $15,000 as a phase one winner of EPA’s P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) competition. Team members are: Franklin Gonzalez, Karim Masarweh, Johny Nguyen, Diego Novoa, Kenneth Orellana and Taljinder Kaur. With the exception of Kaur, who is an MBA student, all the students are seniors and either environmental or chemical engineering majors. Kawai Tam, a lecturer at the Bourns College of Engineering, advises them.

Bourns College of Engineering 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.

To read the full article, click here.