About Egghead

Egghead is a blog about research by, with or related to UC Davis. Comments on posts are welcome, as are tips and suggestions for posts. General feedback may be sent to Andy Fell. This blog is created and maintained by UC Davis Strategic Communications, and mostly edited by Andy Fell.

Four on the Frontiers of Mathematics

Mathematics is the language of the universe, and mathematicians can use this language to help people better understand the world. In this extended edition of the Three Minute Egghead podcast, I talked to four UC Davis mathematicians about the problems they work on, why they are important and why they find them fascinating. 

  • Elena Fuchs: Apollonian Circles to quantum computing
  • Evgeny Gorskiy: The geometry of knots
  • Luis Rademacher: Signal separation and the blessing of dimensionality
  • Becca Thomases: Non-Newtonian fluids, lungs and swimming microbes

UC Davis Partners in USAID-Funded Project to Improve Nutrition Worldwide

By Diane Nelson

UC Davis has been selected by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of a consortium to improve nutrition for women and children in low- and middle-income countries around the globe. 

The five-year program—USAID Advancing Nutrition—will bring together international and local organizations from various sectors to design, implement and evaluate activities that fight malnutrition. The project will be led by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. (JSI), a public health research and consulting firm.

Wilsaan Joiner: Understanding the Neuroscience of Movement, Vision and Perception

“What are the unmined frontiers of human knowledge?”

As an adolescent, Wilsaan Joiner was asked this question by his father, but in classic parental fashion, his dad already had a couple of answers in mind. Space exploration was one.

Wilsaan Joiner

Assistant Professor Wilsaan Joiner explores how sensory inputs, like vision, influence our motor actions and vice versa. David Slipher/UC Davis

“I hate to fly, so that was out,” said Joiner. “And the other area he thought was understanding how the brain works. He strongly suggested that neuroscience was an area where there was a potential amount of room to explore and grow and really contribute.”

New Packaging Aims to Prevent Produce Spoilage

There’s an old saying that “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel.” But that may no longer be the case thanks to new materials being developed by UC Davis researchers to line produce bins and for reusable packaging.

Professor with plastic films.

UC Davis food scientist Nitin Nitin with samples of antifouling, antibacterial plastic. The material could be used for packaging and for lining produce bins.

The goal is to produce plastics that both repel bacteria and reduce food-spoilage microbes. The antimicrobial activity comes from chlorine bound to the plastic. It would be recharged by rinsing with a bleach solution.

Blending In: Grace Ha Investigates Camouflage in Eelgrass Meadows

By Greg Watry

Morning fog hugs Horseshoe Cove, a wispy veil of gray masking the Pacific Ocean. As it rolls towards the beach by the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, students explore the cove’s tide pools. A sea star engages in a slow motion life-or-death battle with a mussel, a bright yellow nudibranch traverses a kelp blade and a quarter-sized crab scurries among wet rocks.

“We’re in a region with a Mediterranean climate and upwelling— what’s cool is that both of these are associated with high levels of biodiversity,” says Grace Ha, a graduate student in ecology. In upwelling zones, nutrient-rich waters from the deep ocean are transported to coastal regions, which makes them hotspots for biodiversity.

$5.66 Million CIRM Grant Strengthens Researchers’ Spina Bifida Work

By Brady Oppenheim

UC Davis researchers have received a $5.66 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) supporting their research on stem-cell therapies for spina bifida.

Professor Aijun Wang of the UC Davis Departments of Biomedical Engineering and of Surgery and Professor Diana Farmer, chair of the UC Davis Department of Surgery, will use the CIRM funding to continue their decade-long research efforts exploring stem-cell therapies that show promise for both animals and humans with the congenital condition.

Biomedical engineer Aijun Wang is collaborating with UC Davis surgeon Diana Farmer on research to treat spina bifida with stem cells in both human and animal patients. (UC Davis Health)

Microbial Genomics Gold Found in Old Data

By Scott Edmunds

There’s gold in those old databases. Analyses of genomic data often miss a large amount of information, but genome scientists at UC Davis have now created an automated analysis pipeline to dig out this hidden information. 

C. Titus Brown is associate professor in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Genome Center.

In a new study published in the journal GigaScience the researchers mine a huge marine microbial dataset from the Microbial Transcriptome Sequencing Project (MMETSP) to find new results.

Uncovering How Dengue, Zika Viruses Manipulate Hosts

A new, holistic approach to biology is giving researchers new insights into how the Dengue and Zika viruses attack their hosts and, in the case of Zika, affect brain development. Published Dec. 13 in the journal Cell, the work may open up new ways to think about treating virus infections or mitigating their effects.

Priya Shah in lab

Priya Shah’s work in systems biology spans the Colleges of Engineering and of Biological Sciences. The approach is giving new insight into how dengue and Zika viruses attack human cells. Credit: David Slipher, College of Biological Sciences

Rapid Genetic Evolution Linked to Lighter Skin Pigmentation in a Southern African Population

By Karen Nikos-Rose

Populations of indigenous people in southern Africa carry a gene that causes lighter skin, and scientists have now identified the rapid evolution of this gene in recent human history.

The gene that causes lighter skin pigmentation, SLC24A5, was introduced from eastern African to southern African populations just 2,000 years ago. Strong positive selection caused this gene to rise in frequency among some KhoeSan populations.

Brenna Henn

UC Davis anthropologist Brenna Henn and colleagues have shown that a gene for lighter skin spread rapidly among people in southern Africa in the last 2000 years.

Long-Lost 17th-Century Poet Gets Digital Treatment

By Jeffrey Day

For a long time, analyzing a literary work consisted of creating a “definitive edition,” which might be supplanted a decade or two later. Or maybe never. English professor Frances Dolan is part of a project that offers a new approach for literary analysis, one better aligned with the high-speed information exchange possible today.

Hester Pulter’s poems were recently discovered in a university library. (University of Leeds Brotherton Collection)