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.

Plants by the Numbers: Math, Computation and the Future of Plant Biology

by Greg Watry

What does the future of plant biology education and research look like? That’s the question on the mind of Siobhan Brady, associate professor of plant biology at UC Davis.

Big data approaches will be key to advances in plant biology, so students need to be trained in these areas. Unknown author/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.5)

In a Plant Physiology commentary paper, Brady, along with 37 other plant biologists from around the world, call for universities to integrate more quantitative and computational techniques into biology-oriented academic curricula. Introducing these skills early, the group advises, will help prepare tomorrow’s plant biologists for the next era of genomics research.

College of Engineering Hosts National Academy of Engineering Symposium

By Bonnie Dickson

On Nov. 16-18, the UC Davis College of Engineering hosted more than 60 engineers from the U.S. and European Union for the National Academy of Engineering’s 2017 Frontiers of Engineering symposium.

UC Davis’ College of Engineering hosted the National Academy of Engineering’s 2017 EU-US Frontiers of Engineering symposium Nov. 16-18. Attendees discussed diversity, space travel, neuroengineering and coffee, among other things. Photo: Reeta Asmai/UC Davis

The goal of the symposium was to facilitate an interdisciplinary transfer of research, ideas and methodologies between outstanding early-career American and European engineers under the age of 45 from industry, universities and other research institutions.

One Place Like Home: Space Station Has Same Microbes as Your House

By Carole Gan

UC Davis microbiologists have analyzed swabs taken by astronauts on the International Space Station – and found pretty much the same types of microbes as in a home on Earth, according to an analysis published today (Dec. 5) in the journal PeerJ.

The International Space Station is interesting to scientists studying the microbial ecology of buildings because it is a “building” with very few ways to bring microbes in or out.

Citizen science and Project MERCURRI

The work was part of Project MERCCURI, a collaboration between UC Davis and other organizations including Science Cheerleader, a group of current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing careers in science and math.

Plant Sciences’ Stable Isotope Facility Marks 20 Years of Service

From improving crop production to tracking mosquitoes, the Stable Isotope Facility in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences supports a wide range of research on campus and throughout the world. December 1, 2017 marks the facility’s 20th anniversary and they are holding an open house today to celebrate.

Julian Herszage (left) and Lyndi Low carrying out analysis at the Stable Isotope Facility in the Department of Plant Sciences. The lab carries out analysis of isotopes of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur for biological and environmental studies. Photo by Chris Yarnes/UC Davis.

UC Davis Releases New Version C-STEM Studio for Teaching Math with Coding

The Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education at the University of California, Davis, has released version 4 of its popular C-STEM Studio software suite. In addition to free breakthrough tools for teaching math, coding, robotics and making, this major update includes expanded support with textbooks and curriculum for Lego Mindstorms NXT and EV3 robots, Raspberry Pi computers and Arduino control boards as well as Barobo Linkbots. These hardware platforms and related curriculum are seamlessly integrated in C-STEM Studio for learning math with hands-on physical computing and real-world projects.

C-STEM Studio is compatible with robots widely used in school classrooms.

Video: Why Study Bird Brains?

Why study the brains of birds? Do birds even have brains worth talking about? In fact, birds can show complex behavior and mental function. We can learn a lot from studying the neuroscience of birds — knowledge that we can relate to how human brains function in health and disease. In this video, Rebecca Calisi Rodriguez, assistant professor of neurobiology, physiology and behavior in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences, introduces her own work on bird brains and talks to some prominent neuroscientists about their work.

More information

Rebecca Calisi’s lab website 

Where Things Go Wrong: Perspective on Cascading Failures

By Aditi Risbud Bartl

Sometimes, one darn thing leads to another in a series of cascading failures. Understanding the weak points that lead to such cascades could help us make better investments in preventing them.

Professor Raissa D’Souza in the UC Davis College of Engineering studies complex systems and how they can go wrong.

In the Nov. 17 issue of Science, Raissa D’Souza, professor of computer science and mechanical and aerospace engineering at UC Davis, wrote a perspective article about cascading failures that arise from the reorganization of flows on a network, such as in electric power grids, supply chains and transportation networks.

Diet and the Brain: Exploring the Food-Brain Axis

by Greg Watry

Nearly 47 million people worldwide live with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That number is expected to rise to 76 million by 2030. While there is no cure for dementia, scientists are investigating various drugs to help mitigate cognition loss associated with the condition.

UC Davis researchers propose that foods provide signals that influence the brain and other body systems.

When it comes to understanding and preventing age-related cognitive dysfunction, Professor Raymond Rodriguez, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology in the College of Biological Sciences at UC Davis, looks to food for answers.

New X-ray Spectroscopy Explores Hydrogen-generating Catalyst

Using a newly developed technique, researchers from Japan, Germany and the U.S. have identified a key step in production of hydrogen gas by a bacterial enzyme. Understanding these reactions could be important in developing a clean-fuel economy powered by hydrogen.

The single-celled green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has an iron-based enzyme that can generate hydrogen gas. (JGI)

The team studied hydrogenases – enzymes that catalyze production of hydrogen from two widely distributed organisms: Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a single-cell algae and Desulfovibrio desulfuricans, a bacterium.

In both cases, their hydrogenase enzymes have an active site with two iron atoms.

Podcast: Knots, Math and Reconnection in DNA

If you’ve ever tried to untangle a pair of earbuds, you’ll understand how loops and cords can get twisted up. DNA can get tangled in the same way. In this episode of Three Minute Egghead, UC Davis biomathematician Mariel Vazquez talks about her work on the math of how DNA can be cut and reconnected. The math involved turns out to be involved in other fields as well — from fluid dynamics to solar flares.


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