Chill those veggies, and bugs in the soil

On the more serious side of microbiology, “People don’t pay enough attention to refrigeration, and that’s absolutely critical with the fresh-cut produce,” food microbiologist Linda Harris tells USA Today in a follow-up article on spinach contamination with E. coli 0157.

The story also reports that in 2001, Harris and colleagues found that another food-poisoning culprit, Salmonella, could survive and thrive in the soil of almond orchards. The bug was previously thought to live only a few days outside an animal’s gut.

Adopt A Microbe

hpyloriI don’t really have a UC Davis connection for this, but too good to ignore is the Adopt A Microbe blog by an Australian medical student.

Psychiatrists talk about crime

Psychiatrists from UC Davis Health System were leading some thought-provoking discussion at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law over the weekend.

Associate Professor Charles Scott led a panel discussion Friday on profiling of serial killers. The FBI’s methods of profiling killers from crime scene evidence have strengths and limitations, according to a press release issued before the conference. To work effectively with law enforcement, psychiatrists need to understand how police officers and the FBI conduct their analysis.


That’s how much money UC Davis received in external research grants in fiscal year 2005-6. Those dollars were spent on such things as salaries for research faculty and staff, equipment and lab supplies, and facilities and infrastructure to support research.

The biggest contributor was the federal government, $298 million; the state of California funded $84 million worth of research.

Those funds, of course, go back into the economy through the campus’s economic impact, and also through discoveries and inventions that ultimately make their way into the marketplace.

It helps if you died after the invention of copyrights

Kurt Cobain was getting some publicity this week for topping Forbes’ Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list. The only scientist on the list? Albert Einstein at #5. But consider that Einstein left no top 40 records (Cobain, Elvis), no movies (Marilyn Monroe), no bestselling books (J.R.R. Tolkien). His posthumous fortune is wholly based on licensing his name and image. I wrote about 100 years of Einstein in 2005.

Honeybee genome sequenced

Nature will publish the completed genome sequence of the honeybee tomorrow, according to reports on Reuters and the British trade mag for lab coats, The Scientist. Sergey Nuzhdin, a professor in the Section of Evolution and Ecology at UC Davis who was not involved in the work, told the Scientist that the single paper accomplishes for the honeybee what took more than a decade to produce for the fruit fly: the researchers have produced a functional interpretation of the genome sequence.

More bee-related blogging, about a pending population crisis and getting a helping hand from wild bees, in our archives.

Biogas, in video

Rounding up some coverage of yesterday’s biogas event, KCRA-3’s Brian Hickey was there early in the morning rummaging through the dumpster. “You’re a little too into this,” comments the anchor. KPIX-5 has a report shot earlier in the week that shows an elegant UC Davis banner in every camera shot. News 10 also has a report that won’t play on my Mac but might work on yours.

“The praise got a bit fulsome,” wrote Glen Martin in the San Francisco Chronicle, when congressman Dan Lundgren speculated that the U.S. could become the “Saudi Arabia of garbage.”

Laser-based vehicle detection

Walking on the Engineering III side of Bainer Hall today, I noticed an area roped off for a “laser detection test.” What?

rooftest It turns out that the Integrated Engineering Lab is testing a laser-based vehicle detection system for measuring traffic on highways. Harry Cheng, professor in mechanical and aeronautical engineering, says that the system uses a laser to get a profile of passing vehicles. It is more reliable than current systems that use loops in the road, he says, and unlike video cameras works well in low light conditions. Development of the device was funded by CalTrans.

Measuring magnetic stars

Matt Richter, a researcher in the Physics Department, tells us that TEXES, an instrument that he designed and helped build at the University of Texas, has a run of 17 nights coming up on the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. Apparently it’s the first visiting instrument to get time on this telescope in five years.

Richter has two experiments to run: one looking for hydrogen gas around stars, and testing a way to measure the magnetic field strength and distribution on stars.

Garbage in, energy out

The new Biogas Energy Project should by now be well into its first heaping truckload of table scraps, turning them into natural gas through a digestion process invented at UC Davis by Ruihong Zhang, professor of biological and agricultural engineering. The digester was to be opened this morning at a ceremony with representatives of the California Energy Commission and state waste management board, corporate representatives, scientists and politicians, including Congressman Dan Lundgren, R-Gold River. Zhang and Dave Konwinski, CEO of Davis-based Onsite Power Systems Inc. — which built the plant to Zhang’s designs — were to throw the switches at 10.30 a.m.