Optics prize for Jonathan Heritage

The Optical Society (OSA) has awarded Jonathan P. Heritage the R.W. Wood Prize in recognition of his pioneering contributions to the development of programmable optical pulse shaping and its applications to ultrafast optics and photonics. Heritage is professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering at UC Davis. Heritage shares the award with Andrew M. Weiner of Purdue University.

“OSA is delighted to honor the top professionals in the field of optics,” said Elizabeth Rogan, OSA executive director. “Jonathan Heritage is a pioneer who has made invaluable contributions to the research, education and understanding of optics. OSA congratulates him on his achievements.”

Opinion: Using GE to tackle papaya virus has lessons for wheat rust

Editor’s note: this post was contributed by Pamela Ronald, professor of plant pathology.

In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, (“Stem Rust Never Sleeps,” April 26, 2008) Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug describes a new strain of stem rust fungus that could reduce world wheat production by 60 million tons, or 10 percent of the world wheat harvest.

“If millions of small-scale farmers see their wheat crops wiped out for want of new disease-resistant varieties, the problem will not be confined to any one country. Widespread failures in global wheat production will push the prices of all foods higher, causing new misery for the world’s poor.”

More on plug-in hybrids

Andy Frank, “the Father of the Plug-in Hybrid,” fresh from featuring in Tom and Ray Magliozzi’s look at the Car of the Future for PBS, is in a short video on the Sacramento Bee’s multimedia site, showing some of the features of the “Trinity” plug-in hybrid based on a Chevrolet Equinox.

Andy Frankpic

International Conference on Plug-in Hybrids, July 22-24

UC Davis is co-organizing and co-sponsoring the first international conference on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), set for July 22-24 in San Jose, Calif.

The time is right for Plug-In 2008, “a gathering with a focus on a technology that represents one of the most viable near-term ways to get to a greener future,” said Tom Turrentine, director of the UC Davis Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center.

Plug-In 2008 will bring together automotive manufacturers, component suppliers, electric utilities, government agencies, academia, the environmental community and more to hear about the most current technical research, the business case for PHEVs, the impact of current policies and regulations, and clean-tech entrepreneurs’ ideas to enhance and expand the PHEV market.

Proposal Writing Workshop for Small Business Grants

The Solano College Small Business Development Center and UC Davis InnovationAccess are sponsoring a Small Business Innovation and Research proposal writing workshop on May 2nd at the UC Davis Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs provide over $2 billion dollars a year to small companies developing leading-edge technologies that are of interest to federal agencies. Small businesses can receive $850,000 or more in seed capital to develop innovative technologies with commercial potential.

Klimley on sharks on Fox

Following last week’s fatal shark attack near San Diego, UC Davis shark expert Pete Klimley appeared on Fox News with Greta van Susteren.

White sharks, Klimley says, only attack humans when they mistake them for seals. A seal makes a nice, fatty energy-rich meal for a shark, but a scrawny human being is a poor substitute, so the fish usually takes a bite and moves on. Unfortunately, that bite can still cause fatal blood loss within minutes.

Time’s John Cloud points out that your chances of being killed by a shark are something like 1 in 280 million, compared to a 1 in 6,700 chance of dying in a car accident.

EPA prize for plastics from wastewater project

A team of students from the UC Davis Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is one of the winners in the P3 (“People, Prosperity and the Planet”) competition run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The team proposes making plastics from bacteria in wastewater treatment plants. The bacteria store polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), a form of plastic, in their cell walls. The team has tested the system in the lab; with the $75,000 prize from the EPA they will now build a pilot system in Los Angeles.

“It takes a current waste and turns it into a project,” says team member Kristen Matsumura.

Happy DNA Day!

DNA  ChatToday, April 25 is DNA Day, declares the National Human Genome Research Institute. April 25, 1953 was the date of publication of Watson and Crick’s paper describing the structure of DNA.

Head over to genome.gov for all kinds of DNA-related resources and activities.

Moth Spraying Halted

Governor Schwarzenegger this afternoon announced that spraying to control the invasive Light Brown Apple Moth would be halted until further testing could be done on the product’s safety. Earlier in the day, a Santa Cruz county judge ruled that the threat posed by the moth to California agriculture did not outweigh the need for assessing the environmental impact of spraying in advance.

State ag officials consider that the moth, which is native to Australia, is a threat to a wide range of plants including native trees such as redwoods and oaks, and crops such as peaches, cherries and grapes. (More information about the moth from the U.S. Department of Agriculture here).

LA Times wins science writing award for memory series

LA Times reporter Terry McDermott has won the Wistar Institute’s Science Journalism Award for his four-part series “Chasing Memory,” about UC Irvine neuroscience researcher Gary Lynch. McDermott spent two years working on this story — including moving into the lab and learning how to do some experiments himself.

Read the whole series here…engaging and accessible, and it gives an interesting insight into what it’s like to do real science in a real lab.