UC Davis wildlife expert to assist at Gulf spill

UC Davis veterinarian Michael Ziccardi, director of the California Oiled Wildlife Care Network, is now in Louisiana leading planning for the protection and rescue of sea turtles and marine mammals from the oil spill in the Gulf.

California is “considered the model” for dealing with oil spills, Ziccardi told the Sacramento Bee. The network has participated in cleanup of a number of major spills, including the Cosco Busan spill in San Francisco Bay in 2007, and Ziccardi has written national response plans and guidelines.

On the Gulf Coast, he will be putting in place an emergency command structure to coordinate groups dealing with birds, turtles, manatees and other animals, should they be affected.

Microsoft software prize goes to UC Davis/UCSD team

A team including UC Davis graduate student Wilson To and UC San Diego students Helena Xu, Kayvon Ghaffari and Audrey Lee has won the grand prize in the U.S. finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup software design competition. Team Mobilife will travel to Warsaw, Poland in July to take part in the international round of the competition.

“It was definitely a big surprise and honor to have won the national finals,” said To, who is studying for a MS degree in the comparative pathology graduate group at UC Davis.

BitTorrent file sharing for biologists

Peer to peer file-sharing systems like BitTorrent have given the entertainment industry heartburn in recent years as people use them to share music, movies and tv shows. But peer to peer file-sharing can also allow scientists who are increasingly dependent on huge sets of data to quickly share and access their results.

For example, right now biologists download genome data from central databases such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Those files are big, and if traffic is heavy the process slows down.

Galaxy Survey Confirms General Relativity at Large Scales

The largest galaxy survey yet conducted with the Hubble Space Telescope confirms Einstein’s theory of General Relativity.

Dark matter image from ESA/HubbleA group of astronomers lead by Tim Schrabback from the Leiden University and including Assistant Professor of Physics Marusa Bradac and Chris Fassnacht, associate professor of physics at UC Davis, studied over 446 000 galaxies in 575 slightly overlapping views of the same part of the Universe using the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) onboard Hubble. It took nearly 1000 hours of observations, during which Hubble circled the Earth nearly 600 times.

Law School faculty on Justice Stevens

UC Davis law professor Diane Marie Amann was a former law clerk with retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and has been quoted by a number of media outlets since Stevens announced his retirement last week

“He is undoubtedly a leader on the court,” she told CNN, “and although the vote change [on a 5-4 conservative majority] may not alter very much in the short run, the absence of Justice Stevens’ leadership, his ability to build coalitions along people with very different ideas about things, will be something that will be hard to replace in the short term.”

“Henrietta Lacks” author Rebecca Skloot to speak on campus

Rebecca Skloot, author of the new bestseller “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” will be giving a talk on campus April 23, 4-6 pm in the ARC Ballroom. Her visit to campus is being sponsored by the UC Davis Genome Center, the Science and Technology Studies Program, the University Writing Program, and the Davis Humanities Institute and being hosted by Jonathan Eisen at the Genome Center.

More information and links to reviews and interviews, including Skloot’s recent appearance on the Colbert Report, here.

Study confirms DNA repair model, after 26 years

In science, testing an idea takes timeā€¦ sometimes a very long time. A new study published in the journal Nature now confirms a central idea about chromosome repair, more than a quarter century after it was first proposed.

Malgosia Bzymek, research scientist in the UC Davis Department of Microbiology, and colleagues show that a DNA structure called the Double Holliday Junction can form when growing cells (dividing by mitosis) repair a broken chromosome by a process called homologous recombination.

Award for computer security research

Phillip Rogaway, professor of computer science, and Professor Mihir Bellare of UC San Diego have been awarded the 2009 Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award by the Association for Computing Machinery for their work leading to high-quality, cost-effective cryptography for securing transactions on the internet against hackers. The Kanellakis Award specifically honors accomplishments in computing theory that have a real-world impact. The award includes a cash prize of $5,000.

More about the UC Davis Computer Security lab here.